Like most Americans, we are slowly returning to lives that resemble our former lives.
In pre-pandemic times, Nora would travel most of the summer, visiting friends and family in Colorado, Vermont, Maine, and Long Island. Every other summer we’d do an overseas trip.
In 2020, we were scheduled to go to England for a long-distance walking vacation with the four of us. Fifteen years ago, Nora and I had walked the 81-mile Dales Way for our 10th anniversary, and we wanted to share something similarly lovely with the full family, before the kids’ school/work schedules made it impossible.
Come March 2020, it was obvious we weren’t going anywhere, so we hunkered down like everyone else, watching Family Lockdown Boogie so many times it soundtracked my dreams.
This summer, we’re vaxxed and feeling….a little more confident. When you slam on the brakes and idle for a long time, you don’t instantly resume 60 mph. That, and Nora is naturally cautious anyway, so we decided to drive to see her mom in CO, a trip we always flew before.
Fortunately, Nora is a roadtrip unicorn. If the high school thing ever falls through, she could easily transition to long-haul trucking. Give her a bag of swedish fish and a massive 7-Eleven coffee that’s half sugar-saturated creamer, and she can drive through the night. It’s remarkable really. Personally, my eyelids drop at the rate of the setting sun.
That’s how we made it 1,700 miles from Baltimore to Fort Collins in 30 hours, despite some wicked storms. And a few key Americana stops:
Pippa and I both distance worked from CO, more evidence of the wildly disparate effects of Covid. It visited misery and death to some, while I felt blessed to be half on vacation while working full time in my MIL’s basement. (Although that party is ending – I’ve been ordered back to the office no later than September 13.)
Here are a few things I’ve learned this summer in CO and back in Baltimore:
Covid is here to stay for a while
In my mind, the pandemic is rapidly waning, but I know in my heart it isn’t really. The charged political environment is causing too many people to treat the vaccine like a colonoscopy or, worse, a poisoning. So I think it’s on local health providers and employers and schools to deliver the carrots and sticks needed to pull/push the hesitant into the herd. For example, Grey’s work gave him a $150 bonus for presenting his vaccination card. And his college, while not mandating shots, is requiring the unimmunized to jump through annoying hoops, like regular testing.
There is no heaven on earth
I’m not generally an envious person, but I get a little green whenever we visit Fort Collins. Its flatness and extensive trail network make it a cycling mecca. It’s lack of poverty and big city ills means they have cash for glass-smooth roads and meticulously-manicured parks. But then I saw they had had a big brawl between Black Lives Matter and Back the Blue, and I realized that even Mayberry has brokenness. That’s good I think – it helps us to hold loosely to the things of this world, while God prepares the perfect “new heaven and new earth” as promised in Revelations.
Frugal habits die hard (fortunately)
Practice good habits daily and they will become second nature. Away from home in a strange grocery store, I mused to Pippa, “I wonder if I need a loyalty card to get these discounts…” Pippa: “Dad, it doesn’t really matter, does it?” I guess not, but I wasn’t embarrassed – it was merely a reflection of my ingrained fiscal discipline, much of which is on autopilot now. Don’t have that discipline developed yet? Consider paying for most things in cash, which is really hard to part with, according to an intuitive new article in WSJ. There are certainly benefits to using plastic, as I’ve written about before, but resisting the urge to spend unnecessarily trumps all.
It’s still OK to splurge
I told you before about how we spent $1,385 on Hamilton tickets – $462 an hour for the 3-hr musical. I thought about that when Nora asked me what I wanted for my birthday dinner. A crab cake from Koco’s, I said. “Are you sure? There is a huge shortage of crab meat!” Sure enough, their 11-oz crab cake with no sides is $46! Yes, I’m sure. Saving and frugality and responsibility are good, but splurging occasionally is righteous as well. Especially when you’re talking about the glorious cakes from Koco’s.
Pippa can survive – and thrive – doing something scary
Pippa could have taken the easy road – a campus summer job doing applied math. Instead she applied to six competitive Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs, winning acceptance to a virtual one in New York! On her first day, there were tears in her eyes as she struggled to comprehend advanced concepts in graph and knot theory. But, I witnessed her confidence slowly grow as she conducted daily calls with her professor and fellow students around the world. By the end of the program, they’d developed a 70-page paper of original research and lined up conference speaking opportunities to present it. Amazing.
Grey can survive – and thrive – on his own
Grey has an in-person summer job, so he couldn’t join us in CO. Initially, we were wary of leaving him home alone. But he would soon become independent in college, and this might be a good soft launch, as they say in retail. While in CO, we received this remarkable text:
And this one:
And this one:
And this one 🙂
Then he texted, “If I had a key, I could do the PT Cruiser emissions testing for you.” That was it for me. I texted back:
Nora was equally floored:
The final test was when he locked his only key in his car while at work. I gave the typical dad advice on how to find a locksmith:
After some coat hanger wrangling, they were in! Prolly wouldn’t work on a late model car, so yet another reason for your teen’s first car to be an old beater. A spare key wouldn’t hurt either. 🙂