The sun seems much brighter here than in north central Florida, where I have spent the majority of my married life. This may be only 120 miles further south toward the tropics, but I can barely stand to even look out the window without sunglasses on down here. I remember that bright sun reflecting off the pavement wherever we went. It almost made you wish for black tar roads—until you tried stepping on those barefoot and came away with something much worse than a sunburn.
The spring breezes down here are cool and pleasant, but without that underlying chill that demands a sweater at the ready just that little bit further north. We reveled in those almost perfect days when I was young because all too soon they were gone.
The summer heat is still that brutal slam when you step outside, but even so much closer to the coast here in Tampa, the humidity is less than that smothering blanket in the northern interior. I don't ever recall having to deal with pouring sweat at 8 am. As a child, I never felt like I might drown if I took too deep a breath!
And the clockwork arrival of a summer afternoon thunderstorm every day, usually at 4:00. Gray clouds nearly as dark as night, lightning streaking across the sky, thunder like an explosion, winds that increased 20 or 30 mph and temperatures that dropped twenty degrees in mere minutes, followed by a deluge that had traffic pulling off the road to wait it out, and those unfortunate souls caught outside, drenched in only a few seconds.
I remember all these things from a childhood of walking three blocks to and from the bus stop, standing outside the locked school doors waiting after the bus had dropped us off and returned for a second route, raking up lawn clippings after my daddy mowed the yard, and swimming at a friend's "lake house." The feel of this place hasn't changed a bit.
But the details? The traffic is thicker and louder. The outlying areas, including the trailer park where we spent our first year of marriage five miles "out of town," are more densely populated and congested. What used to be pastureland or strawberry and tomato farms is now subdivision after subdivision, "walled off" from the highway by a white board fence. As Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again," but really, you can, if your memories are strong, if you can sit still and think and feel all those things from so long ago. That part hasn't changed a bit.
I find myself remembering my early years more and more lately. As good friends, some older but some exactly my age, pass on, those memories wake you up to what is really important. Now I can look back and realize that I had a great childhood.
No, it wasn't perfect. No, my parents did not do everything exactly right. Neither did I as a parent. But I am so grateful to them for teaching me right from wrong and respect for authority, for demanding I take responsibility for the things I said and did, for showing me how to keep on working until the task is done, for refusing to give in to pain, belittling comments from worldly acquaintances, and debilitating disease, but to keep on plugging for the Lord as long as you can draw a breath.
I am grateful that they made me go to church, do my homework, and even brush my teeth and clean my room. I love that they taught me to treat honesty as a lifestyle instead of a sometime convenience, and that I learned from them how to manage both my time and my money. I am grateful that I saw them respect others' opinions rather than running them down for doing things differently than they did and that they never thought the rules, even the unspoken ones, were for everyone else. I was more than blessed in the age and place I grew up in to have parents who taught me to be color blind and to glorify God whenever an opportunity came to teach and/or help those who were different from us, and for showing me the examples of kindness and generosity, especially to the innocent and needy. And most of all, I am indebted to them for raising me to be a God-fearing, obedient servant of the Lord. I hate to think what my life would be like otherwise.
And then—what my children's lives would be like otherwise, and my grandchildren's. Don't ever think that what you view as a dull, routine life did not matter. Your children and your grandchildren and, should you live that long, your great-grandchildren will carry the memories you helped them make. It is gratifying that my grandchildren will have memories a whole lot like mine, based not only on where they live, but how they live.
And it all started generations before them with simple people struggling through as best they could and, we hope, will continue on for generations to come.
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. (Ps 103:15-18)