life

The Strangest Year

I hesitate to label it that, out of superstitious fear that something even stranger will come along to top it, but 2020 is going to be a hard act to follow. Every year for the past 25 years we have left Boston behind in July and gone to the small town in NH where my in-laws have their lake cottage. The traditions of the holiday are inviolable: the tiny parade, penny candy, the lazy afternoon, fireworks, ice cream. The very iron-clad modesty of the event is part of its charm.

This year none of that was happening, so we decided that it made more sense to just stay home and not mope about what we weren’t doing. A good-humored effort was made to honor tradition in the form of a toy parade in the morning, burgers and hot dogs for dinner, and a Youtube-facilitated firework display, although our neighbors did their best to supply the real thing.

There is much on which to reflect this year. Aside from, or intertwined with, the pandemic-induced restrictions on our normal lives are a skein of additional concerns on the boil this summer–racial and economic and political and environmental. Individuals and systems are alike under enormous strain, and exhortations to action intermingle with concern for well-being. All of our compromises and contradictions are under a hard light; Picasso might have done well with this year as a subject.

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