A summer of looking back and wondering what might lie ahead

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Gene Deason

Even before COVID-19, my daily retiree’s schedule provided me with a generous amount of free time. Now, with travel to usual summer vacation destinations either discouraged or prohibited, I have even more time on my hands.

Fortunately, I have plenty of chores around the house that are begging to be tackled.

Unfortunately, tackling is one thing; completing is something else. A gap the size of Palo Duro Canyon exists between the need to tackle them and the desire to complete them. I am, however, making small steps toward that end between breaks for meals, Facebook, and serving as doorman for our two cats.

To make a long story less long, this is the week my in-laws had circled on the calendar for our annual family gathering in the Davis Mountains. Instead of enjoying a week in West Texas, I’ve been going through several storage boxes. And while there’s wisdom in the adage of not living in the past, the past is precisely where the things tucked away in these boxes take me.

As a result, these summer months have been marked, among other things, by revived memories. They are overwhelmingly pleasant recollections, which is to be expected. Otherwise, I doubt these items would have been worthy of storage.

Having now broken into these long-sealed boxes, there is the question of what should be done with them. While holding them in my hands does trigger many nice memories, I’ve gone decades without remembering I kept those things, much less knowing they ever existed.

Several questions must be answered. Do they survive the trash pile once again? Does their continued existence merit the space required to store them? If I keep them, I know the day will come when the same options — trash or treasure — must be decided.

And I can’t help but wonder: what will the circumstances be when certain items considered treasures surface the next time?

Summer, and July in particular, is also the season of my birth, so waves of nostalgia have definitely been crashing across me. What’s more, this July also happens to be the month I celebrated one of those “decade birthdays” — one mentioned in Psalm 90 — so my sense of mortality has been underscored.

Perhaps because it’s a decade year, on the calendar as well as for my birthday, I decided to dig into newspaper archives to find out what was happening not only the summer I was born, but also this summer a century ago. That’s quite a fascinating endeavor if you’re a fan of history. Of course, the longer you’re alive, the more history you’ve actually experienced.

That takes me on a tangent. During my birthday week, my wife and I made a quick trip to Abilene in order to pick up a couple of horses. Now, these aren’t the type of horses you have to feed. They involved artwork. We’ve been trying to limit our travels, but these pieces were featured online, and time was of the essence. Please don’t argue the point. That’s exactly what we did: pick up a couple of horses. I’m sticking to my story.

The artists’ works were on sale at a consignment shop for multiple vendors, and the store featured a large variety of “antique” items — furniture, signs, appliances, lamps — the usual variety of rustic junk that people collect these days. The prices weren’t outrageous, but they were impressive. I know that just because someone puts a price on something doesn’t mean it sells for that amount, but our browsing did give me a new appreciation for some of the stuff gathering dust in boxes in our garage.

My wife commented on a stack of “antique” Texas license plates priced at $10 each. The oldest plate was dated when I was 5, but the newest was the year we were married. We found several old license plates while clearing our garage and had almost recycled the metal.

As birthdays mount, I’m relieved to know that we “antiques” have some value.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at tgifcolumn@yahoo.com.