Lost Summers by Tom Bass
Knocked three times,
Heard shuffling inside,
Coming closer to the door,
Dropped my bags down on the floor.
The door swings open,
and I feel this urge
To run up and hug them,
my dad, and his girlfriend.
5 and a half months since I’ve last seen my family:
My mum, 4 sisters and my dad.
It’s the longest stretch of time apart we’ve had.
Within that time, my sister’s given birth, my other sister’s been promoted, my dad has retired, and I’ve graduated from Uni. These achievements and milestones, despite attempts to recognise and celebrate them, feel snuffed out. Insignificant. How can these personal moments feel important, when a global pandemic is scarring the world?
staring at my dad as I stand by the gate,
I’m overwhelmed by the weight of events that have passed,
Months of contemplating,
In a deflating blur of negative news,
daily press conferences, a rising death toll,
months that I’ve helplessly played next to no role
in a fight that’s not over,
these things aren’t resolved.
And right now stands between us an invisible threshold.
So we keep the distance.
Blow a silent kiss.
And I realise that hugs are now something I miss.
Reminiscing the kerfuffle’s, and messy re-shuffles,
Of our old and golden greetings,
when you go in for a hug and they go for a handshake
or their shake is so firm that your fingers might break.
The clammy hands,
limp handshakes flopping flaccidly.
A big squeeze.
That platonic touching that now makes us freeze.
How normal it once was to touch: you wouldn’t have to think about hugging a friend, brushing past someone in the street, or shaking a hand.
And now words struggle to capture the time that has been,
Since my dad and I last met in the flesh, not on screen.
I’m trying to conjure up words I can say
To paint a full picture of that time day by day.
Being stuck in my own head,
some days a challenge to even get out of bed.
Final year essay stress,
growing sense of loneliness,
Exercise to decompress,
Next day repeat the process.
All of this… I sadly was unable to express,
And in the face of everything now passed or still present,
And as I stared speechlessly, hopelessly at my dad,
A hug felt like the only vocabulary we had.
An embrace could have spoken the words we found impossible.
Touch is the language of connection,
A natural sign of affection,
An instinctive motivation,
that helps translate emotion,
and right now we’re experiencing touch deprivation.
My dad’s driving me to a cottage where I’m staying for the summer. I can’t stay with him or mum as they’re both older, and high risk. There’s an old CD player in the boot that takes 6 discs, and I flick through the albums that my dad’s got in. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Nirvana and The Kooks.
He’s put the albums in the car we used to listen to,
when we went on long drives when I was a kid.
I’m sat in the back,
and my dad’s in the front,
and I sing along quietly,
words muffled by my facemask.
A surreal new reality.
We stop off at my sister’s house,
for a moment I’ve been waiting for since lockdown.
I’m seeing baby Sienna
for the first time,
not from my bedroom over zoom
but in real life.
Yearning to hold you in my arms
for now I watch you from afar.
In your mum’s hands held your breath is echoed back to you,
Your life a single hope in a maelstrom of bad news,
Her loving eyes are now all that you see,
And her touch, food and warmth are now all that you need.
My mum visits the cottage
a few days later,
to drop me off some food,
a box she’s kindly put together.
And once again
Stood at the door
I can’t ignore
The space between us
Months have seen
Me actually cry
For my family sometimes,
And now here my mum is
But again, it’s not how I imagined it.
And now, 2 months alone, laptop, phone, books, food, walks,
A distanced talk with a friend from nearby, I’m not gonna lie
It sounds alright, and I’m luckier than most,
But that still doesn’t stop me tearing up when she goes.
Summer is a time for change.
Meeting new faces,
towards exciting novel moments
and sunshine, happy, hopeful times.
That’s what summer meant to me
Before the summer of 2020.
And it’s impossible to deny that a metre
between my family and I is something that I’m struggling with,
and I’m still trying to assemble myself a summer
and organise what’s next as a drama graduate with an uncertain future.
But this summer,
although it may feel like we’re stuck in limbo
is not lost.
This letter to my summer is addressed to Sienna,
I’m now lucky enough to be called your godfather.
This reflection more for my mind and eyes than yours,
Too new in your life to read or make thoughts.
But one day,
My family and I
Will hold you,
Pass you around and say
That things at least for now are okay.
You can listen to the recording of this and find out how to submit your own Lost Summer story here.