Those Nostalgic Hard Times


Last year we went on an epic family vacation. At least it was epic to us, seeing as we don't get out much. We hit up the Rocky Mountains and spent a glorious week and a half camping. 

I love the mountains. I frequently dream about the mountains. When I'm not at the mountains I want to be at the mountains. But I also could never live at the mountains. It sounds like some tragic Shakespearean love story. However, you may as well bury me in an abandoned mine a mile below ground if I were to live by the mountains, cause that's how my head would feel without an open prairie sky to look at. Nevertheless, the mountains are the best place to visit. They called us over last year, and we gladly obliged. 

It was hard. Very hard. Borderline too hard. At the time our four children were ages 1-9. The daily temperature hit well above 30 degrees C (which is a nightmare for Saskatchewanians). There were long drives, troubles with food (never expect me to remember to pack frozen meat at 4:30am), and hazy smoke from forest fires making any physical exertion difficult. But most of all, it was the daily camping living that was hard. Why must kids expect to eat three (or seven?) times a day? And have a place to sleep? And want to move around constantly? And shout? And touch everything. And need to use a bathroom every fifteen minutes? And why must my wife insist they get sort of cleaned up every night? With teeth brushed?

In other words, to be a parent on a camping trip is to always be on the move. It is to never have more than a few minutes of relaxation. We would shake our heads at some of our camping neighbours. They would have a perfect campfire going, large comfy chairs (more like couches), a perfect beverage, a soothing book... And we? It was an unending struggle to make a kid or two semi-clean before launching them into a sleeping bag for the night.

Yet we have nothing but fond memories of our camping trip in the mountains. All the hardships sort of disappear as time passes, and all we remember are such blessings as scaling to the top of mountains, swimming in lakes, and eating ice cream (we exceeded our ice cream budget by roughly 437%.). Why is this? Why do our brains habitually take what is good and move on?

Lately we've taken to watching camping videos. Not of us. Of others. Guys go into the woods for a few days and, well, videotape themselves camping. I know, it's ridiculous. They go through so much work, while we (like our camping neighbours in the mountains) sit on the couch, with a perfect beverage, and calmly watch them endure pain and misery. Maybe it's just sweet payback.

There's one guy in particular who is interesting (in a weird way). He works like mad to set up camp. Then he cooks a ridiculously awesome meal over an old stove or a fire. And once all this work has been completed he sits back... takes a bite... and...

Check it out here (skip to 24:30):

Did you notice that? He takes a bite and... wait for it... he bobs his head a few times. Sort of like, "Dude, I just did all this work and, man, this hits the spot. Yeah baby." Wow, right?

I mimic this with my kids all the time. "Kids, harken! Listen to my words of wisdom. When you go through a big ordeal, and then sit for a minute, you have to bob your head and show that you earned that moment of awesomeness." Did I mention I'm a little weird? And am now raising weird kids?

The point is this (if I may be serious for a moment): We are driven towards challenges. We all know this. They are necessary for not just our bodies, but our minds and souls. I mentioned that our brains have a habit of remembering only the good from an event (e.g. the birth of a baby). However, I think I meant that it's our souls that do the remembering. Why? Because every little moment of repose, peace, and contentment that we earn through our toils on earth is but a foretaste of a greater, more profound, and enduring reality known as Heaven.

Nostalgia, understood properly, is nothing other than our desire for the journey home. It is our desire for Heaven. We look back fondly at certain events with a general longing and happiness. Those little moments of peace... those little bobs of the head... are what we need - what we yearn for. In a mysterious way, they are but a glimpse of Heaven. To say it once more: We continually desire what is hard, for in those brief moments of repose we are shown that Heaven is our true home. Our only desire. 

I hope to return to the mountains this summer. It might not happen. We have another child due next month. But even holding that child for the first time will be a moment to sit for a brief few seconds, look at that beautiful creature reflecting the very image of God, and, with an air of gratitude, bob my head. "Look here kids. Harken to my words. Here is an awesome moment indeed."

We cannot prepare for Heaven without first climbing those mountains towards it. And of this I am certain: Heaven will be an eternal bobbing of the head. 

* * *
Millette is a husband, father, educator, and author of Disconnected: The Broken Path, now available on Amazon.


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