The summer before my brother moved away

Though it feels like it all happened last night, it’s been several months now since my brother moved away. He, his partner, his stepson and their friendly black Lab lived just a short walk up the hill and around the corner from our street.

On warm evenings last summer, my wife and I would walk over there for supper and a few drinks, and we’d often end the night with a campfire and a big yarn in the back yard. We’d sit around telling lies and stories long into the evening, watching the stars and flankers shine faintly above, and after a few hours my wife and I would walk back home, arm-in-arm, just around the corner and down over the hill.

To say that these evenings last summer were anything less than magic would be to lie. And now they’re gone.

Though my brother and I still talk and laugh and carry on everyday, it just isn’t the same. The words of Irene Peter often echo loudly in my ears, sadly and without consolation:

Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed

she once wrote. But yet it isn’t a vague ‘anything’ that troubles me these days— it feels like everything has changed.

Will we ever get those magic summer evenings back? I’m not sure. The optimist in me is ever reluctant to see the passage of time as a permanent thing, but there certainly is a nagging feeling of permanence about the passing of evenings like these. A feeling that although the evenings will carry on, they’ll do so with a certain emptiness about them. They’ll pass without the laughing and the stories in the backyard, and they’ll do so without the smell of smoke from the campfire. It feels like they’ll just pass without any specialness to them at all, and I’ve been feeling a bit sad and nostalgic about that for a few weeks now.

And sure, you could certainly say that there’s no real need for any of this sadness at all—he and his family have just moved to the other side of town, for God’s sake—but still, it does make me a little bit sad and wistful for the long evenings full of food and wine and stars and warm summer wind and that magic feeling that you can only feel as a family.