My wife, Julia, bought a time capsule as a project for our family. Since we started sheltering-in-place back in March, she has found countless activities to entertain our daughters — Audrey, 12, Claudia, 10, and Emma, 8. Armed with small plastic bags, our daughters sprinted away to stuff them with pictures, handwritten notes and other trinkets that would somehow freeze themselves in these childhood years.
As everyone rushed away, I felt the weight of my own bag in my hands. As a closet writer and a lover of history, culture and news, I felt it was my responsibility to document the times in which we live. But these times feel so dark. This is the time of the coronavirus, isolation, massive unemployment and shuttered businesses, George Floyd, extreme partisanship, trade wars and a dangerously warming planet. Did I want to put all that sadness and angst into the capsule for us to dig up in 25 years?
I carried my bag around the house, becoming grumpier and grumpier with my wife for the task she had given me. After a week passed, the day came when my contribution to the capsule was due. I still had nothing in my bag.
I drop in a face mask; nothing could symbolize this strange period more than that. Then tickets to the canceled Bon Jovi concert. Julia will have to hope they tour again someday.
I slide in a Black Lives Matter sign. I would not feel right about leaving that out of the capsule.
I go into my bedroom and open my nightstand. I have kept just about every card and letter my children have given me; I can hardly close the drawers now. For the next hour, I get lost in those cards and notes, and completely forget about the time capsule. I smile and laugh, turning the pages this way and that to decipher their little toddler scrawls.
Then I realize what my bag is missing: love. It took me a week to recognize what my children understood instantly. My wife bought the capsule to document this period in our lives, not all the darkness in the world. Although it sometimes feels like I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, I do not need to put that same weight on my children. I want them to be informed on key issues so they can make their own choices, but I also want them simply to be children.
And despite everything, some good has come from all that is happening. After several months of this new socially distanced lifestyle, I am closer to my family than I have ever been. Now we keep lists of movies to watch together. We sit in the backyard, talking, scrolling through our phones and laughing, playing made-up games of “Golden Ball” and Frisbee tag. We are planning hikes and the trips we will take together when we are able to again.
I add the note from my oldest daughter, Audrey, to the bag; the one where she begged me to watch all eight Harry Potter movies back-to-back with her, which we did, for 20 hours straight.
Next are pictures filled with smiles and funny faces. Last, I place the handmade Fathers’ Day cards from my daughters in the bag. They are filled with love, colored hearts and balloons with curlicue tails.
I smile when I finally hand my stuffed bag back to my wife; I know she noticed my grumpiness over the past week.
If we are fortunate, in 2045 we will come together as a family to dig up our silver capsule and remember this strange time in our lives. My daughters will all be in their 30s then, most likely with children of their own.
Although I feel the heaviness of these times, I am glad that my children do not have to shoulder all that weight. When we open that capsule in 25 years, I want them to feel the happiness of their youth and all the love we were able to give them.