I adore summer.
Here’s what I especially love: lazy Saturday afternoons hanging out near the bar at a crowded lakefront beach. Classical music concerts under the stars on the lawn in Millennium Park. Long runs along the lake. Watching dancers of all ages and sizes and races under the stars at Summer Dance. Drinking beers in the bleachers on a hot sunny afternoon at White Sox park. Early afternoons in Grant Park at Lollapalooza. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones at Printers Row Lit Fest. And so on…
Most of what I love about summer in the city won’t exist this year. Will it be un verano perdido? Lost this once, maybe forever?
Summer came and passed away,
Hardly seemed to last a day
But it’s over and what can I do.
—Electric Light Orchestra, “It’s Over”
Like so many, we’ve been taking advantage of our homebound life to sort through accumulated possessions, including a raft of keepsakes and personal papers. As my head swarms with memories, I started thinking about the summers of my childhood, when the season meant just as much to me as it does now.
Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska and later Joliet, Illinois, my summers were far from the crowded urban scenes I cherish now, but rather long, lazy open spaces of limitless possibility and minimal accomplishment. Days without agendas: spent reading, watching baseball on TV narrated with the grandfatherly comfort of Jack Brickhouse, and playing games in the yard with my younger brother Brent until darkness fell. Exploring the less-than-photogenic solitude of a suburban landscape, or the farm roads near my cousin Rick’s home in Hope, North Dakota, or floating on an inner tube on the Minnesota lake where my grandparents built a cabin. Each summer, my brother, mother and I would drive to the North Dakota region where my parents grew up and met. We’d spend a month, much of it in towns of just a few hundred folks, while my father taught summer classes back home before joining us for his two-week break.
As a schoolboy, most of my days were spent in a state of serendipitous social distance, blissful times for introspection and the pleasure of small moments, interrupted only by the occasional trips to the swimming pool, the movies or a Fourth of July family picnic.
Suddenly, this summer is one I’m looking forward to. Not the season I’d expected, but a chance to relive more distant joys.
Look for Newcity’s June 2020 print edition at over 1000 Chicago-area locations this week or subscribe to the print edition at newcity.com/subscribe.