Growing up in Fairview Park, I remember summers filled with friends, fun and unstructured play. I guess, to a certain extent, I’m dating myself. But I have been thinking of those summers more and more as cities and parents decide what to do now about traditional hot weather activities.
My husband and I were lucky when my now 20-something-year-old children were young. My job required me to work in a downtown office (ahhhh. The glory days of The Plain Dealer and its awesome, windowed headquarters on Superior Avenue!). But my teacher husband had summer off. I was jealous as he planned out his week with the munchkins. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Lakewood’s Foster swimming pool. Tuesday and Thursday either the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center or the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Sometimes, he would take them down to what we jokingly called the “cement pond” in the valley — the large, concrete-lined fountain near Mastick Road where children could run around and enjoy. Aesthetically, it is one of the least attractive fountains I’ve ever seen. From a child’s point of view … sheer fun.
Occasionally we would try organized sports. Neither of my children were athletically inclined and neither enjoyed proving that in front of their friends. So sports was never a huge part of our summers.
But even back then I remember thinking, “don’t they want to just go out and play?” I know the world is different and I also know that part of their “structured” summer was my fault. I wasn’t comfortable letting them disappear from early morning to when the street lights came on.
Lately, the new COVID world of summer activities has made me think more about my childhood summers. Bike rides … around and around and around and around my bloc: Parklane Drive to Angela Drive to West 210th Street to Parkland Drive to Angela Drive to West 210th Street. If I was feeling adventuresome, I would ride Lorain Road to West 220th Street. Whoa.
Our little Parklane group of friends (Mary Jo Sullivan, Peggy Tresler, Mary Joy Dufner and sometimes Luann Tesdesco, who sometimes lived with her aunt and uncle, Don and Madeline Viglione on our street) made mud “pies” in Mary Joy’s back yard, swam in Mary Jo’s pool and played Four Square in the middle of the street. We trooped down into the valley at the end of our street and played on rope swings, hiked and generally had adventures.
As recreational games are iffy, pools are closed or tightly restricted and museum visits are still virtual, I guess what I wish for children in the summer of 2020 is that they make their own adventures. Make mud pies, Ride your bikes. Play Four Square and enjoy each other’s company. Don’t just watch TV or play video games. This could very well be the summer you will remember the rest of your lives as your best summer ever.
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