Mario’s Italian Lemonade. Or “the summer combo,” Mario’s and Al’s Italian Beef devoured on a picnic bench at Al’s across the street. Watching the entire melting pot of America dancing under the stars to live music at Summer Dance. Taking the free salsa or tango lessons and clumsily joining in. An early summer afternoon after classes at the University of Chicago heading to Wrigley Field, still owned by the Wrigleys, where we could bring our own beer in as long as it was in a plastic cooler. A beautiful summer weeknight and a spontaneous bike ride to a White Sox game. Wine and cheese picnics with friends under the stars on the lawn at Pritzker Pavilion listening to Grant Park Orchestra. Grabbing a beer at Navy Pier and walking out to the very end, where you’re surrounded by Lake Michigan on three sides, and the city becomes a postcard in the distance. Cutting classes with my roommate at the University of Chicago at the first sign of summer and heading out to Oak Street Beach after a quick stop for a bottle of “Mad Dog 20/20.” Long runs along the beaches on a warm summer morning. Beach-bar-hopping from North Avenue Beach to Oak Street Beach to Ohio Street Beach. The last day of school and staying up half the night getting my room organized, exhilarated by the possibilities of infinite freedom that the summer in front of me offered. Golfing with my father, who firmly taught me to follow the rules and his younger brother, my uncle, who whispered to me to break the rules and just have fun. A daylong drive to North Dakota, with my parents and brother, to spend a month “at home,” with grandparents and family members. Visiting the nearby lake cabin in Minnesota that my grandfather built, where I would fish with him and my uncles or just float on the water in inner tubes made from tractor tires. Forty years later, making the same road trip to the same cabin with my wife and kids, and floating on plastic inflatables bought at the local discount store.
School’s out for us high school juniors and we go, en masse, to the Wilmington Recreation Club, where I end up sitting in the sand the entire time talking to the girl from English class who I had developed an all-consuming crush on that semester. A year later, the same girl and I, now my girlfriend, spring breaking with the same friends in Daytona Beach. Thirty-five years later, the same girl and I, now my wife, drinking caipirinhas on Copacabana Beach in Rio De Janeiro, or soaking some sun on South Beach or dipping into the icy lake water at Oak Street Beach or celebrating the milestones of our children, birthdays, graduations, at these same Chicago beaches.
This is why, summer. The scrapbook of my life is filled with this season. And I could go on. You?
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