As a child the last day of school was always the best day of my life after Christmas.
It would begin in late spring when summer would tease us with the glory of what was to come. When bubble coats and wools hats no longer served their purpose. We’d shed off our extra layers and run out to recess. Spring fever was at an all time high as teachers and students struggled to finish the year strong. The last school bell on the last day of school signified that we’d made it. Grey skies, snowstorms, and freezing temperatures were officially a thing of the past. Our future was bright with summer camp, bussing open the fire hydrant, choke sandwiches, chasing ice cream truck, pickles & sunflower seeds, a family trip down South, and the grand finale would be the Bud Biliken Parade.
Back when Cabrini Green, the Ickes, and the Robert Taylor homes filled up the skyline and we wasn’t afraid of their presence. Back when my cousin took me to the West Side for the very first time and I felt like I was in a brand new city.
Do you remember vintage summers in Chicago? Remember when police would be posted on the corners, because it was the NBA Finals and once again “Da Bulls” were playing? I can’t be the only one who had the “Like Mike” tape. Remember The Plaza?
When asked to write about my favorite summer memory, the only thing I could think of was “the old Chicago when everyone was alive”.
Something shifted after the 90’s. The generation beneath me never had a chance to experience the goodness that vintage summers in Chicago had to offer. Chicago rapper “Chance the Rapper” confirmed it in his song “Pusha Man/Paranoia”:
“It just got warm out, this this sh*t I’ve been warned about.
I hope that it storm in the morning, I hope that it’s pouring out.
I hate crowded beaches, I hate the sound of fireworks.
And I ponder what’s worse between knowing it’s over and dying first.
Cause everybody dies in the summer.
Wanna say ya goodbyes, tell them while it’s spring.
I heard everybody’s dying in the summer, so pray to God for a little more spring.”
Want to know how summer 2017 started for me? My husband Steve and I were laying in bed around 10 p.m. when we heard the sirens. “Is that on our block?”, I asked Steve. He got up and looked out the window, “Yep”. After getting back in bed Steve said “Lord touch that situation.”
The next morning I went for a walk on the lake. Once back home I made a bowl of cereal and turned on the news only to see what happened. 23-year-old Xavier Joy had been shot and killed at the end of our block.
A few days later we gathered in a prayer circle with neighbors and dropped rose petals on the spot where Xavier took his last breath. A few days later I told Steve I wanted to visit Pier 31 beach and restaurant. For some reason we couldn’t make it and thank God we couldn’t, two boys were shot at the pier. Hello summer.
But all hope isn’t lost in Chicago. Whenever I ride through the blocks of Washington Park or Woodlawn, the beauty of my city gives me hope. When I created the list of all the Black events to attend this summer in Chicago, I was reminded of the intentional unity that comes with summertime Chi. And I can’t mention how I’m still in awe while riding North on Lake Shore Drive and seeing the skyline light up the whole city.
No matter what country or city I visit, nothing, I mean absolutely NOTHING will ever compare to vintage summers in Chicago. Times have changed, but I’ll always have those memories tucked away in my heart.
P.S. Want to join the challenge? Here are the prompts: