Even though today is a fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk, steamy day in Chicago we wanted to be outdoors. Before noon, handsome hunk (HH) and I packed the backpack with a blanket, our Crazy Creek chairs that have been so convenient and comfortable to take to concerts and picnics during the past ten years, a thermos filled with ice tea, a crossword puzzle and the Sunday papers and headed out. Our destination? Olive Park on Lake Michigan near Navy Pier. Thank goodness for the slight relief of a cooling breeze as we wound our way through the city streets to the lakefront.

12240948-1Olive Park is on a little peninsula that allowed us with just a slight swivel of our heads to look back at the cityscape and beach and out at the lake dotted with sailboats and cruisers. We spread the blanket under a tree, read for a while and watched the young teens flirt by splashing each other in the water—remember those exciting days of burgeoning sexuality?! We drifted into a conversation about summers when we were kids. I think the conversation kicked off when HH wondered aloud about the “whys” of today’s obesity epidemic.

During my grade school years, my family lived on a suburban street lined with new brick homes that contained tons of kids the ages of my sister, brother and me. Summer days were spent running up and down the sidewalks, playing hopscotch, jumping rope, swimming in plastic pools in the backyard, riding bikes, vacation bible school, cooking out, playing house in makeshift tents, catching pollywogs and bees in glass jars and going camping.

It was non-stop activity from our snap-crackle-and-pop breakfasts to the evening chimes of the Good Humor truck. Stubbed toes and sunburned noses were the badges of a great summer. We resented having to come in for one hour of quiet time during the heat of the day (something the mothers of the neighborhood conspired on) and to eat dinner.

As I write this, I realize that my Mom must have been indoors on these summer days, cleaning, washing, ironing and preparing meals, and my Dad was off at work in an office building that may not have been air conditioned at that time, while we were out having the times of our lives. Thanks Mom. Thanks Dad.

HH’s family transplanted themselves from Pennsylvania to their cottage in northern Michigan each summer with his Dad traveling back and forth as frequently as possible. HH’s days were spent swimming, sailing, riding his bike and hanging out with his summer friends.

It was fun to laze on our blanket and dredge up fond memories. It made us wonder. Is summer so different for kids today? Does the mix of air-conditioning, video games, working Moms, fear of kidnappings and other factors prevent the free-flowing, active childhoods we experienced in the 1950s and 60s that also kept us lean in our early years?