By Shirley Mays

Summer is finally and solidly upon us! As an adolescent, growing up during the summer in an area known as “The Valley” in rural Ohio brought great pleasure to my friends and me. The Valley streets were paved with asphalt and we had no sidewalks; we rode our bikes and played barefoot in the streets. All of the streets were dead end roads so the cars driven by the residents and their visitors were the only traffic that came into our neighborhood. There also was a creek that ran behind our house and meandered throughout The Valley. Those creekbanks provided us with endless hours of watching minnows glide effortlessly in the slightly murky water, catching (or attempting to catch) frogs that leapt just out of our reach, and capturing lightening bugs in washed out dill pickle jars that still faintly smelled of brine.

On one particularly sunny summer afternoon near the end of June, my friends and I were bored. We had played kickball, “Mother May I,” and “Red Rover” all morning. Now, we were laying in the grass of my front yard after riding our bikes up and down, and up and down every one of The Valley’s four dead end streets at least 20 times. “Hey!” someone shouted, “I’ve got a great idea. Let’s have a block party for the 4th of July!” We all looked at each other for a split second, then simultaneously yelled, “Yay” as we jumped to our feet and began to hug. We were so thrilled that we had hit upon a fantastic idea to not only assuage our boredom, but also allow us to sponsor a community event in which all could participate.

There were about 30 families who lived in The Valley, and we all knew each other very well. My friends and I immediately went door-to-door, excitedly explaining to both parents and their kids what we had planned. The neighborhood adults circulated a sign-up sheet to provide the food and drinks. The older kids coordinated buying batteries for their transistor radios so we would have music. The younger kids decided to decorate their bikes for a kids’ parade. My next-door-neighbor loved the idea and told us she had written a play we would perform for the neighborhood. Even though this wasn’t at all what we had in mind, in those days we were taught not to argue with adults! We pasted smiles on our faces and nodded our heads in agreement. Rehearsals started the very next day.

When the 4th of July arrived, the entire neighborhood was primed for a day of fun. We set up lawn chairs in our front yards to watch the adorable little kids ride their bikes and ring their bicycle bells for their parade. As you went from yard to yard, you were provided the opportunity to taste various culinary delights while you danced to pop, soul, and rock music blaring from the radios. And yes, our play went off without a hitch.

I am smiling as I write this. As you can see, this was a story of pure joy and simplicity. Enjoy your family and friends this summer. Take time out to consciously decide to make a memory that your kids or grandkids will write about one day. Happy summer!

About author View all posts

Lucretia Free