I feel truly blessed to live in the Vail Valley; but the period between June and August has never really felt like summer to me. I grew up on Chicago’s West Side, far removed from the almost idyllic climate of Colorado’s mountains. To us summer nights meant heat rising from the pavement, kids running through sprinklers, guys on the corner wearing “Dago Ts”, lightning bugs in jars and mosquitoes so big I think they landed at O’Hare to refuel; sitting on the front steps chatting with neighbors as they walked by and drinking real lemonade. These were the days of Sputnik, hula-hoops and 45 records.

We lived in a small bungalow in a middle-class neighborhood where neighbors would visit over their backyard fences. Our front door opened directly into the living room that led to dining room (used only on holidays) and into the kitchen where we ate our meals.  Every house had a back porch, for what purpose I’ll never know because they were too cold in the winter, and too hot in the summer to be of much use. Primarily they were used to store everything from canning jars to old sewing machines to broken bicycles. But it was a good place to scrape the mud off our feet before entering the house from the outside.

The houses in the neighborhood were practically identical except for minor detail and façade variations. Most of the neighbors painted their eves and gutters in two colors allowing for individuality in houses that were stamped out by a cookie cutter. That type of vernacular identity has been lost today.

Most homes had dormered/railroad-style bedrooms upstairs, which meant one had to go through one room to get to another. Between each house was a gangway, and for those who don’t know what a gangway is, it’s the walkway between houses, usually about six or seven feet wide that led from the sidewalk in front of the house to the back yard, which led to the alley. Alleys by the way doubled as football stadiums, a basketball courts (if there was a hoop attached to the garage) or a baseball field (center field only for obvious reasons.)

The streetlights came on about 8:00 PM and that was the universal signal to start home. Once inside I would take my Little League cap and put in on the spindle of the kitchen chair, open the refrigerator and yell, “Hey Mom, there’s nothing to eat at which time I would receive the “millions of starving children in China lecture,” and retire to my bedroom.

During the summer months upstairs bedrooms were oppressively hot; but I didn’t mind because it afforded privacy. My father never came upstairs because of the stifling heat and Mom came up only during the day to clean.  This was my magical land of baseball, model airplanes, and dreams.  Superman comics, baseball cards and or course copies of Boy’s Life were strewn about the room. (If you were a Boy Scout in those days you know what I’m talking about.) There I spent endless evening hours listening to Bob Elson announce White Sox games over the radio and munching Jay’s potato chips.

My brother and I had twin beds and state-of-the-art out-cranking windows with a 10” fan blowing hot air in.   No one had air-conditioning, that was for “rich people.” Instead we had one fan  blowing hot air in and another 10” fan in my sister’s room sucking hot air out. My parents told us this was as good as air conditioning.

On the bed-stand we had a cylindrical lamp with an embossed steam locomotive with a heat-rotating device giving the illusion the train was moving.  But when we closed our eyes and listened to the hum of the fans, we could imagine ourselves anywhere; maybe even inside one of the new Boeing 707s.  My family didn’t know anyone who actually flew on airplanes, but we could dream. What we did know however was that like the Drifters singing, “Up On The Roof,” we could leave the world behind by just crawling out the upstairs dormer window and become masters of our universe.

Would I give up my home here in Vail to go back? Not a chance. Nevertheless, sometimes I think back about those ‘sticky’ torpid nights and the rooftops of the west side of Chicago. There are times when I can almost hear cacophony of street sounds and smell the old neighborhood, and for a moment I’m wistfully transported back in time wearing a nostalgic smile.

One of the nicest things about getting older is that while we can still create new dreams, we don’t have to forget about the past to do so.