It’s still summer – I know because of the sun and the heat and the ice cream carts.
Ice cream carts are a summer fixture in Rogers Park, up and down the sidewalks, near parks, and especially on the beach. They plow through the sand bringing frozen goodness to anyone with a little cash.
And everyone, it seems, loves them. In my United Nations of a neighborhood, ice cream bars are trans-cultural.
I don’t want it to end – summer on the Lake. I knew I’d moved to a diverse neighborhood, but I didn’t realize just how diverse until I came to the beach Memorial Day weekend.
I lost count of the languages. Women in scarves and head coverings sat on blankets at the water’s edge alongside women in bikinis. Children of every shade of skin tone squealed as the cold lake waves splashed at their knees. Men tended grills – this one smelling of fresh tamales, that one of burgers, others of spices unrecognizable to me.
The sun and the Lake brought us all out to enjoy the gifts of summer.
Rogers Park is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country. In Chicago’s patchwork quilt of ethnic neighborhoods, Rogers Park is plaid – people of different ethnicities and economic status live next door to each other. More than eighty languages are spoken here, many by refugees and other new residents.
When the weather is cooler, I catch glimpses of these neighbors. I pass them on the sidewalk going to the train station, or in the aisles of the local market (it squeezes a remarkable collection of food into a small space). But for the most part, we frequent different restaurants, attend different churches, keep different schedules.
Our kids would be in school together, if I had kids. I see them all congregated outside the elementary school across the street when I leave for work in the mornings. It’s harder to find those common spaces as a single.
Except for the summer, it turns out. When the beauty of the beach is open to all. It’s a glimpse of how it should be more often – shared smiles at the antics of children, apologies for stray volleyballs and frisbees, admiration of dogs, and ice cream.
I’m glad I’m not the only one still hanging on to it.