Summers always seemed endless and promising when we were growing up. There was no such thing as staying indoors in front of tv or lounging around in bed. Summertime meant playing outside from morning until dark. When the neighborhood moms would all seem to stand on the front porch and call out to their children; “Tommy, time to come home!” When you heard your mom calling, you would immediately stop what you were doing, whether it was sharing your grandiose life plans or swinging at an 0-2 pitch on a make-shift ball field in a vacant lot down the street. Our hearing must have been a lot more keen back then because I don’t remember any parent ever having to repeat the summons.
When you got home you promptly washed up, helped your Mom set the kitchen table where the family would sit down, say grace, pass the meat and potatoes and all eat together as a family unit. There was no such thing as eating on a tray in front of the television – and there was only one television. Everyone crowded around to watch the program your parents had selected on one of the three stations that broadcasted back then. Cable and satellite programming was still way off in the distant future as were videos, DVDs and On Demand devices. Westerns were big back then but depending on the day of the week the preferred choice could include; Bonanza, The Rifleman, Gunsmoke, Alfred Hitchcock, Father Knows Best, Dinah Shore, Perry Como, Donna Reed, Walt Disney, the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, or Leave it To Beaver. What we would watch was never up for discussion or vote. Still, we managed to survive.
Little did I know just how often, over the coming years, I’d find myself looking back fondly on those lazy summer days. It was a time when I could simply let my mind wander in the wonderful luxury of innocence and treasured friendships, some of which still endure. Back then none of us could have imagined possessing a shred of anxiety over work, money, health, kids, or the comings and goings of “reality stars.” We didn’t know or care about “all news, all the time,” aches or pains, hair loss, weight loss, restless leg syndrome or insomnia.
As I grow older, the youthful me trapped inside is still excited at the arrival of summer as a welcome reminder of what was and what still is possible. Maybe that’s why the spirit and geography of Lee’s Summit is precious. It is a place where family is the backbone of community and real people come together to help make life just a little better – for everyone who chooses to live, work and play in a community that needs to be seen to be believed.
James McKenna is the branding manager for the City of Lee’s Summit. Reach him at JMcKenna@lschamber.com.