Enjoy a Simple Summer of Memory Making

The Lil' Kaintuckeean Enjoying a Popcicle on a
Hot Summer Day. Author's collection.
Oh the simple joys of summer as seen through a child’s eyes. It is always such joy to see the faces of my children as they’ve taken advantage of being outside and enjoying the warmth of summer.

Whether it be running in the sprinkler, eating a popsicle, or just interacting with their siblings or friends, watching the children play brings great joy. And the neat thing about honest summer play is that it is largely unchanged from generations past.

Kids still ride their bikes, still drink from hoses, and still get into trouble as always. Whereas it used to be a challenge to corral one’s children for mealtime or for the night, the struggle persists to keep the child active and outside and not dormant in front of a screen.

As a parent, it is much more fun to see my kids doing those summer things. Just watching them have fun is fun. My great grandfather used to say that “watching children is the best way to waste time.”

And it is.

Sometimes, of course, I struggle with allowing myself to waste that time. But it is so important to do so. To stop and to enjoy the moment. After all, isn’t that what I’m trying to get the kids to do by shooing them out the door and away from the television and their various iDevices?

Of course, there are so many risks outside, too. Bug bites once fairly innocent now might carry unpronounceable diseases. (Is it just me, or does anyone else want to say chupacabra whenever the Chikungunya virus is mentioned?) And then there is drinking out of the water hose.

I recently saw an adorable picture of a friend’s twin daughters drinking from the water hose. While wondering if the hose was BPA free, I laughed at the things we now think of. (And I already checked, Amazon.com does carry a BPA-free garden hose for this very reason so sadly someone else already thought of this and is profiting on it!)

Of course one summer adventure that we don’t get to enjoy quite like the old days is the amusement park. Sure, lastweek the great sights and sounds of the Jessamine County Fair are available locally. But next week, they’ll be gone. (You can still take advantage of the Bluegrass Fair in Lexington!)

Without hopping from fair to fair, the nearest amusement park is the old Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville or Kings Island north of Cincinnati. But it once was that all Nicholasvillians had to do was hop on the interurban rail line or the Greyhound bus to Lexington’s Joyland Park.
The Pretzel, " That Funny Mysterious Dark Ride" at Joyland Park in
Lexington, Ky. University of Kentucky Archives.
Open from 1923 to 1964, Joyland Park was a regular destination for those who grew up in Nicholasville and Jessamine County. The park offered the region’s first public pool. Generations of Kentuckians learned to swim there at the free swimming lessons sponsored by Lexington’s newspaper.

In addition to swimming, the park offered a great wooden roller coast (The Wildcat), a carousel, a midway with 26 booths of games and other temptations, and several acres of picnic grounds. A venue on-site also brought to town some of the great musicians of the twentieth century early to mid-20th century.

I’ve discovered so many shared memories from those who visited Joyland Park as children on the many “I Grew Up In …” Facebook groups like the one for North Lexington.

What are your favorite summer memories? And what memories will you make this summer for yourself and for your family?

A version of this column originally appeared in the Jessamine Journal on July 9, 2014. It should not be republished without permission.