The icy beauty of winter is upon us. Somehow as I behold the loveliness of the snow, summer memories come forth to warm my heart.
I had carefree and fun summers as a child in Cuba. Beaches were an every day event and marvelous weekends.
My father would often take us to Buey Vaquita and El Mamey. At El Mamey when I was very little and did not know how to swim while carrying me on his shoulders and walking where the water was too deep for me, he tripped over a very large rock. His legs and knees were badly scratched and he was not able to hold on to me. I remember vividly the feeling of going under, but he caught me before I could panic. After that I was only allowed to go where the water was waist deep. He tried teaching me how to swim, but it never happened because he would never let go of me.
Varadero was reserved for Sundays and Mima would come along bringing lots of food for a picnic at Los Pinitos.
Once the Matanzas Tennis Club open, we would go every day during the summer. That’s where I finally learned how to swim aided by my cousin Ricardito who was probably ashamed to see his not so little cousin with a cutesie child’s floating device.
When my Tia Berta lived in Havana I would spend a week or two in the summer visiting and having a great time with my cousin Lourdes and spending one day at Guanabo Beach.
My adolescence was spent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At Bradford Beach and Doctor’s Park I found out the hard way that Lake Michigan never, ever warms up. One minute in it and you no longer feel your feet. We enjoyed other summer activities at these locations, but for our swimming pleasure we would go to Lake Geneva or Lake Beulah where, by the way, I lost my class ring. Mima got me a replacement for my high school graduation. I loved the row boats at Washington Park where they also had an outdoor theater. We managed to get tickets a couple of times, but we and many others would sit up high outside the fenced in area and watch the show.
It’s hard for me to believe it, but I actually went camping at Lake Elsie with a family we knew. I did some fishing – caught two. I was fourteen and so was their daughter. She and I went canoeing down a river. We were supposed to go fishing, but the hook of her fishing pole got caught in a tree and we spent the whole time trying to unhook it without tipping over the canoe. She finally broke the line – just glad it wasn’t me – she was the tomboy and I was the wimp. Amazingly I had a great time, but once in my lifetime was enough.