Trip home for Bay Days brings fond memories

The same fields, those flat, dandelion-specked fields along Cahoon Road, have felt hundreds of thousands of soccer balls course across them – these are the fields that transform into carnival grounds every Fourth of July. The same rides, tents, cotton candy every year. The same carnies, the same putt-putt game hosted by the Bay Republican Club.

It’s a vestige of a Norman Rockwell America. The bandstand and the boosters and the veterans and the flags. Every heart in Bay Village breaks a little bit the day that the rides are disassembled. Bay Days is over, which means so much more than just Bay Days is over.

Summer is now on the wane. There will still be pool days and summer reading and running into your summer crush at a softball game. But you will never come back to Bay Days except as a year older, wiser, and maybe too cool for all this.

Only when you are removed for so many years like myself, the ghosts of Bay Days past revisit you. You are haunted by the feelings of what it is to be a teenager on these grounds, and how conflicted you were, being both independent enough to go without your parents and yet still so awkward running into your teacher next to the giant slide.

You hear the echoes of your best friend screaming her guts out on the salt-and-pepper shaker, and the sense memory of the funnel cake cart comes rushing back to convince you that no time has passed at all.

Come fall, these fields are trampled by the cleated feet of every kid who was ever raised in Bay Village, tracking soccer balls in one direction and then the other, stopping only for orange slice breaks.

These fields which bisect east Bay from west Bay (yes, there is such a thing –people will ask you, “east side of Bay?” even though this little village that is practically slipping off the cliff into Lake Erie is so tiny, it still has subregions).

Neighborhoods, real neighborhoods with real trees that tell stories of children who still ride bikes everywhere, that remember when a little girl was kidnapped from the Village Center. People not only make eye contact but they say hi, and good morning, while running along the lake, or taking a cut-through Huntington Park.

It is possible to stand on the fields at Cahoon and feel as though you’ve known everyone who has ever lived or will live in Bay Village, Ohio, to be stirred by the legacy of recreation, these fields that both unite neighbors and divide a small town.

This is the place where my father was raised, where my parents chose to return to raise their own children. This is the place that made me, and to which I now bring my children to help them understand, maybe, a little part of this American dream.

– Kendra Stanton Lee, Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Volume 5, Issue 14, Posted 9:44 AM, 07.09.2013