Today is the day many Forest Park parents have been looking forward to. The first day of school.

When we were parents of school-age kids, we couldn’t wait to see them back in school. Sure, summer is great, but by August they’d get a bit restless. Even they were ready to return school. Back then, though, school never started before Labor Day.

School starts earlier every year. This greatly shortens the summer, which is brief enough as it is.

This summer flew by faster than any I can remember. I attribute this mostly to the multitude of fun activities the village offered this year.

Soon after Memorial Day, I secured my pass to the Forest Park Aquatic Center. I tried to go for an hour every day. I liked sitting by the lap lanes, not that I swam many laps. The pool seemed emptier than usual due to the ban on non-residents. Unlike many communities, we had plenty of lifeguards. The Juneteenth Pool Party was another summer highlight.

I attended two block parties. I was invited to join the gang on the 900 block of Lathrop. I also crashed the party on the 1000 block of Beloit. Having lived on that block for 32 years, I felt entitled to attend. But when I got there, I didn’t see a single familiar face. In four short years, there had been almost a complete turnover of residents.

It was great to see the return of German Fest. We just had to cross the railroad tracks to get there.

Groovin’ in the Grove was equally convenient and we listened to some great cover bands. I became accustomed to walking with a chair and cooler to local concerts. I was fortunate to see Noa Garcia sing at her stoop concert. It was wonderful seeing a 12-year-old singer perform jazz standards.

Besides great music, we also had laughs at the Faux Pas Comedy Shows at Lathrop House. My favorite was a stand-up comedian named Adam Burke from Northern Ireland. He specialized in the kind of dark humor that appeals primarily to the Irish.

We also had laughs at the McGaffer’s Book Club meetings. Instead of focusing on a particular book, we could read any book by Ernest Hemingway. What a great way to run a book club. Next, we get to choose any biography or autobiography we want to read. 

Besides all the fests and assorted events, it was great to just sit on the front porch. My wife retired this summer and is surprisingly good at doing nothing. She is also available for trips to the beach, Navy Pier and the Riverwalk. Today, she is on duty to help the grandsons get to school.

It wouldn’t be summer, without watching blockbusters at the Lake Theatre. We enjoyed Elvis and Top Gun Maverick. But the most entertaining film we saw was Bullet Train. It had cartoonish violence and ridiculous stunts that kept us laughing for the entire movie. 

There was also heart-pounding excitement at The Park, during the four-day No Gloves Tournament. We are fortunate to live in a village that organizes so many events. The crowning moment came on Thursday, Aug. 18, when we finally celebrated the 4th of July.

The cover band “This End Up” played straight through from 6:30 to the fireworks at 8:30. The crowd grew as the music played. Then we were treated to the kind of in-your-face fireworks, that Forest Park is known for.

I was comfortable with my cooler and chair and, unlike the old days, I didn’t have to leave early with a screaming kid.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.