Remove Your Mask and Share Your Smile

It’s June, my favorite month.

My fondness for June is because that’s when school ended and we kids were free to play all day, stay up late, and sleep in the next morning. I could also start earning money again mowing yards. 

The days are their longest and the weather is usually the best combination of warmth and fresh greenery. The recent rains have predictably ignited an explosion of growth. The trees filled out overnight. The thirst-quenched lilacs are finally starting to bloom and the first batch of dandelions are gone. Summer is here.

And things will get even better.

With the pandemic on the wane and the distancing and mask rules receding, I wondered if I could see evidence that life was returning to normal. So, in a very unscientific study, I took several bike rides though Red Wing to provide a summary report. You see a lot more detail that way than you do driving a car 30 miles an hour looking for the next stop sign. And without masks you can see smiles again.

On a ride through the streets around Hallquist Avenue I saw kids riding everything from trikes to bikes to electric scooters. I even saw some kids riding in an ATV. Not legal, I’m sure, but everyone wants to be out now. And they were smiling.

On a loop through Oakwood Cemetery I saw several groups of people visiting graves of loved ones. Notably, most of the graves being visited were in sections with more recent burials. There are many graves that are now just lonely records of people long forgotten and of interest mostly to historians. I did see some people laughing, though, probably reminiscing about a past experience with the decedent.

On East Avenue was a front yard where a large group was gathered. It was probably a graduation party. People were socializing again, shaking hands and giving hugs. It made me smile. Not far from there a group of fishermen were saying goodbye to each other, sharing hugs and handshakes after fishing earlier in the day. They were also smiling and laughing. I smiled at them as I rode past.

The parking lot at Bay Point Park was full of vehicles and boat trailers. Levee Park had a steady stream of cars. People were viewing the park’s new amenities and the new high bridge. There’s a lot to see in Red Wing now. And maskless, smiling people were everywhere.

On the east end of town is my old neighborhood. On the way there, I saw a group of well dressed older ladies sitting in folding chairs and visiting in a front yard. Not a mask was in sight and, yes, they were smiling. Even someone weeding their flower bed gave me a sincere smile as a I rode past. I returned the favor.

At the end of East Fifth Street is the new parking area at the base of He Mni Can (Barn Bluff). It was packed with cars. In fact, the street had cars parked on each side of it all the way down to Centennial Street.

I made a mental note to return when I had time to read the information on the new kiosks. A dad and his kids were just coming down the final steps from a hike. They had the wide grins of kids anxious to tell everyone about the cool climb they had just finished. I smiled at the thought.

I did see a guy wearing a mask while driving his car. It reminded me that we are not over the pandemic yet. There are some who still have a need to wear a mask and we need to respect that.

I slow-pedaled along East Seventh Street past my childhood home and those of my old friends. I sure would have liked to run through the backyards like I did as a kid but at my age that might be frowned upon. And I wouldn’t be running. Well, no matter. The people I saw along the way were smiling so I smiled back.

I biked up Memorial Drive to the top of Sorin’s Bluff and rode around the top. Lots of people were there as well. A Frisbee golf game was active and there was evidence that the remodeling project for the main lookout point might be starting soon. People were smiling. I’ve always enjoyed watching people’s reaction to the spectacular views from up there.

No ride through the east end is complete without a run through Colvill Park. It was busy and the main parking lot was packed with vehicles and boat trailers. A wedding reception was taking place at the Courtyard Building and photos were being taken outside. They were smiling for the camera. Elsewhere in the park people were hugging and tearing up as they said goodbye at the end of a picnic. But their tears were happy tears.

As I rode home, I was smiling.

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