I have had occasion to mention before that I am quite privileged. I live, by my own free choice, in an unimpeachably respectable suburb to the west of Cleveland, with good schools, a sense of community, a beach, three coffee shops, an Irish pub and a gazillion churches, all contained in a few small square miles. It used to be a holiday resort for the wealthy of Cleveland, who would come along the coast on the electric train to take the air away from the city, and who built sweet and large little holiday homes along Lake Road, which are now regularly bulldozed to make way for something more deserving of a lake view.
There are people here who talk about the “Bay Bubble;” the peculiarity of the place that makes it seem somewhat set apart. Few people drive through it to get from A to B. There are faster roads than Lake going west and east, and if you go too far north you fall off the cliff, so there’s not too much traffic there. Many families have raised generations here, and grown children move back “home” when their own babies are born. People who went to school together share the view from their front porches.
There are those who dislike the phrase, “Bay Bubble,” because they know that it’s unreal. In the summer especially, the beach is full of people visiting, and the town’s old identity as a resort echoes across Lake Road to the overflow parking on the grass. In the winter, the nature centre parking lot is full of school buses from across the region, other people’s children. Year round, contractors drive in and out to fix our houses, mend our roofs, cut our grass and mulch our flowerbeds. The Irish pub and the churches do not require proof of residence at the door.
There are those who dislike the phrase because they think it shouldn’t be real; because they would like to think that all of that traffic makes us more cosmopolitan, more open-doored and open-armed, more streetwise and more friendly than we really are.
There are those who dislike those who dislike the phrase because they want it to be real; they want the safety of the bubble; they don’t want to think that drugs can find their way over the railroad tracks and into our middle- and high-school lockers; that they might need to start locking their front doors at night. One parent told me that he liked Bay particularly for raising children because there are so few strangers, and the few that there are tend to be easily spotted. There was the neighbour who totally failed to see the irony in complaining to us, with our out-of-town accents, about the newcomers to the bubble, the ones moving from the east of us, the strangers trying to make the bubble their home.
Then comes July Fourth. Mostly, it is a community event, watching the fireworks at the end of the fair, on blankets or lawn chairs on the Cahoon land which is so carefully used (no games on Sundays, no alcohol ever, no no). But the fair draws people from further afield, and Bay becomes a messy bath of bubbles for just a day or two. The carnies set up next to the Kiwanis; the Democrats and the Republicans of Bay Village nestle to the left and the right of the curly fries stand.
I always work the fireworks shift. I love seeing my children’s friends all grown up since second grade, girls and boys shifty and shy with one another, and shocked to recognize us old mothers sitting behind the cash box in the ticket booth. I love seeing the families who have made this their summer holiday, who require astronomical amounts of change for rather large bills which they took out of the bank for the occasion, determined and hopeful that they will have a great time, and make their children smile. They ask, towards the end of the evening, where is the nearest ATM; they do not want to run out of fun, and there is pathos. Everyone is counting their quarters and working out their last rides, last chances, last deals of the season. I love seeing them surreptitiously trading in unused tickets and sharing the feel and the fun of the fair. The people of the bubble feel safe because they never left home. The visitors feel welcome in the chaos and anonymity of the fair, which is itself an interloper. The colours of the bubble swirl.
One thing has always been a puzzle, though. The ferris wheel, which could have a gorgeous view of the lake, of the city beyond, of the fireworks over the water, instead looks inland, across the little town, and turns its riders’ backs to the horizon.