My younger years were spent in a village called Miami Shores, Florida. Miami Shores was the perfect place to grow up in. It had the feeling of being a small town, but in a big city. My father, who is from a small village in New York, loved living there because the feel of a small village is not common when you are living in Miami. There were always many fun things for children to do. One of my favorite things to do when I was a toddler was to go play in the Miami Shores tot lot. It was a small park at the far end of the athletic fields. There was a play area with sand, a swing set, monkey bars and little planes and cars on a spring that were so fun to ride. My mom and dad would take me to the tot lot on the weekends and I loved to play there with my big brother.
As I grew older, I used to go watch my brother while he played baseball and soccer at the athletic fields. There were many children there that I played with on the grassy fields. I always loved to go and get treats at the snack shack. It was always so exciting to be able to pick an ice cream, chips or candy before running back to play. Sometimes we would even go into the field house where I would play dress up with my friends Katie Indorf and Lucy Wenger.
A couple of blocks down the street was the Athletic Center. I participated in several activities there, as well. I did gymnastics classes and watched my brother play basketball in the adjacent courts. One of my favorite activities was when I attended an American Girl summer camp at the Athletic Center. We did all kinds of things with our dolls. We made them a little store out of craft materials, sewed them clothes and even had a pajama party with our dolls. It was so much fun!
My family and I also liked to go eat at the Miami Shores Country Club. It felt like we were going back in time when we went in there. I don’t think that they had changed it much since the 1970’s. We would often sit near the windows that looked over the putting green on the golf course and have lunch or an early dinner there. Sometimes there was even a singer entertaining us while we ate. I really loved the chicken fingers and French fries there. We also liked to eat at Mama Jennie’s, a local Italian restaurant that had been open in Miami Shores for many, many years and eat dessert at Mooie’s, the local ice cream shop.
Each Sunday, my parents, brother and I would go to mass at our parish, St. Rose of Lima. Although my brother and I did not like to get up early, we always loved to go to church at nine in the morning because we could get donuts and juice after the mass was over. We were also able to play with our neighborhood friends in the church courtyard those mornings. That was always a great reward for behaving ourselves during the mass.
Aside from all of the local places that we loved to go to, there were always many seasonal events that we loved to attend. The St. Rose of Lima carnival was one of them, as was Unity Day. Those were both fun events with many carnival rides, games and delicious food. My favorite day to attend local events was Easter Sunday. That morning, my family and I would go to church and after mass we would go across the parking lot to my brother’s elementary school and participate in the egg hunt. We also got candy from the Easter bunny there. After that was over, we would go over to the athletic fields to the famous Miami Shores Marshmallow Drop. During that event, a helicopter would fly over our heads and they would drop thousands of marshmallows on the field. It looked like it was raining marshmallows! When they were finished, the children would get the signal to begin and we would run all over the field picking up marshmallows and putting them in our baskets. If you were lucky enough to find one of the golden marshmallows, then you would receive a big basket of goodies. Everyone else could turn in their soggy marshmallows for a delicious bag of candy. After that, we played on the field with the other local children and took pictures with the Easter bunny as music played in the background. That was one of the most special Miami Shores traditions.
Another event that was traditional in Miami Shores and that we always went to was the Miami Shores Presbyterian Church’s annual pumpkin patch. My mom would dress my brother and I in our fall clothes and take us to the pumpkin patch to play and take pictures. There were hundreds of big and small pumpkins on the front lawn of the church. We always got to pick a pumpkin to take home and carve for Halloween. This church also put on another special event. Every December, they would do a living nativity. As you walked around the church from the very front to the back, there were different scenes leading up to the birth of Jesus. This was a lot of fun to watch, as there were church parishioners acting in each scene. The actual Nativity scene was always my favorite, since there was a real baby as the newborn Jesus and real animals, including a camel!
The holidays were very festive in Miami Shores. There were carolers that went to the houses with paper luminaries in their yards and sang from the back of a village truck, there was a local Christmas tree lighting and a holiday house tour where you could see the inside of several of the houses. One of my fondest memories is of my dad driving our family around our neighborhood seeing the many houses that had bright Christmas lights and merry decorations. I would often squeal in delight as I looked at all the beautiful decorations in wonder.
The most special part of Miami Shores was the house that I lived in with my family at 1100 NE 91 Terrace. It looked like a little dollhouse and had been built in 1938. It was a white, two-story house with green awnings and two small balconies on the front of the house and one big balcony on the side. Our house was set all the way to the back of the property and had a light green iron gate and tall hedges. One fun fact about our house was that the reason that it was set all the way to the back was that at one time the front of the house was what we called the back and faced the street behind us. It had been changed many years before and we were lucky enough to be one of the only houses to have a pool in our front yard. We also had a big, old tree in our yard that had a wooden swing hanging from it and there were seven different types of flowers in our yard alone. We were very near Biscayne Bay, so when the cool breeze would come off the water, you could smell the many flowers. The smell of the gardenias was my favorite. Many of my happiest memories are swimming in that pool, swinging on the tree swing and playing in the front yard.
Our house in Miami Shores was filled with many beautiful memories. Not only was that the first house that my parents bought just one year after they were married, but it was the house where my brother and I both came home to from the hospital after we were born. It was also the house we lived in with my first dog, Max. Although it was a small home, it had a beautiful wooden spiral staircase that went from the kitchen to our bedrooms. I loved to go up and down those stairs. I also loved to sing and dance in our beautiful kitchen. Although we had to move to our house in Coral Gables because we outgrew that house as my brother and I got older and needed to be closer to our schools, I still miss our cute little house and our neighborhood in Miami Shores.