Summer Love

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Back when I attended my Jewish sleep-away camp, the summer ended with a big dance. It was on the last weekend of August, right before we all went back to our predictable middle-class lives in Queens, Brooklyn, Westchester, New Jersey, and Long Island, where we would focus on our schoolwork and prepare ourselves for a scholarship to a fancy college.  Fall, Winter, and Spring were times of seriousness.  It was only during the summer that we allowed ourselves to paddle a canoe or initiate”panty raids” on the girls’ bunks.

Having a dance as a camp season finale made no sense to a ten year old boy who had no interest in dancing, or the opposite sex.   The girls danced by themselves while the boys got sugar drunk on Dixie cups of purple punch.

One year,  on my seventh year as a camper, I asked Tammy to the dance, but just my luck — she ended up in the infirmity with the flu, so I spent most of the evening standing outside her window chatting with her about science fiction movies, until one of the nurses shooed me away.  I took off to the social hall, relieved to not have missed the final dance.  After so many years at this camp, the “last song” of the summer had grown in meaning to me.  It was always the same — “See You in September,” originally sung by the Tempos in 1959, but this was the latter version, covered by The Happenings in 1966.  The sappy song must have been a tradition for an earlier generation, because all of the counselors and older staff members would grab a partner and do a “slow dance.”

It never occurred to me as a camper that this “last dance” was not for the campers at all, but for the staff — many who were returning back to school or work, and had experienced summer love for the first time.

Summer love creates all sorts of complications.   Some counselors already had boyfriends and girlfriends back at home.  Some of the staff members were international visitors from faraway places like Ireland.   And not even Jewish.

So how did these summer romances turn out?   Most of them fizzled out.  Some tried to reproduce the lake-side romance in the Catskills back in Brooklyn, but it didn’t have the same vibe on Ocean Parkway.   The city can be romantic and mysterious, but it has a different soundtrack, more funky than mellow.

Tammy, the girl who was supposed to be my date for the final dance, ended up dating one of the counselors — a college boy — much to the dismay of her parents.   They are a summer romance success story, married for decades with children who now go to sleep-away camp.

Over the last month, while most of you have been freezing during the winter months, I have been on Summer Vacation in New Zealand.  It is Summer here.   The kids are off from school.  The beaches are full.  Everyone is eating ice cream.

But Fall is close.   Today there was a “back to school” commercial on the “telly.”  School clothes at 40% at The Warehouse, New Zealand’s equivalent of Target.

With summer ending, there is a call to seriousness.   It’s time for me to return to the States.   The vacation is over.    I’ve found a summer love here in New Zealand.   I’ve had a life-changing experience.

Where does it go from here? I don’t know.  It is hard to carry a summer love into the Fall, especially when you live on different continents.   For now, I have a plane to catch tomorrow, and I want my last dance with Juli.

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70 Responses to Summer Love

  1. Ann says:

    I think it’s just the beginning. Flag-raising, if you will.

  2. Jayme says:

    I’ve so enjoyed watching this bloom over the last month. I can’t wait to see how it flourishes in the autumn…
    Jayme posted Another Goodbye.

  3. Shauna Glenn says:

    I have been following your story on Instagram, Neil, and I gotta tell ya, it’s been like reading a very passionate love story. I’m so happy you’ve found love. You deserve it, my friend.
    Shauna Glenn posted Humans: They’re Not As Nice As I’d Originally Thought

  4. Dresden says:

    I am so thankful to you for sharing this beautiful quest and story of love. As someone that often feels like it will never happen for herself – it’s been inspiring to see it bloom for you.

  5. Amanda says:

    I believe that for every broken heart love reaps, it defies the odds and mends another.

    Here’s to everlasting summer.
    Amanda posted Falling

  6. Karla Archer says:

    I have so enjoyed watching this unfold. It’s been so lovely and wonderful…

    My heart aches, as I know what you are having to wonder and consider. I remember the hours and hours and hours Randy and I spent wondering how to make our relationship work over miles and miles of separation. Wondering if we were just fooling ourselves. But it was real – and that alone was enough to give our love wings and allow it to fly.

    Regardless of the outcome, you stepped out and took a chance – and THAT is inspiring and beautiful.

    Wishing you both tons of happiness.

  7. Shannon says:

    Whatever happens from here, I can’t help but think that this month spent there in New Zealand discovering a love of a person and a place, has a deep worth all on its own.
    Shannon posted Lessons Learned While Walking The Dog

  8. summer says:

    We were separated by just a few thousand miles, on different coasts of the same continent, but my partnership of almost 13 years began in a similar fashion. A virtual romance punctuated by a week, two weeks, six weeks of heartbreaking face to face contact at a time, until we figured out how to get in the same time zone.

    I hope you work this out. It’s been delightful to watch the unfolding in pictures.
    summer posted The Country Life. I’m Over It.

  9. holly says:

    Wow, that is such a beautiful way to tell your story. I agree with Stacey, life is short. You’ll figure it out. In the meantime, what amazing memories to guide you through time.
    holly posted Celebrating Black History with the Vital Theatre’s Show Way

  10. Jack says:

    Hi Neil,

    Been reading your blog for what is it, 6 or 7 years now and this post just strikes a chord with me.

    My nickel advice is that it is better to try and find out what might be than to never try at all. Sometimes the biggest reward requires the biggest risk.
    Jack posted Waiting For The Click-Part 2

  11. Chrisy says:

    It’s been a privilege to follow your summer with Juli. I feel nostalgic and sad after reading this and listening to “See You In September”. I’ll be thinking good things for the two of you.
    Chrisy posted The Twofer

  12. Ruth says:

    Dear Neil,
    It’s been beautiful seeing your photos and Juli’s tweets. And the silence at your blogs has been SUCH A WONDERFUL SILENCE. I bet your stats having just been growing and growing (#jealousbloggertalking). I keep imaging all of us at home and on our mobiles seeing each new photo — our anticipation for the details growing, watching what could be love bloom right before our eyes. This is a modern romance for the masses!

    And it’s also your life. Ugh. And wow.

    I’m failing to avoid imposing my personal history into my view of your summer. When my guy got on that plane for Melbourne, he died a month later. Oh, and, he wasn’t *really* my guy because . . . ugh, life is so messy. So I know my excitement & tears “about Neil and Juli” are really about me. That’s human nature.

    What I DO want to say to YOU—a stranger of sorts, is that I feel for you … going through something emotional and complicated in the public eye. Probably hard enough to discuss privately — and now all these people are “watching”, exerting pressure of sorts, imposing their dreams onto you.

    I wish you happiness. You will listen to your inner voice. No explanations to the blog fans needed. But you must have that in mind already — see, I don’t even know you — ugh, I’m annoying myself — heading back to over here, where I’m quiet and I stop typing…. :)
    Ruth posted More Near Tweets

  13. I’m glad you had this experience and that it continues!
    Father Muskrat posted a new edition!

  14. anymommy says:

    I’ve loved following you through this story, Neil, and I’m anxious (maybe as anxious as you) to understand the next chapter. ;-)
    anymommy posted Emotional (in)security Sunday

  15. Fran says:

    As always, I love your transparency in letting us experience life vicariously. I love your sense of adventure. I love the way you make the globe so richly navigable. I love your style. I love you. Thank you, Neil.
    Fran posted How are YOU using Twitter?

  16. Avitable says:

    The people we can find in the computer are wonderful, and I hope that you’re able to cherish this one.
    Avitable posted My life stats on my 36th birthday

  17. In 1996, I had a summer love with a girl from California while I was living in Toronto. We didn’t know what the next year would bring, and that uncertainty drove us to some pretty insane decisions. For instance: I moved to California.

    17 years later, we’re still married.

    Summer love can fleet fleet fleet along, or it can anchor you, solid, in the world.
    Backpacking Dad posted One Minute

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