Spring 1989, 19 years old and just like any other teenager thought I knew it all… I had graduated from High School and had been attending community college and working a full time job within a large accounting company. Life was just mulling along without a purpose, and I was not in the drivers seat. I had no idea where I was heading or what I wanted to do in life. I had just left a failed relationship, and wanted to run… Run Away. There was nothing left here for me, nothing to anchor me to this spot on the Earth. I had an urge to seek out more than what was in front of me, and now seemed like the perfect time to do it.
Through friends I had heard of an opportunity to work for a summer in America, and after about two hours of thought (none what so ever) I applied to work the summer of 1989 in New York, USA… I had no clue at that moment in my life, but I had just said Goodbye to London…
Time flew from when I got the notice that I was accepted into the program, to the day I packed up my belongings and left London… Left the big red buses, the tube, the trains, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Notting Hill, Fish & Chips, The Pub, my accent, my home, my friends and family…. I didn’t say goodbye, I didn’t seek anyone out and have a farewell party. I walked a lonely road, and left a lonely path behind me. No one knew except my mum, sister and step father that I had left London… I didn’t feel the need to be the center of attention.
Heathrow was a bustle of many young, energetic people off to America to have an epic adventure… I was one of them, I was one of many… I fit in, I was young, and full of life, full of adventure, and oh so curious. I sat next to a young man who had done it all the summer before and he filled my head with fun, and laughter… This was going to be my summer, this was my time….
June 1989, I step off the plane from London, Heathrow to New York, JFK airport…. The noise, hustle and bustle was like no other that I had ever seen before, it was surreal… I remember standing at the curbside and watching as Yellow Cabs zoomed by picking up and dropping off people “Am I on a movie set?” These Yellow cabs are real, real people use them… Wow, I am in America!!! Haha. I remember closing my eyes and smelling, listening and feeling New York. For anyone that has been there, you know… New York has a certain smell, feel, sound unto itself… It is New York, she is alive, and she will swallow you whole in an instant, you have to be aware of her power.
From JFK I made my way to the Omni Hotel, Manhattan… Camp America had instructed all councilors to meet there prior to being shipped off to our individual camps. I stepped into the hotel lobby and was met with a barrage of noise and languages, the amazing thing about Camp America is that it collects individuals from around the world and brings them together to work and play in the USA. For three days we slept, ate and lived at the hotel while the Camp America staff taught us American customs, such as…. When an American says, “See you later….” it actually means “Goodbye” they are not making plans with you to see you later!
Three days later I grabbed one of those Yellow Cabs and made my way from the Omni to Grand Central Station, NYC to travel to Brewster County Up State NY to begin what was to be a life altering summer… Camp Cummings, was a summer camp like no other. I was to be a life guard and swim instructor on the camp, and was there earlier than most of the staff on camp. The administrators were in attendance and several individuals on the team that I would be working with. No campers had arrived, and it was a time to get to know each other. Little did I know that a young man had seen me step off of the bus the day that I arrived and had said to his friends, “Dibs.”
(He had said to the other guys in his group, “Dibs” this essentially meant that he was interested in getting to know me more, and that any of the other guys were not to show interest) Caveman, I know!!!! I had no idea he had done this until years later…..
I went about learning my job, and what was expected of me. I made friends easily as we were all in the same boat, none of us knew anyone. The young man I spoke of, decided it was his duty in those early days to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with me, make me laugh, make sure I had fun and became my friend. Yes, totally think of “Dirty Dancing”, I was on the road to having that kind of summer romance. I by no means was looking for it, as I had just run from a relationship in London; I wanted to be free. I didn’t want to jump from one set of arms, into another right away. Love is funny, when you aren’t looking for it, it grabs you and man handles you all the way to the finish line. He was funny, adventurous, loving, attentive. That said I was falling in love…
This camp was special, this camp was for individuals with intellectual disabilities; ages ranging from 8 years all the way to 80!!! What was amazing about this camp, was that we were secluded from the outside world and we did not see their disabilities but their personalities. We saw what they were capable of, not what they could not do. We saw them for who they really were. We laughed, we cried, we sang, we danced, we swam, we played ball… We had an amazing summer, and here is where I learnt that we are all in need of one thing… Love.
This summer flew by, one day rolled into another, June floated into July and August was upon us as if June never existed!!! Lazy days after the campers left the swim area, of laying by the water in the sun floated away. Before I knew it, the campers busses arrived and they boarded tears in their eyes; and yes we too were crying. They had taught us all so much, and each of us councilors had learnt so much. Next the busses for the regular councilors showed up and they too boarded with tears, hugs and promises of staying in touch forever!!! I and a handful of other councilors were to stay on at the camp to help close the camp down for the summer. The young man that I had had the summer romance with had also left that day, and I cried, I cried so hard that that night I slept from exhaustion. Love hurts your heart.
The next day I was called to the office, there was a phone call for me? “Hello, this is Ray…” “Hey, get a ticket on the Greyhound and come spend your next two weeks here with me, don’t go back to London just yet….” Yep, it was him and I did just that. I took some of the summer job money and extended my plane ticket and grabbed a Greyhound to meet with him and hang out for another two weeks….
When I arrived in Chicago, I was amazed at her beauty, and to this day I still am. When you live, eat and breath Chicago you fall in love with her. She is a melting pot of people, food, art, music, culture and so much more. He introduced me to his University friends, his city, to him… I had fallen in love. Two weeks flew by, and I found myself at the Greyhound bus station heading back to NYC… Yes more tears, more pain. Love hurts your heart.
Back in London at the end of the summer and the beginning of Autumn/Fall I found myself in a long distance relationship and back to square one… I was going no where here in London…
I am sharing this story, as I will be heading home in April and needed to share before I came home……