Wednesday, 26 May 2010

What's Gonna Happen When Summer's Gone?

When I was young I imagined that my life was set to a soundtrack. You know, cut to the romantic first scene when our eyes meet across the room, they speak of longing and love and fresh promise and there’s a swell of ‘Some Enchanted Evening.’ The boy and I finally speak, we know we’ve found The One and Frank Sinatra is crooning ‘Come Rain or Come Shine.’ Now lovers, we are sitting in a cozy trattoria, gazing into each other’s eyes, sharing a single strand of spaghetti like the Lady and the Tramp, and Dean Martin is belting out ‘Mambo Italiano.’ Strangely, the soundtrack of my life never included current music and I always suspected that I was an anachronism, a black and white movie character time-transported to the wrong decade. Most likely, though, I’m kind of weird. None of my high school or college friends listened to ‘The Rat Pack’ and I suffered the sting of insult due to my musical predilections. Occasionally, my friends humoured me but grudgingly and not very graciously.

When I was 20, I spent a summer season in a chi chi East Coast beach town with my college roommate. We got waitressing jobs at a popular restaurant and found a room in a gigantic beachfront shack which the owner turned into 10 rooms, all rented out to college students. The rooms were crummy, but in a quaint way, and you could glimpse the pounding surf and acres of smooth white sand from our bathroom window. We had two twin beds, a dresser, two striped beach chairs and an antiquated record player. In less than a week, my roommate and I hooked up with two guys who were, conveniently, roommates as well.

You know how, in the old movies, the guy kisses the girl (‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’) and her feet come right out of her pumps? Well, that was me. My guy (H) was tall so when we kissed my feet dangled above my Havaianas, which were still firmly planted on terra firma. H and his friends were from Main Line Philadelphia. H was prep school and I was Catholic nuns smacking my knuckles with a ruler. H was trust fund and I was work/study program to fund the education and the beer. H was Mayflower and I was Ellis Island. You get the picture. But the great thing about living at the beach is that it’s a leveller so, naively, I didn’t realize how monied H was or how blue his blood ran. I lived in a bikini and flip-flops and H was always in a t-shirt and madras Bermuda shorts. Okay, whatever, it was before the days of Abercrombie and he made madras look pretty damn sexy.

H loved Frank Sinatra. He played it all the time while he mixed martinis in a silver shaker. Honestly. H and I agreed that ‘The Great Gatsby’, the novel, is nigh on perfect. We loved the same books and discussed them passionately. We laughed at the same jokes. In short, we ‘got’ each other and that doesn’t happen everyday. I loved H’s friends and he loved mine. I never felt so at home in my life. Finally. My own kind.

As the summer wore on, H and I pledged our undying love. We talked for hours, lying in a sand dune, planning our future together. When he looked at me, I felt more beautiful than I had ever felt before and in his eyes I saw hope, love, acceptance, joy, and belonging. I saw my life spread out before me, in all its Technicolor glory, because H brought the colours alive in my black and white movie world. If I could have read his soul I would have seen the word mate etched across it.

The summer ended as it often does (‘The Summer Wind’) and the season was officially over. H drove me home and met my family who loved him. He was witty and funny and polite and handsome. What’s not to love? My bronzed god, my summer love, promised to keep in touch. We had already arranged visits between each other’s colleges and promised to call and write everyday. When we said goodbye, I wrapped myself up in his strong arms and breathed in the scent of him. I closed my eyes to imprint a memory that would carry me through the cold months of separation.

H invited me for Thanksgiving dinner at his McMansion. It was lovely—the house, not the chilly atmosphere. ('Fools Rush in Where Angels Fear to Tread')

‘Where do you come from, dear?’

‘Other-side-of-the-tracks Town, do you know it?’

‘Oh. I see.’

‘Is your family related to the ‘A’s’ of Bryn Mawr.’

‘Um, no, I don’t think so.’

‘What do you plan to do when you graduate?’

‘Well, I got an internship in New York City, working for X tv show. I’m an English Lit major so I could go into anything, really.’

‘Oh. I see. No real focus, then. Well, H is going to medical school. Private practice. The poor darling doesn’t really have a head for business like his father and brother, do you dear?’

‘No, I guess I don’t,’ mumbled H, turning ten shades of fuchsia. I gave him an encouraging smile and was rewarded with a grimace.

After dinner, H showed me around the house, pointing out the gigantic star chart on the wall. It tracked the progress of H and his siblings. Dean’s List, Olympic team try-outs for swimming, acceptance into Harvard MBA program.

‘Oh man, there’s a lot to live up to here. Don’t you get a star for nice things?’

‘Like what?’

‘I don’t know. Like remembering Mother’s Day or getting your chores done without being asked.’


‘Yeah, I see what you mean.’ They had a maid, for Chrissakes. She scurried past me in a uniform and white apron. Thanksgiving Day and the poor woman had to serve the Mayflower madam.

Soundtrack cuts to ‘I’m Beginning to See the Light’ and H explains that he needs to concentrate on school right now so his calls and writing might slack off in the lead-up to Christmas. I think we can all guess how this story ends (cue ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’). I saw H one more time. He visited my house over the Christmas break, bearing gifts, and told me that it couldn’t work out. H looked miserable---pale and gaunt—and he told me that he had developed an ulcer. Christ almighty. Bad livers, yes, but ulcers for college kids?

Years later, when I was living and working in Manhattan, I wondered if I would bump into him. He might be some fancy pants Park Avenue private practice doctor. But I never looked him up. For all our bravado, I could never be the Tracy Lord to his C.K. Dexter Haven in our version of The Philadelphia Story. Central Casting would have pegged me for the role of the wise-cracking reporter/photographer gal. And you know what? I’m okay with that. One more swell please, ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me.’ Thanks for humouring me.

I wrote this post for Josie’s Writing Workshop at Sleep is for the Weak and chose the prompt Summer. Thanks, Josie, for your prompts and setting us loose with our own creativity, possibly not as dangerous as setting us loose with a box of matches but you never know. I’ve wanted to write for your workshop for months but keep missing it. Not this time though. Count me in. And thanks for all you do. Everyone, go check it out if you haven’t been there before.


  1. I have to say, you're not doing half bad for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks ;)

  2. Cheers Kat! Yeah, I thought I would die of a broken heart but it turned out there were better things in store for me.

  3. Oh I love, love, love this post. There's so much in it that I can relate to. Beautiful writing. I'm going to come back and read it again when I'm not burning the tea.

  4. What a great post - I feel as though I'm reliving that Summer with you. Funny how you said 'The Great Gatsby' is your favourite book because your story has echoes of that tale albeit in a different era x

  5. I loved H! I lived vicariously through you as a child-you always had the spicy love affairs-everywhere we went boys fell in love with you. You were the American Dream-tall thin blonde, and tan-and oh so witty! Not that you still aren't, just older-Ha!

  6. deer baby, oh no, not the tea! It's such a drag, isn't it? I'm flattered that you like this post because I have always loved your writing.

    Patchwork Bird, 'The Great Gatsby'. . .ah, if only.

    suester, ahem, whatever happened to anonymity? You're blowing my cover! I think someone will catch on that we're related. H was lovely. Sigh. So what are you saying, that I'm a cougar now? Ha ha.

  7. Great taste in music! My theory is that all those hip kids into contemporary music trends don't have such a soundtrack to their lives, which is why they have to keep refreshing with each new trend, following the fashion. Rat pack and co. are timeless, like a little black dress. Not that I wear one, of course. Black dress, I mean!

  8. Ha ha, I'm sure you'd look great in a black dress (not that I would know but who doesn't look great in a LBD?). My daughters can sing along to most Sinatra songs and quite a few of Dino's. My 14-yo said she's the only one who has that kind of music on her iPod and the other kids have no idea who those 'old fogeys' are. Honestly, kids today!

  9. What a fabulous post ! I too grew up to Frank Sinatra - not unfortunately in an East Coast cute Ivy League summer romance sort of way though ! Good on you ! My parents are big time Frank fans - they went to the Madison Square Garden concert, yum !

    Really really lovely writing and as for those tracks - you are 100% on the right one to me, hope you're enjoying the hols xx

  10. This is great :) You should pitch it to a film mogul somewhere ;)

  11. Belgravia wife, how did you know it was Ivy League? Our school, as usual, chose a different holiday than all the other schools which means that I have the little one home this week and the big one home next week. But we're having fun, mostly just chillaxing (14-yo word)! Hope you're enjoying your holiday too!

    Nickie, Ha ha, sounds good. So do you know any film moguls?

  12. Great writing as usual. I love the idea of living a life to a soundtrack, especially Frank et al. I was probably the only kid at my uni who loved Harry Connick Jr--not one of the oldies, but in style he'd fit right in with your soundtrack!

    This is a great story, and it ended well for you, but probably not for poor H.

  13. Summer Lovin' had me a blast.
    Loved your story and has brought back memories of my own summer romances of many moons ago, sigh. Not half as posh as yours but the emotions were running just as high, must be teen hormones eh?
    Loved it.

  14. Back for another read and I love it just as much as the first time. I walked down the aisle to Come Rain or Come Shine - but by Ray Charles not Frank. I love all those songs and The Philadelphia Story and the musical remake High Society are favourites, as is The Great Gatsby.

    I wonder what happened to H. Fancy having your whole life mapped out for you like that. I'm glad you resisted the urge to look him up. It might not have ended well. Lovely post.

  15. Oh I am in love with this post!

    You made me want go and have a summer romance immediately. What fabulous memories to have, I'm quite jealous.

    Beautifully written.

  16. Beautifully written - I could actually picture everything, as with the best storytellers.

    Book, please?

    LCM x

  17. Michelloui, I like Harry Connick, Jr. too. It did end well for me but, at the time, it took a long time to believe that it would.

    marisworld, ah, summer romance. It is sweet, isn't it?

    deer baby, I walked down the aisle to 'Moon River' because, of course, Breakfast at Tiffany's is another all-time favourite. My daughter and I watch High Society all the time. I think I know most of the dialogue (and, of course, the songs) by heart.

    Poor H--I suspect he became a doctor, overpaid in America, and married a girl of his parents' choosing. But I hope, in my heart, his story went differently and that he's happy.

    Josie, it's almost summer:) Set it to a soundtrack and enjoy!

    London City Mum, ooh, I'm incredibly flattered. Ah, the book, you never know.. .

  18. Ha this made me laugh! My parents live on the Main Line but fortunately they are not those kind of people. Totally get what you mean though. It was just like reading a movie script. Great detail and loved the way you used the songs. Really enjoyed it!

  19. Heather, Main Line? Ha, it's a small world, isn't it? I'm happy that your parents are not like H's:)

  20. Absolutely loved this post, especially the use of music in it! Definitely a classic story!