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Summer romance

July 25, 2006|by FEDORA COPLEY

Almost a year ago, I fell in love with a boy I barely knew.

We were at a New Age-y summer camp, amid creative thought, meditation and radiating joyfulness. I was 13 and felt I was ready for a relationship. A silly idea for one so young, maybe, but when I look back now, I wasn't silly at all. I was going with the flow of life and found myself in love.

The first day of camp was a Sunday. Everyone arrived and hugged old friends, met new people and became re-acquainted with the camp spirit. I fell into the camp rhythm easily, and when I first saw David I suppose I was in an open-to-anything state of mind. In any case, his long curly hair and easy-going body language spoke to me.

The camp is sponsored by the Association for Research and Enlightenment, a metaphysical Christian organization founded by psychic Edgar Cayce. Though it's based on Cayce's spiritual ideals, camp folds in a variety of activities. It's set in a beautiful, wooded valley in southern Virginia, where the closest town is Rural Retreat, 10 miles away. With its alternate spirituality, tie-dyed clothing and commune-like reputation, locals call it "the hippie camp."

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The next day, I went searching for paint rocks - mud-like pebbles we find by the rocky creek that skirts the boundaries of camp. Wet the paint rocks and they give a muddy paint in bright colors (anywhere from red to yellow to black). David was in the group of eight of us. We donned sandals and shorts and walked down to the shallow creek.

After making the colorful pastes and having way too much fun decorating our bodies with them, we re-formed the group and displayed our faces, legs, arms, chests, etc. When I saw David showing off his graffitied chest, I again was struck. Perhaps it was his broad chest or his indulgent smile that made me stare.

Something in his persona grabbed me. I was captivated, though I only said maybe 20 words to him throughout the two weeks of camp. My shyness was extreme, and aggravating. "Just start a conversation!" I'd say to myself. It never happened. The ache in my chest remained unsatisfied.

Fortunately, I did enjoy camp to its full extent, including acting in "A Day in the Life of the Latrine" for the talent show, chanting in the large garden, and square-dancing with friends (and, to my great joy and astonishment, with David).

Everyone at camp hugs everyone else. "Hugs all around" is a favorite expression after evening campfire, before going to sleep. This is always a wonderful exchange, but last year, I especially was thankful for hugs. I could hug David without any reason except to be warm and friendly. Being shy didn't really mean anything, because I didn't have to say anything. I love the way we do things at camp.

The last Friday of camp, we write messages to everyone else. Everyone has a blank book of some sort that gets passed from person to person. In the books, people write positive messages to each other commemorating high times at camp and wishing well the year to come.

I had made up my mind to tell David about the impression he'd made on me. I was nervous and didn't know what I was going to say, but I knew I had to do it. Writing has always been an easier way for me to convey my thoughts than speaking. That day, in David's book, I wrote my feelings pretty frankly. "I like you a lot, and here's why" was the basic concept.

That night, I got the best hug of my life from him. I was so glad he knew about my love, and I was thrilled to be in his arms.

The next day he left. I felt strangely hollow. Now that he had gone, I wondered what was next. His presence had given me such joy, but even I knew it was an illogical situation. I lived in Hagerstown, Md. He lived in New Jersey. Had I only fallen in love with the idea of him, or was it really him that made joy swell within me?

I couldn't answer that. But thoughts like that swirled around in my mind so persistently I couldn't shake them off.

Once again, I ran to paper and pen for help. I wrote a letter and said what I could, trying to be honest and open about it. I felt if I could tell this boy my deep down feelings, he might be just as impressed with me as I was with him.

When I returned home from camp a week later, I had an e-mail waiting for me. David had received my letter and wanted very much to talk to me. I was thrilled. Perhaps my pen had said what my mouth could not. Maybe there was a chance we would connect. During the next few weeks we e-mailed back and forth. I thanked the world for my existence. My happiness was total.

It was a clear September day when I first kissed David. A wedding brought my family to Eastern Pennsylvania, just across the Delaware River from New Jersey. David and his dad picked me up and we drove to his house for a visit. I was more than a little nervous about what David would think of me.

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