Love is for Summer, Too

By Marie Elise Robinson

July20, 1958

"Darling, you mean if I married you, you would want me to spend whole summers caring whether noisy little savages got their archery ribbons for hitting a bulls-eye?" Selma had looked around the slickly perfect New York restaurant where they were having dinner. "I could love you here, Dirk, but not among the soggy bathing suits."

That was in April. Now in the middle of August, Dirk was remembering her words as he got up in his camp's mess hall to make an announcement. There was an odd expectant silence. Dirk found himself stammering. "And, fellows, I want you to help me make my guest this weekend welcome. Ms Selma Hearthey is coming up from New York." He couldn't say what he felt, "I'm in love with her. She's wonderful, beautiful--but she thinks she wouldn't like a boy's camp."

The silence stayed. Dirk looked around his counselor's table for help. There was his good friend Art Mellow, nature instructor, and Art's little sister, Janie, who had tagged along to camp with him and had somehow stayed on as a dramatics counselor when she grew up. Now looking like one of the older boys in her soft shirt and dungarees, she kept her eyes on her plate--no help from her. But Art said heartily, too heartily perhaps, "We'll have a nature exhibit for her. Cabin Five boys have some fine specimens of drift-wood." Dirk gave him a grateful smile. "Thanks, Art. I realized how busy you all are with Parent's Weekend just the one after this. How's the show coming, Janie?" He tweaked her ear.

"It's going to be the best yet." Her voice was flatly listless for her, but Dirk didn't notice. He dismissed the boys and hurried over to the guess cottage to make sure everything was ready for Selma.

The next day he drove the camp station wagon down to meet her. Selma, a brightly jacketed book under her arm, a bag in one hand, stepped down on the little rural station platform. She was dressed in what the fashion ads called a spectator frock--dusty rose linen with hat to match.


"Selma, you're here."

"This is perhaps not a best seller, but good," she started right in about the book. "Dear, I must leave early on Sunday. Imagine Fran exhibiting his paintings in the middle of summer. It will be air-cooled, of course"

"I should tell you," Dirk sounded worried,"that I'm busy most of the time here, but you'll have a good chance to see how you like this life and my boys."

"Umm, pretty country."

The guest house with big windows holding a view of pine trees had looked so inviting last night. Somehow when Selma stepped into it, Dirk regretted the Indian blankets; the lamp made by one of the boys in the camp shop; the picture of him, his staff, and the boys in an unimaginative row grinning in what would seem to Selma an "idiotic way."

Ms. Carthers, the camp nurse, was there to greet her as he had arranged. Sam, camp handyman, was putting finishing touches to laying fireplace logs. A boy came streaking down the path, "Ms. Carthers, Vance has a bloody nose. There's a registered package for you to sign, Doc. The rabbit hutch is broken again, Sam." They all rushed off. Dirk knew it was a bad beginning.

Selma's stay was not a success. She tried. The boys were carefully polite. The counselors were also carefully polite.

At Friday's supper there was one bad moment. Selma asked in a general way, "Have you seed the summer theater's The Cocktail Party?" Someone answered brusquely, "If you want to get at some good philosophy, sit around a campfire with boys." But Art came in with an adroit question about the coming Forrest Hills tennis matches, and the rest of the supper went smoothly.

Janie was so silent and looked so shrunken somehow that Dirk tried to draw her into the conversation, "Could Selma and I come over to the rehearsal tonight?"

I'll be glad to have you. The show is just a series of skits, Miss Hearthey, but the parents like them."

"I haven't met any parents."

"They come next weekend. They stay in hotels in the nearby town."

"Oh, I see." Selma sounded as if she thought that was a good idea.

Dirk and she went to the rehearsal, and somehow the Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney imitations by the boys that had seemed so hilarious were not funny at all.

There was a moon on the way to the guest house, but although Dirk held her arm and carefully guided her with a flashlight, Selma managed to stumble over a tree stump. She was cross by the time they reached the door. The pines and the moon and the lovely woman stirred Dirk, but she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Don't have me called before 11 tomorrow." He went unhappily up the path, wondering how anyone could sleep through the bugle that blew at 7:30 in the morning. As he came up to the casino, he saw Janie sitting on the porch looking at the moon.

"Hi Janie," he said and went up and sat beside her.

"Dirk, I'm sorry the rehearsal went badly. They'll be all right."

"Sure. Do you think Selma likes it here? I could never give up my camp."

"No, I don't think she likes it--it's different from anything she's ever known. But if she loves you, Dirk, what could it--does it matter?" There was such a throaty grown-up quality in her voice that he looked at her for a long time. Art's kid sister was getting older--a mighty sweet girl.

"Thank you, Janie." Then he switched to camp business, "I'll have Sam look at the spotlight. Let me know if you need anything from town for the show."

No Janie next year?

"I may need more make-up," She hesitated. "Dirk, maybe I should tell you know that next year I may be dramatic counselor at a girls' camp."


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"I like girls, too. I teach them with the boys in the second grade, you know."

"My boys are crazy about you."

"And I'll miss them. Well, good night."

The next day was sunny and miserable for Dirk. Selma went through it, gracious, smiling and bored. "Darling, do we have to stay and watch two spindly boys box each other?" or the like, went like a refrain through the hours. She left on Saturday evening with the excuse that the Sunday train would make her too late for the exhibit. Dirk tried to forget the failure of the visit by throwing himself into plans for Parents' Weekend.

What were the boys up to?

Something unusual happened on Sunday. All the boys, one after another, came to his office to draw out of the camp bank what was left of their treat money. On Monday morning one of the oldest campers asked to go to town with Dirk to do some shopping. On the way back he sat with a big flat box on his knees. As soon as they drove into the camp he hurried up to the cabin which Janie shared with Ms. Carthers.

Monday night Janie came into supper in a dusty rose dress a size too small for her. There were pink spots on her cheeks and she looked as if she had been crying. Dirk was solicitous. "Maybe you better go up to the Infirmary. You look a little feverish." She gave him a look of such scorn he couldn't believe it.

"I'd like to make an announcement after supper." Her voice was coldly distant.

But when she talked to the boys there was all her warmth back. "This is the nicest present I have ever had. The nicest I'll ever have! When I wear this dress I'll think of you and all the chocolate bars it cost you." There was a little catch in her breath, but she went on briskly, "Rehearsal tonight at eight and you better be good."

After supper, Dirk went down to his office and found his phone ringing. It was Selma. "Darling," how assured and lovely she sounded, "come down to New York next weekend. I'm having some really literate people to dinner on Saturday."

"I can't--I'm sorry, dear, it's Parent's Weekend."

"Let one of those worthy assistants of yours carry on. I want you especially. It's important to me."

"I really couldn't leave camp. I must be here."

"You're being stubborn. It's a wrong moment; call me back and say 'yes'."

"No Selma, I know now. It's impossible."

There was quiet. Then a kind of sigh, a well-bred one. "I'm afraid it won't work out. Shall we face it Dirk.? I hate your precious camp. I always would. I like a child or two, but not wholesale. Why don't you marry your little drama girl? She certainly loves you and your boys, too. Good-by now, Don't be difficult, darling."

He was stunned. Or was he? Slowly he went down to the casino. The boys were going through their Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney routine. It was good. Sam was experimenting with the spotlight. He had it on Janie in her absurd pink dress. She was walking up and down like Humphrey Bogart to show a boy how to do it. She had on a battered gangster hat and the boys were laughing.

Dirk felt tired. Events of the last few days began to make sense: the boys' buying a dress for Janie; her plans to teach dramatics at a girls' camp next year because she thought he was going to marry Selma. Janie! Why, where Selma saw soggy bathing suits, Janie saw fine, clean dives; where Selma saw cheap little ribbons, Janie saw a boy's shining achievement--an arrow straight to its mark.

Janie, Janie, winter, summer, autumn, spring, Janie.

For a man who had just been jilted, Dirk's heart felt strangely content.

"We'll have to get a new spotlight for you next year," he said simply.

Janie smiled at him. "That will be fine, Dirk." She raised her baton and...

...and the closing chorus by the boys shook the camp casino.

The End

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