By Susan "Honey" Good
We met when we were young girls at Camp Forest Acres, located in the small town of Fryeburg, Maine. We happened to be in the same cabin, our bunks almost touched, which turned out to be a very serendipitous happening.
We were total opposites. She was a loner, an artist, and, as artists go, off in her own world. She had long natural black curls and a certain aura that I found attractive. She was not ‘one of the girls.’ I liked that.
I was an extrovert, the Captain of the Tan Team and ‘one of the girls.’
They say opposites attract and I, for one, believe that to be true. It can make for a far more interesting relationship. We bonded.
I loved to watch her sketch. She had a quiet strength; her demeanor was very dramatic. She enjoyed my friendship. We spent many happy hours, during camp rest hour, talking about our lives. I told her about ‘Kankakee by the Sea.’ She told me about her celebrity mother and her life in Minneapolis.
My eight weeks each summer at Forest Acres were the best! The camp was beautifully situated along a lovely flowing river in the White Mountains of Maine. I reveled in the camp spirit, and enjoyed every day. I thrived on my new and lasting friendships with my East Coast girl friends who were much more sophisticated than this girl from ‘Kankakee by the Sea!’
Camp days were so girly. I bleached my hair for the first time with peroxide, turning my brunette hair color orange. I learned to tweeze my eyebrows and tweezed most of them off, my mother commenting when she saw me, “where are your eyebrows and OMG you have orange hair.” I almost chocked to death when my mature friends convinced me to try my first puff on a cigarette. I learned that my favorite cabin counselor was gay and I learned what it meant to be a gay person. A counselor at the brother camp, Indian Acres fell in love with me! His name was Sid.
Camp taught me good sportsmanship, determination, how to survive on my own. I so enjoyed the camaraderie of camp life.
My camp days, at Forest Acres, are a passage of my life that I would live all over again, given the chance!
And what of my two friends?
After the camp season ended Sid kept in touch with letters and phone calls. He drove to ‘Kankakee by the Sea’ from New Rochelle, New York to meet my parents. His mission was to invite me, in person, to be his date at Princeton University for Homecoming week-end. I was fifteen years old.
My mom thought long and hard and told Sid, “If Suzi travels with a girlfriend, I may consider it."
Sid had his plan. He told my mother his close friend wanted to invite my girlfriend, the artist. The celebrity mom and my mom talked. All the plans were put into place and confirmed. I was on my way and giddy with excitement, saying to my mom, “Thank you mom for letting me experience life.” As I said, I was all of fifteen.
My mother had wonderful taste and taught me at an early age not to fall for the fashion of the moment. She had style and still has style at 95 years of age. She dressed me perfectly. My hair was shoulder length. My lips had a touch of color. I wore a camel hair coat, low red heels and a wool scarf around my neck in red and camel color. I remember feeling very special.
That is, until my quiet artist girlfriend waltzed in to the airport and I mean waltzed in with flowing black hair, her mother’s leopard coat and cloche hat, sheer black hose, three inch black high heels and her mother’s jewelry! We were the same age but she looked like my mother and I felt like her daughter!
I remember I was dazed as I kissed my mom and dad good-bye. That is until my mom winked at me and gave me the thumbs up sign of approval. I smiled back and felt relieved. I trusted my mother.
The weekend was fabulous for this girl from ‘Kankakee by the Sea.’ I took in everything. Not so for my girlfriend. She lost her mother’s jewelry (it actually may have been stolen) and snagged her mother’s black sheer hose. She was a wreck.
Sitting on the plane next to her, on the way back to Chicago, I felt she was my daughter and I was her mother. I decided, at the ripe age of fifteen, that my mentally depleted girlfriend needed my advice.
I remember saying, "You don’t have to copy your mom’s style. You are an artist and create beautiful art. Be who you are." She started to cry and hugged me. I hugged her and I remember I felt happy.
My parent’s met us at the airport. We took my girlfriend to her gate and said our good-byes.
Have I kept in touch with my girlfriend from the past? Have I seen my old beau?
Yes and yes, darlings.
Several years later, my husband Shelly and I flew to Maine to visit my old Camp, Forest Acres. It was the camp’s 50th anniversary and this was a marvelous excuse to return to my happy memories.
As I walked onto the campground with Shelly, I immediately saw my beau, Sid, rushing up to me waving my camp pictures in his hand! The eight by ten camp photographs were taken when I was fifteen years old! Did he still have a crush on me? I wondered. I was shocked yet elated to see him. He is a successful attorney in New York.
Are you wondering what happened to my girlfriend? We met, by design, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in LA a few years ago. She came alone. I was with Shelly.
As she walked toward me my mind flashed back to the two of us sitting side by side on the flight home from Princeton University’s Homecoming Weekend when she was so distraught. I remembered our long rest hours when we shared our secrets and bonded. I smiled to myself.
The story of my relationship with my artist girlfriend has not ended.
Last year, I asked my dear friend, Toby, who lives in Minneapolis, to help me get in touch with my artist girlfriend. I trusted Toby to follow through. One month ago my phone rang. It was my artist girlfriend.
We talked for a long time, sharing our lives.
Our conversation with her words to me, “I will always love you, Suzi. You were so kind to me when I needed a friend.” I was taken aback and so delighted.
She now lives in LA. We have plans to see each other over dinner with our husbands in December.
Who is my artist girlfriend?
She is Dear Abby, the daughter of the original Dear Abby. She took over writing her mother’s column several years ago after her mother developed Alzheimer's.
I “penned” this story for you, darlings, because it is special to recall your important childhood memories. Hopefully my story will lead you to up the phone and reconnect with an old friend? I also encourage you to sit down with your children and grandchildren and share your childhood experiences with them, through story telling, because every one of your stories has a message. Share yours!
I hope you have a wonderful, Sunday!