A former student who just completed his first year at Temple University wanted me to meet his new girlfriend. She was visiting him in Wilkes-Barre from her home in Lancaster County. Her name is Haley, and from the time I first heard it I’ve referred to her as ‘The Comet.” Get it? She does. And she seems to like it.
He said they’d be glad to drive to Pittston, so I needed to come up with a rendezvous point. I chose Ballyhoo ice cream parlor in West Pittston.
My reasons were twofold. One, it was easy to find. I told him to drive north on Wyoming Avenue from Kingston and turn left when he hit Antonio’s Pizza. Two, it’s summer.
I arrived early and waited on one of the benches outside. When they got there, they plopped down next to me for a moment before we went in. “You’re gonna love this place,” I told them. “It has an old-fashioned feel. The kind of place where you take your girlfriend and order one ice cream soda with two straws.”
They looked at me like I had two heads.
And I instantly knew why.
Sharing an ice cream soda with your sweetheart is dripping with romance. And romance, in 2018, if not dead, certainly is on life support.
That is not a knock on this young couple. They really care about each other. And it shows. They may even be in love. But romance is something to which they’ve had little exposure. It’s not their fault. They just happened to have been born into a world where sex is a lot lower rung on the relationship ladder than it used to be. And all those rungs that once were devoted to romance just don’t exist anymore.
I often explain the difference between me at 17 and my students at 17 by talking to them about music. When I was in high school, we listened to The Beatles sing, “I want to hold your hand.” When they were in high school they were listening to some clown singing, “It’s getting hot in here, let’s take off all our clothes.”
Holding hands is romantic. Taking off all your clothes is, well, not romantic.
Even if they think it is.
Romance is more subtle. And certainly more creative.
Romance is simple. And often gentle. It’s generally spontaneous. It catches you off guard.
Romance is childlike.
It’s whimsical. And playful. And even a bit mischievous when the moment is right.
Romance does not have to make sense. It’s better, in fact, when it doesn’t.
That’s why there’s one soda with two straws. Two sodas are much more logical. And spoil everything. You get two ice cream sodas for you and your buddy. But not for you and your baby.
Romance knows no season. But while admitting a fine case can be made for spring, and there’s something to be said about a fireplace on a cold winter’s evening or a walk down a lane surrounded by flaming foliage on an October afternoon, if you ask me, if romance does have a season, it’s summer.
In summer, opportunities for romance abound.
Ice cream has a lot to do with that. Stopping for a cone, just because. Or buying an old-fashioned Twin Pop Popsicle, if you can find one, and breaking it in half to share.
A walk in the park, or better still, along a beach. A drive in the country with absolutely no destination, nowhere to go. Windows open, air conditioner off. Radio loud. Stopping at a roadside stand. Eating freshly picked peaches with juice running down your chins and nothing to wipe them on but your sleeves.
Summer brings amusement parks.
If you don’t picture a trip to an amusement park as romantic, you’ve never listened to Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon’s “Palisades Park:”
“You’ll never know how great a kiss can feel
When you stop at the top of a Ferris wheel”
The next line makes my point:
“When I fell in love
Down at Palisades Park”
(Cue the Hammond organ.)
That silly song defines summer romance and that organ solo defines “carefree.” Which is what summer romance is all about.
Even the seemingly not-romantic becomes so in summer. Like a baseball game. A hot dog with mustard, cotton candy, peanuts with the shells on, matching Yankees caps (whether or not you’re Yankees fans), the cute little tyke in front of you wearing his mitt and praying for a foul ball, the silly games on the giant scoreboard between innings, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.
What’s the score?
Or how about fishing?
A row boat and a line in the water. Or, better still, no line in the water. Catching fish is not what this is all about.
And don’t forget lying on your back on a freshly mowed lawn finding shapes in the clouds over head. Or driving out into the countryside at night, far away from the city lights just to gaze at the stars.
I rest my case.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online at pittstonprogress.com.