From the moment Jeff saw Jodi sitting in her lifeguard chair, wearing a bright red one-piece swimsuit, he was smitten. The first time he had the nerve to approach Jodi was at a night cabin challenge — one in which campers were told to dress their cabin leaders as creatively as possible. Jodi was covered in newspaper and her front teeth were masked with tinfoil. Jeff teased that she looked like a rapper.
She liked his charm and immediately felt at ease with him. “He has this way of making everyone feel comfortable around him,” Jodi says now. She tried to flirt back, but the tinfoil made her mumble.
After tucking in their campers at 10 p.m., the two retreated to the counselor lounge, chatting until lights out at midnight. This became their routine: Between 10 p.m. and midnight, they relaxed and visited.
Because counselor romances were discouraged, they met surreptitiously.
“We pretended we didn’t exist. Nobody else knew,” Jodi says. It was on a moonlit walk that Jeff stole a goodnight kiss on the back steps of Jodi’s cabin.
A week before he left the camp, he took her sailing. Usually surrounded by a large cabin full of tween girls, Jodi appreciated the rare alone time. Jeff knew she loved the water. “He seemed in his element,” she remembers thinking. “I was surprised how easy it was to talk with him.” The small Sunfish sailboat didn’t leave much room between the two of them.
“We definitely knew we connected, but it was the summer so we thought we can’t take this too seriously — I mean, we really only hung out for two weeks,” Jodi remembers.
At the end of Jeff’s stay, Jodi drove him to the Albany airport to catch his flight home. Both hesitated to attribute too much importance to their time together but were overcome with emotion and shared a final, tearful goodbye at the airport.
“I think we were both caught off guard by how sad we were,” Jodi says. “There was a lot of denial.”
Jeff felt similarly: “It was, like, this is a great slice of what could be something nice. . . . We tried not to get too emotional, but we did.”
Jodi returned to the University of Delaware in Newark, and Jeff went back to Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. Both fell back into their school routines and stayed in touch only sporadically by texting.
When Jeff discussed an upcoming holiday break, Jodi realized that her school’s homecoming fell on the same week and mentioned it would be fun if he could come up for a reunion — not really thinking he’d say yes. She didn’t want to get her hopes up. But Jeff said he would come.
“I was really nervous,” Jodi remembers. “I didn’t know what I was going to say to him.”
“I even brought a sleeping bag just in case things went bad,” Jeff recalls.