It turned out that Tristan Crawshaw, the 21-year-old English boy, had also caught the attention of other girls on staff at Funland, a landmark on the Rehoboth boardwalk for the past 50 years. Adela Binderova, the 23-year-old Slovakian girl, wasn’t about to compete for his affection. She decided this summer would be about the beach and friends, not romance.
But Tristan had also noticed Adela, a pretty brunette with a mischievous smile. So they flirted a little at parties. Then came a night in late June, at the end of a long shift. The park was getting ready to close, and Adela was sweeping the concrete floors. Tristan was working at one of the games, but he had no customers. The two started talking.
Less talking, more sweeping, teased one of the managers as he hustled past. The young pair made eye contact. And Adela knew that this summer might be about more than just the beach and friends.
They fall in love every summer.
Starting in late May, the Delaware beach towns are flooded with teens and young adults arriving to work. Like Tristan and Adela, many are international students who come on temporary work visas.
Soon after they arrive, they start looking around to see who else is there — hunting for the people they’ll go to the bars with, sneak beers with, hold hands with on the beach. Take a swarm of young people with suggestive tan lines and raging hormones; add moonlight, crashing surf and alcohol, and the rest becomes the stuff of lifelong memories. Rarely, but sometimes, it becomes the stuff of lasting love.
Chris Darr, Funland’s personnel manager, has seen just about everything during his seven summers of managing 100 teen and 20-something staffers.
There are the flings that implode midsummer, revealing bruised egos in the workplace: “They’ll say, ‘Don’t make me work with so-and-so. I’m done with them.’ ”
There are the relationships that don’t survive beyond Labor Day: “There’s lots of tears at the end of the season. . . . Some of them know that they can’t sustain it past that.”
There are the couples who try to stay intact across hundreds of miles or an ocean. “But they’re so far apart. It’s too hard.”
And then there are the romances that go all the way. There’s a pink paper heart tacked to a front-office bulletin board. “Met at Funland — now they’re married!” it declares, framing 19 pairs of names scrawled in cursive.
Chris’s name is there. He and his wife, Erin, met when they were 14, working at Funland for the summer. Their version of romance was all childhood sweetness. They took walks on the beach, went for ice cream, played mini golf.
When the end of the summer came — it always comes too fast — they made plans to say goodbye the morning Erin would leave. But Chris overslept, then bolted from bed with the sickening realization that he was more than an hour late for their farewell.