Oh Those Wildwood Days
In the summer of 2012, I travelled to Wildwood from Ireland to work and experience a new culture. I got a job in Cathie’s Critters on 20th and the boardwalk in a lovely store, assisting my manager. It was an amazing summer meeting new people and enjoying the beautiful surroundings of sunny Wildwood. I worked primarily in the evenings up until midnight. I loved coming to work every day and meeting new customers and talking with colleagues. I met some amazing people that summer and met countless number of Irish Americans in work who were curious about Ireland and telling me where their family was from in Ireland.
I walked to work every day along the boardwalk from Leaming Avenue, enjoying the atmosphere, greeting familiar faces along the way and the sunshine, after a day spent at the beach with friends. One day as I made my way to work and approached 20th, I looked down towards the end of the boardwalk when I saw a beautiful girl in a pink t-shirt and shorts standing outside one of the stores. Immediately I was fascinated by the girl. For the next few days I noticed her on the boardwalk in the exact same position until I realised she was a sample girl for Laura’s Fudge store. I was excited that I would get to see this girl on a regular basis.
Each day as I walked to work I looked forward to seeing this girl. It became my favourite part of the day, glancing down at her. Each night in work I would sit on the bench on my break and glance down at her. Her energy and friendliness was obvious to see. She greeted every person who passed by with a lovely cute smile and a polite greeting. As I glanced down, I was hoping she would return the gesture and hoped for some sort of acknowledgement. Any time she looked in my direction my heart would stop, even if she was just looking up the boardwalk at potential customers. My mind began to wonder who this girl was and things about her life. I drew up the assumption that she was an American tennis player due to her tan and athletic physique, as well as her white sneakers. My opinion then changed as I saw her moonwalking so elegantly. Her energy was contagious and put an instant smile on my face. I knew she was a performer of sorts and that really hit a sore spot with me. As the weeks went by, the obsession and feelings grew. I wanted to approach her but my shyness and reserved nature got the better of me. I knew if I kept staring that I would get the “creepy” label so in the last 2 weeks of summer I decided to pluck up the courage and approach her by entering her store. I walked into Laura’s Fudge to walk by this girl just to increase the chances of a conversation, starting with the added bonus of some tasty treats in the store. As I approached the store, I received the same attention and heart-felt greeting as all who passed this charming girl. My mind was racing into different things I could say to this girl. I don’t remember the exact dialogue in the height of the excitement and my cowardice. I think it was a typical polite, yet awkward exchange of greetings before I rushed into the store. Inside the store I composed myself before preparing to leave and think of something to say. As I saw her again so close, all thoughts left my head and I went blank and must have come across really quiet or rude. For the next week or so, this encounter would repeat without any major progress being made. If anything, I felt her energy towards the greetings decreased with time. With each encounter I wondered what it would be like to know this person and have her in my life. I used to see her on the bench opposite Laura’s Fudge store often eating an ice cream or with her friends from neighbouring stores. She seemed so sociable and friendly and yet I could not bring myself to start a proper conversation with her. In my last week in Wildwood I got a pain in my stomach each time I saw her. I knew summer was almost over and my time to get to know this girl was running out. Her boss Linda often visited Cathie in the store I worked in and I would casually enquire about her staff this year with particular emphasis on the energetic sample girl. I tried to get as much information about her as possible.
I lost all hope of getting to know this girl. In my last week as I made my way to work I looked down to Laura’s Fudge expecting to see the girl I had been fascinated about, only to see a new sample girl. I assumed she had left Wildwood for good and accepted defeat. On my second last evening in Wildwood as I walked into Cathie’s Critters store, I looked out at the boardwalk only to see the cute sample girl sitting on the same bench opposite my store as I had watched her from. She was with two friends. I remember feeling great joy when I saw her; it meant she had not left Wildwood and still a distant chance we would meet. Just as I returned to the cash register< I turned to greet 3 girls who had been outside on the bench. To my shock the cute sample girl was there asking me if I was Irish in an abrupt way. I could tell she was too, immediately from her accent. My theory of her being an American tennis player was instantly quashed. It was a 5 or 10 minute conversation which flowed naturally with ease. We learned that we only live 2 hours apart in Ireland and about our college subjects after much confusion. She insisted on guessing my college. We then learned that we were both due to travel to New York City for our last 3 days before leaving America for Ireland. We discussed our summers while my manager looked on as well as the cute sample girl’s two friends who stood there in shock. My heart was beating so fast when she first started talking to me, it’s a surprise to me that I didn’t faint. I could feel my cheeks burn at the start with them turning a rosey typical Irish colour. I couldn’t believe she was Irish this whole time. We discussed our travel arrangements for going home and our flights matched. As the conversation drew to a close, I can still remember her saying in her charming way for me to “enjoy my flight”. After she left, I remember thinking she was even more amazing than I had imagined. I admired her courage for coming in to introduce herself to me. I will always remember that moment. On my last day of work I did not see her.
I left for New York City hopeful that I would bump into her, perhaps slightly naïve and optimistic thinking, considering the size of Manhattan. I kept my eyes open for a petite, brown haired, brown eyed moonwalking beautiful girl amidst the sights of Manhattan but I was unsuccessful.
A couple of weeks passed when I got home but I still always remembered the girl. I missed her instantly after our first encounter even though I had waited all summer to talk to her. It was on the 7th of September when my manager from America put up a Facebook status to which I looked at the comments below where I saw an ‘Áine Organ’. Áine is an Irish name so it immediately captured my attention. I looked at the profile picture and I recognised her straight away as she stood on an old boat in North Wildwood, near the boardwalk bathrooms of North Wildwood. Her other photos led me to believe she was an actress of sorts as there were many of her on a stage. I contemplated adding her as a friend but was still afraid of coming across strange. Later on in the day I mulled over my decision before deciding to click the button late in the evening while with a friend. That decision would change my life completely. I then nervously checked Facebook an hour or two later to discover that she had accepted my request and left a typically friendly comment on my page. We exchanged a pleasant conversation before I decided to message her a day later. The following day I received a text from her even though we had not swapped numbers. The fact that she had went out of her way to find my number and text me was a really good sign. We hit it off straight away and 3 weeks later we went on our first date in Dublin. The date went swimmingly and we have gone on countless more since then, all over Ireland on adventures. We have talked every day for the past 7 months and I continue to love Áine as a best friend as well as a girlfriend. I will always remember Wildwood and the Summer I spent there. It was the start of something truly special which is continuing to grow each day. I thank Wildwood, my manager and a huge amount of fate for allowing me to be with the girl of my dreams.
I was a sample girl for Laura’s Fudge on 20th Ave. I loved my job, offering fudge to people and then getting talking to people; whether it was girls who liked my shorts; elderly couples telling me of the time they were in Ireland or people telling me the percentage of Irishness in them. I made countless friends and was used to people taking fudge and chatting with me.
However, one day towards the end of the summer, this was not the case. On a wet and rainy, but still warm, day, a good looking guy was passing by. He had light brown-blondish hair that matched a tanned complexion. I thought he may have been Eastern European, and thinking he’d like fudge to sweeten up the wet day it was, I offered him some fudge as I moonwalked on the slippery boardwalk: “Would you like some fudge?” I smiled enthusiastically at him; I’m sure looking like a love-sick puppy at the handsome young man that stood in front of me. He smiled and rejected the fudge, but walked into the shop. The next day he passed by, I decided maybe the Eastern European would fall for some of my Irish charm, so I lathered on a thick Northern Irish accent, I’m not even from the North, and tried once more: “Would yaaa looiiiike some fuuudge?”, “No, I’m going in” was the short and blunt answer. The same guy returned to the shop the next day. Little did he know that I had made a mental note to myself to never offer him fudge ever again. As he walked in to the shop, I felt him glance at me but I focused all my attention on smiling at the passing tram cars and giving fudge pieces to the tram car drivers. It was the same routine the next day; the guy was walking into the shop and instead I chatted to some 5yr olds who were delightedly sampling a piece of fudge each. It turned into a sulking ritual; the guy would walk into the shop and I would blatantly ignore him and sulk. The next week was my second last week and I decided that enough was enough, I must be nice to the guy, and that he deserves another chance at being offered some fudge, after all, he may have changed his mind. I saw him coming from the shop he worked in, three shops down from Laura’s Fudge, in Cathie’s Critters. As he approached I wore my most welcoming smile and this time went for a different approach: “Hi there! Do you want some fudge today?” “Er…no, I’m going in to buy” was the response. I decided to actually reply instead of sulk and said “Sure! Have a nice day!” This seemed to fluster the guy but I put it down to that he might not have understood, due to him being from another country.
A week later, I had finished sampling for the night and was cleaning inside the shop. One of my favourite jobs to do. My boss, Linda and I chatted about everything that happened that Summer, joked around, placed bets on who was there to buy chocolate covered bacon and talked about my love of the chocolate dipped cookies. Linda let me leave early as she knew I was going to get my belly button pierced with my friend from 3 Brothers Pizza. Just before I was leaving the shop, Linda said “There’s a really nice Irish guy working for Cathie, he’s cute too!” When she noticed the look of shock on my face, she went on; “You haven’t met him? I thought all you Irish made friends! No? He’s so nice, I think his name’s Ciaran. Really cute!” That was enough, I grinned at her, a grin not dissimilar to the Cheshire cat’s from Alice in Wonderland. Remembering I had to get to the piercing place before it closed, my friends were quickly walking with me the minute I stepped out of Laura’s Fudge door. We were walking quickly past Ken & Mary’s ice cream store, Fancy Feet and 3 Brothers Pizza, which made my entry into Cathie’s Critters even more dramatic. Two of the girls followed me in, unsure as to what was going on, the others waited outside looking confusedly in.
“Are you Irish?” I pretty much demanded of the rude non-fudge eater. Non-fudge eater went a shade of pink that matched my Laura’s Fudge t-shirt and nervously answered “Em yeah, are you?” I told him I was then asked what part of Ireland he’s from. He looked to his boss, Cathie, uncertain if he should encourage conversation with the fellow Irish person. Cathie smiled at him, so he answered Dublin, and returned the question. I was on a high for the piercing I was about to get and the hyperness came out in conversation: “Oh? Do you go to UCD? DCU? DIT?” Each question was answered with a no, which of course serves me right for trying to guess the college. He told me he was studying in ITT, and made excuses saying it’s not a proper college. I laughed and informed him that’s nothing, I’m studying arts and that it’s not even a proper degree. Conversation flowed easily about college and who we were over there with, we were both over there with just one other friend, which is unusual for Irish students, as they normally travel in packs. I completely forgot I had 2 friends standing there and his boss eagerly watching the conversation between her employee and the Irish girl. Cathie knew me as I was known as the girl who loves to clean on 20th Ave and had previously ran down to her when it was raining with my hair a crazy curly mess and makeup dripping down my face and had ever so politely said “Cathie! I need your best Chinese menu please!” Must have been a sorry sight compared to the sight of the two Irish swapping names, the crazy sample girl telling her employee she thought he was Eastern European and her employee laughing and saying he thought the sample girl was American, while she shot back she was born in America and the pair were generally making friends. By then, I had forgotten all about his previous rudeness to my offers of fudge. We found out we would both be in New York for two days before our flight home. Of course, I knew New York is a big place and I would never see him there, but there was still a glimmer of hope that we’d see each other on the plane; it’s always nice to see a familiar face somewhere. Fate was against us though and our flights didn’t match. My mom always told me I was good at dealing with disappointment and I guess that’s still the case, as I was leaving the shop I smiled goodbye and cheerfully chirped “Enjoy your flight!”
I didn’t see him in New York. And I didn’t see him at JFK. This didn’t surprise me; America and its airports are enormous compared to Ireland, where everyone knows everyone.
A week after I got home, I saw that Cathie had put up a status on Facebook about pumpkin fudge from Laura’s Fudge to which I commented “Pumpkin fudge!” When I was on Facebook again not long after, I was notified of a friend request from a Cillian Rohan. As soon as I saw the profile photo, I knew it was the guy from Cathie’s Critters. I accepted him and left him a friendly comment on his page. He replied an equally friendly comment. Soon after he started messaging me privately to let me know he had not actually flew in first class, as he had stated in the comments on his page. I got a giggle out of this because my friend and I had actually flown in first class, after a swift (and free!) upgrade. We talked for a while before both going to bed, as it had gotten late. The next day, I noticed his phone number was on his Facebook page. I thought that seemed odd as he seemed quiet and shy (which may be why I thought he was rude). I texted him a well thought out text: “Still can’t believe you don’t like Beyonce! Also, be careful about putting your phone number on your facebook page J” He knew who it was after the previous day’s conversation. After talking every day for three weeks, we went on our first date.
Cillian showed me all the sights of Dublin, and today, six months later, we still go on adventures around different counties of Ireland. I know 6 months doesn’t sound like a big deal, but we were both the biggest commitment phobes ever before. Our adventures are always fun and action-packed, and I wouldn’t pick anyone else to go on the adventures with! I like to think Linda of Laura’s Fudge and Cathie’s Critters Cathie had played Wildwood Cupid on their employees of Wildwood’s sunny Boardwalk!