I’m thinking today of my first kiss.
Actually, it was an almost-kiss. In my neighborhood, kids flooded the streets like squirrels. It was the legendary good old days, when we played outside up and down the block until our mothers started yelling for us to come home. At age 10, I was the oldest of four girls – my sisters were 8, 7, and 3. My poor mom.
My best friend Claire lived a few blocks away, and I saw her just about every day. But right next door lived the Smiths – the artsy, funky, undisciplined Smiths. The oldest was a good kid, already in high school by the time I knew him, who would one day become an accomplished artist. The next child, a daughter, also in high school, dated an angry boy who rode a motorcycle and parked it on the sidewalk. One time we accidentally knocked it over and he threatened to beat us up, but my father’s threats were bigger. Eventually the daughter became pregnant, the motorcycle dude left her, and we rarely saw her after that.
The next child was a bad kid who routinely was kicked out of school. He threw things at us and used bad words. In later years, he would be exactly my kind of guy. But not yet.
Greggy was the fourth Smith kid, and I loved him. He was two years older, a shy, dark-skinned boy with a mop of curly black hair and a scar on his cheek. We rode bikes together, and played freeze tag and cowboys and Indians. Once he watched me enact the lyrics from the song Billy, Don’t Be A Hero by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. Also, in those days I was the undisputed pogo stick champion of Whitney Heights, so sometimes he counted jumps for me.
The dead end on the block served as our bicycle racetrack. We liked to set up little raised ramps to jump over. There was a hedge in front of the fence there, and a little space between the two which we considered our secret clubhouse/snack spot, home of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunch with KoolAid to wash it down.
One afternoon in the sticky heat of summer, Greggy and I sat side by side in the clubhouse talking and sweating. “Tricia,” he said.
“Would you tell your mom if I kissed you?”
Whoa. I loved Greggy. You could even say I had a crush on him. But I was 10! And although I watched tv all the time, it was the days before television was one big ubiquitously inappropriate sex box. My favorite shows were Roy Rogers and Johnny Quest. So I wasn’t even sure what kissing meant. I remember my mind racing to come up with a response, just the right answer to keep him liking me. I wanted him to kiss me, but how could I not tell my mother, my arbiter of justice, my conscience?
Finally, I said something like this: “If you had just kissed me and surprised me, I don’t think I would have told my mother. But now that you’ve told me, if you kiss me I’ll have to tell her. But I don’t think she’ll be upset.”
Now, I don’t think Greggy was brilliant, but he was smart enough to know my parents would have sewn his lips together and perhaps burned down the Smith house if they knew Greggy was kissing their little girl. I was both scared and thrilled – I couldn’t believe a boy actually liked me, the awkward red-haired girl that the boys in school teased. I think I was hoping Greggy would forget about the kiss for the moment, then surprise me with one the next so I wouldn’t have to tell.
But it didn’t happen that way. In fact, Greggy seemed a little less keen to hang out with me after the non-kiss. Months passed, then years, and my first real kiss came in a beery haze at age 15 from a boy whose brother would later became the family accountant. It was a really great kiss.
Anyway, I guess I’m think of my first almost-kiss because my Diva is growing up. She’s 14 now – 14 and 1/2 – and who knows what’s going on in her life?