When I look back at my life I truly cannot believe how young I was when I first fell in love, even if it was puppy love as they call it. It was the first day of kindergarten. We walked to school that morning. My mom almost always walked us to school the first day. My older sister was with us as well. It was not very far, probably less than a half a mile down Newbridge Road, to Newbridge Road Elementary School. I was five and my younger sister was only two and in a baby carriage. For some reason, we were told to bring a record with us. I had one of my father’s favorites with me. I was really small. When I was born, I weighed only four pounds, fourteen ounces. I was never put into an incubator and it would take years before I was eating or holding food down properly. I was a runt and had health problems from the time I was born. Eventually I grew almost a foot per year and as time went on lost my runt status, but my parents were surprised I survived.
I was not exposed to more than the friends I had on my block, or near my block, as we were not allowed to walk very far from home. All the same, there were plenty of kids on my block. We had a nice little niche gang that played together. There was one girl who caught my attention as we walked up to the brick doorway to the school. She had jet-black hair. She was beautiful. She wore a pretty white dress and what looked like ruby slippers. That was the style back then. She was more dressed up than anyone and was the prettiest girl I had ever seen.
As we waited for the bell to ring, a kid I never saw before and I were both staring at her. We noticed each other staring at her. We stared each other down. Don’t ask me why, or how, but we both instinctively knew that we wanted her to ourselves, even though we had no idea why. He was much bigger than I was. When he saw everyone had a record and he didn’t, he tried to take mine. I did what my father told me to do if anyone ever tried to take anything that was mine. I punched him as hard as I could, square in his face. It was the first day of kindergarten and I was punched another student because of a record. Well not really, it was an excuse to get that girl’s attention. And that I did. She was staring back at us both, until that punch. Then, for the rest of the morning, she stared at only one of us… me.
I didn’t have the courage to go up to her, let alone, speak to her. I choked on my words every time I tried. It took several weeks for her to come to me. It was during naptime. We would always stare at each other when we were napping. We had some kind of connection, but she was even shyer than I was. We had been staring at each other for weeks, but never spoke. At that point I don’t think I spoke to any of the girls in class.
At nap-time, for fifteen minutes, we would have to sit or lay on the floor, or at our desks, and close our eyes. I believe it was after we were given some milk and cookies and had playtime. This day was different. She was smiling and running around the block fort some of the other boys and I made, including the kid I punched. We actually became good friends and stayed that way through high school.
I was laying by the entrance to the block fort. She laid down in front of me and positioned her head so she was staring almost directly at me. We never closed our eyes and just stared at each other. I was so in love with her that I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I didn’t know what love was of course, but instinct just took over. Just before nap-time ended, she slid her hand out from under her head and made sure the tips of her fingers touched mine. I was in heaven. I was blown away by something as simple as the tiny touch of her fingers. I knew then, she liked me. too.
As we both stood up, I hit my head, really hard, on the blocks. My ears were ringing. I clobbered myself. It was all I could to not cry. I was so embarrassed. I thought that was it, I would probably lose her. At that moment, she stood up right next to me, looked at my head and said, “it will be ok” and kissed me on my lips. The teacher saw the kiss and immediately pulled us aside and told us that we were not allowed to kiss in class. She was careful not to let anyone hear. From that point on, although we tried to be together, we were always, strategically, kept apart.
When the first grade started, she was not in my class. I always hoped to see her in the hallway or at lunch. We had contact from time to time. At the end of third grade my family was moving to Arizona for a year. The last day I was in school, my teacher bought me a big sundae. My little friend joined me in the cafeteria and I shared it with her. When we were done, and getting ready to go back to class, she kissed me to say goodbye.
When we moved back from Arizona less than a year later, people were very surprised to see me. All I could think about was the girl with the black hair and ruby slippers, who was my first kiss. I looked everywhere for her, but she had transferred to another school and I never saw her again. I have often looked back at that first kiss and wondered why as a species we are so strict with our affection. We limit the feelings we allow our children to express. I never inhibited my own children in that way.
That’s why it was so endearing to me when one day my son, who was going to pre-school, came home and told me the story of his first kiss. He started by saying it wasn’t his fault and that she does this to him every time she sees him. I was getting worried that he was going to tell me something I should be concerned about. But, as his story continued, he told me how a little girl in day care would come over to him and kiss him all the time and he didn’t know why. He said, they weren’t allowed to kiss, but when no one was looking, she did it anyway. Then he said, “she says I’m her boyfriend so I guess that makes her my girlfriend.” Then he got sidetracked with one of his favorite TV shows, Thomas the Tank Engine. After his show, he took a nap. While he was asleep, I reflected on the girl with black hair who gave me my first kiss. I felt so very happy to see my son carrying on the tradition. That was the most innocent chapter of love in my life and of course, my first romantic kiss.