There are some firsts you never forget; if you were anything like I was as a child then you’ll remember the first time you blurted out a swear word in front of your parents and your first bar of soap in your mouth for swearing. You will recall your first family vacation, your first achievement award, the first car you ever owned, and you’ll forever remember your first kiss.
My first kiss happened when I was six-years-old, in well… the first grade. Her name was Virginia. The school year had already begun when Virginia joined our class. If I remember correctly, she moved to Chicago from Ohio. She was stunning. Virginia had strawberry blond hair, hazel-green eyes, connect-the-dot freckles, and the cutest smile I had ever seen in my long six-year life.
Virginia and I hit it off from the very start and it sure helped when the teacher sat Virginia right next to me in class. Like any rambunctious six-year-old pals, we would chuckle together, tease one another, even swap portions of our lunches; she liked my fruit, usually consisting of bananas, an apple, or blueberries (yuk!) and I really enjoyed her cupcakes – I have always been a lush when it comes to desserts.
During recess, we would hang out in the playground and dream of one day “being free of the city”. We wanted to roam the wilderness and live in the wild with the animals and nature. In first grade, we decided to enter a school talent contest. We would sing a song. We chose “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat, & Tears. We decided on that song for one reason; the lyrics repeat, “Ride a painted pony…” and we thought riding a painted pony would be the coolest thing ever.
We didn’t win the talent contest, but we did come in second place, which was okay with us since we never expected to win anyway. The girl who won first place dressed up like Abe Lincoln and recited the Gettysburg Address, entirely from memory. Even we felt she deserved it.
Virginia and I had a blast together. Then came the uncomfortable silence – I’ll get to that later. It was Valentine’s Day celebration at school. That year, Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday, our class celebrated it on Friday. The week prior, we were sent home with requests to bring sweets and snacks for the party. I brought a humongous bag of suckers, not your everyday flat cheap suckers – a huge bag of Blow Pops.
Earlier that week, we also made Valentine’s cards to pass out in class. We were instructed by our teacher; everyone was to make one card for “someone special”. In addition, we could bring the little store bought cutout cards and pass them out. I remember I was totally flustered. I didn’t know who to make my special card for, so like many of the other boys, I decided on the “safe ground”.
When the teacher asked everyone to pass out their “special” cards, a trail of boys led from the teacher’s desk to the cloakroom in the back of the classroom. I took my place in line with all the other boys. Valentine’s cards are associated with love and adoration; the teacher is every six-year-old boy’s safety net. It’s a good thing the teacher was not a man, the boys would have been up a creek. The girls didn’t have it so easy. Either way, they were stuck with the embarrassment of being teased by the boys; by giving a card to the teacher they would be called queer – little boys can be venomous creatures. If the girls gave their card to a boy, well, either way the girls would never live it down.
I looked around. Where’s Virginia? She was nowhere to be found. All the girls passed out their cards. Whew! I’m safe! Desk clear – no cards. Suddenly, Virginia came bolting out of the cloakroom. “Wait, wait. I forgot mine. It was in my coat.” She stumbled as she hurried to her desk. As she was about to be fully seated, she stood up, walked around her desk. Virginia stood directly in front of me and handed me her special card.
I gracefully slipped the card under a sheet of paper as if I were on a covert operation. Then came the dreaded announcement, “Now, now. Everyone shared their cards. Go ahead and show us”, the teacher said. I felt the blood rushing to my face. I wanted to be anywhere but in that classroom. I took the card out and turned it over. I glanced up at Virginia. She was smiling. I turned the card and I let the entire class see Virginia’s spectacular drawing and emotional sentiment.
The card had a picture of blueberries drawn on it. For a six-year-olds drawing, it was pretty darn good. I thought, Wow. She must have spent a lot of time on it. It was a basket of blueberries and in the center of the blueberries was a Valentine’s heart. In the center of the heart were two very carefully handwritten words, “You’re Sweet”. It turns out I was worried about nothing. As soon as I placed the card on my desk – face up so I could continue to admire it – class resumed and nobody seemed to care about Virginia’s blueberries.
Later that day, at the end of class, Virginia and I were in the cloakroom gathering our things together to go home. She stood next to me. She noticed me looking at the card and said, “So… What did you think?” At that moment I could not think, I could only react. This is that uncomfortable silence I was talking about. I leaned into Virginia. I think she thought I was going to whisper something to her. I gently kissed her on the lips. Virginia froze. The only sign of life was the brilliant sparkle in her hazel-green eyes. For a moment, I thought she stopped breathing until I heard her gasp for air. Then a few moments later, she smiled, tucked her arms into her torso, tightly squeezed and jiggled, and then Virginia chuckled.
We never kissed again after that day. Truth be told, other than my grandmother and my mother, Virginia was the first girl I had ever kissed and it was a very different feeling than kissing a family member. About a year went by; we packed up and moved to the other side of Chicago around twenty miles away from where Virginia lived. When you’re six, twenty miles might as well be twenty-thousand miles. I remember crying the entire ride to our new home. I pictured Virginia sitting in a window crying along with me. Wherever life took me, I always told myself, Virginia rode off into the wilderness… on a painted pony.
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This has been a… View Form My Loft!