Valentine's Day brings bittersweet memories
The yearly approach of Valentine's Day always brings me bittersweet memories of a very important experience — my first kiss! Who among us does not remember their first kiss? I'm betting it was in 8th grade, or maybe 9th. Or perhaps, if you were a late bloomer, even later. But any way you look at it, it was momentous. It was a first taste, an awakening, a confused and hazy glimpse of adulthood.
My first kiss was with a boy named Tom, who was from a small farm town situated near my small farm town in northwestern Ohio. We actually met because our parents knew each other. I remember being incredibly shy and so, I believe, was Tom. We were true innocents and had not one clue about what we were doing. We'd dated for a while and had finally managed to get to the hand-holding stage. One summer night we were sitting in my driveway in Tom's beat-up Chevy when a Johnny Mathis song came on the radio. In those days, Johnny Mathis was the go-to guy if you wanted to make out. He was also Tom's favorite singer. We were in mid-discussion about our schools' football rivalry when Tom suddenly leaned over and kissed me on the cheek . . . long, electric pause . . . then he kissed me on the chin and then, finally, gave me a slow and tender buss on the lips. That was all, but I was nonetheless stunned. I was also relieved that this life requirement, this first kiss, was out of the way. We did not have a torrid romance as a result — but we did go on to become great friends all the way through high school. Tom was my stand-in boyfriend whenever I needed one. I still remember being without a date for my senior prom (a horrifying prospect in that age and time) so I immediately called Tom, who by then had found a steady girlfriend from his own school. It didn't matter, because he was the gold standard of that rare and precious treasure, a true friend. He quickly rented a tux, bought a corsage, mounted his steed, disguised as his '57 Chevy, and came to my rescue.
We did go through some difficult times together, Tom and I. We used to double-date with his friend Denny and my friend Kris. Then one night, Tom called to say that Denny, that beautiful blond-haired, fun-loving boy, that boy we all loved, had been killed in a car accident. Things were not the same after that. After that, we were more serious. After that, we were pretty much grown up.
Eventually, Tom graduated high school and went off to the army. I had lots of letters from him while he was stationed in Africa. They're still in a box at the back of my closet. He seemed such a long way away, and he was. After he left the army, we stayed in contact for a while, until we both eventually married. Then we lost touch entirely.
One day recently I got a special offer over the internet that gave me 12 free hours to search for lost acquaintances or relatives. So I thought, why not? I would try to find Tom. I plugged in his name, and to my heartfelt dismay, I came upon his obituary and learned that he had passed away five years ago. I then did some research and found his widow, who was very gracious when I contacted her. I learned that Tom had a successful life and that he and his wife were blessed with a special and lasting relationship. It was good to know that he had been happy.
Even though Tom and I had not spoken in years, I was greatly saddened by his passing. I think I was also afraid that fleeting memory of a first kiss, that small but important piece of my life, might fade away. If you put your mind to it, though, you can choose to keep a special memory and not let it go. So that's what I did, I chose not to let it go. Tom will always be there in his '57 Chevy, bestowing that sudden, tender kiss.
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