Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I'm a Big Winner! (OK, That's Actually a Big Maybe...)

A few weeks ago, I entered a contest on the Mothers Day Central blog. I'd actually forgotten about it until this morning when FedEx delivered a Because I Said So DVD (cute movie; Kat and I saw it last week). I still have no idea whether my story won a cash prize ($100, $200 or $300!) or whether I received the DVD because I was one of the first 15 people to submit a story, but the optimist in me is going to hope that I won something. You can bet that I'll be checking the Mothers Day Central site throughout the day!

The story is about Ben and Elisabeth... and Ken Johnson and me. Don't ask me to explain; you'll just have to read it!

I wish I had a picture of Elisabeth and Ben taken the week I wrote the story, when they were barely 16. But here's one of them at the Senior Prom a few years later. They're still dear friends -- though no longer "together." And don't tell Elisabeth this, but I wouldn't be surprised if (as Elisabeth told my mom shortly before she died) they eventually get married. That'd be fine with me.

So here's the story I submitted.:

That First Kiss

This is not only the story of my first kiss, it is the story of my 14-year-olds first kiss-to-be.

In 1970, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and was in 8th grade. Like many of my girlfriends, I spent most Saturday nights babysitting (for a whopping 50 cents per hour) and pondering boys like Ken Johnson. I liked babysitting for the Hildebrands because they lived across the street from Ken Johnson, and there was a possibility, albeit a small one, that I might actually see Ken in his kitchen window if I looked from precisely the right angle.

One evening, as I peeked out the window in hopes of seeing Ken, I was shocked to see him -- walking down the driveway, right toward my gaze as I pulled the curtain from the window. As the doorbell rang, my heart pounded. During the next few hours we sat on the front porch and evaded awkward moments of silence with sporadic moments of chatter. At the end of it all, Ken jutted his face forward, landing a haphazard and very nervous kiss somewhere near my mouth. To me, it felt like Prince Charming's perfect kiss, soft and flawless. After that one encounter, Ken and I rarely talked to each other. For a few years, we'd give each other fleeting and awkward acknowledgements as we passed in the High School. Soon, even that ceased.

The years passed. I learned to kiss and practiced willingly. Sixteen years ago, I married the man who was the best kisser of them all -- though not solely for that reason.

A few years ago, at my 20-year reunion, I played the part of the typical ex-cheerleader -- socializing with everyone and connecting with no one. Shortly after I arrived back in Seattle, the phone rang. It was a friend from High School. "Ken Johnson was looking for you at the reunion picnic" my friend told me. "He said wanted to say hello to the first girl he ever kissed. I gave him your number." Feeling as nervous as I did when I saw Ken walking down the driveway so many years before, I waited for the phone to ring. It did, and it was Ken. This time the conversation was comfortable and fluid. He told me about his wife, his kids, his job. We talked for a while -- long enough for my daughter to repeatedly walk into the room, look at me quizzically, and shrug her shoulders as if to say, "Who IS that, MOM?"

When Ken and I finally did hang up, my annoyed daughter asked, "Who WAS that, MOM?" I told her that it was the first boy who ever kissed me. She was stunned into silence. And then, "Huh? I don't get it. Why is he calling YOU? You're 38 and married!" "Because," I said slowly, "It means that much to these two 38-year-olds." Right then and there my daughter promised that she would never kiss a boy until she knows that he's someone she’d want to hear from when she's 38 -- and when she can pass the same story -- and lesson -- on to her daughter.

My daughter has been asked out many times. She has always said no. No one ever passed the "call when I'm 38 test." Until last week. She said YES last week. Ben is the one whose deep, unfamiliar voice she will hear many years from now when the phone rings the day after her 20-year-reunion.

Some of life's lessons are taught when you’re least aware that you're the teacher.

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