The Alabama game was on. The Crimson Tide was beating Texas, and my heart sang.
We were at a family reunion. I was sitting on a porch overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay of my youth. There were people everywhere. The weather was coolish, but not unpleasant. Many of the family members were devout Baptists. Others were Methodists, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
Family members were mingling, cheering for the game, telling old stories. Because that’s what family reunions are for. Storytelling.
And the memories were getting so thick you had to swat them away like gnats.
There were a lot of empty chairs at today’s gathering. The mean age of the attendees was much younger than in years past, which gave a touch of melancholy to the air. Because all the good ones are gone.
I had checked out, mentally. I was staring at the old pier where I had one of my first dates with my wife, a few decades ago.
I remember it clearly. She wore pink. I don’t know what I had on, but I was trying out a new cologne that night, purchased on clearance from TJMaxx. My date kept gagging whenever she came too close.
“Why are you gagging?” I asked.
“I think someone spilled some gasoline on your shoes,” she answered.
We sat on a swing built for two. We looked at the water. We held each other, and I asked if it would be okay if I kissed her.
There was a long silence.
She said, “Most boys don’t usually ask that sort of thing before they do it.”
“Well then what do most boys do?”
She shrugged. “Normally they sense the right moment, and they just go for it.”
I said nothing.
She said nothing.
“But,” I asked, “what if the boy’s senses are a little off?”
She smiled probably because I smelled like a crude petroleum product.
“Yes,” she finally said. “You can kiss me.”
You know those first kisses you see in the movies? You know how they’re always perfectly passionate and worthy of a closeup? You know how the guy and the girl always seem to know how to hold their heads, and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, even the cameramen? That was not our first kiss.
I was not a good kisser. Our kiss was awkward and clumsy, and I chipped a tooth.
But still, it was perfect to me. It was a moment I’ll never forget. Her hair was smooth. Her eyes were closed. Her heart was the truest I had ever known.
I had no idea at my young age that this woman would change my life. I had no idea I would be invited into this big, crazy family. I had no idea that life would move so quickly. I had no idea that one day, the old pier wouldn’t belong to us anymore.
I had no idea that friends and relations would die, and that someday we would become the storytellers.
My wife and I walked down to the pier. We’ve been married for 20 years now, but the pier still looks the same, even though I don’t.
She held my hand.
“I miss my mother,” she said.
Then she leaned over and she placed her head onto my shoulder. I don’t wear cologne anymore. And my wife rarely wears pink.
But our kiss was anything but awkward.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
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