Evelyn kissed Hector. That much appears to have happened first. Little else about this fifth grade lip lock came to light except that they kissed near the dumpster, held hands for about five minutes and sat together on the monkey bars. I never saw the kissing but I did see them afterward: he in his creased Ben Davis pants and white T-shirt, she in her muffin-top jeans and blue lace top.
What else I did see? Two kids squirming, shy giggling and Hector, the 10 year old bull, posturing. I chose to keep a distance and I chalked it up to Spring. What made me squirm was what might come next — tenderness that might hide something sharp or something painful.
Then, a day later, Evelyn kissed a second boy named Luther. Two kisses in one week!
Playgrounds are public so gossip exploded as little groups of fourth and fifth graders — not to mention third graders on the inside track — clustered north, east, and south to break the facts down and hashtag on the closest thing they had to scandal.
Luther, boy number two, had big lips, big eyes, and a soft voice. He passed for a fifth grade version of the total package. Reports indicated that as Hector turned his back and stayed on the basketball court, Luther stepped toward Evelyn and planted one on the lips — again on the far bench by the dumpster.
Then the gossip ceased, boys divided from girls, and the yard became tense.
So change swept across the blacktop, efficient and complete. Kids I had known for years had me guessing, doubting, and questioning. I sat in my office a day after kiss II, looking at a Zen circle painted on the wall next to the door. The circle comes from a much older image of a snake eating its own tail, swallowing and re-birthing itself in an ongoing cycle.
I had seen a beginning – a random incident that could be nothing but might lead to awkward places that I knew she wasn’t ready for. Long journeys start from even smaller moments. Then my worry deepened –
If I could speak to Evelyn so that she might listen — I would tell her truths or give her warnings. On the day of that first kiss, I would have asked her what she saw as she took the boy by the hand. Did she notice being noticed? Did she have a thought in her head? I caught myself knitting my brow and rehearsing words that didn’t fit.
No words came to me other than “just so” so I let it rest.
Momentum can be awesome. Small steps on a playground can lead to endless tumbles that carry us for years. Running toward begets the chasing after. Reach, grab and try not to look back. The mouth seeks to swallow the tail and around again we go.
By weeks end, I was resolved. What strikes me is how we dissolve and take shape again, changed yet constant. Thousands of times. Only a month or so more before these children would depart and step into lives where they sought to make their own rules. I found a Friday’s peace in this blessing: May their journeys be glorious and unprecedented. If one can say it’s possible, then let it become just so.