She has been in my thoughts for as long as I can remember. And every once and a while even now so many years later she returns. You see when I was 13 she was my first kiss. The first time I ever got up the nerve to kiss a girl and the girl's name was Karen.
It didn't go really well and certainly not as I had planned.
The week of Christmas forever ago was filled with excitement. A ski trip, school out for two weeks and Christmas Caroling one night in the cold of a Chicago suburban winter.
From the 5th grade on Karen was my best friend. When my classmates played football I choose to hang out with Karen. Baseball, she always came to my games. We shared the same seat in the back of the bus everyday for as long as I can remember.
After school I would walk Karen home and we'd talk for hours till her mother got off work. She wasn't allowed to have boys in the house so it was a pretty strange arrangement, she'd sit inside the house and I sat outside on the steps, separated by a screen door.
Karen was a great tease. Karen's house was across the street, her bedroom and my bedroom faced each other. We flashed lights and opened and closed drapes signaling each other at all hours. She'd change her clothes in plain sight, but only after calling me to inform me of the pending event. Can't say I ever saw much as her bedroom window was nearly head high.
So it was after much thought, on that cold December night that I made my move. I pulled her aside and away from our group of caroling parents and kids and moved within inches of her lips our cold noses barley touching. She closed her eyes and didn't move. Then it happened. I kissed her.
Karen opened her eyes wide and jumped back nearly a half a mile. Grabbed a handful of snow and scrubbed her face as if I were a rabid dog. I was crushed.
We didn't speak to each other for weeks. But it didn't end there and soon we were off to High School were we remained as close as ever.
In the haze of my youth I remember going a bit father, kissing her through a screen door that I can still after all these years taste. Once she slept in my arms or pretended to sleep as my hands explored her shirt and everything under it, all the while our parents played bridge in the other room.
We often missed the bus together on purpose so we could walk the six miles home just to talk and be alone. In the warmth of a March afternoon as we walked along the street to our neighborhood something happened. The sun was bright and the air fresh, the soggy green grass contrasted with the still remaining piles of winter's snow.
She slipped on some ice and I grabbed her just in time. In a moment where time stood still we kissed and this time she didn't wash it off. At her home we started to kiss again but her mother drove up in her car, home early for some reason.
Two months later, my family moved. It was unexpected and sudden. Karen and I traded letters for the longest time. But one day I opened her letter tossed it aside and never wrote back. It wasn't anything she said; I had just discovered Becky whose parents never came home early.
I kept in touch with Karen over the years via the Christmas cards my parents received from her parents. 2 Years after my move to North Carolina her family did the same moving from the windy city to the far eastern part of the state.
She finished college and received a commission in the Air Force. Years later she married and had 2 children. Her father passed away one year. Last year in a fleeting conversation I understood my mother to say she had divorced her husband of 15 years.
Every so often, on cold winter days I think of Karen. The wind blows through the tops of the trees that surround my home as traces of a recent snow fall lay melting in southern sunlight.
The hope and promise of a new spring is just around the corner and I quietly think of my first kiss and her name is Karen.