Guest blog by Kevin Symmons, author of Rite of Passage
If that title has a vague ring of familiarity that’s no accident. It not so coincidentally bears the name of a song from the mists of my youth. And when asked to do this blog as the summer wans old memories flooded back and it immediately came to mind.
I have the good fortune to spend my summers on Massachusetts’s luxuriant Cape Cod coast. And in addition to being a spectacular spot of natural beauty it is also an area filled with romance.
Each year between five and six million visitors cross one of the two somewhat aged yet stalwart bridges that span a man-made body of water known as the Cape Cod Canal. While less than one-half mile across, this sometimes turbulent, sometimes placid divider separates Cape Cod as if it was the Atlantic or Pacific.
As a child the things it engendered were physically stimulating… things like sun and surf and often massive waves that crashed on the pristine sand. Massive at least to one who was only three feet tall. As I grew into my “formative” years my family and I continued to visit this magical place each summer.
Slowly, I found the magic transformed from something far less visual into something far more visceral. Shells and surf gave way to a magic that stimulated me in ways I found both new and strangely exciting. Like so many young people who grew up in summer locales I began to see the subtle changes in those I’d spent so many sun-drenched summers with.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact day, week, and month when I suddenly came to the realization that one of my best summer pals had grown up in ways that animated and terrified me. It had begun in the summer of our twelfth year. Maybe in some subtle ways the year before but when Joey— short for Josephine—appeared that year on the first day of our summer long vacation I felt a lump in my throat and my heart quicken. Clichés yes, but none the less just as true. All I know is that when I saw her that June morning something in my life changed.
I’d had all the stirrings and emotional turmoil inherent in any adolescent experiencing the conflicts and ecstasy that accompanies puberty but it wasn’t till I saw Joey, silhouetted as she stood awaiting me at our front door that the emotion took hold.
That summer was a roller coaster for me… and though we never discussed it for her, too. I’m sure of it. Suddenly, simple things became complicated and I noticed an electricity when our hands would touch or our eyes would find each others.
The smell of the tide and fresh-cut grass were exchanged for the subtle fragrance or perfume when she was close. Things which a year or two before had seemed commonplace became scripted so as not to touch or get too close to each other.
Summer friendships begin on the 4th of July and end on Labor Day or at least that had been the way of it for the years prior to our emergence as young men and women. Others populated our sun and surf-drenched summer world but from my first encounter with Joey that summer neither of us paid as much attention to the others.
On Labor Day weekend the families who populated our little Cape Cod side street had traditionally held a farewell cookout to end the summer. That year while neither of us spoke of it in advance as if scripted Joey and I drifted away from the others to take a walk on the soft sand, knowing it would be out last.
Suddenly, I felt her hand in mine and as the moon rose into a clear star filled sky I turned toward her. Her hazel eyes dropped behind thick lashes and I put my arms clumsily around her.
We heard out parents calling but as I turned to head back up the beach she gently pulled me close and kissed me. It was soft and innocent. Someone once suggested that no one ever forgets their first kiss. After a summer of watching her and waiting it was the most tender and sweetest I can recall…
Later that year my parents told that Joey’s father had been transferred to Texas. She wrote me a brief note and signed it “Love.” Perhaps it was but it was the summer of a lifetime, filled with angst and doubt and finally… sealed with a kiss.