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Judith Harkham Semas

Wonders of Seventh Grade: Kisses and Creamed Corn

When he kissed me, Barry Jakes tasted faintly of creamed corn. That was okay with me. It was my first kiss and I was crazy about creamed corn. Actually, I preferred corn on my lips to Barry, but when the bottle was spun it had pointed at me, and resisting social pressure was a concept I'd not yet mastered. Besides, I longed to discover what kissing a boy was like.

That first kiss was a real letdown, a hurried, eyes-scrunched, nose-crinkled smack. But then, it took practice to master the art of kissing -- not to mention its vocabulary. In the discovery I had to survive more than one awkward episode, like the time that "older man" -- a high school sophomore who'd been flirting in the movie line with me, a clumsy pup of a seventh-grader -- asked, with a wink, "Do you French?" meaning, of course, "Do you French kiss?"

To my everlasting mortification, the whole line heard me chirp in reply, "No, I'm Portuguese!"

Learning the complexities of locking lips was only one of the breakthroughs of seventh grade. In seventh grade I was protected enough that my neighborhood was home without question or fear, yet free enough to mix easily with boys from different backgrounds and schools ... young enough to over-dramatize every misspoken word, yet old enough to slow-dance achingly close ... indulged enough to be dished up all the creamed corn I wanted, yet independent enough to take my first steps toward adulthood and the world beyond.

Seventh grade, when I stood poised on the threshold of realized potential, was one of the sweetest times of my life -- almost as sweet as creamed corn.

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