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Thursday, 27 May 2010

Recollection of a Special Kiss

By Vagabonde of Recollections of a Vagabonde

I was born and raised in France. When I was a child we lived in a fifth-floor, walk-up apartment (6th floor in the US.) This apartment was in the 9th arrondissement of Paris (there are 20 arrondissements or quarters in Paris.) Our building was in a “cité” which is an enclosed courtyard usually with no outlet. Once out of the cité and crossing the street we could walk up the street to the Sacré-Coeur of Montmartre in 10 minutes (about 1/3 mile or so.)

When I turned seven years old, I had an appendectomy and hernia operation. After spending a week in hospital, I had to stay in bed for at least three weeks (that’s the way it was then.) Mother brought some exercises books from school and I also had many picture books, but I was restless.

Mother placed my bed in front of the window so I could see the sky. I could also see the windows of the building across from ours. After a few days I saw the window across from mine open and a little boy looked outside. He saw me. He stood there staring. I moved away from the window.

The next day he came again, longer. This went on for a few days, then he took his slate board and with a chalk he wrote “bonjour” (hello.) I waved.

The next day I had my slate board and had written, “comment tu t’appèles?” (what is your name?) He answered “Gilbert” and asked for mine, but I did not give it to him.

Another day he brought a big balloon to the window. In return, I showed him my old teddy bear. We could not speak as we were too far and screaming was out of the question. This went out for about three weeks and I returned to school. I did not see him again because his building entrance was on the street, not in the cité, and he did not attend my school.

Some weekends later, my parents decided that we would drive to the country where my cousins lived, a small village near Melun (about one hour south of Paris). My parents owned a house there and my father, who liked to deal in real estate, had bought a small hotel and grocery store there also. The hotel was called Hotel de France – a big name for a tiny inn.

After we arrived at our county house I asked my parents if I could walk up to my cousin’s house using the alley. I still remember that morning. It was a bit cold. I was rushing to go to the end of the alley. Then I would have to make a left toward my cousin’s house. I liked to use this alley instead of the main road because there were many gardens on both sides with beautiful flowers.

Arriving towards the end of the alley, I heard someone running coming from the right. I stopped. A boy was running. He stopped. I was thunderstruck. It was Gilbert!

I thought, how did he get in this alley in this little village? I still don’t know. I said, “Gilbert?”

He answered, “oui, c’est moi” (yes, it’s me). We stood there. Neither one of us could comprehend that we were so close after those weeks peering out of our windows. I did not know what to say, so I asked him, “What are you doing here?  He said that he came with his parents and they stopped for the night at the Hotel de France on their way to visit the Castle of Fontainebleau.

I could hardly speak but I finally asked him what his full name was. He told me. I said that it sounded strange. He said “c’est un nom Juif” (it is a Jewish name).

He asked my name. I told him my first name. He wanted to know my whole name. I told him. He said also that it was a strange name.

I said, “c’est un nom Arménien” (it’s an Armenian name) and I added that we both had strange last names, so we were alike. He agreed. Then he said that since we were alike he could kiss me.

KISS ME?? I said no, my mother would not like that; that it was not proper. I was seven years old and he was eight. He said that it would be just on the cheek – a special kiss. So I told him that it should be only once on the right cheek.

He came close and kissed me on the cheek. I ran.

Later on that day, when my mother and I were walking by the small square in front of the Hotel de France we saw Gilbert playing with his balloon. My mother had her camera with her and recognized Gilbert. She said we should have a photo taken together. She took the photo.

I lost the photo for many years. Two weeks ago my husband found the photo in an old box in the garage. Soon thereafter his family moved and I never saw Gilbert again. But I still remember that special kiss.

Vagabonde and Gilbert

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I feel that Gilbert has not forgotten that special kiss. How wonderful to come across the picture of you and him after so much time. It was a joy to read your precious story…Thank you.

That was wonderful!

Your wonderful story is exactly the reason I visit this site every day.

Where else could we,in one week, read stories by Ernest about life in Italy; Johna describing China for us and now the sweet story of your first kiss in France.We haven't heard from Pat in Turkey for awhile,but I'm not giving up hope yet.

These stories start my day with a smile....

How sweet and dear you were--and your story. Ah! Innocence!

What a sweet story. I wonder if he survived the Holocaust. Wouldn't it be a wonderful surprise if you could find him. Perhaps you are once again living near each other.

We never forget our first kiss, do we? Mine was on the cheek, also. I was ten years old when the nine year old boy next door suddenly kissed me. I didn't know what to do. Should I slap him? I think I just smiled in embarrassment and that was the end of our romantic experiment. It never happened again.

Your story of young love was very sweet.

What a lovely story and the miracle of finding the picture so many years later! Amour! I hope Gilbert is alive and he finds this little story on the interwebs and it brings him joyful memories, too.

OH MY!!!! What a lovely picture...I agree with all of the above. Maybe Gilbert can be found on facebook? PLEASE NOT A HOLOCAUST VICTIM!!!!!

Thank you for your nice comments on my story. Gilbert could not have been a Holocaust victim because this happened after the war, thankfully. I would think that he still lives in France (I have lived now in the Deep South of the US for many years) but I am afraid that I don’t really remember his last name. At the time I thought it was a difficult name just like mine – he would not remember my maiden name either I don’t think.

C'est merveilleux!! Absolutely marvelous. A treasure of a story. Thank you.

This story makes me think about the hidden lives children lead.

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