Life Before the Beatles–Monday Morning Writing Prompt


Vintage Postcard ~ First Kiss

My response in short fiction to my humor writing prompt. Have fun and join in at https://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/monday-morning-writing-prompt-lets-have-some-fun/

Life Before the Beatles

In February 1964, a British rock group appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, changing the face of American Music and Pop Culture forever.

In the summer of 1957 I got kissed for the first time – really kissed. The day weighed hot and muggy for Southern California. A bunch of us seventh-going-on-eighth graders had congregated at Christine Longley’s house. Her mother didn’t intrude and the pool, unlike most of ours, had a slide.

Alan Presley (great name, don’t you think?) sat beside me near the pool house. The water was still, except for occasional ripples where kids swung their feet over the side. At dusk, the sunset appeared like a scene of God in the movies, if you know what I mean: a shaft of light, piercing the scattered clouds to the west of the foothills.

The record player turned “Wonderful, Wonderful” by Johnny Mathis. Alan took my hand in his, which were cold and clammy. Some of the kids slow danced. He pulled me to my feet and we fox-trotted our way into the changing room. Sometimes we walk, hand-in-hand by the sea and…and it happened. Inexperienced lips met mine. Explored them. …And your lips cling to mine, it’s wonderful, wonderful. It was. No tongue, not back then. Just the tenderness, tentativeness. I liked it and I wanted more. But my Dad arrived to pick me up at nine thirty sharp. Oooh, so wonderful, my love.

I saw Alan only two more times that summer. Both were at parties with lots of teens, rock and roll, and no chance to repeat The Kiss.

We danced to Elvis: “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” nothing slow like “Love Me Tender” that might have allowed us to steal a smooch.

Alan danced with Jennifer Slate, too. I told myself she had pretty bad acne, and he felt sorry for her.

Summer ended and he returned to public school. I went back to St. Hildegard’s. That dimmed my chances of repeating The Kiss for a while.

The nuns talked to us about our music. They liked Pat Boone, all right. His songs were almost innocent. “April Love.” That didn’t go beyond ….her first bouquet. Besides everybody knew that he was a staunch Christian. Not Catholic, but better than Frank Sinatra – When somebody loves you, it’s not good unless he loves you, all the way!

Elvis, on the other hand, was anathema. The gyrating, the lyrics, the beat. The things it did to you deep down inside made them nervous. A squirmy, wet feeling we weren’t supposed to know about. We weren’t permitted to play those kind of records at our eighth grade hop, which was well chaperoned by the penguins. The boys’ fathers transported us to and from the school gym/church hall and it was taboo to invite anyone old enough to drive.

After school we’d meet in neighborhood haunts and drink cherry cokes, while Little Richard and Buddy Holly rocked us to the bones. I’d learned to bop to Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock.” We lingered until almost-dark, when we hopped on our bikes, and scattered to the four corners.

Alan never dropped by the Copa and word had it he was going steady with Jennifer. Johnny Mathis just kept producing one hit after another as I obsessed about The Kiss.

One afternoon I found my sister, Marianne, in our garage with a bunch of boys. She was two years older than I, and the boys were from the local High School. She buttoned up her blouse as Jerry Vale intoned “Pretend You Don’t See Her” on Jimmy’s car radio.

She knew how to keep me quiet though. She told me the guys thought I wore falsies. “She just developed quickly, they’re hers,” was how she’d defended me.

“You owe me, Liz-ard,” she threatened.

“It’s Liz,” I countered. But I pretended I hadn’t seen her.

New Year’s Eve 1957-58, Marianne had a date. Chuck, my older brother had a date. I didn’t.

My parents were going to the Rappaport’s for a party. I was old enough to stay alone, and trustworthy enough, God knows. But my Mother wouldn’t leave me. She called Rebecca Rappaport, who was delighted to include me.

I’d proven to my parents that I was old enough for an adult party. I often assisted my Dad by making sure everyone’s drinks stayed full. I figured out that, if I were attentive enough – proactive, I could empty them myself on the way to the wet bar.

Mom bought me a red sheath with a skirt that flared at the bottom. She got me sheer gold nylons and red sandals with a low heel. I piled my hair atop my head and meticulously applied make up, which Mom allowed, even though I wasn’t quite fifteen. I looked and felt grown up. I would be communing with adults, unlike my sister and brother.

We arrived half an hour after the party started. I visualized Debbie Reynolds strutting down that infamous red carpet. Heads turned when we entered and eyes focused on me.

Sinatra crooned, “From This Moment On,” and I knew I’d arrived. One line popped out at me: something about sweet lips to kiss. I caught it: the promise of a Kiss. Would anyone here oblige?

Mrs. Rappaport—“Call me Rebecca”—swooped to my side. “I’m so thrilled you came, Elizabeth,” she chirped.

“Please call me ‘Liz’.”

“Liz, let me introduce you. She took my hand, which embarrassed me beyond reason. “Girls aren’t supposed to hold hands,” I thought. “It’s rank.” Charlotte Roy told me if something was rank. At sixteen, she knew how things were supposed to be.

Rebecca made sure I met every woman in attendance. Every woman. I scanned the crowd of about thirty-five people. No one looked younger than 30, as far as I could see. My hopes plummeted. “They may as well play Big Band, or even Gay 90’s,” I thought. I slipped into a corner and sulked, drinking a coca cola. I didn’t feel like a knockout anymore. I was a wallflower in a cluster of weeds.

Fifteen minutes into my private pity party a forty-something woman took the vacant seat beside me. “I’m sure you don’t remember my name,” she said. “You met so many people at once. I’m Beverly Parsons. Bev.”

I eked out a smile and a wisp of air formed: “Hello, Bev.”

“Will you be here till midnight, Liz? I have a son I’d like you to meet. He’s about your age. Seventeen. He and a group of buddies went to the roller rink. He’ll join us about eleven.”

“I look seventeen?” I thought. My mood lifted like the birds in our garden when the dog runs into the yard. I didn’t reveal my age.

“I’ll be here, I suppose. I’m with my Mom and Dad. They’ll stay.”

“Great. You’ll have to meet Sam”

“Does he have a girlfriend?”

“No, he had one. They split up last week.”

Jimmie Rodgers started to warble his new release, “Kisses Sweeter than Wine.” Bev stood up and returned to a group of adults who were hovering over the hors d’oeurves. A silver-haired gentleman lit her cigarette as she reached for a tiny piece of razor-thin pumpernickel bread topped with pimento cheese spread.

I hopped out of my seat and went looking for our hostess. “Mrs. Rappaport, can I be of any help to you?”

“Call me Rebecca,” she reminded me.

“Rebecca, when my parents have parties I serve drinks, or pick up empty plates. I’d feel more comfortable with all these grown-ups if I were doing something.”

“Of course, Elizabeth. Harry’s mixing drinks. Would you mind asking around if people need refills? I’ll let him know. That would help a lot.”

I met everyone. I flew about the room taking almost-empty glasses that I finished off before giving them to Harry for refills. I wove through the maze of sedate old couples that droned on about the young Senator from New England who seemed a promising candidate for the next presidential race. Nat King Cole, Perry Como, and, yes, Johnny accompanied me, and my invisible dance partner, as I toted glasses of gin martinis, vodka gimlets and screwdrivers. A sip here, a gulp there. The Four Tops sang “Moments to Remember” and I spun with them.

Eleven thirty slipped in unnoticed. Sam hadn’t arrived. I felt woozy. The more drinks I served the louder it became. Cacophonous laughter and rowdy chatter drowned out “Goodnight, My Love.”

My heart pounded; I glimpsed at my image in the hallway mirror; flushed cheeks shone back at me.
Harry flagged me down. He’d lined up champagne bottles like a row of soldiers, a towel draped over his left arm.

“Get Rebecca. She has the Marie Antoinette’s.” He pointed to the kitchen. I found her there with three trays, each holding a dozen squat wine glasses – chilled.

“These are Marie Antoinette’s?” I asked.

“Yes, they’re named for the Queen’s bosoms.”

“Why?”

“I guess they decided they’re the right size for serving champagne.”

Giggling, I carried out the first tray. Harry popped a cork and began to pour. Heads turned and nodded approval.

“This is really California Sparkling Wine,” Harry explained. “You can only call it ‘champagne’ if it’s from the Champagne region in France. But they use the same method here.” He taught me to hold the glasses at an angle so they wouldn’t bubble over as he filled them.

“Can you handle the whole tray?”

“I think so,” I replied, still giggling.

I served guests who huddled around the 12” black and white TV watching the countdown pre-recorded in Times Square. The second group still loitered over wilted celery stalks.

The hand of the clock pointed to 11:49. “We’ve got to hurry,” Harry said. “Only eleven minutes to the toast. Your Dad said you can have a little. You’ve helped me so much, Elizabeth.”

“Thank you, Sir. I’ve never had champagne before.”

“It can hit you hard, but you’ve not been drinking. You’ll be fine. Only four minutes to get these out,” he said, and handed me the last tray.

I served the first glass, the second and reached for the third as the door opened. The outside chill blew in but what I saw sent a shiver of warmth throughout my body. A hint of musky aftershave soothed my senses. As he entered the light of the foyer I beheld deep-set eyes, hazel or green, I couldn’t be sure. His lashes almost touched his eyebrows. He had full lips, a crew cut, and the body of a letterman. The room moved without me as the tray of bubbly hit the tiled floor. The ball dropped and “Auld Lang Syne” pealed out. People closest to me were occupied with sopping up the liquid from their formal wear. I began to swoon. Muscular young arms broke my fall. Sam caught me before I hit the floor.

He held me in his arms as I regained my balance. “It looks like we’re supposed to kiss.”

Sam covered my mouth with his. He was more experienced then Alan. His tongue parted my lips.
It was past midnight when we finished kissing. Nat King Cole rendered his version of “Unforgettable.”

He was still holding me when my Mother caught my eye. Her expression was fixed somewhere in between threat and amusement.

No one ever suspected why I dropped the serving tray. They had no idea about the quality of THE K-I-S-S.

I didn’t see Sam again for four years. He was a junior when I began my freshman year at UCLA. He did his internship at the University Hospital and finished his residency about the same time I graduated from nursing.

At our wedding we served champagne, the real kind, from France. We danced for the first time as a couple to the lyrics of a song by a new group from England.

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21 thoughts on “Life Before the Beatles–Monday Morning Writing Prompt

  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    Very sweet. Brought back memories, probably needless to say. Nicely paced story too … Thanks! 😉

    Like

  2. Timoteo says:

    REALLY enjoyed this. And your good memory of the songs of the era. But now I’m wondering…were those really falsies, or not?

    Like

  3. Wonderful story, Victoris. The firat kiss so well described.
    Great,
    Izzy

    Like

  4. Bodhirose says:

    What a great story–I loved every minute!

    Like

  5. Mike Patrick says:

    I remember the music, the angst, the emotions and the first kiss; except mine came in the hayloft of a barn with a cute country girl. I’ve often thought of writing about it. One never forgets the first kiss.

    Like

  6. I didn’t expect the story to end that way. I love it–so filled with teenager emotions. And all the detail made it come alive. Wonderfully written, Victoria!

    Like

  7. Mama Zen says:

    What a fantastic story! I loved it!

    Like

  8. souldipper says:

    Superb, Victoria. So well written and so very familiar! Thank you – it was a pleasure to read!

    I learned to jive to Bill Haley and the Comets. We would congregate in the waiting room of the train station since the father of one of our friends was the Station Master. Joy of joys, the train only came through town once a week so we had the place to ourselves. We’d bring our records and dance up a storm.

    Around that time, I swooned over Jimmy Rogers “Honeycomb” and swore I’d never stop playing that scratched little 45 as long as I had any kind of needle on my little record player.

    Parents loved the train station lobby – one room only – because they knew where we were and we felt terribly grown-up and responsible.

    Television changed our focus from the Train Station. We were becoming cool – duck tails and all. We were full of anticipation over the next thrill to appear on Ed Sullivan.

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    • Wow, girl. We were doing the same things in different parts of the continent. :0) It was a good time, wasn’t it? Now “Honeycomb” is going to go through my head the rest of the day. :0)

      Like

  9. Ah! Victoria. This was like getting hooked on to a Mills and Boon novel again. Just loved the way you narrated it

    Like

  10. mish says:

    Great story Victoria ! From some of the above comments, it’s a trip down memory lane for 40’s/50’s babies … 🙂
    I’m wondering how much of the story consists of anecdotes that have been woven into the plot ? I’m also wondering how The Kiss versus THE K-I-S-S would go down with the teens of today ?

    Like

  11. Tino says:

    A bit before my time [just] but a warm, amusing story of days gone by.

    Like

  12. David King says:

    You took me right back, recreated my memories of Pat Boon and much else. A great post. Thanks for it.

    Like

  13. tinkwelborn says:

    Great story; enjoyed it very much….gave me ‘flashbacks’ LOL
    I remember those years fairly clear…though I was only 8 or 9 in 57/58 — I can still see the cultural aspects of the time in my mind’s eye. Truly was a ‘different’ age than we have today.
    Good story…thanks for sharing.

    Like

  14. vivinfrance says:

    Victoria, you have written a splendid story of the pop age, and how saturated we were with the music, the beat, the lyrics, but most of all, with ROMANCE. I was right there with Liz’s teenange angst thanks to your scene-setting. By the time the Beatles came on the scene I was married and a mum twice over, but that music certainly did change things.

    Like

  15. siggiofmaine says:

    Attention holding romantic post…WoW…Johny Mathis, THE Kiss, and you got the hunk.
    Okay, way to go !
    Thanks for sharing.

    ☮ ♥ Siggi in Downeast Maine

    Like

  16. And so the The Kiss became T-H-E K-I-S-S. and Sam was the definite Keeper! (Although Alan Presley would have been a pretty cool name for a boyfriend in the late 50’s and early 60’s!) What a beautiful story……… My oldest sister is your same age….. I always fantasized about how romantic it must have been for her to grow up during the decade before me…… You just satisfied every beautiful thing I ever envisioned…… Did Sam ever know what he was up against?

    Like

    • Actually I’m a little bit younger (just a little) than that…just parts of the story are autobiographical. For example, I was at the party and a woman had me lined up to meet her son, Sam, but I never did. He’s a big-shot doctor now. Oh well.

      Like

  17. zongrik says:

    The new group from England…yummers. they were cute back then.

    But reeeeeleeee…..do you think you should have told us about Liz-ard???? Now, that’s all I want to call you.

    I like the end, how you didn’t say, we got back together and then blah blah blah….you just made it seamless (seem-less? seemless?) 🙂

    t

    Like

  18. Steve King says:

    I remember the both ’50s and February of ’64. What a great reminiscence. It brought many smiles.

    Like

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