Sunday, September 9, 2018

Don't Tell Papa! Sarah Plays Her First 'Kissing Game'

At the tender age of 7, Sarah Eva Howe gets an invitation to a party in her Carrollton, Kentucky neighborhood. Most of the children in attendance are a bit older than Sarah, but most are no older than 10.

Imagine Sarah's surprise when a kissing game begins! She joins in, though, and feels the flutter of young (very young!) love for the first time. Who knows how this budding relationship might have developed had Sarah not fallen ill and recovered only after the object of her affection had moved to New York.


I’ve omitted a very important interlude, which probably occurred between the spell of grippe and my fall; indeed I believe it celebrated Valentines Day. Miss Moreland, the
indomitable teacher, had a brother, Houston, and a sister, Hattie, a very pretty, slim, dark girl about two years older than I. The Morelands gave a party for her, and most of the second and third grades and the fourth, her grade, ... were invited. I don’t know how I, only 7 years old, got in, but it must have been because of Mildred [Goslee] — she lived across the street from her, on Main Street, just below the Richland Hotel; they had a “floor” in the big plastered building across from that.

I don’t believe Jenne [Howe, one of Sarah's cousins] was there, and I don’t know how Mama came to let me go. Certainly she had no idea of the type of party it would be where kissing games would be played! I had heard so much said ... about “sweethearts” but never expected to have one myself, being a most unromantic looking type, plump (not to say fat) with straight hair in tight braids ... and most of my costumes were of the square, mannish type guimpe (“gamp” we called it) and dresses of gingham or sailor type blouses of plaid — tho spring marked a little change, and Papa had Mrs. Alice Smith Conn (Uncle John’s sister) make me a really lovely hat, and I had two dresses of a much more feminine cast, made by Mrs. Losey herself, who had a small frame “office” at the side of the old store.

Then we played “Love in the Dark.” (Papa would have died at that idea!) The girls had to choose a boy and stand in the dark room as each successive boy in a wave grabbed at one and took her to a chair in the light. If you were the wrong one, you soon got up and left. I heard the girls disputing about the boys, and to my own astonishment I "put in my oar." “Let me take Henry Caldwell!” quoth I. He belonged to that sad, tragic Caldwell family who lived in the little house on Main Street near the Conn grocery (too near!), and his younger brother Hugh, a small round-faced secretive looking boy, was in my grade. But Henry was different from all of them — he had red hair; he — well, he was just different. 

So he found me in the dark and I didn’t have to leave him, and he and I joked (imagine!) about the old maids who had to get out. (I remember that, and I was 7 1/2! and so well raised!) and he chose me for all the games after that, and next day at school Hattie searched me out at recess and said, “Sallie, Henry says he’s in love with you!” Well, it is just a different, queer feeling that swells you up, different from anything else. I began watching to see him go in the room ... to his 3rd grade exalted seat, and one never-to-be- forgotten day he waved at me with a sly grin, his red hair flaring as he jumped from desk to desk before school opened, by putting his hands down and springing forward. I waved back, and I think that was the end. Soon after that I started on that long road that led through the dark, and when I came out, Henry was gone. By some miracle he escaped the fate of the rest of his family. Some relative took him to raise; he went to New York, and I believe did well, that red head (and that must be why I’ve always admired red hair!) has always moved proudly through life. I’ve read about him in the Democrat several times since but have never seen him again. A good thing that my eyes had all that trouble — maybe.

I am not clear even as to the dress worn to this party, but it may have been the serviceable brown cloth “best” dress Mrs. Losey made me which I wore to Naomi’s wedding (it was that winter, I think, late 1890 at Grandpa Arnet’s house) which had a “lay down collar” edged with ... ribbon and a bunch of the same ribbon at one side of the waist, in a sort of “loveknot”(!). The shirt was edged with it, too.

Anyway, the party was a new experience for me; we played a game where we sang:
“I wouldn’t have none of your wheat,
Wouldn’t have none of your barley,
wouldn’t have none of your oats or rye
To make a cake for Charlie.
Charlie he’s a nice young man
Oh Charlie he’s a dandy
Charlie he’s a nice young man
He gave the girls all candy

(Nice standard of niceness!)

We also played “Skip to my Lou,” my first experience, but how I loved it! But at first it seemed no one skipped with me, for so many of the girls were older and more glamorous (tho I’d never heard that word).

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