A Thousand Boy Kisses

By: Tillie Cole

Mama placed it in my hands, and my mamaw tapped the lid. “It’s a thousand boy-kisses. Or at least, it will be, when you’ve filled them all out.”

My eyes widened as I tried to count all the hearts. But I couldn’t. A thousand was a lot!

“Poppy,” my mamaw said, as I looked up to see her green eyes shining. “This is your adventure. How I want you to remember me while I’m gone.”

I looked down at the jar again. “But I don’t understand.”

Mamaw reached out to her nightstand and picked up a pen. She passed it to me and said, “I’ve been sick for a while now, girlie, but the memories that make me feel better are the ones where your pawpaw kissed me. Not just everyday kisses, but the special ones, the ones where my heart almost burst from my chest. The ones that Pawpaw made sure I would never forget. The kisses in the rain, the kisses at sunset, the kiss we shared at our prom … the ones where he held me close and whispered in my ear that I was the prettiest girl in the room.”

I listened and listened, my heart feeling full. Mamaw pointed to all the hearts in the jar. “This jar is for you to record your boy-kisses, Poppy. All the kisses that make your heart almost burst, the ones that are the most special, the ones you want to remember when you’re old and gray like me. The ones that will make you smile when you remember them in your mind.”

Tapping the pen, she continued. “When you find the boy that will be your forever always, every time you get an extra-special kiss from him, take out a heart. Write down where you were when you were kissed. Then when you’re a mamaw too, your grandbaby—your best buddy—can hear all about them, just like I’ve told you all about mine. You’ll have a treasure-jar of all the precious kisses that made your heart soar.”

I stared at the jar and breathed out. “A thousand is a lot. That’s a lot of kisses, Mamaw!”

Mamaw laughed. “It’s not as many as you think, girlie. Especially when you find your soulmate. You have a lot of years ahead of you.”

Mamaw sucked in a breath and her face screwed up like she was in pain. “Mamaw,” I called, suddenly feeling very scared. Her hand squeezed mine. Mamaw opened her eyes, and this time a teardrop fell down her pale cheek. “Mamaw?” I said, quieter this time.

“I’m tired, girlie. I’m tired, and it’s nearly time for me to go. I just wanted to see you one last time, to give you this jar. To kiss you so I can remember you every day in heaven until I see you again.”

My bottom lip began to tremble again. My mamaw shook her head. “No tears, girlie. This isn’t the end. It’s just a little pause in our lives. And I’ll be watching over you, every single day. I’ll be in your heart. I’ll be in the blossom grove that we love so much, in the sun and the wind.”

Mamaw’s eyes flinched, and my mama’s hands came down on my shoulders. “Poppy, give Mamaw a big kiss. She’s tired now. She needs to rest.”

Drawing in a deep breath, I leaned forward and pressed a kiss on my mamaw’s cheek. “I love you, Mamaw,” I whispered. Mamaw stroked my hair.

“I love you too, girlie. You’re the light of my life. Never forget that I loved you as much as a mamaw ever could love her baby granddaughter.”

I held on to her hand and didn’t want to let go, but my daddy lifted me off the bed and my hand eventually broke away. I clutched onto my jar super tight, my tears dropping onto the floor. My daddy put me down and, as I turned to go, Mamaw called my name. “Poppy?”

I looked back, and my mamaw was smiling. “Remember, moonbeam hearts and sunshine smiles…”

“I’ll always remember,” I said, but I didn’t feel happy. All I felt was sad. I heard my mama crying behind me. DeeDee passed us in the hallway. She squeezed my shoulder. Her face was so sad too.

I didn’t want to be in here. I didn’t want to be in this house anymore. Turning, I looked up to my daddy. “Daddy, can I go to the blossom grove?”

Daddy sighed. “Yes, baby. I’ll come and check on you later. Just be careful.” I saw my daddy take out his phone and call someone. He asked them to check in on me while I was at the grove, but I ran before I could find out who. I headed for the front door, clutching my jar of a thousand empty boy-kisses to my chest. I ran out of the house, then off the porch. I ran and ran, and never stopped.

Tears fell down my face. I heard my name being called.

“Poppy! Poppy wait!”

I glanced back and saw Rune watching me. He was on his porch, but immediately started to chase me over the grass. But I never stopped, not even for Rune. I had to get to the cherry blossom trees. It was my mamaw’s favorite place. I wanted to be in her favorite place. Because I was sad that she was going away. Going to heaven.

Her real home.

“Poppy, wait! Slow down!” Rune shouted as I turned the corner to the grove in the park. I ran through the entrance; the large blossom trees, which were in full bloom, made a tunnel above my head. The grass was green beneath my feet, and the blue sky was above. Petals in bright pinks and whites covered the trees. Then, at the far end of the grove, was the biggest tree of all. Its branches hung low. Its trunk was the thickest in the whole grove.