The Reluctant Kiss

In 1963 my folks bought a four bedroom two-story dream house.

The neighborhood was recommended by my dad’s childhood friend/relative Joe, who he called “Red”  (some Lebanese had red hair).

The street was Loumar Drive, named after Louie Trova the building contractor and his wife Mary.

It was a new development and the houses and lots were relatively large for Pittsfield at that time.

In our culture, any big event, like the blessing of a new house, was cause for celebration.

My mom and Sittoo Betros, her mother, would cook casseroles with eggplant and okra (I hated okra, even though the name for it–“bammy”–sounded like Barney Rubble’s kid). 

They rolled grape leaves and made baklava and even let me lick the spatula after making hummoos (unless you have a Sittoo, you can’t know how good that is).

One could also count on Kibby, our national dish, served both ways (if you’ve no idea what that means, I might lose you if I elaborate). 

They’d pick parsley for tabuleh, with help from my sister Helen, whose fingers would turn green, since there was always a bushel basket of bunches to do.

I remember receiving a wonderful gift from my parents to celebrate the new house and also keep me occupied.

It was a mechanical train set that you could wind up with a key and then watch it pull a coal car and caboose around a little circular track.

Even putting the track together was exciting, as we had to slide one end into another, since they were all curved sections, to create that perfect circle.

Amoo Joe, (every cousin of my father was an uncle/amoo) Aunt Norma and children, Marie, who was my age, Billy (my best friend), a year younger and baby John (Kathy hadn’t been born yet) were invited guests to the “sahada” (our word for house party).

My bedroom was next to my parents’ room (as a four-year old it didn’t bother me that Sittoo slept in the same room, she was a floater and moved around from Pittsfield to Great Barrington and then to Orlando, staying with her children).

I could hardly wait to show cousin Billy the train set–and–to be sure there were no interruptions by girls or other “unwanteds,” I locked my bedroom door.

Except for one problem–Marie was on the other side of that door and she didn’t see the importance of this demonstration being so sexist.

I can still hear Marie yelling through that yellow pine partition for me to let her in.

In a childish and selfish way, I held onto my pride, refusing to unlock it.

I hadn’t yet learned of chivalry…but I was about to.

Marie’s anguish finally sent her down to the adults in the living room enjoying “maaza” (appetizers).

About a minute later came a heavy sounding knock on the door.

“Open the door wallah!”

“Wallad” means boy… but with a slight change of the word and the tone of voice my father was using it meant “soon-to-be-corrected-boy.”

I slowly opened the door–and there they were–my Dad–with his 6′ 2″, 245 lb body, with a barrel chest, hands like the paws of a bear, square jaw, furrowed brow, and salt and pepper locks, brushing up against the ceiling, clearly not amused–and Marie–looking like a conquering general, with hands perfectly positioned on hips.

“Say you’re sorry to your cousin and give her a bowse,” my father scolded.

“I don’t want to give her a bowsi” I weakly retorted, looking down at the floor in shame.

“Wallah! Give her a bowse–now!”

The restrained grin on Marie’s face was unforgettable.

It was a “yah-you-little-punk-give-me-a-bowse-to-make-me-feel-better-or-else” look.

I did it.

Right on the cheek.

“Good boy, now let her play with you,” my father said, never worrying that his discipline would be ignored, and back to his guests he went.

In retrospect, after “the bowse,” it wasn’t all that bad.

Nothing my father insisted we do as kids was ever that bad.

Marie enjoyed the train set too and she never did any harm to it.

I was just being bratty and had yet to learn the power that a guest in my father’s house could wield.

In so many ways, each day, our faith and walk with God is challenged by selfish ambition in the world.

What we too often forget (Marie didn’t) is that we have a Father who will make everything right.

We just need to go to Him with our burdens and then allow His authority to take care of the rest.

In God’s house, (where those of us in faith dwell) His enemies are nothing but little “pip-squeaks” with no chance of victory.

It’s true we may seem separated from our goals for a while, but God has the power to open every door.

I Corinthians 15 shows us how it will happen:

26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

27For he has put everything under his feet.

In order for there to be a “last enemy,” there has to be a few ahead of it.

Those are the challenges we’re enduring right now.

So, go to the Father and watch what He does.

Just keep your face washed, because for some there’ll be kisses from our enemies.


One Response to “The Reluctant Kiss”

  1. Genia Says:


    I wish my family were as deeply involved in religion as the Pittsfield people. I don’t know how people can live without faith – how they can survive through the pitfalls of life without religion. I’ve always been grateful I was Catholic, and never had any desire to try any other religion.

    Good story. You should belong to a Writing group.


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