Buffalo, NY—Three generations of McClure women: Lisa, Jesse and Madison sat at the family dining room table with a big bottle of cabernet mourning the death of the great Tom Petty. With a Google playlist of his catalogue on in the background, they were happy and surprised to learn each had been graced with their first kiss in the glow of the rocker’s songs.
It was Christmas ‘77 and Lisa, the matriarch of the McClure’s, remembered Breakdown had been a big hit, but she didn’t much care for it. “Then, at your father/grandfather’s family Christmas party, we lifted a couple of beers, went down to their funky semi-finished basement and listened to the album. I remember complaining that I wanted to listen to Frampton Comes Alive, but your father was like ‘Trust me.’ Aside from Breakdown it was really great. Shitty songs like Bohemian Rhapsody and bands like Pink Floyd were turning rock music into this wine and cheese thing, but Petty, with all those jangly guitars was dirty, straight forward rock-n-roll that felt dangerous. We smoked cigarettes, danced and by those first cha’s of American Girl we both knew and your father, all twitchy and nervous, leaned in and kissed me. It was so sweet.
“Was that the night I was conceived mom?” Jesse asked,
“What am I a tramp? I was like fourteen, it was a first kiss,” Lisa said smirking. “I wouldn’t get knocked up another year. And you weren’t conceived to anything as exalted as Tom Petty. You landed with some bullshit like Toto or REO Speedwagon playing in the background.”
All of them laughed and then Jesse went into the story of Joey Hofstetter, “He was this kid that never said much and was kind of a loner. In sixth grade he started wearing a motorcycle leather and by freshman year you could always see the outline of his Marlboro reds in his top pocket. The thing that got me though was his sexy crooked teeth. He rarely smiled, but when he did, oh my god, I’d get so lightheaded. My friends thought he was gross, but I thought he was such a mystery, such a badass.”
“Wow mom, you were in love with Fonzie,” Madison cracked.
“No, no Fonzie was boy scout with perfect teeth and Joey was anything but. And, how do you know about Fonzie?”
“Nick at Nite, we watched Happy Days like a million times together, mother, “Madison said shaking her head.
“Anyway,” Jesse continued, “a couple days after freshman year ended I’m at Darien Lake with my friends and I see him with some guys. Standing around we make eye contact and I tell my friends I’m going to talk to him. They pleaded with me not to, but I went right over there and said hello. He nodded to his friends and they walked away. We sat down on the bench in front of the Tilt-a-Whirl. Smells Like Teen Spirit was playing and he said bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam sucked. He was into the old New York scene, Television and The New York Dolls—of course he was. He said maybe one or two more things and then with the Tilt-a-Whirl twirling, Free Fallin’ comes on the PA and Joey puts his arm around me and we start kissing. It was so perfect, necking with this rebel boy that my friends didn’t like, to a song I loved so much. I remember thinking, I hope he tries to feel me up cause I’ll let him. We came up for air a couple of times, but mostly we necked though the whole song. And, it was so great, free falling…out into nothing with Joey Hofstetter on my lips. Then, when the song ended something by the GooGooDolls came up and he accidentally bit my tongue and it started bleeding. He ran and got some napkins and ice and was so apologetic, which ruined everything. I wish he would have just said, ‘Sorry babe,’ got up and left me there bleeding. Instead, he was a goddamn boy scout, so thoughtful, kind and sorry, which ruined everything…everything.”
With the three women laughing really hard now Madison began the tale of her first kiss. “Remember my friend Kaley O’Brien?
“Kaley, of course I remember her. You were inseparable for a few years,” Jesse said nodding
“Yeah, she was my girlfriend and we had this wicked thing.”
“And I didn’t know. Oh dear, mother of the year” Jesse said
“Don’t worry mom, nobody knew,” Madison said.
So anyway,” she continued, “It was a beautiful day for our freshman class picnic and of course I wasn’t into KanJam or the giant kickball game my classmates were having and neither was Kaley. We slipped away and sat on the edge of Caz Creek watching the ducks bob for food in the water. She had a little boombox and an iPod, which she hit the shuffle on. Good stuff, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones. Eventually we stretched out on the side of the creek bed and looked up at the sky and talked about, of all things, boys. We both had been on a few dates and technically both of us had kissed boys, but it didn’t count. Nothing counted until Kaley got up on her elbow and looking me in the eye she started to mouth the words to TP’s Wildflowers, which was spinning so sweetly in the background. She was so pretty with little beams of sunlight cutting through her hair. And, even though we weren’t among the wildflowers, it sure felt like it. My body shuddered as she moved in, and not only did she kiss me so fully and so beautifully, she felt me up too.”
“TMI, TMI,” grandma Lisa said, raising her hand, shaking her head.
“What ever happened to Kaley?” Jesse asked
“She went away to school and we kind of lost touch. I saw her a couple years ago at the 7-Eleven when she was home for a visit. Writes lesbian erotica,” Madison said, “ and is really successful. A Deep Dive Into The Briar Patch, Fifty Shades In The Pink, are a couple of her books and she has this sexy professor series Subterranean Research 101, 202. 303, 404. They are hot as hell.”
Just then Wake Up Time, popped into the rotation and the McClure women went silent listening to the solemn song. After a moment they looked at each other and touched hands as tears welled in their eyes.