When I was in fourth grade I had about ten boyfriends. You know how it is in fourth grade, a "boyfriend" means you chase each other around on the playground and sometimes you get rubberbands shot at you, your hair gets pulled and you get little notes with initials and a heart on them and share already-been-chewed gum, and maybe if some boy is daring you get your butt grabbed but that only happened twice and the second time ended in a shoving match.

I was the fastest littlest thing nicknamed Twinkletoes and I could do more push ups and pull ups than any of the boys except Jubal who had the brightest orange hair in the world and his parents owned a farm produce store on the highway. I had freckles and I could climb trees like a cat. My short shock of blond hair Mom insisted on having permed because it kept it from getting tangled.

Mom always wore her Kiss Me I'm Irish button on St. Patty's Day even though she's double Dutch as the day is long. I coveted that button. I wore it that year in fourth grade when the weather was turning nice and warm, and Mark and Max and Dave and Jubal and Eddie and Sean and Nick and Joe and Jose and Neal all fought over who got to kiss me.

Fights in the classroom begin with a flirtation and jealousy and involve well-placed feet, spit wads, dirty looks, promises of punches. I can't claim total responsibility for the problems in that working class neighborhood schoolroom, although my Kiss Me button may have instigated the upheaval and power struggle of the puppy pile. It spilled out into recess.

The teacher had to call the janitor for help and I stood there in the middle of the field as the battle raged from the swings and slides, to the fence by the locust trees, to the baseball field, to the soccer goal post. Boys of every shape and size and color engaged in a cartoon-style running fight, pennies slung with deadly accuracy at knees, grappling hands and kicking feet, a bloody lip, messed hair, a black eye, grass stains.

It ended with five of them marching to Ms. Wilkin's office after recess and we didn't see any of them for the rest of the afternoon. They had to clean the bathroom in the kindergarten and by the time they were done they were all friends again.

Both Eddie and Max managed to kiss my cheeks. I turned just as Eddie tried and so he got a mouthful of hair. I pinched him on the arm because he wasn't wearing any green but then he showed me the grass stain on his pants and got to pinch me back.

I never wore that button again.