Did I ever tell you about Grace Hopkins? She was the sort of girl I like, being a boy. There was none of the namby-pamby, wishy washy, sukey girlishness about her. She was a tomboy. She could shin up a tree, do wheelies on her bike in the roadside gravel and would stand up four square with any bullies. I loved her. And I am sure she me liked me too. No, not in that way with giggling and playing with dolls and trying to kiss you and all the sort of stuff, all that gives us boys the jitters.
It helped that my Mum liked her too. So she came round often and then she was polite and on her best behaviour, a different person. When we off out to play, down in the meadows, clambering up trees or throwing stones and sticks in the pond she was just like one of us. She used to boss us boys around and we just accepted it.
We used to play down the stream that ran through the park close to home. She would hoist up her dress, tuck it in her knickers, get out of her shoes and socks and wade through the water just like she was a boy. She even found a crayfish in the water one day, grabbed hold of it came running out of the water and chased us around with it before putting it back in the water.
She certainly wasn’t like other girls, all thin and dainty. She was a titan, strong boned chubby arms and calves with a cheeky grin that spread all over her face with a cute nose and freckles. Oh yes, I loved her. I think she liked me too because when we met she used to punch me on the arm and when we got into a fight she always managed to get the better of me and give me a Chinese burn; you know when she would grip your wrist or arm with both hands and twist the hands in opposite directions. My, that hurt but when she did that I felt that she liked me too. And did I tell you she could spit better than anyone else?
Looking back now it was probably my fault that she stopped coming round to play. No, that is not true it was my Mum’s fault. She must have said something girly to Grace about growing up or having a pretty face or even just tidying her up after we had been out. I can see her now, getting her hair brush out and getting Grace to sit still and brushing her hair saying how long it was and how she wished she had a daughter like her.
Grace must have taken notice of all that and started to be more polite and didn’t seem to come round so often and when she did she never punched me on the arm anymore and that hurt a lot more than when she did. It seemed like she was growing away from me; and she was.
I am an old man now and on my own but I think a lot about the past. Of all the memories one stands out and that is the one of profound loss at having loved someone so special for just a brief moment of time. It had nothing to do with kissing, looking deep into another’s eyes or tender touches and certainly not sex but the pain I feel in the memories of those halcyon days makes me think that wherever she is she might remember me too with everlasting love.