When you are a youngster you dream of growing up, having a bike, running away from home or eating ice cream or cake until you are sick. Most of us will remember collecting the last free card in a set or a plastic toy you really wanted in the cereal packet. In my day we collected cigarette cards.
However as time goes on your dreaming alters to more worldly needs. Such as getting the girl in pigtails sitting in front of you in class to turn round and smile at you or scream because you pulled her hair. Unfortunately this sort of dream often comes at inappropriate moments and the first thing you know is the teacher glaring at you if you are looking at the girl in pigtails.
When I was a child I was a bit of a wimp as I had a bully for a brother. I don’t know what he had been told about my impending arrival but as I was a clingy, hungry, smelly baby that took all of his mother’s attention, I was clearly not welcome. I wasn’t supposed to be a brother, the name chosen some time before my birth was Judith so clearly I was a disappointment all around. Luckily I was born in the morning at home and there was a bird singing outside in the garden, a Robin, so an alternative name sprung my mother’s mind. I am quite pleased about this as they could have been particularly cruel and called me Judith regardless.
So I grew up as a brother, and soon had few boy cousins and sundry other male relatives too but only one girl cousin She was the oldest relative of my generation and completely opposite to me in every way. She was clean, polite, clever, musical, and was an only child. So my dream then was to be a girl. So I liked dolls but didn’t have one of my own. I did have a stuffed toy monkey named Beppo who was my constant loving companion as opposed to my brother who was an inconstant hateful one. I didn’t hate him it is just that as I followed him around he saw me as the enemy that would take all his food, toys, love and attention, which had been his right until I came on the scene, so eventually I tried to keep out his way. His recourse at the meal table was to eat very quickly and then steal the food from my plate when no-one else was looking. This is why I am so thin.
As I wanted a dolly, and I moaned a lot at what I saw was deprivation the message finally sunk in. As there was a little girl that lived at the top of the street my mother was game enough to talk to her mother to ask if she could make my dreams come true and I give me one of the little girl’s cast off dollies that she didn’t need. My guess is that she probably did have a few but when she heard that this dirty, thin, ugly little boy from down the road wanted a dolly suddenly all of her dollies were very precious to her. So I never received one.
So I had to grow up as a boy with just a toy monkey and a few dinky toy cars to play with. The monkey I may add was my constant loving companion for many years and of necessity had a number of replacement faces sewn on when the other ones had worn away with love. Eventually I stopped dreaming of dollies and settled for dreaming about the next best thing…girls.
The problem with girls is that they don’t dream about you. I discovered the opposite sex in class at school. Then as a boy in the between age of being a lovely little chap and an obnoxious teenager I found myself as a new pupil in a new school. At the music lesson everyone had to stand up at the back of a large room all huddled together. As luck would have it a girl of my own age and size stood by my side as I was at the end of the row of boys and she was at the end of the row of girls and the two had to meet somewhere and that was us. So we sang along together. I would say we sang in unison but that would not have been the case with me as I had a voice like a cross cut saw as one music master later said of me. However she did reach out and hold my hand which had never happened to me before. It was something like having ice cream for the first time. I am glad she didn’t look to see how dirty it was.
In those days children were quite independent of parents. We walked to school by ourselves and walked back home afterwards either alone or with friends. That is not true. Girls walked or skipped, boys ran or dawdled, pushed each other in the bushes or tripped each other up. This is just a male thing. So that afternoon when the last bell rang the little girl waited in the playground for me to walk her home. It wasn’t far, so we walked down road turned right into her road and took her to the door where her mother met us and ushered us inside. She gave us a drink and when I had finished that I was ushered to the door and that is the last I time I ever spoke to the little girl. She may have noticed how dirty my hands were.
Another reason may be that I was an unaccomplished liar. When I first attended this school as a new boy I had no standing, no history so I told them that we had just come from Africa where I grew up with the natives. Now you will say this was untrue. Not entirely, for years I had lived in a dream world of looking after a pet monkey and through ill luck had a spear thrown at me by my best friend that went in my calf. So I had an entirely different history in my mind which others saw this as me being a lying little oaf.
My life has been littered with such experiences. Not all of them involving little dark haired girls that wanted to hold my hand; probably like the Good Samaritan that would help even the lowest of the low. And the girl? Sadly I don’t even remember her name as my mind is a little fuzzy these days.