My mother kept me on the straight and narrow and me auldfella did his best to set me astray. Mam was always my moral compass. Dad was … well I’m not sure he was but his morals were often a little sketchy despite his best intentions and I don’t think even my mother would have wanted me to follow his direction at times.
My da was a bit of a rogue. He was far too clever for the mundanity of his daily work and it showed in the stuff he got up to. I never truly got to know him the way a son should and that makes me a little sad. He died way too early, much like my mother and I think it’s often only later in life that one comes to appreciate one’s parents. He’d have never said “One” so he’s probably turning in his grave.
Girls, according to my mother were trouble. Dad was a flirt, something I’ve inherited. I’d flirt with a traffic warden if it could get me out of a ticket. But we have one thing in common and that is that our flirtation is harmless. I guess we just like women for company. It wasn’t always thus.
Take my first ever girlfriend for example. I was just a tot of a titan and looking back I smile when I remember my smaller self. I was like a wild blonde pony, all hair-flowy in the wind, sparkling with delight at every blade of grass that I trampled beneath my feet. I had no direction or care and I ran free before any corruption of my spirit could take hold. My father gave me the spirit to be free and my mother occasionally tugged my reins in, but for the most part I was a tiny, free flowing skinny little stallion, only interested in what the wind carried my way.
Times were different back then. It was a simple life with less pollution for the soul to absorb. TV only mattered when you were dragged in off the street to have dinner and it was the streets that were my wilderness, my frontier and the freckled faced fillies that swooped about me were enchanted by my mane. My hair fluctuated through those early days. I went from wild, free flowing blonde wavy locks ala Leif Garrett, to skint, bowl headed short back and sides, ala my auldfella’s eventual impatience with hair beyond the collar line.
My brother was older and wilder than I was and his shenanigans allowed me to sneak under the radar from time to time. Hair was always an issue. My dad had a preference for Boland’s barbers and there, a strange man lay in wait to destroy all hope. The barber had three styles that he was competent with, short back…and sides and he had a way of convincing you, that you could have anything you wanted. Turns out you could, as long as it was a short back and sides. He had a gloriously shiny bald dome, interrupted by a splendid comb-over, lacquered beyond what could be regarded as decent.
He would sit the small boys up on the big leather chairs, boosted to his height by a wooden plank resting across the side arms. I liked it when the chair spun and he pumped on the foot pedal to raise the chair up. Although I hated the Barber shop for what it represented, I gloried in its splendour of red leather and chrome and the strange smells and manliness of the place.
When I dodged it long enough, my hair flowed past my shoulders and I was a pony again. I was a skinny little thing, maybe even a little handsome, but ultimately I guess my unfaltering, unimpeded spirit shone through somehow. Girls liked me and I did my best not to show my absolute terror in their presence. Mam made me believe that girls neither broke wind nor indeed did anything impolite or improper and there was a certain shiny quality to them that kept me a little in awe.
They never walked or ran, they bounced and flounced and I bounded and strode among them oblivious to my own gentle charms. Acquiring my first girlfriend in such circumstances should have been rather more challenging than it was, but you see back then there were rules to everything. Things happened in a certain way and all you had to do, was what you were told.
Her name was Rose and her friend Sheila told my friend Michael, that she wanted to go out with me. She asked him, to ask me, if I’d get him to ask her, if her friend would go out with me. Try following that. It was the way it worked back then, we all knew how it worked and somehow, it made perfect sense. Now I didn’t know what made a good girlfriend, nor did I know what it entailed, but I’d never had one before so I told Michael, to tell Sheila, that I wanted her to ask Rose, if she would go out with me. Sheila told Mick that she would and that we were now boyfriend and girlfriend. All the other kids were told and I received a lot of “ Whooo you’ve got a girlfriend” comments sung to me for a few days.
That being said, that was pretty much that. We never actually did anything together. We walked up to each other and sort of stared at our own feet, saying more or less nothing and then went about our business. She played ‘beds’ with the other girls and I went back to being a pony. I don’t think we actually spoke after that – sounds like some marriages I’ve seen. Still she was my first and I guess that counts for something. Life sure was simpler back then. Girls … My Mother thought me to respect them, my father thought me to make them laugh and somewhere in between, I muddled through from that day to this.
Thinking back I miss my parents most I guess but there is probably one other person I miss just as much. He’s the little wild pony of a boy, running, skipping, a free flowing creature of the street, a boy without a care in the world, smuggling a cheeky grin into every room with kissy lips at the ready for those that loved him most….
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