Last night I went to meet up with an old friend, when I say old friend I mean someone I hadn’t seen since pre-puberty. That’s 14 years. He dropped me a line on Facebook a few months ago and suggested we meet up. I must admit I was a little unsure. I thought I’d start reconnecting with childhood friends when I’d hit 35, was bored of my husband and hated my own kids. But I’m really glad I said yes. It’s a funny thing walking into a room to see someone who, since you last saw them, has grown two feet, come out the other side of puberty and has already started showing little wrinkles around the side of their (startlingly recognisable) eyes. I wasn’t sure how well we’d get on, how awkward the evening would be and whether we’d sit there drinking copiously to make up for the fact that we had absolutely nothing to say to each other. I needn’t have worried.
The best thing about seeing an old friend is the memories. The ones you’d forgotten, the little things that were so important to you as children and seemed to be the world. Most made me blush, as the memory of my naiveté came to the fore. He was my first (puppy) love. We were very young back then; but talking about the school we spent the majority of our days, playground we played kiss-chase in, corridors we’d run thorough and our favourite and worst teachers it felt (cliché alert!) like yesterday. His memory was incredible! Dates, people, incidents in our little dramatic 12 year old worlds. He reminded me of the first time he stole a kiss in the playground, running up to me and darting away screaming ‘football!!!!’ to try and balance out the boyishness with the obvious crush. We talked about treasure hunts in the Ilford exchange, birthday parties where I twirled around in my white embroidered dress, desperate to emulate Baby Spice and womanhood, hide and seek in our mutual best friends brother’s bedroom, where- despite my protestations- he convinced me to hold his hand and give him another peck. Then there were the memories of the cheeky bugger two-timing me and my best friend, Ella, (for about two days I think it was) and us both finding out at the same time and giving him a good hard smack in the face in the middle of the west staircase and turning it red. Mine turned too remembering it, what a naughty little girl I was.
When ‘horse-face’ turned up at the school our perfectly balanced ecosystem was thrown out of whack by her also fancying him and him being excited by the newness of her and going out with her for three weeks! When all three of us would walk to school in the last years of primary, feeling incredibly grown up and buying a few blackjacks (for him) and fruit salads (for me) for first lesson. Our first proper kiss, on Ella’s green bedspread, sunlight filtering in and it being rushed and sweet as she’d popped to the loo and we had to not let her catch us. Of course our red faces when she rushed back into the room said it all. Us getting ‘married’ in the east playground, under a dark brick arch, Haribo sweets on our fingers and Ella as a witness. We had to do it twice I recall, due to the horse-face debacle. We were friends for six years, and, from the day I went to another secondary school to all the others and had to move at the same time- I never spoke to him again. That makes me sad. He and Ella went to secondary school but things turned sour with burgeoning puberty and school politics. I’ve encouraged him to get in contact with her, as they were probably even closer than we were and to have us all on good terms would be lovely.
The ease with which we caught up on our lives and reminisced on our old lives was comforting, and I really enjoyed reconnecting with someone who I feel I already know so much about (obviously, I don’t) and we’ve agreed to stay in touch and try and build a friendship again. It might work, it might not- but either way I’m very happy I didn’t shy away from meeting up with someone who knew me when I still wore pigtails.