Love, Loss and the Ghosts of 1961

When Charles Ryder asks where his regiment is, after an arrival in the middle of the night, and is told “Brideshead”, “it was as though someone had switched off the wireless, and a voice that had been bawling in my ears, incessantly, for days beyond number, had suddenly been cut short;  an immense silence followed, empty at first, but gradually, as my outraged sense regained authority, full of a multitude of sweet and natural and long forgotten sounds … the phantoms of those haunted years began to take flight.”

It’s a funny thing, memory.  We are supposed to move on, apparently, and find our joy in the present moment, and that is good counsel.   But surely there is also benefit in looking fondly backwards;  and sometimes, like Charles Ryder, we are just thrown backwards and have no choice but to look at what once was.

We are pulling together a 40th reunion of our high school class.  The process has thrown up all sorts of archival material; most of which has been amusing and provoked reminiscences of our good old days, when getting into strife and being punished for it now seems like cause for hilarity.

One throwback was, however, particularly haunting.  Someone turned up a photo, from 50 years ago, of my infants school class (now called year 2).  It was the last co-ed class I was ever in at school, as we were thereafter fed into the unnatural machine of single sex education.

While I could name most of the boys in the photo, since they continued on the school journey with me, I could only recognize two of the girls.

I guess that was because I had been in love with one or other of those girls, in turn, for the next 10 years. It was that silent, yearning, unrequited sort of love, and I was too shy, too lacking in confidence then, ever to do anything concrete about it with either of them.

Back then the situation was hard to bear.  With the filter of 50 years, it now just looks mildly romantic and kind of comforting, innocent.  Nothing like the tumult that is inevitably a part of adult relationships in the ensuing years.

Barbara Callan, Deborah Singleton, did you ever know how love-struck I was?  Couldn’t you feel the vibes from across the playground, or from the back of the church?  Where are you now, and are you happy?

Years later, one of them asked me out, and I had just started going out with a girl I eventually married.  I declined the invitation, with one of my first inklings of the crazy ironic turns life can take.

I sit now and meditate, focused on what is happening right in this moment.  I wait for the fragments of the past to settle into their proper place, as little building blocks for what I am now, shorn of anxiety, or longing, or embarrassment.  May the wait not be too long.

David White (that’s me, 2nd from the right, back row)

    • Dee Jensen
    • March 11th, 2012

    Does this mean you wished you had gone out with her after all??

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