Friday, December 18, 2009

Times Remembered

Every Friday, the Loose Bloggers Consortium get together to post about a particular subject; today's topic is Times Remembered. Check out the other blog members:
Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present, all time is unredeemable.
Burnt Norton, Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

On this Friday in December in 1976, I lost my best friend.

I was a little girl of seven and it was a school day like any other. I woke up, reluctant to get out of bed. Mum was shouting to us all to get up, in that way which left us with no choice but to thud our uncooperative feet on the floor. As I stood up, the cold air hit me, little draughts coming through the window sill. Shivering, I headed downstairs.

A nice smell enveloped me as I settled down at the table for breakfast; Ready Brek or Weetabix was the cereal of choice in the winter, with hot milk, the memory of which has eluded me but it filled my belly and, after getting ready, my sisters and I trudged off to school.

On arrival, we ran through the gates and into the ancient Victorian building, freezing and pink cheeked, hoping to get a heat from the old, rusty radiator but the wicked Head Mistress blocked our path as we headed towards our heated nirvana and threw us out. She told us to stay out until the bell rang or we would face her wrath.

We ran around, trying to stay warm with bare hands and bare legs; our coats weren't enough to keep the heat in so we eventually snuggled together in the shed, watching our breath as it flowed out of us like fog. I kept peeking out, looking out for my best friend Thomas but he was nowhere to be seen.

When the bell rang, I looked anxiously behind me, hoping to see a glimpse of him running up the road but he wasn't there. I was worried he'd get into trouble. We entered the old building and after hanging up our coats in the cloakroom, made our way to the classroom to finish making the puppets we had started for a school show. Thomas loved the puppets and our alternative fairytale theme, Little Blue Riding Hood. We both were in charge of writing the script, which we loved doing and today, we would be making our own puppets from papier mache and wood. He had been so excited the day before.

I sat by myself, sulking. No-one else seemed bothered that he wasn't there. Where was he? He couldn't be ill as he was fine yesterday and anyway, no-one ever stayed off sick at our school, unless they were in hospital. I put my hand up and the teacher ignored me. I persevered until eventually she sighed and asked me what I wanted. "Where's Thomas, Miss?" I asked. She sighed once again and stood up, ignoring what I'd said. But then she addressed the class; "Children. Thomas will not be coming back to school. Now back to work". And that was my answer.

I wanted to ask more but I knew I'd be met with a frown and possibly the belt; this teacher used any excuse to give it to me. I sat at my desk, the noise of everyone chattering disappearing as my own thoughts consumed me; where in earth could he be? Had something happened? Why didn't he tell me? I was so confused and scared; I had an ominous feeling that I would never see him again.

I never did find out what had happened or where he went. I went to his house as soon as school finished and there was no reply to my knocks. I opened the letterbox and peered in to find nothing; literally nothing, not even the carpets were there. I cried all the way home, then wiped my eyes before entering the house and spent the night sitting on my bed, staring at the blue flowered wallpaper and the poster of David Cassidy that belonged to my big sister. I wanted to rip that stupid grin of his face as anger began to fill my little head. The grief I felt was too much for me to bear but bear it I did until I had no choice but to accept that he was gone.

I hoped that one day I may find him or see him again. I thought about him every now and then and as I grew older, I wondered what he would be doing, where he was living, who his friends were. When the internet arrived, I periodically searched for him but his last name had eluded me by then. I asked old classmates, my sister about him; no-one even remembered him. It's like he didn't exist. But there he is, in the old class photo, staring out at me with that cheeky wee grin. I hope that one day, he looks for me.


Judy Harper said...

Wow! Just overnight and no answer as to what happened? I understand about loosing a childhood friend. Good post. I can't remember if you said you Googled him on the Internet? If you did, was there any information?

Sumandebray said...

that was a very nicely narrated and touchy story. But thank God that it wasn't what I had thought it was...
Hope you will find him one day. He must have taken a transfer certificate from your school maybe that might provide you with some lead to follow

Protege said...

Beautifully written dear Helen, as always. Your writing appeals to me so much. Is this a true story?
Something tragic must have happened to the family, as they left in this unusual way.
I hope you will find your friend one day. Or that he will indeed find you.

Rummuser said...

In my post on the same subject, I have written that we need something to trigger off memories of times remembered. Your story triggers off a memory for me about which I shall post a blog one day and refer to this trigger. Good story, well told, and a nice touch that Anonymous comes in and clarifies!

Grannymar said...

The sudden disappearance and empty house is not totally strange to me. Living in Northern Ireland for over thirty years, I was aware of many such disappearances. Some were due to intimidation or threat by Paramilitaries or thugs, or were members of the Security Forces under death threat.

As usual Helen, I was in that school shed feeling the cold air on my thin little legs, in the classroom feeling your frustration at unanswered questions. Were we at the same school?

gaelikaa said...

Helen, I found it strange myself in childhood how people could just vanish out of your life without an explanation. Kids have no way of finding things out if adults don't want to let them know. Of course now it could be different, kids have a bit more access with mobiles being present in the house, etc. I can hear the child's voice so clearly in what you write and it brings back some memories.

Conrad said...

Helen, what a stunning twist! I of course thought your friend must have died - but what difference to us, really? Isn't the sting of death the separation? So, to you, as a child, he did die.

How poignant. I really hope you find one another again. That would be a marvelous next chapter.

confused homemaker said...

How sad. I had friends move but I knew ahead of time. It's so hard though to lose a friend regardless & harder without the closure or ability to know.

Maria said...

I taught for a few years in a school where a child would be in class one day, move overnight, and I wouldn't even have a chance to say goodbye. It was always so difficult to clean out the little desk, hoping all the time that the student was safe and in good health. Then sometime later the parents would send for school records, but I seldom found out the reason for the departure, although it was usually rent not paid or fear of the Welfare Department check-ups.

Now I need to go add you to the list of LWC on my blog. I don't know what happened. but you are not listed. I apologize and will correct the error right away.

Ginger said...

Good grief. Has I wrote that, I suppose that's really the only kind of grief that might be good - that your friend is still around somewhere and the hope that there will be a reunion.

Still, what an odd disappearance.

Lovely writing!

Unknown Mami said...

Sad story of loss beautifully written. I hope he finds you someday.

Magpie 11 said...

As a teacher I know the child that leaves without a word and the hole it leaves for the other children. As a child I must have been that disappearing boy so often did we move. I hope people remember(ed) me like that.

The habit that adults have of keeping information from children can live on into their adulthood.
My Aunt had managed to keep from me the deaths of the parents of a friend until too late. Thus I have never been allowed to find that friend again.

As for the strap! ... vile

~SHANNON~ said...

What a haunting and beautifully told story. It's so sad that the teacher couldn't be bothered to give the class a bit more closure than that. I hope you both find eachother again someday- and if you must show him this post! Wont he feel so loved to know you have wondered about him for so long? :)

Also, thank you for dropping by my blog! I really apreciated your encouraging words on my breastfeeding blog.I'm sorry it took me some time to get back to you though! It's been so fun to discover your blog, as well! And I'm your newest follower!!

Shannon at:

Melissa B. said...

Oh, such a poignant post! Have you tried Facebook? I've been reading quite a few "I found my long lost friend, etc., on FB" stories recently. 'tis the season, I guess...

Little Ms Blogger said...

Do you have in Scotland? You could search him by school and year you were together in school. He may be there.

How weird that his family disappeared in one day.