Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Tale of Two Ts

The grownups always told us to savor our youth. "The best years of your life," they said, getting all misty-eyed at the too-sudden demise of their own. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but I had a normal childhood, untraumatic, and reasonably happy. The sixties were fun, whether because they really were fun, or because we were on the threshold, waiting impatiently for our real lives to begin. Elvis was on the radio, crooning "wiiiise men saaaaay, only fools rush iiiin ...". Four lads from Liverpool were driving us all crazy. Cliff Richard was warbling "when the giiiirl in your arms is the giiiiirl in your heart..." No wonder we were all half daft and dreaming of romance. You know what they say about life. It's what happens while you're busy making other plans.

There was what Stomper Girl calls an Inner Princess inside me. She was a free spirit, wise, witty, and willowy. To know her was to love her. She was not, however, visible to the naked eye. You had to be a noble prince, or my Dad, in order to see her. And T. O'Conner certainly was not a noble prince. He was a long drink of water, with spectacles perched on his bony nose, to whom an aura of coolness inexplicably clung. Probably because he hung out with the in-crowd at school, one of whom had what most boys their age, at that time in Ireland, could only dream of having: a van, known as the Passion Wagon.

What the naked eye did see was a tall, coltish girl-child, with wavy hair and freckles. The nuns saw a quiet child, conscientious, responsible, a good student, a possible convent recruit, all the things that, socially, marked you as a total loser.

Boys and girls all went to school together to the nuns until about age six. The boys sat on one side of the room, girls on the other. T. O'Conner and his ilk made a career out of flicking spitballs across the room. It was a relief to the feminine gender when they were finally herded off to be whipped, literally, into shape by the Jesuits or the Brothers. But we hadn't seen the last of them.

The Jesuits occasionally held dances in the auditorium of their School for Young Savages, I mean , Gentlemen . Girls from all the girls' schools around town were invited. These dances were big events on our social calendar. Occasions of much twittering, and speculation as to who might get to dance with whom. Hair had to be fixed, and, since we spent most of our days encased in our school uniforms, great thought had to be applied to the question of what to wear.

What to wear indeed. Did I mention that I was a good girl? a tall girl? a girl whose mother dressed her? My mum, who was an excellent seamstress, made most of my clothes. But for one dance she splurged and arrived home from town with a new outfit for me from Todds'. I guess it never occurred to her that I might be picky; that I might want a say in what I wore. She just assumed I would love whatever she picked out for me. And be grateful. And I was. Grateful. For the thoughtfulness. Somewhat less so for the outfit.

In her vicarious excitement about the dance, Mum insisted on "setting"my hair, and then expertly applying, to my unwilling lips, a little of her own ruby red lipstick. But, most inglorious of all, on my twinkling toes I had to wear my sensible brown leather shoes, [my feet were too big for any of her shoes]. I would have traded my soul to the devil for one pair of "bad for your arches" slipons. My mother was a great believer in sensible shoes . For children. She herself got honorable mention in the Imelda Marcos sweepstakes.


I went off to the dance that night feeling like Tweedledum, resplendant in my new, brown, box-pleated skirt. Which ballooned out ridiculously from my waist, only to crimp back in around my knees. My new pink jumper clung embarrassingly close to my ribs and collar bones, announcing to all the world that Marilynn Monroe had nothing to fear.

The sensible thing to do would have been to go hide out in a tree until it was all over. I should have trusted my gut, that told me loud and clear I looked like a clown. But Mum said I looked lovely. And in her eyes I probably did. After all, I was wearing her choice of clothing, her choice of shoes, her choice of lipstick, and my hair was fixed the way she liked it. But --- there was always an outside chance that gorgeous George or some other handsome fellow would see right through the clown costume to the princess within.

Things were about to change. We were coming to the times that I would love. Times when they didn't throw you in prison if you went out without "setting" your hair. Times when fashions became more natural, more Molly-friendly. Twiggy, and bare feet, and flowers in your hair were just around the corner.

Bravely I stepped out on the dance floor for the first dance of the evening, a Paul Jones. When the music stopped I found myself eyeball to eyeball with......drumroll please....... T. O'Conner. Who, do I need to remind you? was no great beauty himself. He took one look at me and took to his heels. Almost forty years later, I have still not forgiven him.

When The OC and I turned fifty, and it started to look like certain of our offspring might soon be saying "I do", I should have issued a warning. But I missed my cue, certain memories from childhood having faded almost into oblivion. And so it came to pass that we became grandparents to a little boy named....drumroll please.....T! Today is his fourth birthday. Gradually the gorgeous T has supplanted the lanky geeky one in the Instant Images Department at the Funny Farm. Happy birthday T! I love you.

11 comments:

nutmeg said...

You write a glorious blog all of your own Molly. I've read a lot of Irish fiction lately and your story of Tommy O'Conner was up there with the best of them. I'm glad to hear that a beautiful, fresh replacement can be made out of one's first love's name. I haven't found mine yet - luckily its not that common a name. It's not so much that I moon over him anymore - it's a reminder of my younger days that seem so far away sometimes with all the new responsibility of a young family :-)

joyce said...

Ahh, to be young again. Actually I don't think I would trade it for what I have now. Well, maybe the creaking joints but all that angst? No thanks. And really, there is nothing better than grandchlidren.

Molly said...

Let us be perfectly clear here Nutmeg. Lanky, geeky T. O'Conner was NOT my first love...shudder...just a member of the same gang of hooligans as someone who was. Thank you for your kind comment. Now I'm off to visit you --- put the kettle on....

meggie said...

I just loved reading your blog.
Memories of those anxious, 'will I be picked' dances!
Ours were not run by the church, but they were just as worrisome to dress for! And the boys could be just as rude!

Ali Honey said...

Hi Molly,
I just found your blog from reading Joyce's. You had me laughing there so I'll be back for more. ( loved the Knickers blog and was horrified at the dance story ...poor you )I think we might be a similar age but I grew up in another part of the world from you. ( New Zealand ) Love your writing and sense of humour ! Cheers!

Lukey Barlow said...

I think if I'd known that teenaged Molly, we would have been best friends.

Heck, I do, and we are.

mjd said...

Ah, Can't Help Falling in Love , one of my favorite songs... Happy Birthday to your grandson.

May we all find the Inner Princess inside of us even when we wear sensible brown shoes.

velcro said...

Happy Birthday grandson T

I hate those dances, they were discos by my time, and eventually refused to go to any.

Stomper Girl said...

Happy birthday to your grandson T. I loved that story Molly, and felt so sorry for your Inner Princess, forced to wear those clunky brown shoes.

I loved that your dad could see your Inner Princess too. I think mine always has as well.

Faith said...

I loved reading you blog it sets me into a world all of it's own with your style of writing and irish tales, so brilliantly written. When I was able to own a horse in the past they came from Ireland (the best) and what little terrors they were laughs.
I will keep coming back to read your blogs they are great. You should really publish a book!

Isabelle said...

Yes, Molly, another winning blog. I too suffered from the mother who dressed me as she thought looked good. She's really elegant but it never looked the same on me!