I was about five when I turned my head and subsequently put my neck out for the opposite sex.
The strain was my first experience of having to turn 90 degrees to stammer an awkward sentence. Or two. Or too many.
I wish I could say this was the only time that I required a firm pillow.
Mark’s parents owned the local grocer and he lived in a posh place opposite our humble home. His big sister used to hold my legs on the monkey bars at school, so that I could hang like everyone else.
One day he knocked on the door. He charmed my mother with a jam jar. It was empty so sadly she lucked out of preservatives. He asked if I wanted to catch tadpoles with it.
The nearby creek divided our houses and lives, yet joined them together. It had a section with big moss clad stones that grew further apart. But we grew further together, seeing how far we could leap across murky waters before we fell in.
That was my first experience of diving into relationships without being able to see the bottom. The tinge of blue intrigued me and I thought the yellow was as bright as the sun. Not sewage.
If it rained, we’d rush in to lemon drinks of a similar shade, with cups half spent and half full. I’ve since learned what it’s like to have a mug slip through your fingers.
Mark and I were firm friends until the end of primary school. I got strong enough to hang on the monkey bars all by myself. But he was always there, having replaced his sister’s role if needed. She had to go to high school. We were about to be sent to different ones ourselves, with no shot of leapfrogging lily pads at our age. I was about to move house as well.
In the car after our final assembly, I wrote ‘Mark & Brooke 4Eva’ in the foggy rear window with the hands that now write this.
TadpoIes become frogs or toads. As they grow they undergo metamorphosis. They develop legs and lungs, among other things. I’m far from a scientist. But my relationships have certainly helped me to learn how to stand on my own two feet and breathe.
Apparently, tadpoles have no hard parts either. I wish I could say the same for frogs. I’ve since kissed a lot of them. But I’m so thankful that my first peck on the cheek was with a prince, and I will never again tolerate a load of toad.