“First love” makes me think of young teenagers, about fourteen, and a sweet innocent romance that ends perhaps with one of them moving away. Feelings of sadness that soften over time, leaving sweet memories. Or maybe he dumps her for someone prettier or more popular, or there is a blazing row, and the feelings are of bitterness – but there are still sweet memories.
First love suggests to me that there is a second love to compare it with, and maybe a third love, and others, until there is a final, last love.
For me though, I dated only occasionally in my teenage years. I didn’t miss it too much. I was at a girls only school with limited opportunity to meet boys. There was the occasional arranged date for a school dance. There was the boy I met at a combined Venturer Scout/ Girl Guide function. He was an interesting person, but very casual about matters to do with the opposite sex. He would ring me every few months and invite me to the movies, then I would hear nothing for another few months. He drove me in an old car missing the front passenger seat, so I sat in the back. He was a Maori, verbally fluent and practised in oratory, a skilled artist, and yet he couldn’t pass his school exams. He came from a welcoming family in a shabby old house with several cars in various states of wreckage on the lawn. By the time I went to university (and he had repeated his fifth form exams – approximately tenth grade - for the third time), I hadn’t seen him for a long time. When I met him in the street one day, and he repeated his invitation “how about coming to the movies with me?” I finally turned him down. Our worlds had grown so far apart, it seemed pointless to contine. Years later, I discovered he had become an Anglican minister. It would be interesting to meet him again and talk to him. He would make a great minister, but I did wonder how he ever passed the exams.
I’m not sure why that long description popped in there, for he certainly wasn’t my first love. We were no more than occasional friends. My first love was my only love. Trying to describe first love, for me, is a little like trying to paint a picture with only one shade of one colour – even if that colour looks different in different lights, and is changed over time by the action of sun on pigment. My first love was the man I married, when I was 20 and he was 24. That was nearly 35 years ago. The difficulty with describing my first love is that we remake our memories constantly over time. If my first love had moved away, or dumped me, I might remember it as it was then. My love, however, is like my house – a house which has altered over time. We have made changes to suit our changing circumstances. We have replaced some things, others are worn and shabby. Sometimes I think it isn’t good enough – and then I look at it and remember that we chose it because it suited our family, our lifestyle, and that the things I loved about it then are things I still love about it now. But I can’t quite picture it as it was when we first moved in – and I’m not quite clear on how things were between my husband and myself when we were first “in love”. Are those real memories, or have they been overlaid by nearly forty years of experience?
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