“Oh we won’t be ordering for ages-we’ve got 40 years to catch up!”…Mandy tells the wait staff who ask if we’re ready to order.
Mandy came to Pukekohe High when we were about 13 and she left Puke a few years later. We kept in touch for a few years after leaving school but then Mandy moved to Wellington and we lost each other until Mandy did some kind of internet search for me a few years ago and we began to email. Mandy was my main reason for coming to England. She’d lived here for years and years and once I realised we were coming this way I had to see if we could meet.
I almost thought we wouldn’t connect but here we were now in a rather nice English countryside restaurant. We ordered drinks. I was parched after a really busy day and a 3/4 hr drive where the motorway was jam packed. After telling the girl at the bar we had a table booked and was meeting someone, she pointed to another area and said a couple were waiting down there.
I stepped down the few stairs and there Mandy and her husband Colin were sitting. I don’t know that I would have recognised her. Probably nor her me if we’d passed each other in the street. Time does that but it was her alright. And so began the evening of reminiscing. “Remember when we went up North in the bus? Five girls and that family that had five boys. Oohhhh I loved that holiday”, Mandy drawled. “Those gorgeous boys!”
“Haha, I caught up with Roddy at Tonys Rock n Roll night”, I laughed.
“What about your Dad, did you know we were all scared of him. He had such a presence!” Mandy said.
“I had no idea you were scared, but yeah, you knew he was home alright.” I remembered. The thought taking me back to our busy household with seven kids and some, all coming and going. Mum always welcoming. “I loved your Mum”, Mandy smiled wistfully “she was so lovely…and Grub, I had a real crush on him, and Missy, what a cutie with big long eyelashes, and Lindy, she was lovely…”
We shared photos and stories and laughed a lot. Talked about children and dogs and travel plans. Who had died and how short life really was. What we had done after we left school. Remember so and so’s Dad, we’d never talked about it but both of us remembered you had to be careful to not be left alone with him. Mandy’s family had moved ten times in eleven years with the stint in Pukekohe being the longest. How hard must all that moving be? Mandy said of all the friends she had in all the different schools that period is the strongest in her memory. I guess the teenage years are pretty important years of self awareness and relationship building. We changed from young girls to young women and shared so much. Margaret lost her Mum to cancer. We’d never had anyone close die and no experience of Cancer before that.
Mandy bought out school photos where we are lined up looking all serious. A lot of these people are still there I say to her amazement and start to point them out. She couldn’t believe it. Well just like Gilbert and I live and work within a ten mile radius of our childhood homes and schools not everyone travelled the world and settled somewhere else!
It was such a lovely evening. I enjoyed watching her laugh and remembering stories, tucking her hair up or behind her ears like she used to. Her eyes sparkling. The evening had to end tho tinged with sadness as we parted. I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again but it was a treat and if you ever do come back to NZ Mandy, we’ll probably be in the same place!