Placed on the mantelpiece in my parents’ living room is this plate. Unlike other mementos, this one can’t be bought. Like the Cadbury’s Bournville, you have to earn it. In other words, be a sportsperson. And everyone knows I couldn’t catch a ball even if you handed it to me on a silver platter. Clearly, it was not won by me.
It was won by someone who presented it to me in the euphoria of his win. Not with a flourish, neither with a disregard for what it meant. Simply handed to the then love of his life as an offering. A gesture if you will, of what she meant to him.
He wasn’t a jock. The hours others spent tossing a ball were spent strumming a guitar on the college lawns, so this was all the more unexpected and special. He got on the team as a lark and if I close my eyes I can still see the boyish grin, the sweat dripping off his forehead, the sheer exuberance as the team came in from a game jostling each other around, discussing who screwed up and who saved the day. When push comes to shove you’re unlikely to find a boy who doesn’t enjoy throwing a ball around and back thumping with his mates.
There is a special dinner held for the sportspeople at the end of the year and after having spent almost every waking moment with him, I was really upset not to be there with him. He made up for it by rushing back to me the moment it was over with this plate. It should have gone back to his home and adorned his parents’ mantelpiece. One that I am sure is now crowded with many more accolades. Instead it ended up on my parents’ mantelpiece. Eleven years down, the plate still stands there proud. Guests stop by to admire it. The hands that dust it, do so with care because they’ve been told it is precious. And precious it is.
Because it is a reminder of a time long, long ago. Of sweet nothings whispered. Of words unspoken yet expressed. Of the sheer joy of being in the same room. Of the fact that relationships are never about just the two people in them. They’re about everyone else who ever brushed past that circle of love. Of the parents of the girl who might look at that plate, smile and remember many happy evenings full of music and laughter and good-natured ribbing and a boy they pretty much loved the moment he strummed the first chords of an old favourite song. A reminder to tread with care because you never know how things will go. That nothing is black and white and there is always room for grey and always a welcoming smile should you drop by to say hello.
The plate is safe there, as are the memories. In fact, they belong there. To that time, to the young parents wondering how to deal with their even younger daughter and her love life and to the love that he was… Here’s a song that will take us all back to that living room in a flash.
So now, how many of you are still pals with the ex? And even if you aren’t, what do you still have, other than the memories?