Friday, August 7, 2009

Falling In Love

The needle head of the arm of the old record player was rising and falling as it scribed its way across the slightly buckled black vinyl record. It may have been some classical piece from ‘Swan Lake’ as it was a ballet tune. I was watching as she came out rising and falling to the beat of my racing heart. On her head was a tiara. On her back were a pair of gossamer butterfly wings which matched the tiny butterflies on the top layer of her tutu and the butterflies in my tummy. The tutu stood out from her body like the rings of the planet Saturn. I became a moon of Saturn, drawn in by the gravitas of this apparition in white and blue and ballet shoes.
On her left arm was a small basket filled with bread crumbs. As she danced, her right arm and hand described a graceful arc in the air with a flowing motion which always ended with a flourish above the tiara. Every few steps she would rise gracefully onto the tips of her shoes in an exquisite Pa Des Deux and with oceanic eyes fluttering cast forth a small handful of breadcrumbs. The dance venue was a Kindergarten concert of some sort. I didn’t ask for whom the crumbs fell, for the crumbs fell for me. I was in love. I was 7 years old.

Apart from the obvious stirring of youthful testosterone this event was significant in another way. It began a significant shift in my cultural education. Let me explain:

The house that I lived in at 587 Pages road, along with about a dozen other houses backed very closely onto a huge commercial egg farm. An arrangement like this would not be allowed in the modern world but in those days you just put up with the smell. To our parents the farm was a mixed blessing. It meant a disgusting smell when the wind was in the wrong quarter but it was a source of cheap ‘cracked’ eggs, a boon to a working class family with eight children.
To the Smith boys the egg farm meant one thing – Entertainment. On many a still night we would hurl clods of dirt or stones onto the roofs of the battery hen houses. The huge squawking cacophony of alarm was like music to our ears. This was followed by a visual feast as peering over the fence we watched the outside lights of the farmhouse turn on and see torch light stabbing the darkness on its way to the chicken runs. The other form of entertainment was to take a stout stick, climb our back fence, creep under the farm fence and push over the huge mountains of bird guano which piled up under the cages. Grubby boy heaven indeed – So for me to see a dancing angel at the age of seven was to see a different kind of bird, a swan, and to begin to look into an entirely different world.

My response to the dance of my butterfly angel (I shall call her Ursula Bergsten to hide her real name of Helga Rasmussen) was to reply with a dance of my own. Let me explain: Young boys love to play war. Informed by movies and war comics we acted out our dramatic play with energy and panache. The props we used were often the real thing, bought from the ‘Army Surplus’ store with money obtained from soft drink bottle returns to the local dairy. The bottles were scrounged from the Aranui dump, one of the great treasure fields of my youth.
So, armed with our war toys we would fight each other to the death on the battlefields of Central New Brighton Primary School. Amongst the explosions and flying shrapnel was Ursula and her friends. Ursula became my target audience, I became the archetype of Brad Pitt, smouldering soldier.

My dance was a dance of death. In children’s war games death is a temporary thing. You get shot, you die, you lie on the ground like a dead beetle, you count to 20 then get up and start shooting again. With Ursula watching I made being shot and dying into an art form – a hail of bullets would have me clutching, falling, pirouetting, flailing, and tripping, in a long slow death dance. After falling to the ground and lying there writhing I would bravely and gallantly rise to my feet mortally wounded to fire yet more shots at the enemy – Brad Pitt and Rudolf Nureyev, what a combination.

Of course for the duration of this I was looking furtively at Ursula to see whether she was watching my deep, superbly choreographed mating dance. When she turned and watched, my heart sang.

I remember a song from those times – some of the words go like this:

“Putting on the agony, putting on the style
That's what all the young folks are doing all the while
And as I look around me, I'm very apt to smile
To see so many people putting on the style”


Janice said...

My goodness Alden, that was positively lyrical - a touching snapshot of a young boys' life! I had no idea that a 7 year old boy could be such a romantic; it must be an inherent thing, I shall look for it in my grandchildren. I really hope it wasn't testosterone-driven, though, at least the falling in love part; one hopes that young love is purer than that! Thanks for a wonderful post!

Alden Smith said...

You may be right about the testosterone Janice, it is probably psychologically driven by the early beginnings of the human imperative for procreation which is hard wired into our being more than anything else. I think it is entirely normal to be interested in the opposite sex even from an early age even if your knowledge of the big picture is limited, well, as least I found it to be so.

Delwyn said...

Hi Alden

thanks for being such a sweetie and posting those apt haiku. What is your book called please?

I loved this story for its opposites and nostalgia...

Like you I grew up in the burbs, no chicken poop but plenty of get dirty jobs to do. When I wanted to learn ballet my father scoffed and said the piano...that was it. And when the school had a rare excursion to a ballet I looked forward to it for weeks...and got tonsillitis and couldn't would have been my introduction to the finer things of life....

a lovely story

It also brought back my first love affair!!!!!!!!!!!
with Geoffrey Harris
in std 2 - I was besotted....

Happy days

Alden Smith said...

Delwyn!!! my god!!! NOT Geoffrey Harris, I know him, so it was you!! he told me ALL about it, you should be ashamed of yourself, or very proud, depending on your point of view.

Janice said...

Oh yes, I remember Michael Gilmore so well, he had curly hair and big brown eyes, and was just wonderful in my books, when I was 7, but I don't think I had taking him to bed in mind! And I'm still much more interested in what's in a man's head and heart!

Alden Smith said...

Janice I am just like you, "I'm still much more interested in what's in a (wo)man's head and heart!" - I know how it is, really its all about the beautiful mind of a woman, shucks when I was 19 and mates used to lend me PlayBoy magazines (I would NEVER buy these mags myself) it was always the learned articles I devoured, especially if they were about women's minds and motivations; ah, the beautiful mind of a woman, who, but who, can fathom the depths.

Janice said...

Oh Alden, let go of my leg!!!!