When I was a kid I had a burgundy red velvet skirt which I loved. Inside the hem were the name labels of most of the other girls who’d had that skirt before me. At least one of them was at University by the time I wore the skirt at Primary School.
Part of the reason I liked the skirt was because so many girls who I knew had enjoyed it first. In fact it took me getting to University before anyone could adequately explain to me why they had a problem with hand-me-downs. I have to admit I still don’t follow, they seem to me to be part of the infinite web of connection between ourselves and others. My own experiences in that skirt always seemed to be connected to the other girls.
My Dad worked at the Secondary School I and my sister went to. I have often suspected this caused him more problems than either of us. One particular embarrassment was a photo in a local paper of Da Bitches aged around seventeen dressed as schoolgirls with my sister front and centre, pig tails, short skirt and “fuck you” expression. My sister went to college rather than the sixth form adjoining our school so you would have thought Dad was free from embarrassment given she was in an entirely other town. Unlike all the other girls in the picture however, she was wearing a blazer, said blazer had the school logo on it, really quite prominently.
My Mum cut out the article, it and the accompanying picture were on display in her kitchen for some time.
It had been my blazer, technically not a part of the girls uniform but a weird rebellion against uniform rules as teachers never really scolded you for wearing a school blazer.
School blazers were expensive and so usually only girls with older brothers had them. In my case my blazer had belonged to a guy three years my senior. Something of a live wire with two older brothers who had outgrown this blazer and into one that his brothers no longer needed. So my Sunday School teacher, his mother, brought the blazer along to my Mum in the summer before I went to secondary school. After all if I’d gone and gotten into the grammar school then the grown ups around my village were going to help out with the costs and my Sunday School teacher, only having had boys, was unfamiliar with the lack of blazer in the school uniform.
The boy who’s blazer it was died on Monday. I last saw the blazer on the cousin of the boy my parents had handed it onto. I think there was a younger brother in there too. That kid is in his mid to late twenties I think, the man who died on Monday was forty. It’s entirely possible they knew each other or maybe they just wore the same bits of uniform to school. Either way I’m sad about a boy I shared a classroom with at primary school.
He was lively, threw things in class and had political and religious opinions that were at variance with mine. We wore the same blazer briefly and he’s dead, I’m mourning for a guy I simultaneously imagine to be taller than me and about eleven.
I think somewhere inside the forty year old who died on Monday there was an eleven year old boy with a cheeky smile. So I’ll mourn for the boy I knew and leave others to be sad for the man I never met.