As the Rolling Stones released their new album and the Beatles toured America, I played kick-the-can, cricket, football and got up to a multitude of mischief with my neighbourhood friends. I was as happy as a 7-year-old boy can get, roaming free through the gardens and fields of my domain. No computer games back then, no nothing really. Just some sticks that magically became swords and some pieces of wood and cardboard that could be leaned into a tree and fashioned into a den. I remember still the names and faces of my compadres from that time.
My father had been a professional footballer of some note and my mum and dad were a glamorous couple in their heyday. I have photographs of him being carried shoulder-high by hundreds of fans round the city square of Dundee on their wedding day. The provincial Posh and Becks of their time. We lived in a decent-sized house with my older sister and for a time, my grandfather, my mum's dad. I believe my dad eventually asked him to leave as he didn't like the dynamics. I remember being pretty upset to see him go. My mum didn't seem to be the happiest person though, and tutted at me a lot; she always seemed to have a headache and there were usually a lot of Askit Powders lying around. I guess she suffered from migraine. However, I was a mummy's boy for sure and sometimes while watching TV we would take it in turns to tickle each others' feet.
So, one sunny lunch-time that summer I was out playing with pals when I coincidentally bumped into my mum. I'm a bit hazy about where exactly that was but she must have been at lunch break from her work as a secretary. I took the opportunity to excitedly ask her for some money for sweets. She tutted and made a bit of a fuss but handed over a threepeny bit, or thruppence as older readers will know. My friends and I scampered off eager to spend our fortune. I had no reason to think anything was wrong. I doubt I'd have recognised the signs at that age even if there were any.
Clearly, something was very, very wrong because I never saw her again.
Well, not until my 17th birthday, 10 years later.
I didn't know she'd gone right away of course. When I asked where she was my dad would make excuses and say she was with friends or on holiday. I guess he was holding off telling me the truth in case he somehow managed to persuade her to come back. Well that didn't happen and after some weeks he eventually sat me down and told me she had left us. It transpired she and her boss had stolen the office car and abandoned it a few days later in Glasgow. I worried if maybe I'd asked her once too often for money for sweets. I cried for my mum and my dad cuddled me. I don't remember him cuddling me before or since.
Some weeks later my dad took me and not my sister to a tenement block in Glasgow. I was told to wait in the car. He didn't explain what was happening but I knew. I was there as bait to lure my mum. It didn't work. I sat for an anxious eternity until my dad exited the close visually upset but empty-handed. We drove home in silence.
My mum had been a Sunday-School teacher and I'd been forced to go along every Sunday morning to be indoctrinated so every night after getting into my pyjamas, I would go down on my knees at the side of my bed, eyes tightly closed and hands clasped in prayer and asked God to bring my mother back to the family. I don't know how long I continued with this ritual, but I think years passed before I gave up.
Now I said I didn't see her for 10 years. That's not strictly true. Around 3 years after my mum had left I was in the backseat of a car driven by a friend of the family. I guess he had business in Aberdeen and took me along for the ride. We were driving along one of the main streets of Aberdeen when the unmistakable figure of my mum appeared, hurrying along the pavement in the same direction as we were going. She pushed back her glasses up her nose in a gesture I'd seen a thousand times before and recognised instantly. I screamed at the driver "That's my mum, stop the car I need to see her." I banged on the window, I slapped frantically at the window with the palms of my hands and shouted after my mum. The car speeded up.
Cut to the lady on the pavement rushing along as she does every day, trying to get lunch and back to the office in time for another dreary afternoon of typing, what tales she could tell in this innocent age, this age yet to experience footballers and wags, infidelity and divorce, these things were confined to film stars, not ordinary people. Did she think of me and my sister often? Ever? Now she was oblivious to the hysterics of her own little boy in the back of a car, only ten feet from her, desperately but vainly trying to get her attention above the hustle and bustle of the city streets, his silent screaming behind misted glass slipped away, ever more faint until enveloped entirely by the teeming metropolis.
I watched for a long while after she had disappeared into the throng. Then I defeatedly slumped back into my seat; but I didn't cry. My wall was already thick and high.
My crying days were over for a very long time.
And so, in the same weekend as I met my future wife Liza, my mum and I were reunited. You can imagine my confusion. It was the weekend of my 17th birthday and my friend Ally and I took a anxious and almost silent train journey to Aberdeen to meet her. I was terrified.
As I stepped off the train at Aberdeen station I must have presented a ridiculous sight, I had a wine-coloured braided jacket, flares and purple platform shoes. My hair was halfway down my back. Well I was a hippy and it was the 70's. My mum's first words to me after 10 years was "Why are you limping?" I wasn't limping, I have a natural bounce and coupled with the platform shoes I suppose I walked awkwardly.
God works in mysterious ways it's said. After 10 years the prayers of a lonely little boy were eventually heard and answered. Mother and son reunited at last.
It's a pity it was just too late.
You were too fucking late God.