I still vividly remember my most embarrassing moment ever. I was five years old. Crazy isn't it? At the age of 43 I still haven't managed anything more embarrassing as an adult but I swear it's God's honest truth. I wouldn't say it's my earliest memory, I have many fleeting ones here and there from further back. But this is probably the first one I remember in its entirety. Obviously the experience has scarred me for life, but now I look back, I like to think of it as my first encounter with a real life angel!
Selborne, Hampshire (UK)
I know for a fact this momentous event in my young life occurred then because it was my mum's birthday in November and the whole episode came about due to one of her birthday presents. When I was little one of my very favourite joys in life was when Nanny and Grandad used to come and visit and bring THE CATALOGUE. Oh how I loved those catalogues! There was Grattan's, there was Kays – enormous great volumes they were, honestly they make today's Ezibuy catalogue look like something you'd blow your nose with. They were full of pages and pages of clothes and TOYS – oh so many toys – and STUFF. Stuff you just couldn't get anywhere else and I would spend hours browsing the hallowed pages. Nanny and Grandad used to buy all sorts of things from these catalogues and it's only now I realise that it was because they couldn't go shopping. Grandad couldn't drive and Nanny, well she couldn't walk, she was paralysed. Nanny had never been able to walk as long as I had been in the world and I never thought to question why, that was just how it was.
Birthdays and Christmas were an especially exciting time of year because you knew everyone would get something from THE CATALOGUE and my mum's birthday was no exception. This year proved to be the best yet! I'm not sure if my mother felt the same way but I was absolutely enchanted with her gift from Nanny and Grandad. New undies! Seven pairs to exact, one for each day of the week. I knew for a fact that's what they were intended for because each one bore the name of a different day. How ingenious I thought! Not only that, they were so pretty, each day of the week written in flowing scripty writing and surrounded by different types of flowers. I thought they were the most beautiful undies I had ever seen.
Mum on the other hand seemed in no hurry to try them on. I couldn't believe it – what on earth was wrong with the woman? I would have done anything to have undies like that! But instead of tearing them all open enthusiastically and proudly pulling up a brand new day every morning, she put them on top of her 1970's leather ottoman. And there they stayed. Days turned into weeks and still they remained, neatly and individually wrapped in cellophane. In the end I could stand no more. If my mother wasn't going to appreciate these beautiful undies, well I would! So I hatched a plan. Surely she wouldn't notice if just ONE pair went missing? She had so many! All I had to do now was wait a few days for the right day and that was Friday. I chose Friday because the undies for that day were purple and that was my favourite colour. It still is! Such an elaborate subterfuge takes careful timing. I didn't want anything to go wrong on the day so I waited until one afternoon when she was safely out of sight and snuck into her room. My heart thumped and my tiny hands shook as I quickly
flicked through the pairs until Friday was safely in my grasp, then bolted to my room and hid them where all the most precious and secret things went – in the bottom of my deep, dark wardrobe.
It felt as though Friday would never come but eventually it dawned and I bounced out of bed in excitement! At last I would get to wear my beautiful undies! Mum on the other hand STILL hadn't even moved the other six pairs from on top of the ottoman. My plan had gone off without a hitch! I went off to school feeling incredibly nervous. What would people say if they knew I was wearing big girls' undies? Seeing as nobody saw my normal undies as a rule the chances of getting found out were incredibly slim but even so, it meant handstands and cartwheels were DEFINITELY out of the question at least for today. Nobody could ever know – especially Lindsay Allan.
Lindsay was my very first crush. He had black hair and lots of freckles. He was eight and I was only five but he wasn't mean like the other big boys, he was nice. Even when he found out I had a crush on him he wasn't mean. A few weeks before, one of the big girls had told him I had written 'I love Linsey' in my secret Mr Men notebook and I was mortified when he came up to me in the playground. 'Can I see it?' he asked. In fear and trepidation I pulled it out. What was going to happen now?! Michael Povey (another one of the big boys) had already called me a dipstick when I missed the ball playing rounders. Even worse, Paul Cannings had pulled faces at me when we were singing Christmas carols and said I looked stupid dressed up as one of the Wise Men. What terrible thing was this guy going to do to me?
'You've spelled my name wrong!' he smiled. 'Have you got a pencil?' Dumbstruck, I handed one to him and watched in amazement as he wrote down the correct spelling. 'There you go!' he grinned and patted me on the head before running off to join the other big boys playing football. From that day forward I never forgot how to spell his name! Even so, I still didn't want him or anyone else seeing my undies, beautiful as they were and as the day progressed I discovered to my distress that they were a tad too big. Actually more than a tad, I was having trouble getting them to stay up. Fortunately when you're only five you can get away with going to the loo a lot and that, combined with a few subtle pull-ups in the book corner meant I successfully managed to get through to the end of school. Yippee! I had done it. I had worn my beautiful big girl's undies all day! It would be my secret and mine alone forever and ever.
Our primary school was so tiny it was more like a big house than a school really. It sat on top of a big hill and at the end of each day us little ones would run down the long snaking driveway to the bottom of the hill where the parents waited to take us home. Miss Butler the headmistress stood outside the door ringing the big brass bell and I was off like a robber's dog. I couldn't wait to get these bloody undies off and put some smaller ones on, they were driving me mad! So I ran, school bag swinging, bowl cut flopping and just like always by the time I got from the top of the hill to the bottom my knee-high socks had managed to work their way down. Except today they weren't the only things which had worked their way down. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill, my undies – my beautiful purple Friday undies from THE CATALOGUE which nobody was supposed to know about forever and ever – were down around my ankles. And I just stood there, frozen as all the parents and all the kids who had already reached the bottom of the hill before me, looked on.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a grey-haired lady with glasses and a kind face stepped forward. Quick as a wink and without saying a word, she whipped them up from round my ankles and back to where they should be, before stepping back again as though nothing had ever happened. It was Lindsay Allan's mum. I wanted to die of shame, of all people to come to my rescue! I don't remember too much after that. Obviously I got sprung wearing Mum's new undies but we're still on talking terms 38 years later so she must have forgiven me. I sure as hell never worried about trying to pinch the other six pairs though, she was welcome to those! What I remember most of all about the whole episode is the kindness of Nancy Allan. To this day I have never forgotten it! It wasn't hard to see where her son got his kind heart and gentle nature from and that has been something he has carried throughout his entire life. I know that for a fact because although our paths didn't cross much during the rest of our school years, as an adult I got to know him and his whole family very well. In fact he and his brother were ushers at my wedding and he even came to visit us in NZ! I have no idea if he or his mum remember either me having a crush on him or my undies falling down – but I won't remind them if you don't!