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tramtram Fri 12-Feb-16 12:02:51

The magic of remembering first loves

Do you remember your first love? Do you still think about them now and again? Or maybe they were your first and last? Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Brinkley-Rogers looks back at his own, and the effect they have on him now.

We have three copies of Paul's memoir Please Enjoy Your Happiness to give away. To enter the draw, just leave a comment below.

Paul Brinkley-Rogers

The magic of remembering first loves

Posted on: Fri 12-Feb-16 12:02:51


Lead photo

Do you remember your first love?

In our later years as we begin separating ourselves from the wear and tear of busy years as mothers or fathers or from full time employment, there will be more chances to reflect on what might have been but never was: a lost first love. This is true for both women and men. In fact I have circles of male friends in several countries in their sixties and seventies who, at odd moments, drift in and out of nostalgia marked by both joy and regret for those days, or weeks or months when they were very young and very much in love for the first time.

I have sometimes thought that this process of remembering, even if it is painful as well as something to be celebrated, is a form of rebirth for those who are becoming old. Quite often in our discussions there is laughter, or a tear or two and sometimes even embarrassment more appropriate for a teenager perhaps then for men who went through life without confessing or disclosing much to their loved ones. Years fall away as these stories of a woman they knew intimately or a girl they met on a bus or even someone they adored who they saw and never met, are unfurled among close male friends. You reach back, and back, and back and remembering becomes a kind of magic in which you are young again.

Here is one story, for example. I am 76. A good friend of mine is 72. I have already gone through the process of remembering and commemorating a first love. My friend was asking me about that experience as if I had somehow injured myself. "Oh," he said. "But didn't that hurt to remember her smile? You kept her letters. Why did you do that? You read them and it is like she is haunting you." I looked at him, closely. "I have the feeling," I said, "that you have letters too. Or maybe a keepsake? Or is it just memories?" He looked chagrined. "I have a lock of her red hair," he said. "When my wife died I snipped it off. She was my first love, you see, and I could never let her go. Every time I touch her hair I think back to the moment I first met her. It was on the beach. She was laughing and running and kicking sand. That, I can never forget. When I remember that, all my years of pain fall away."

I have sometimes thought that this process of remembering, even if it is painful as well as something to be celebrated, is a form of rebirth for those who are becoming old.

In the last couple of years I have had several conversations with total strangers, usually woman, who are curious to know what I have been writing. Here is a phrase often repeated. "Every woman wants to know if he remembers them." They are remembering their first love. Often they are middle aged or they have gone further into life and have grey hair. They have no idea what happened to the boy they knew in their youth. But he is clearly still there with them, a shy youngster they remember who held their hand, or who had a shy smile, or who wrote them a poem or gave them a flower when they were young enough to giggle and flirt and feel the first flush of joyful excitement and wonder. "I am sure he remembers you," I say. "I am sure."

Some older men and women I know have, like me, attempted to trace those they loved when they were young. It is easier now to do that because of the Internet. Type in someone's name at Google, or on Facebook, or pay a small amount to a search service, and surprising things sometimes emerge. Sometimes, of course, there is nothing.

In my case, about five years ago for some unexplainable reason I became curious to know what had happened to a young woman I knew romantically years ago. She was not a first love. But we loved each other briefly with the passion and joy of a first love: actually a really stormy love. I had not had contact with her for 45 years. She had an unusual name. When I knew her she lived in a foreign country. I tried typing her name into Google several times over several months. There was nothing. Maybe she married, I thought, and now had a different surname. Maybe she was dead. Maybe she did not wish to be found by me, or anyone.

And then one day I noticed a brief mention of her name in a very short news article which said she had enrolled her daughter in the same finishing school she had attended as a girl. My heart skipped several beats. I emailed the school, explaining who I was, and I said I would like to make contact with her. There was no reply for a couple of weeks. But then an email appeared from the woman I knew, expressing shock and delight. "If you are who you say you are," she said playfully, "What is my nickname?"

She was married. She had two children. Her husband was a gracious host and invited me to visit. I flew across the ocean. She and I had several dinners together and discovered we were still friends.

Paul's new book Please Enjoy Your Happiness is published by Bluebird and is available from books shops and Amazon. Leave a comment below to be entered into the draw to win one of three copies of the book.

By Paul Brinkley-Rogers

Twitter: @Gransnet

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 12-Feb-16 12:14:59

I'm pretty sure the first person I fell in love with/had a crush on, was an older girl.

I did go to an all girls school, and most of us were totally confused. hmm

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 12-Feb-16 12:15:58

I can't be arsed to read that blog.

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 12-Feb-16 12:17:07

Although I am sure others will enjoy it very much (she adds hastily)

Alea Fri 12-Feb-16 12:18:42

"I flew across the ocean......"
Sounds like advertising hype for his new book (cynical, moi?)

Iam64 Fri 12-Feb-16 13:09:10

I didn't read the blog (in full) either.

Honestly - it's well over 55 years since I "fell in love" for the first time. If I need to celebrate that so I can be 'reborn' as I become old, my current life since then must have been a bit of a wash out. Luckily, it hasn't and I CBA with this kind of advertising.

ninathenana Fri 12-Feb-16 14:49:56

I married my first love. We met on holiday in Venice and spent a year living 50 miles apart until he moved to be near me.?
We've been married 41 yrs.

Falconbird Sat 13-Feb-16 07:22:29

My first real love was my husband. We met when I was 18 and were married for 44 years.

Gagagran Sat 13-Feb-16 07:31:22

Like jings my first love (or "pash" as we called such feelings) was for an older girl in my all girls' High School. She was a "Joan Hunter-Dunn" type of sporty girl and I admired and adored her but would have died if she had noticed me! Do young girls today still get crushes on older girls? probably not as most of them do not go to single sex schools!

Theother29 Sat 13-Feb-16 10:33:02

I have throughout my life had brief crushes on women though I consider myself hetero(hetera?) and have only ever married men. Once, when heavily preg I adored a woman from afar (I would have died if she had known). This pash wore off after baby was born. Strange.

rocketstop Sun 14-Feb-16 09:57:43

My first real loves were my pets, my dogs.They taught me how to care for someone else and how to accept affection in return, they loved me whatever my faults and were always, without exception , happy to see me. They are long gone, but I have their pictures, in my album and in my heart .

marpau Sun 14-Feb-16 09:59:15

I think of my first love sometimes still friends so can't avoid it

creativz Sun 14-Feb-16 10:08:19

My first love sadly died in a motorbike accident, it was 30yrs ago but I think about him often. flowers

cookiemonster66 Sun 14-Feb-16 10:08:20

I think you dont actually know what love is when you are young. I thought I was in love then once older, realised it was just infatuation. I remember my 1st kiss, dancing to Blue Moon from the Grease album, he stuck his tongue in my mouth, I bit it, he kicked me and so ended that romance! LOL

r0v3r5 Sun 14-Feb-16 10:09:04

One of those things that's always worth 'airing' when in conversation with teenage grandchildren.

Ann17 Sun 14-Feb-16 14:24:14

I often think of my first love and have met up on a regular basis but totally remember why it ended - we kept falling out about trivial things. Strange how your memory plays tricks on you! But I'm still so very fond of him!

keriku Sun 14-Feb-16 16:15:49

I had my first boyfriend when I was 17, he was lovely but broke my heart! Strangely enough, I met my hubby when I was 17 but didn't go out with him till I was 27!

Cathy21 Sun 14-Feb-16 18:20:31

I've been married to my first love for 56 years!

Coppernob Sun 14-Feb-16 18:44:47

When I was 15 I fell head over heels in love with a lad at the church youth group. I soon realised that my feelings weren't reciprocated but we did become the best of friends. Eventually we both married other people and went our separate ways, though we did still keep in touch each Christmas. I was widowed young and several years later I heard that he and his wife had separated. Over 25 years had passed since we had seen each other, but we met up and the rest, as they say, is history! This year we will have been married for 20 years and we are still the best of friends.

NanKate Sun 14-Feb-16 19:07:36

What a fool I was falling in love with someone who treated me badly and other times I was euphoric in his company.

I now realise how women can be taken in and manipulated.

I was fortunate to meet a kind loving man who has been my soul mate for over 45 years.

However from time to time I dream about my first love and it brings it all back. I almost hate him now. He lives with an old friend of mine.

My DGS 5 is besotted with a young madam who picks him up and drops him down. Like Nan like GS hmm I wish I could protect him but of course I can't.

Stepnana4 Sun 14-Feb-16 19:43:31

I have hundreds of letters from my first love ,all sorted and tied up in order. I never get hand written letters now so in time they will be something of a rarity though I wouldn't want anyone to read them whilst I'm still alive wink

trendygran Sun 14-Feb-16 19:55:58

My first love (and his wife!) visited me a few weeks ago. I met up with him again after 40 years through social media. I never forgot him and often wished, in spite of a generally happy marriage , that we could have stayed together after teenage years and early 20s. neither of us 'dumped' the other one but life took us in different directions.
It has been good to see him again a few times in the past 6 years and I definitely still have feelings for him. I am now widowed but he is still married. Shame!!!

tramtram Mon 15-Feb-16 11:49:49

This blog post has made me think of mine. University. Rather a tempestuous relationship that was on off on off and ended badly. Although we met again many years later and got on perfectly well - both happily married to other people

inishowen Mon 15-Feb-16 20:15:42

I was 14 and this gorgeous, blonde boy of 16, swept me off my feet. For about a week we walked on air. Then a girl, who had a reputation decided she wanted him for herself. I don't know what she said to him, but he refused to speak to me, and sent his friends to tell me it was over. Ahhh young love can really really hurt.

chloe1984 Mon 15-Feb-16 20:51:39

How could I forget my first love who I met when I was 15 ,we stayed together I was utterly besotted and in love for around 2 years. He then decided that I was too possessive and too fat. It broke my heart totally and completely. Never ever forgot him, amazed to receive an email from him a couple of years ago asking to meet up to relive some of the good times etc. I was tempted especially as I wanted him to see that I had not only lost weight but had been happily married for years. I didn't meet up with him as I was afraid that I would be just as besotted as I was all those years ago and given half a chance would run off with him and live the hippy lifestyle that we both had talked about.blush