When I was around 11 years old I joined the boy scouts. It was around three decades ago, but feels like it was longer back than that. This is not really possible as I am just 41 years old as I sit and type this now. I guess that so much has taken place since then that you can not blame me.
I was so excited to wear the uniform for the first time. The colours were khaki brown and the attire consisted of simple short pants, short sleeved shirts, long socks, green berets and our school shoes. We looked like right little idiots, but felt like regal soldiers.
My best mate from school, Jon, had joined at the same time as me. I thought he was very cool. He was a chubby guy, as was I. He had ginger hair and freckles. I thought this look made him unique and special. Together with the fact that he had the same name as one of the lead guys from the best band in the world (Duran Duran) made us invincible as a team. We did not take long to get into our chasing down of merit badges to adorn our uniforms, and make us look so awesome. We learned to tie knots and do first aid as well as some camping and cooking skills. After a month or so our mother’s fingers were stinging from the having to sew lots of patches on our uniforms.
We were informed one week that on the following Friday the club would be hosting the local girl guide troop for a social disco at our scout hall. We cleaned the place of poles and camping equipment that littered the floors and nervously chatted about which boy would be the first to ask a girl to dance. I, being full of bravado, declared that it would be me. This, I hoped, would earn me some street cred and I sure needed this. I shivered at the thought.
On the night we got dropped of at the hall by my mother and messed around outside while we waited for the bus with the girls to arrive. I hoped that the guys had forgotten about my brave statement a few evenings earlier, but they took no time to remind me. I was petrified of what lay in store.
The hall was decorated with a few streamers and some of the moms had made hotdogs served with cheap tomato sauce and mustard. There was a fruit punch dispersed in styrofoam cups and the nights entertainment was provided by records being played on a home hi-fi system by one of the scouts older brothers. The place looked brilliant under the flashing red, green, yellow and blue strobe lights. The dance floor was lit up by little shimmers of light reflecting off the single, rotating and ceiling mounted mirror ball. The air was filled with the nervous excitement of youth.
The bus with the girls came and we all entered the hall and took our seats. The giggling young ladies all along the one wall and us across the opposite side of the room. We all sat and ate our hotdogs off paper plates and listenened to the scout master’s speach without hearing a word of what he was saying. the first song played. It was Africa by Toto and we all just sat and stared.
The guys were just about to start teasing me when I took to my feet and walked along over to the girls. I strolled over the distance of just a few meters, that felt like a kilometer or more. My heart beat furiously in my khaki top and my hands were shaking. I stood before a skinny little ginger haired girl who I had eyed out on arrival. She seemed to sit apart from the clicks formed by others. I zigzagged over trying to stay cool and as I approached her, her jaw dropped open and she stared at me in wonder. I asked her in my best adult accent to please join me for a dance. She sat for what felt like an eternity with her mouth open and stared at me. Then just as I was about to put my tail between my legs and run away she stood up and followed me to the centre of the dance floor. I danced with her to Soft Cells ‘Tainted love’ for what felt like an eternity. The speakers distorted and the lights flickered off our uniforms and on the floor around us. Everybody stared and we were both heroes. My arms were around her tiny waist and hers around my neck, allowing us to dance as far apart as possible. We were both very uncomfortable, but felt like rock stars.
It did not take long and the dance floor was full. Most of the evening the girls danced in groups while the guys stood around and sniggered together. My new friend and I went and sat together in a quiet spot at the end of the building to chat. I tried to make conversation and we debated if we should dance again. I asked her silly things like whether she liked ice cream and if so which flavour. . I wanted to ask her to be my girlfriend but did not even have the courage to ask her name and am pretty sure that she never asked for mine.
The night ended very suddenly as the girls were hurried onto the departing bus. We stared at each other and gave a gentle wave as the bus pulled out of the yard. I stood tall and proud with a smile so big and long lasting that my jaw hurt. I was the hero of the night and I never wanted the feeling to subside.
I spent many nights wondering about my little freckled beauty and hoped that she also thought of me. We never saw each other again though but we would, at least in my fantasy world, always have that perfect memory of childhood innocence.