Okay so this one is a little different. I can't say that Richard is one of my best friends, I can't even say that we're in touch on a regular basis. However, I can say that Richard Cunliffe was my 'first love' and there should be a special place in everyone's life for their first love ... and definitely a paragraph or three on their website if they have one!
So here is his three paragraphs - on his own page of my website.
When we moved from Pahiatua to Kerikeri I was once again in the position of starting another school, hopefully meeting new friends. I didn't imagine that I'd meet my frist love. Mind you, I don't think I thought of much else other than meeting my knight on shining armor and riding off into the sunset with him!
I can recall the first time I set eyes on Richard. He was walking across the football field one lunch time and I asked Joanna who he was. She told me his name and that he had a serious girlfriend - and so that was that. A few months later when I was allowed to go for a cup of coffee in a local cafe with a friend of mine, I was sitting there when Richard and his friends walked in. They immediately came over to our table and we all started chatting and got along really well. I was attracted to him, how could I not be when he was so dashingly handsome, but he pointed out to me that he was seeing this other girl.
From then on we became friends who said hello when we passed each other in school or in town. Our school had a trip planned to go to Rotorua for a week during one of our school holidays and since my so-called-parents would jump at the chance to get rid of me, I was allowed to go. When we piled onto the bus, I noticed Richard was there as well. We ended up sitting together and just talked for hours. Over the course of the next week we became close and he said that he wanted to see me and so he would 'dump' his other girlfriend. Now you have to remember that we're around 16 years old, so this is serious stuff here! We kissed alot that trip and I remember laughing a lot when I was around him. I hadn't been that 'happy' in a long time - especially considering I had lost my father just a few months previous to all of this.
So - Richard dropped his other girlfriend and then we started going out. Now I'm sure a lot of people know that when you start dating at a young age, there are many 'traumas' associated with young love. Richard and I were young, we fought, we laughed, we lived! He was my first and I'm pleased that it was such a nice experience, especially since I've heard of so many not-so-pleasant-first-time-experiences.
When I was 17 years old I was given the option from my step-father to leave the house or have my belongings thrown in the gutter. I had nowhere to go to, and the Cunliffe's took me in without a second thought. I lived with them for several months before I managed to find myself somewhere to live.
Richard and I were an on-again off-again relationship and for several years it carried on like that. Eventually we went our own separate ways and Richard ended up meeting and falling in love with a lovely lady called Ingrid, to whom he is married and they have two lovely children.
I would hear snippets about what he was up to in his life, and then one day I was searching online for him on a kiwi site that I belong to where you can catch up with old school friends, and I did a search on his name. Just for old time sake, I sent him a brief email saying hello, who I was, what I was up to - and not to panic as I wasn't trying to find him, I just wanted to say hello. We exchanged a few emails and it was a really pleasant experience being in touch with him again. The one thing I've found since moving over to America is that your old friends and acquaintances become a little more special and whenever you get the chance to catch up with them, it's not something that you let go by.
I haven't heard from him in a little while - he moved to Bali with his family the month after the awful Tsunami hit there. He wrote several quick emails back to say that he and his family were settling in well. They're now on my Christmas email list and it's just nice toknow that he's out there enjoying life and happy. I was lucky to have Richard as my first love, and I will always be thankful for that.