Today is the last day of term and as I am writing this I am watching a stream of parents holding hands with little ones as they rush from the school gate across the park. Soon there will be older children running across the grass and later still the teenagers will gather, cheap cider and high jinx celebrating their emacipation from the rigors of the classroom.
How I remember that feeling of freedom. As a child, school was never my favourite place, I was often bored, felt confined and generally discontented, so the start of the summer holidays was the best time ever. I can still feel the tickling inside my tummy the excitement building, no homework, no early nights, no getting ready to school, no school dinners, just weeks and weeks of fun and freedom, sunshine and happy days. And they were.
My childhood was all about the beach, the waves and the open air swimming pools, we had two in our town, each sat close to the shore and where we spent all our holiday days. As a child with Mum and extended family, sometimes six of us all in and on my Uncles motorbike and sidecar, heading for the sand with blankets, deckchairs, picnic hampers and changes of bathing suits, Whole days spend puddling in the rock pools, building sandcastles and swimming in the sea.
Later, older I would be with friends and we would strut our stuff at the lido, bikinis and sunglasses, long hair streaming behind as we swam. Watching the boys, who were watching us. Some were brave enough to climb the highest diving board and jump into the pool below, everyone would stop to watch, will they or won’t they jump? Some had to make the climb of shame back down the ladder, the height being far too high to consider the jump. In truth these boys were the sensible ones, the ones that didn’t take risks, sadly they were never the popular boys with us girls, danger was an attraction for us.
Summer nights spent in gardens, parks and on benches overlooking the sea, there was always so much to say, so much to think about. The future was a place we were preparing for, not ready to grasp it just yet, but we could feel it, just around the corner. I was going to travel, to be a journalist, to write for a living and to find stories. I was going to change the world, wanted to encourage everyone to be friends. This was the 1970’s and the soundtrack to our teens was that of Motown, and Bolan, of Glam Rock and Prog Rock, summer tunes that to this day put me right back in the lido on a sunny afternoon. My friends had different ambitions, some wanted to get married, to have children, to work in an office, or the best job of all in the chocolate factory. Some did all those things, some did none. One started in the chocolate factory before joining the Navy and living her life around the world. Some are still there, in the same town, now with Grandchildren and a lifetime of memories.
I am thinking of family, how cousins were my best friends, how together with Aunties and Uncles the whole family would come together for evening games of cricket on the grass beside the sea, how the Mums would chat while supposedly fielding and the Dads would do their best to bat a six or catch each other out at mid field. Later, at home we would go into the bath, sometimes three at a time to be cleansed of the salt and sand, and in our pj’s would be sent to bed, to awaken early for another sunny day of fun and laughter.
I am wondering if my parents were still here would they remember it as I do, would those halycon days be full of happy memories or did they hide all their worries and cares that they surely had from us children. It is true there was never much money around, we didn’t have cupboards full of food, but I never remember being hungry. Mum would shop each day, cooking from fresh and there was a routine to the meals. During summer we had lots of picnics, carried to the beach on the pram or each of us would have a bag to hold. For the first time I am wondering what they were chatting about as we played endlessly.
I will never know, they are not here to ask, so I can make it be as I want it to be. I know Mum and Dad were happy together, they had a relationship that withstood many trials and troubles. I know that Dad worked so hard to provide for us and he took great delight and pride in all our achievements. They tackled life with humour, a sense of what was right and gave us, their daughters ambition and confidence.
So as the evening is drawing on, the park is giving way to the teenagers, celebrating the first night of the holidays, they are just as we were. They have more technology for sure, but it is still the boys watching the girls and the girls watching the boys. Thankfully today the boys also feel able to watch boys and girls, girls, this generation is far more aware than we ever were. They are also considering the future, wondering what life will hold, exploring friendships and relationships and testing each other. The brave boys are on the ramps, boarding and biking, taking risks and jumping impossible jumps. The girls are sitting on the grass in the sunshine, nonchalantly tossing their straightened hair from their eyes and lazily chatting. Six weeks of freedom, such a long, long time ahead, with nothing to worry about and fun to be had.
I hope the sun continues to shine, I hope they have the best of times and I know that they are making memories and growing personalities which will inform all of their futures.