One day you see a photo on Facebook that brings back pangs of childhood memories that will never be relived because the two people you wish for most aren’t there. But this time, instead of crying, you wish you were there, because the memory lives on without the faces you miss, and continues in the faces that abide.
I want to go to Hayling Island. My parents and I had a caravan there when I was small. My aunt had one in the same park and we’d go there throughout the summer for weeks or weekends at a time.
I wrote in my Year 3 report that crabbing was my favourite hobby. I’d stand there for what felt like hours with my cousins, net in hand, before we caught a bucketful and took it back to horrify our Nan.
Even before the caravan, we’d pilgrimage to Hayling to fill the holiday parks with our Irish family, a medley of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. When the cousins grew up, their children took centre stage. I floated in the middle, five years their senior, eleven years the older ones’ minor – both the little and the big one. My Mum was the youngest of six.
The fair was our favourite stomping ground. Twirling on the waltzer and braving the roller coaster. The smallest would stand on our feet to pass the height restriction, tricking the attendant’s eye. And on Thursday – the day of unlimited rides – my dad would dig into his archive of coloured wristbands, collected from every Thursday before, and hope that this week, we’d have a match.
We rowed on inflatable boats, tried to skim stones across the sea, and performed dances to our favourite songs. I don’t have any brothers and sisters, but my cousins filled that gap.
I don’t remember selling the caravan or when we stopped going to Hayling. It happened during the mess of years that saw the decline of my Dad’s drinking, the advent of my teens, and a shift in focus to trying to hold our family together. I still went there, a few times over the years, but the joy in it diminished – the absence of my parents taking precedence.
But now I wish I was there. Facebook is filled with pictures of my family having the summer of my youth. The little ones who stood on my toes are now adults, the babies are the big ones, and there’s a whole new generation of children catching crabs. My parents and my Nan may not be there, but the legacy lives on.
This is the peril of travelling. I love where I am and know it’s where I need to be right now, but oh how I wish I could teleport.