Since my parents split up in 2009 childhood memories have bought pain and pleasure in equal measure. The joy of that time – carefree, family time. Rose tinted for sure. And the pain that things will never be that way again. But, of course they won’t. They wouldn’t have been if my parents hadn’t separated. I was engaged and we were soon to start our own family. Those childhood family times of mine were gone, in the past where they belong and where they should stay. It was time for my own family memories.
So, it was with some trepidation that we went to Watergate Bay for a little visit whilst we are in Cornwall. Watergate Bay was such an important part of my childhood and somehow I felt I needed to quietly mourn the end of my parents marriage, I suppose I needed to be reassured that whilst things are different the memories can remain. I knew the hotel had changed beyond recognition since the days when we used to run sandy and salty up from the beach and to our bedrooms to get changed for tea and whatever hotel entertainment was on that evening. The hotel is now absolutely beautiful. Luxurious and gorgeous and we have decided to save up to stay there for my 30th birthday in a couple of years. Very little remains the same of the building. A wall on the way to the playroom struck a chord with me though, it hasn’t been changed and I recognised the patterns in the plaster and where holes in the wallpaper had been painted over.
We used to go there every year with my Grandpa, he would sit in the reception in the morning reading the paper and waiting for us, he had a G&T at 11am and always managed to win money on the fruit machine in the cafe. He was kind and caring and gentle and I miss him. He didn’t join in when the rest of the family were enjoying a laugh at my expense and he was always on hand to buy an ice cream or play cards. The place means a lot to me.
The beach is beautiful with its glorious sand and massive waves, but the rocks have eroded and the familiar caves are not quite how I remember. Everything has changed really. I have my little family and my parents have moved on and I am happy that they are happy. Nothing is really recognisable anymore. But it’s ok, there are the memories. Sometimes a childhood memory or feeling comes to mind and it is as familiar as that wall with its gaps in the paper. The unadulterated happy memories are the ones I cling on to – these are the ones I refuse to allow to be tainted by how things are now and how things will never be the same again with my parents. As I looked out at the waves crashing, the people surfing and my children running around the sand and splashing in the sea I felt at peace. Nothing remains the same – and that is ok.