“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald,
Sometimes, when the sun is bright and sand slips between my toes, when the seagulls cry and the children run and play the memories come back to me. Or when I am in bed, looking at the ceiling, a soft breeze entering through the window. Or when I am in the car and I wind down the window and my hair blows wild, when I listen to the radio or when I walk past french speaking tourists. On any of these moments, and many others I can’t recall right now it all comes back to me. All the summers we spent in the south of France, me, my mum and dad, my friends. We all went back every year, for years and years and over time we had become a little community. Most of us children knew each other and some of the parents did too.
We’d wake up in the middle of the night, all the stuff we were about to drag halfway across Europe collected on our kitchen table. The car outside, trunk open and the caravan hooked up behind it. I was usually still sleeping at this point, trusting my parents to carefully load my toys and drawing equipment in the car. Trusting them to put my pillow and sleeping bag on top next to me, together with my gameboy and favorite pokémon game. When they were finished they would wake me up and still in halfsleep I would somehow make my way to the car, only to fall asleep again to the soothing humming of the car within a few minutes. Or sometimes I’d be too excited and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all, constantly tormenting them by asking if we were there yet. Starting the moment we’d drive out of our street.
Slowly we’d see the sun coming up, usually somewhere in Belgium, if we’d left early enough. If not we’d see it coming up not even near the border, because we’d be stuck in traffic with all the other parents and kids that had to stick to the school holidays. The temperatures would rise quickly and at about 9 am I would’ve tossed my sleeping bag away and put a towel up in front of the window. I couldn’t see what was happening on my game boy screen if the light shone on it, so I’d hide myself in darkness like a hermit. I’d play until my motion sickness played up and we’d stop at a parking lot to have lunch, or breakfast. We’d stuff ourselves with sandwiches with baked egg or cheese or peanut butter and while in the car I’d feast on the bag of candies my grandma had bought for me. Every couple of hours I would get a little present to keep me happy and quiet and it worked. I would be stuck to my portable tv screen watching Lizzy MqGuire or I’d be busy reading my Power Puff girl book or doing crosswords.
Slowly it would get hotter and I’d look out of the window and see purple hills rolling by, or I’d see patches of grapevines or rocky mountains and the salty air would seep into every corner of the car before we’d even seen the ocean. I’d think about the pool, the pingpong table and the cricket hills. I’d dream about the beach and eating chocolate buns or nuts from the nut man. I’d shiver at the thought of snorkeling in the ocean until my lips went blue. I’d ask them if we were there yet, and this time, when they said we were, it was actually true. I read road signs saying Lyon, Avignon, Marseille, Hyeres, Le Lavandou. We’d drive into Bormes-les-Mimosas and start winding up the road towards our camping spot. We’d slow down and turn left into the grapevine fields and I’d get out as quickly as possible to put my feet on the dry dusty dirt that would be home for the next three weeks. I’d run to the playground and restaurant to see if anything had changed, I’d look out over the pool and knew that for the next three weeks I would eat countless ice cones and my hair would be salty and full of sand no matter how often I washed it. I knew that for the next three weeks I’d be free to do whatever I wanted and it felt good. So good.