It’s five in the evening, the tide is coming in. We leap in the waves and are baptised by salt water, again and again. We laugh, fight, cry and enthuse, cocooned by a shared illusion that time makes no difference, age is immaterial.
Every year or so we endeavour to find our ancestral home in other places, the extended family gathering in a two-day simulation of long-ago leisurely summer holidays. The strange thing is that we do find it; somehow the patterns that were established then reproduce themselves. It’s a combination of collective memories and the fact that each of us has felt the same influences, even if in different ways.
But each “family meet” also brings poignancy, because we’re the last ones to know. My nieces and nephews will establish their own patterns - nice ones probably - but the images of the houses we came from, the timbre of the voices that touch a chord deep in the gut and even some of the food will go out with my generation. As always I’m haunted by the urgent thought that it’s up to us – me, actually – to record the stories, gather the recipes and hold it all in trust for the kids. I don’t know why it seems so important, but there it is.
Earlier that day, we sat at long tables beneath stirring coconut trees, deep in the satisfaction that only fresh fish, perfectly made, can bring us. The voices that surrounded us came from our childhood, and a boat rocked beneath us, like a cradle in transit. Meanwhile, water lilies bloomed outside our doors, picturesque backwaters lapped at the fences and a pink dolphin lay unaccountably dead on the beach up ahead.
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