Day two – my earliest memory. Which, to my knowledge, is one of the most traumatic memories in my entire family history. Lucky old me!
When I was about 2 years old, my family went on holiday to my Nana’s and Grandad’s caravan in Wales. I remember that caravan so clearly; it was the sort of place you could well believe the inhabitants would cover their furniture in plastic. Not that my Nana ever did, I think she would have found that cheap. But I digress.
Near the caravan park was a shingle beach that we would visit to play in the sea, collect pebbles, poke dying sea creatures that had been washed up – all the usual kid stuff that one does on a beach where you can’t build sand castles.
My earliest memory is going down to this beach one evening with my older brother and my dad, while a storm was rolling in. I can’t remember whose idea it was, or if anyone tried to stop us, but it must have seemed like a fun idea to me and my brother. My dad was the manly, Action Man type of guy, so naturally he assumed that two hyper little kids during a storm, on a beach was something he could handle.
There isn’t much about it that I do remember, but I can see myself standing in my tiny rain coat right at the edge of the water, holding my dad’s hand. I even recall that I held his left hand and my older brother, who would have been about 4 or 5 at the time was on his right. I can feel the wind lashing at my face as it swept off the ocean, kicking salty spray into my eyes and making me feel so very adventurous. As a toddler I truly loved living on the edge.
When I think about it, my dad’s voice comes back to me again and again – “stay behind the big stone, Liv. Don’t let go of my hand, George.” There were huge waves crashing against the rocks – well, huge to a tiny toddler anyway, even the wind had taken my breath away from me. Looking back on it now, it was a really bad idea to have taken us there in the first place; and it was an even worse idea to take us there without my mum coming along, who of course would never have allowed us to play ‘dodge the massive waves during a thunder storm’.
So there I am feeling all alive and adventurous and it occurs to me that I could see the storm much better if I stand on the big stone. Yes, an excellent idea, young Padawan, stand on the rock that stands between you and the sea. My dad helped me up with one hand and held tight to my brother with the other. The height difference couldn’t have been more than a couple of inches but to me it felt like I was now standing on the edge of the storm itself, I could see for miles and the wind tried it’s best to push me back down – but I was the first toddler to stand on top of the world and defy nature itself! Nothing could stop me.
Nothing of course, except the biggest of all the waves to crash onto the beach that night, which took my feet from under me, my breath from my lungs and, nearly, my hand from my father’s. I’ve never felt a grip like it. It was a tug of war between a savage seaside storm and my father, who in reality probably only kept such a tight hold of me because it would save him an awkward conversation with my mother. But keep hold he did, and the two forces tugged and tugged at me for what felt like forever. I still remember what it feels like to have my legs pulled out to sea while my arm is still on the beach and the salt stings my eyes. I felt like I was drowning, for hours and hours.
When he finally managed to pull me back onto the shore I was terrified, crying and still felt like I was drowning. After that I have no recollection of going back to the caravan, seeing my mum or grandparents, nothing. It’s like my life just stopped after that harrowing moment and picks up again a couple of years later. My mum has told me that when she found out what had happened she went through my dad like a freight train for being so stupid. My brother George doesn’t remember it, and I’ve never bothered asking my dad if he does – I don’t really want to, if I’m honest. As a toddler, after that day I figured my dad was some kind of super hero who had saved me from the clutches of a watery grave. He saved my life, as far as I was concerned. It’s different now, as you’ll find out later in this writing challenge – day 23 is a family member you dislike, and my father will be the star of the show on that day. But as a little kid he was pretty much the bravest man I knew, and who doesn’t worship someone who saved their life?