Saturday, January 20
One day when I was twelve I jumped off the school bus and ran home as fast as I could, dragging my brother behind me. I slammed the front door behind me, flung my schoolbag onto the sofa in the kitchen and called excitedly,” Mum? Mum where are you?”
“I’m on the phone, wait!” She called back. I ran into the study and jiggled around impatiently, waiting for her to give me her attention. Finally she put the phone down and turned to me.
“C’s mum said to C that she could ask me if I could ask you if I could go on holiday with them to Italy this summer! Can I go? Pleeeeease Mummy, pleeease can I?”
“Hmmmm, we’ll see.” So I begged and pleaded, I did all my homework and piano practise. I washed dishes and dusted, I pulled weeds, washed the car and tried my best to be nice to my brother. I saved all my pocket money to contribute towards the cost, and in June I was told I could go.
C and I worked ourselves up into a feverish excitement, and bought pocket phrase books to teach ourselves the most basic sentences in Italian. We deliberated over the packing, making sure that we had matching outfits that we could swap and borrow. We bought new shampoo and suncream and matching blue flip flops too.
So on the 13th August 1986 I found myself for the first time in Positano, never guessing that it would grab me in a giant bear hug and never let me go.
Once there, we roamed around the beach with our phrase books in hand and soon started to make friends with the local kids. We were fascinated by how suntanned they were, how the girls considered it normal to leave off their bikini tops, and how friendly they all were. They, in turn, were fascinated by how white we were, and that we were living proof that people actually spoke the language that they were forced to learn at school.
C’s Dad bought us matching Mickey Mouse beach shirts and we proudly wore them around town, our identical outfits declaring our friendship. Twenty years later we have been known to meet up, dressed in the same clothes. (Not the Micey Mouse shirts, just the same outfit as each other, although we now argue as to who has to change into something else.)
No roads led down to the beach, so it was safe to run around without parental supervision. From the alleyways and piazzas wafted tantalising aromas of freshly baked cornetti and pastries, the tang of basil and smoke from wood burning pizza ovens. For one week I was in heaven, running free around the town with C, importantly marching into the beachside deli (that no longer exixts), to order sandwiches and cans of Fanta.
We swam all day in the emerald sea, and at nighttime, while C’s parents were dining in the hotel restaurant, we sneaked out of bed and ran across the curved, whitewashed hotel rooftops in our summer pyjamas, terrified of being caught. We would creep through the hotel after midnight, down staff passageways that seemed like tunnels and into the kitchens where we would peer into the fridges, hoping to find profiteroles and cakes.
It was the sense of freedom that we had there that made it such a special place, and who would have guessed that 21 years later I would still be there, watching my daughter play on the same beach.
at 8:42 PM