Childhood is a special time. The places we explored were important to growing up. My recent experience has shown that many childhood locations could be at risk of disappearing. Record your memories of these special places before it is too late.
When we’re young we like to think that things will always stay the same. Consequently, it’s often a shock to revisit places from your childhood and be faced with deterioration and decay.
That was the case for me today. My husband and I had driven to a nearby beach, to look at a house my writing group has access to for weekend writing retreats. I’ve booked a weekend in it next month and, as it’s only a short drive away, thought it would be a good idea to locate the house and know where I am going.
The house is located on an estuary where my local river meets the ocean. It is the place where I spent many childhood summers, camping in a tent with my parents. It’s the place where I was given freedom to explore on my own, within what my parents obviously considered a relatively safe environment.
One of the landmarks close to the beach camping ground was a clump of pine trees. Across the sandy road from the campsite, they stood tall and proud, and were a perfect playground for a young girl wanting to be alone. There was no danger involved, unless I disobeyed my parents and crossed the road on the other side, or ventured toward the river at the end. I was a well behaved child and so was allowed this kingdom of trees to play in.
A kingdom it certainly was. To this day, whenever I’m greeted with the smell of pine needles, I think of my summertime haven. I spent hours amongst the relatively small grove of trees, creating fantasy stories that were mine alone. I think I knew every tree in that small area and had my favourite hiding places.
Today, driving past that clump of trees, in search of where the writing house is located, my heart fell. It was the saddest looking clump of trees I’ve ever seen. The volume of trees was quite thinned out and those remaining looked sick and on their death beds. I realised it wouldn’t be long before my so called pine plantation, that small clump of trees, would no longer exist.
We all probably have places like this, rich in our childhood days and now in threat of being eliminated. I can do nothing to save that small clump of trees, but I can record my memories of them. Fifty years on, my memories are strong. Maybe in fifty months from now, if not sooner, they will no longer be there.
I had intended doing different writing during my writing weekend at the beach. But now, those trees are calling me. The campsite no longer resembles the place we stayed at over the summer months, but I’ve accepted that for years. The Boat Club has gone, relocated just down the road from the house I’m going to be staying in. The playground has been modernised. The river and estuary have changed shape over the years. But, the pine trees have been neglected. No longer would they attract children with vivid imaginations. Their days are over.
I now know I must do something to preserve those summer time days of the 1950s. I suspect this first visit to the writers cottage will not be my last. Without invitation, a new writing project has thrust itself upon me. If I don’t preserve those memories of a once fashionable beach area, maybe no one will.
If there are places in your childhood that are endangered, on the brink of extinction, I urge you to consider writing your memories down. record your childhood memories, so that all is not lost. Write about the places from your past before they disappear.