“When was the first time you left your home town? Where did you go, and with whom? What was the same, and what was different? Were you nervous, even just a little bit?”
‘Oh my god, Lena, look at this!’
It’s my sister.
She’s with my mum in the dining room.
As I walk into the room I see that they have old photographs scattered all over the dining room table; polaroids, prints, clippings. They’re scattered into piles, coordinated somehow in the obscene mess.
‘What are you doing?’ I ask them.
‘Looking over old photos,’ Yasmine, my sister explains, ‘look at this one!’ she holds out her hand to show me a photograph of us two smiling ridiculous grins. I look around five, holding onto Yasmine’s hand who looks around the age of two. Yasmine’s packing for university now. Seeing her that young is incredible. Even at that age she was full of sunshine in her floppy hat, purple shorts and yellow swimming costume.
Mum smiles, putting a hand on Yasmine’s shoulder and giving a squeeze. ‘I remember taking that,’ she tells us, ‘it was the first time taking you two to the beach in Brighton.’
Every year we go to Brighton in the summer for the day. This must have been the first time we ever went together as a family.
A memory clicks in my brain and I suddenly remember little scenes from that day; buying ice-cream with a chocolate flake and having it run down my hands making me sticky; swimming in the sea and jumping over the waves with Dad while mum and Yasmine paddled and piled up the pebbles; playing mini-golf by the beach; having a raspberry slushie and having extreme brain freeze; eating fish and chips and getting ketchup all over my t-shirt.
‘That was a good day,’ I sit down at the dining table, handing Yasmine back the photograph, ‘it was the start of a tradition.’
‘It wasn’t easy to get there though,’ Mum laughs.
Yasmine furrows her eyebrows. ‘Why?’
Mum grins. ‘Because for the whole drive there you kept screaming,’ she winks at Yasmine and shakes her head, ‘while Lena, you kept playing with your Barbies loudly, making them walk all over your sister. You kept saying how excited you were, winding Yasmine up.’
That makes me feel proud. ‘Of course I did.’
Mum tuts. ‘It was a long car journey.’
‘I was excited though,’ I say, reaching over and looking at the other photos of that day, ‘it was my first time going to an actual beach! Away from the country side and to somewhere busy.’
‘You kept saying how noisy it was,’ Mum tells me.
‘Did I?’ I blink. Mum nods at me. ‘Well, I don’t now.’
Mum rolls her eyes. ‘No, that’s true.’
Yasmine sighs. ‘Will we still be able to go this summer, before I go to uni?’
Mum smiles, hugging Yasmine close. ‘Of course.’