Day 13: The place you grew up
One day I woke up and I was living in Wales. I was twelve, and had been preparing for this transition for over a year, but one day it happened, and we were there.
My dad had lived in Caerleon, a small village in Newport for a year while Craig, Emily, my mum and I stayed in Dover. I endured a year of misery at an all girl's grammar school where I made some great friends but felt like the least intelligent and valued member of the form. Craig had to finish his GCSEs and Emily her A levels, but finally, at the end of the summer of 2004 we packed up and left, Craig holding a collage of photos of his then girlfriend as she waved goodbye from our old front garden. They cried while my own lips quivered until I could not hold in the tears any longer. Dad drove the four hour car journey to Abergavenny and by the time we got there, I had forgotten my grief and enjoyed a Pick a Pizza for my first meal in a town where we lived for the third part of my childhood.
Christmases felt different. There were no Sunday afternoon walks along the seafront, penny sweet mix ups after church, no overwhelming end of year exams and impossible homework. There were boys at my school. People made fun of my accent.
"Say no," they would say.
"No," I would reply.
"Noy," they would mock, falling about laughing.
This was when I began to understand that there were a lot of dumb people in the world.
But there were also kind, great, intelligent and interesting people too. I became acquainted with Bethan who became my third sister while the other two grew up in cities, studying at University. She saw to countless heartbreaks of mine and failed Science exams and abandoned friendships and being diagnosed with Crohn's disease.
In Abergavenny there was no beach, no view of Calais from the cliffs on a clear day, no Mcdonald's happy meals, no familiar faces in the streets, but there were mountains to climb, trains to catch to Cardiff, and a church where the people waved flags and hugged everyone. And, somehow, this place, where I spent just six years of my life, felt like it had equal measure with Dover in delivering unforgettable memories and experiences. When I left in 2010 I never felt happier than when I came back to visit on weekends and at Christmas, and when I moved back indefinitely in July 2013. I don't pine for Dover.
Is the place you grew up the place you were born? The place you spent most of your childhood? For me it is the place that holds the most significance in my life. Where did you really grow up? And more questionably, when?