Friday, 02 September 2016

Memories

The past is a foreign country, but can you ever go back there? Jane Green looks up her teenage love and relives long, hot summers at the beach

Written by Jane Green
Many years ago, when I was a teenager, I spent a handful of summers in the Hamptons. This was before the Hamptons became The Hamptons, when the area was sleepy and charming and quiet.

I am quite sure I fell in love with America because of those summers I spent in Amagansett. It was the very early 1980s, and there was almost nothing to do. We were a big pack, who hung out at the beach during the day, and at night at the one ice-cream place in town, Mellow Mouth, playing Pac-Man and drinking Tab. As the years ticked by, we rode around in the back of someone’s pick-up truck, ending up at people’s houses, playing drinking games.

I was madly in love with a boy called Todd, who was tanned, and strong, with long ringlets bleached blond by the sun, and teeth so perfect the sunlight almost glinted off them. He became my ‘best friend’ and when I was back home in London we wrote each other long, chatty letters. I had friends send me bottles of Agree shampoo, because that was Todd’s shampoo, and I would inhale deeply and moon over my long-lost love.

Over the years I have thought of Todd from time to time. He said he would be an actor, and I believed him. I wondered what he was up to, whether he had made it; I wondered if he ever thought about me. A few times I attempted to find him online, but there were too many people with his name. Years passed, and recently I gave it another go. I stumbled upon a picture, and gasped. There he was! My teenage love!

I sent a long email, warm and teasing. Is that the same boy who washed his hair in Agree, I asked? Who worked in Mellow Mouth and wanted to be an actor? Who was a lovely friend to a shy young English girl? A couple of hours later, an email came back. I can’t believe it! He wrote! Yes! That was me! I can’t believe how good your memory is!

I read with a big smile, and then I got to the last line: ‘Remind me how we know each other again,’ he said. And my heart plummeted.

I was thinking about all of this because a couple of weekends ago we went out to the Hamptons for lunch. The traffic was terrible. The streets were filled with hordes of gorgeous people decked out in expensive and studiously casual clothes, strolling. It felt like there was a tremendous surplus of wealth and confidence. It was unrecognisable from the place I fell in love with all those years ago.

I came home that night thinking about memory. About how nostalgia is always viewed through rose-coloured glasses, filtered and aglow with the perfection of lazy days long gone. I came home to my own beach, in our – comparatively – quiet town, where a handful of people were walking their dogs as the sun set, a few more sitting on beach chairs on the sand, drinking wine, and I felt enormously grateful: never has my town felt so low-key and laid-back.

Sometimes, I realise, it is unwise to take a trip down memory lane. Sometimes we ought to file it away as a lovely time of our lives that need never be revisited, except in our minds.

Falling: A Love Story, Jane Green’s new novel, is published by Macmillan, priced £14.99.



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