One Christmas morning while staying with my dad and his new wife, I couldn’t believe my eyes as I tore open the wrapping paper.
There it was, my heart’s desire, the most wonderful gift I could ever have hoped for – a wool, midi-length, navy blue coat befitting the military style of the early 1970s with brass buttons and red stripes on the cuffs and pocket flaps.
It was the coat of my dreams.
During my stay that Christmas, I remember walking down the stairs from Dad’s flat in Brighton, resplendent in my new coat, thinking how with it I must have looked, as I headed out to the seafront with my brother.
There, we strapped our roller skates onto our shoes and skated up and down the promenade for hours while Dad was at work. Life was as normal then as it would ever be.
When tired from roller skating, we gathered up what loose change we could muster from our pockets and whiled away the afternoon hours playing games at the arcades on the old pier before heading back home in time for tea.
We didn’t know it then, but that was our last time playing on old West Pier: Dad moved away from Brighton the following year and it would be another thirty years before I was to return.
Shut down in 1975 for safety reasons, it remained unused for decades. When it burnt down in 2003, it became derelict.
West Pier was further damaged in February this year due to the severe battering it received from the storm surges that assailed the south coast all last winter, splitting it in two.
What will become of what remains of this historical landmark looming out of the English Channel overlooking Brighton Beach? The pier of its golden days is gone, but not forgotten.
My coat stayed with me: I was in love with it and wore it everywhere. I must have gone on and on about it, never realising for a moment how much it pained my dear mother who could not have afforded such a present. How could I, as a girl of eleven or twelve, understand such things?
I would soon enough but not then, not then.
She only complimented me on how nice it looked. I wasn’t used to such lavish Christmas presents; it was the most extravagant gift I ever received.
The following year, my brother and I were fortunate enough to go on a field trip with our school to France and Belgium. I wore my coat with pride, but I wore something else: my beautiful, lilac patterned midi-dress lovingly made for me by my mum.
I still remember the softness of the cotton lawn material with its ruffled hem falling to its fashionable length of mid-calf, the drawstring ties at the front of the bodice and the long sleeves, gathered at the wrist.
I absolutely adored that dress.
Matched with long, white socks and blue, sling back shoes with the merest hint of a heel, I was ready to go.
Something from Mum and Dad. Can’t be bad, the best of both worlds.
The coat; the dress; the shoes. All gone, but not forgotten. Just this photograph and my memories as a warm reminder of a time in my life very much defined by the style of the day. Not to mention my brother’s nifty little ensemble.
When he said he didn’t mind me posting family photos on my blog, I hope he realised what he unleashed.
Actually, I like to think he enjoys these trips down memory lane, blue coat or not.
This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone, But Not Forgotten.