Sunday, September 24, 2006

Memories and feeling melancholy

My parents place have been put up for sale for a few months now. Today, it was sold. The buyer has paid a deposit on the place. The realisation that someone has bought the house has gotten me thinking about my childhood, my parents, my brothers and my growing up years in the house.

When I was a teenager, I used to have a room upstairs. The window faces the backyard of my neighbour's house. The houses in the back were higher, so my window looked into the kitchen with a limited view of the sky if one looked at an angle. I had this room throughout my teenage years. As going out was only allowed if it was organised by the school or school related, I joined a lot of activities and societies just so I would be out of the house. At night, I spent most nights thinking and dreaming. As a teenager, I thought a lot. Some of the questions which floated in my head were Is there a God? Why was I born? What is my purpose in life? How do I fit into society? Why doesn't that cute guy know I exist? Oh no, the guy I like has a crush on someone else.

My father bought us a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. I used to read them from cover to cover and that was my form of escape. I imagined myself in the castles in Scotland, visiting the safari in Africa and watching polar bears in the North Pole. I learned about the constellations and about shortwave. So some nights, I would sit by my window and craned my neck to get a glimpse of the sky. These were pre-haze days and PJ didn't use to be so busy, so we had clear night skies to look at the stars. I remember dreaming when looking at the stars. Again questions popped in my head How far are these stars? Are there lifeforms in these faraway places? If there are, why was I born in Earth and not Mars or Venus or Pluto? Why was I born a human? Is there life after death? Or I simply gazed at the stars to see how many constellations I can spot from my limited view.

One night, as I lay awake dreaming some more. I heard fluttering insect wings. Then I noticed there were a few cockcroaches at the window. I got up to close the windows and next thing I knew, the whole window was like something from a horror movie. Hundreds of cockroaches were crawling on the window and flying about. I am quite sure I was not asleep and dreaming.

My writing desk was against this window but I rarely used it for my studies as I preferred to sit on the floor, cross legged with the book on my lap. Err... I've fallen asleep on my book sitting cross legged on the floor. Ahh... The days when I was more nimble. My mother was convinced sitting at my desk would be more productive. One night, a few days before the exams, I listened to my mother's advise to study at my desk. I looked up at one point and saw a face on the window. Shit! We're on the fucking upstairs and someone is outside my fucking window! Fuck fuck fuck!! Blardy hell... It was my own reflection! Good thing I didn't scream. I wouldn't be able to live this down with my family.

I used to have a bunk bed in my room even though I had the room to myself. Whenever my mother's former teacher visited her, she was given the lower bunk where I usually slept and I slept on the upper bunk. One night, I had to use the toilet in the middle of the night. I swung my feet off my bed as usual to jump up to get to the toilet. I found myself falling and landed in a heap on the floor. The thump woke up our house guest who asked if I was alright. I simply picked myself up, still half asleep, mumbled "I'm ok" and went into the loo. Fortunately, being half asleep I wasn't injured or bruised.

I used to have a radio in my room (no cassette player) which received SW, AM and FM. Some of my favourite programmes were Kee Huat Radio Fantastic Facts & Fancies (yes, with Patrick!) and Just A Minute with Derek Nimmo. Some nights, when I couldn't sleep, I tuned into SW to BBC World Service or Voice of America. I can hear in my head now the station signature "BBC World Service" and "This is the voice of America". Sometimes, I also tuned into Radio Australia. Later I got myself a radio cassette player which I bought with savings from my first job. Paid a handsome sum of RM145 for a Sony. My salary was RM320 a month, so that was a lot of money to spend on a single item.

Later when my father fell ill and needed care, I moved into the store/utility room downstairs. Maybe today, that'll be called the Maids Room. That room was about 1/2 of my room upstairs. Just enough space for a single bed. I can't remember now if I had a cupboard in that room! To subsidise our family income as we were paying hefty hospital bills, my former room upstairs was rented out. Later my mother renovated the room, made it bigger and she shared the room with me. I seem to have blocked off these years from my memory as these were years when my father needed kidney dialysis and care before he passed on.

Thank you, Papa, for having the foresight to buy this property when you did. Having paid off all the loans long before he was diagnosed with kidney failure, we had a roof over our head and not have to deal with paying a mortgage on top of hefty hospital bills.

Now, my parents' place would have been sold as a super-link as it has a big land area. Whoever buys it will probably knock it all down to build their idea of a dream home. I have contemplated moving in with my family to live. However, too much memory attached to the place - pleasant, painful and bitter - has stopped me from doing so. Time to let go of the place and start anew. Star gazing, short wave radio, Sunday morning on the Blue Network, my mother screaming at my friends for sending me home late, my brother and his wife's tea ceremony, then-boyfriend in the house when parents weren't home, giggling with girlfriends in my room,...


Blogger Khaulah said...

your writing makes me look through my upcoming days as a memory of some sort =)

10:22 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will miss DJ house also..*sob*

5:35 pm  
Blogger Min said...

Khaulah, every situation in life builds us to be what we are. Don't you agree? Carpe diem!

Sasha, ya lor. That was where you and my bro first "pak tor" hor? ;-)

5:53 pm  
Blogger me said...

i went thru something like that a few years back when my dad sold off the family home. the memories. but looking back, the memories are still here with me, inside my brain. i can still see in my mind exactly how my room looked like and replay all the many things that happened there. the memories don't go away.

it was funny, reading about the cockroaches and the reflection, and of course the fall :-)

10:43 am  
Blogger Min said...

Ya, memories will remain with us always.

As I was going through some stuff to clear up the house for sale, I found some of my Harlequin Romance and Mills & Boons books. The cover of these books were wrapped to prevent my mother from finding out I read those books! The covers were very saucy ma...

5:36 pm  
Blogger me said...

hahaha. i read those too when i was younger. but i didn't have to wrap them cos my mum doesn't read english. then again, she probably would know from the saucy cover. but since i always hide away in my room....:-)i still read them once in a blue moon when i need something easy to distract me :"-)

10:44 am  
Blogger Min said...

My mom didn't read English too which was worse. She saw the saucy cover and straight away her imagination ran wild! Thinking I was reading porn or something. And when I read book like those I would go wild and want to bonk everything in sight LOL

9:34 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very nice post

10:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm about to move back to the village where I grew up. I'm going to live 50 yards from my old family home and 300 yards from my old infant and junior school. I'm looking forward to re-living a lot of memories but also worry that the nostalgia and melancholia will pull me backwards in my life. I think I've been quite lucky, I've had two fabulous children, known some great people and visitd some beautiful places in this world but 'home' has always been that cottage in that village where I lived from 4 to 21. Those were truly formative years...the best years of my life? Maybe, probably. Even writing about it now brings back images from childhood that are burnt onto my conciousness, some of them make me smile but most make me want to cry for a time of innosense that has disappeared. I would like to build a time machine and travel back to see myself as a child.

12:17 am  
Blogger Min said...

Anon @ 12.17am, you're right about the past holding you back. It's always nice to reminisce about the past but we live in the present and for the future. Also, the past is usually rosier than it was. It's human nature to remember the good and conveniently forget the bad :D

Good luck in your move but do not let your past blind you of the possibility of your old hometown as it is now.

2:08 am  
Blogger cantosis said...

Loved readin that, found it by chance but it really touched me.

4:21 am  

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