Sure, it is no Cinderella's castle, rather it was the humble abode of red roof tiles and a single-storey providing comforts of a home and acting as the strong shelter from the mighty storm and the darkness of night. It is the place where I spent two decades of my life in and grew up to be who I am today. There is just so much of me, not to mention of 'us' (my family) in this humble little house, now looking shabby, old and probably decaying from its former glory in the heydays. When I heard that the family is going back to the old house to pack and clean up the house to make way for our new inhabitants, I was looking forward to join in as there were some of my stuffs left behind in my old room as well. I can't even remember the last time I was there; although my best bet would be that it was more than a year ago since I had actually done anything when I was at the house. I did go back to the house last year, but I don't think I did much packing as I was just preoccupied with the planning of my own wedding for the whole of the year. I felt undecided on whether I wanted to go back to the house to pack sometimes; and I often ask myself the reason.
Was it because I did not want to deal with the cumbersome task of packing and tidying?
Or was it that I just did not believe that all those things, which amount to a lot, cannot be cleared in such a short time?
Maybe I just did not want to be reminded of the past, or look at the things which bring me back to the old days when I was just a child?
Perhaps all the above were the reasons and maybe I just refused to let the past just disappear like it was nothing into thin air; and packing up all the things means packing the memories and pieces of my life (and our lives) into the boxes and that would probably mean the end of the past. Of course, it sounds a little silly to me when I thought of it; the past don't simply go away just like that, when I pack them into the boxes as they will always be a part of me; no matter where I go or what I would become someday. It is the past which moulded who I am today, and that fact can never change, no matter what happens.
The feeling is indescribable as the house came into sight as our car drove into the road, and it is definitely even more touching as I entered the grounds of the old house and where I used to patter my little feet on. I remembered running around with my brother, and even enjoying cleaning up the verandah and the little garden for the festive seasons; especially during the Lunar Chinese New Year where we would help Mum with the plants. Oh, the creativity juices kicked in when we recycled some old red ribbons to tie around the thin branches of the plants in their pots, or even hanging old red packets (angpows) to signal the new Spring.
It was just the things we used to do in the garden; besides learning how to ride the bicycle for the first time and sitting there to enjoy the first few drops of rain when it had just started, just to name a few.
The old living room reminds me of the many times we sat together watching the old black box television and how delighted we were when we changed it to a new and bigger TV, and though it is definitely out of style today, back then, it was like a huge thing to have a new television in our house. We were taught to live a frugal life and saved on almost everything we could; so one can only imagine our happiness when we get something new in the house. Of course, I never did blame my parents for they have done nothing but the best to make our lives more than adequate and for that, I thank their hard work and efforts.
Dining hall with the turntable top was once filled with dishes rotating around the table as we reach out to take a scoop of each dish; while maintaining a live conversation with everyone at the table. Well, it was not like we have a big family and we always sat down together to have dinner together; or any meal, for that matter simply because my dad mentioned that 'A Family that eats together stays together', and it became such an important thing that we must have our meals altogether at the same time.
The shabby kitchen was once the place where the aroma of mum frying and doing her cooking fills the entire house before daddy gets home from work. On weekends, there is that joy of anticipating cold desserts from mum as she makes us grass jelly drinks, barley, chrysanthemum tea, herbal tea and even dessert soups like ginkgo nuts with barley, red bean soup, steamed egg pudding, etc. The main bathroom where many relaxing and comforting pelts of water trickle down our bodies, cleaning the day's accumulated stress and dirt from the day and in the midst of the sounds ready for a singing audition. Everything just looks the same to me; and I am amazed that even the paint and the tiles are all still attached.
The most nostalgic part was definitely walking into my own room; where I spent most of the time and days of my youth and penning my thoughts. Many great writings and stories were conceived in this room; not to mention the thoughts and inspiring ideas which sprung to mind when I was just sitting here inside my room. My books, bags, shoes, dresses and ALL my clothes (yes, I mean all) resided in the same space with me; and my room was not a huge one to begin with so one can only imagine how I had to organize my stuffs and also wedge myself in, through and out of the room. I guess I was partially there when I was finally in university; where about a percent or ten percent of my clothes went with me to find their place in the hostel's cupboard, but trust me, that did not solve my problem totally of inadequate space but I have lived with it, and it is funny, but it became a norm for me that I was just surrounded by so much stuffs. Books lined my study desk and even behind my dressing table; and I had lots more in boxes and not all of them were in my room (although I tried) as they were in the book racks out in the living/dining hall, but you get the idea, I am happy with the way things were. I grew up with lots of books of my own, and also those from friends and the libraries and all of them were read/completed inside this room. The room was also my messy wardrobe when I had to pick the outfit to wear to church or to go out with friends, attend an event or wedding dinner, and the list just goes on.
As I stood there, looking at the remnants lying here and there around the whole house, I was transported back in time to see how things used to be in the house and our hustle bustle as we got ready for school and work in the morning. Things start early inside this house; from waking up in the early wee hours of the morning on weekdays and then die down a little as most of us are out for work and school for a few hours and then we come back in the afternoon (if we are attending morning session of school), and things are still a little quiet but when evening falls and the family car pulls into the garage at about 6pm, things get busy as the TV is turned on, shower tap and kitchen sink run, and the sounds of the gas stove burning, sending the aromatic cooking scent throughout the whole house. It was just the typical scenario which repeats itself, day after day for almost two decades.
Looking back, we used to think that our house was not really as great or nice as others we have seen but I guess that is something we put behind us today. True, the house may not be as grand as a palace or as beautiful as those renovated/fully refurbished houses, but the house is what we call home.
It is here that memories were created, identities were moulded and ambitions were conjured.
That is something which cannot change, and to me, the house will always be a part of my past...and of me, and will continue to follow me wherever I go, reminding me of the good old days and when a snippet of memory comes flashing into my mind again, I will be taking that same walk, down the beautiful memory lane once again..and again...
It will never go away...and I don't ever want it to...