2:30PM on January 19th, 2007, I visited my old house with my mom for the very last time before it returned to the landlord. It’s a place where I was born. It’s a birthplace for three generations–my granny, mom and me. I have lived in this shabby duplex house for 15 years or so, about one quarter of my life time if I could live till 60. There are many fond memories left behind in this house, actually bittersweet ones too.
Like I said to my dad, returning the property to the landlord is a significant event like Hong Kong returning to motherland China. It has become an historic event to my family. I brought my camera to take some snapshots for the last memory. My old house is basically separated by a narrow alley. On one side there were kitchen, bathroom and an attic above which was my parents’ bedroom as well as my "study." It’s so tiny that a desk and a stool had already taken up most of the space in my study, let alone allowing a second person to sit with me and study together. The roof of the kitchen was built of sand while the so-called "ground" where I stood on at the attic was made of wood. Our house is not too far from the railway station. So in my childhood, whenever a train was approaching, I could feel the minor earthquake and hear the sandfall instead of waterfall from the roof. From the window right above my desk I could see the roof of the other side of the house. Pretty superior view though. The passage between the attic to the kitchen is a narrow wooden staircase. It only allows one person to get through. It was not uncommon that you would wipe off the whitewash on the wall when going up and down of the ladder. The kitchen side tends to store more insects than the living room side. Spiders, huge ones, and creepy centipedes were common guests on the wall. Roaches and rats were too common to see. Because outside of the kitchen there was the sewer–the heaven of the rats!
On the other side of the alley, there were the living room and my attic bedroom and store room. I was living with rats for years in the attic. I can’t believe that when thinking about it today!!! The roof was so crumbly that every rainy night I was sleeping with natual symphony–the pails and buckets were lined up at the store room collecting the raindrops. Facing the same fate as the other side of the attic, I could feel the earthquake as well when trains passed by. When the dog days of summer came, my bedroom could be as hot as furnace–the temp. reached to 40C. That’s why I had to move to the living room to sleep on the couch with the disturbance of the flying roaches and mosquitoes. I hate them!!! The rats had their own playground in the living room–between the ceilings. We often could hear them running noisely there. The cupboard had lived with me since I was born. You could find it from my baby photoes.
My old house was located at the lowest spot of the entire alley. When it rained cats and dogs, the alley was easily flooded. Water invaded in our kitchen and living room. A dirty blaken stream was formed between two parts of the house. Roaches and rats all escaped out of their heaven at this time. I could watch the real "An American Tail." Kids would have fun with the stream in front of their houses while adults were vexed about how to clean up the mess inside the house. Whenever I recall this scene, mom and dad’s images will lively emerge on my mind. They did a very good team work while they never let me get on the ground but staying my both feet on the couch. What great parents!
The house has witnessed my growth. I used to tiptoe to reach the ceiling but now I could touch it when stretching my arm. I used to feel the wooden doors were too heavy to open but not now. The ladder to my bedroom is still sturdy. What I see from the big mirror is no longer that little girl with two pony tails but a solid built adult. Time presses on. With the last memories we closed the wooden door one last time. Although the story behind the door has ended, the roles in it are still growing. A visit to the old house certainly has drawn my heart closer to mom’s. Love you forever, mother!!!