Living Space

Vevey 31 December 2012

House is empty again. The rooms have not been cleared completely but for now I am glad to have my space back.  I reckon I need the physical space to think about nothing. I need to be alone with my thoughts,  to decompress and let my thoughts wander.

In the morning,  I make scones and work on a client’s matter before going to the office. I work and return home before 8 p.m. After dinner,  I sit on the couch in my living room and read a little and then I walk to the kitchen to have a drink. After having taken sips of water, I am back to the couch reading The Opposite of Fate, A Book of Musings by Amy Tan.  I am seriously behind in my reading. Since I have been rather inactive considering how I used to exercise five to six times a week, I decide to take our dog, Holly for a walk around the neighbourhood hoping to walk off the butter from the scone I consumed in the morning. I have the last bit of dark chocolate left in the jar before I head out. We manage only a short walk around the neighbourhood as it is past nine-thirty and not a good time to wake up the entire neighbourhood with all their dogs barking whenever Holly walks past their gates. Twenty minutes walk is better than sitting on my butt for the same period of time. 

After my shower, I bring my MacBook Air around to the breakfast counter as I feel like writing something. Then I change my mind and end up bringing my MacBook Air to the living room to start typing. I feel almost my normal self again.

I remember a time when I used to be much more welcoming. During my final year in upper secondary school, a classmate had stayed with me because she needed a place to study for our upcoming exams. She told me that she had trouble focusing on her revision in her home. I did not exactly know what she had meant but I vaguely remember that she had stayed in an old bungalow. It could be something to do with her brother and sister-in-law. These days I guard my private space ardently. Given my present mindset, I would not have accommodated such a request. I  recall how some of my cousins would come visit from Indonesia and they would stay with my family for a period of time. Perhaps school was a bore and I would love a distraction. Whenever my mother had guests from abroad, we ate out more and my dad would take our guests around so my sister and I would happily tag along for such outings. That was probably why I  liked having guests at home then.

Amy Tan writes in her memoir, The Opposite of Fate  ‘A Book of Musings’.

     ‘ For as long as I can remember, I have been curious about how I remember. The earlier memory I have is of an event that took place under a tree. I was a year and a half old. And I know I was that age because of the season and the details of the yard and the house. I remember that I was sitting on the cool lawn on a hot day. Around me was a low fence and to my right was a white house with dark doorways that led to naps. My big brother and parents were above me. Suddenly something hit my head. My brother laughed. Although it did not hurt that much, I was startled and cried loudly to voice my displeasure, lest it happen again. After a while, I picked up what had fallen on my head. It filled my entire palm, a fuzzy golden ball.

       ” It was a peach,” I recalled to my mother. 

       She thought for a while, and then said that it was not a peach but an apricot, for the parish house in Fresno was the only place we had lived that had a fruit tree in the yard. And this made sense, that it was an apricot, for an apricot would have filled my eighteen-month-old hand in the way a peach would fill my adult one. ‘

‘ There was another time, when I was seven, that I realized that memories were elusive that you could not will them to stay, and that some you could not will to go away. I was old enough to understand that some things were in my memory like waking morning dreams. No matter how much I tried to hang on to them, they slipped away. And when I tried to find a way to remember them, by, say, writing about them, or drawing a picture of them, the result was not even close. And the result then became the memory that replaced the real thing.

For me, the earliest memory I have is of an event that took place next to a staircase. I was three years old and my family had just returned from our visit to my mother’s family in Langsa near Medan, Sumatra. I was playing with toy cooking set, a gift from my Indonesian aunt whom we had recently visited. Even that memory is fading and I used to remember more details, like the blue or red plastic cup and plates but now I am not sure if I have just made them up. Perhaps I should have written them down when I remembered what I remembered. Toys for children tend to be gender biased. Girls play with cooking sets in anticipation of their place in the kitchen.

Whenever I feel misunderstood,  I try to recall the sequence of my conversation to understand how I could have been misunderstood. No matter how hard  I replay the conversation in my head, I have only the memory of the memory of what I  remember and it may not be accurate. I have since learnt to stop obsessing about silly or angry things that I have said, after all we can only go forward rather than look backwards.

I have to re-read Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan sometime in the future. I had a false start with Amy Tan’s memoir ‘ Where the Past Begins‘ and will resume reading it soon too.

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