I can’t decide how I feel about it.
The walls of my childhood home hold a thousand stories. This home is made of a thousand memories of love and loss and anger and frustration. It is comfort. It is struggle.
1992: I first heard my parents fight, at the age of three. I don’t know how I can still recall this fight after all these years, but I do.
My parents’ echoing voices woke me up in the middle of the night. I remember jumping out of bed in my tiny room and walking outside, trying my best to make sure my parents don’t hear my footsteps. I saw my parents fight for the first time. My little heart was filled with thrill and wonder. I was thrilled to walk outside of my room in the middle of the night, but also didn’t have a clue what the hell a fight actually means. I went back to bed.
1993: My dad shouted at me for doing something that I do not remember. But I remember being in the kitchen, being screamed at and sent to my bedroom.
1994: My dad and I played hide-and-seek for the last time before he left. I was only a small child.
1998: My grandmother slept next to me. Her embrace was the warmest and the safest. I woke up at three in the morning to find her watching the sky as she smoked a cigarette on the balcony in our living room. The balcony that overlooks other buildings that look exactly like ours. I stood next to her in awe of the woman she is.
2000s: Fights with my mother. Fights with my little sister. Fights between my mother and my sister. I don’t recall why they happened, but I know money and the lack thereof never failed to stir up an argument under our roof.
2005: I was 15. I made a birthday lunch for my mom. I walked with my school friend to a flower shop and bought exactly two flowers (that was all I could afford at the time). Not roses, I always hated roses, but white flowers. I then rushed home so I could make lunch before my mom came back from work. I couldn’t exactly cook, so I fried some potato chips and chicken nuggets and carefully stuck a toothpick into each and every one of them.
I also bought an ice-cream “log-cake” (well, a cake shaped like a log basically) with milk chocolate, vanilla, and cherry. I accidentally dropped the cake on the floor. It looked more like a log that has been chewed on by a dog. I didn’t lie about dropping it. I told my mom, and we messily removed the edges with a blunt knife, stuck in a candle (my mom didn’t want to reveal her real age, hence just one candle), and happily ate it anyway.
2011: I sat on my untidy bed in my messy bedroom and thought about the person who I thought was the love of my life. Crying over him, I found myself crying over all the loves I have lost, the times I fell out of love, and the times I had my heart broken.
2013: I walked away from that house. I honestly didn’t want anything to do with it, its memories, and its physical and emotional messiness. I was so happy and relieved I wasn’t going to be in it again.
2016: I was alone, sad, and homesick thousands of miles away. I had just gone through a major breakup. I was dreaming about my mother’s bed. I decided to book a flight just to go home over the weekend and sleep in it. It was safe. It seemed like the only constant in the midst of my chaotic life.
I knew I could rest my head on the pillow and just surrender to a peaceful sleep.
2017: I had been packing for a week and was ready to fly back home. I had missed my family home’s warmth, the smell of intimacy, the sound of my mother’s voice that echoes within its walls, and the soap operas constantly playing in the background. It was all I needed.
2019: I cannot help but hate how big of a mess this home is during the day. Why is everything out of place and nothing is ever in order? I just don’t want to hear loud music and clapping from “The Ellen Show” the moment I wake up. Damn, I miss waking up to silence. But I love its calmness during nighttime. Me, old furniture, Bach, and my writing.
2020: I write this now, sitting on a beige couch covered in a bright scarf with a massive mandala drawing that my dad brought back from India on one of his meditation retreats. With my legs stretched in front of me, my cat indulging in the warmth of my mother’s brown jacket, and Bach’s “Organ Sonata” playing in the background.
If I hate it so much, why do I long to come back to it whenever I leave?
Dear childhood home,
Sometimes I have this lingering feeling that I am missing out on life when I am in you. With you, I feel that my space is completely taken away. You hold a tale of a family, a story of a father who left, a mother who did her best, and two women who tried and continue to grow and try. You rob away my hope for possibility.
But other times I cannot wait to come back to you and be embraced by your tender kindness because here, I can be myself, totally and wholly. After all, you’ve contained me at my every phase. You’ve been kind and gentle.
Will I ever fully accept you? Will I ever learn to love you completely for what you are and what you stand for?
I guess I will never know.