Eid is a time when members of the family, how ever extended, comes for a visit and without fail, they tend to talk about the good old days of staying in a kampung. Everyone assumes that I was too young to remember life back then but I do, though it’s through the eyes of a four year old, it might be a different kind of memory.
My grandparents moved from the little wood and mortar house to our current apartment in the mid-80s, when the government was gobbling up land for development. My parents had taken my sisters and I for a drive to see what had happened to the site of her former home. It seemed that the area had been developed into a series of private condominiums and also some industrial area.
I might have been four and might not have spent a lot of time at my maternal grandparents home as I was staying across the Causeway at the time, I still had many fond memories of the laid back, simple life back then.
I remember the big, shady trees by the road side as my mom and I alighted from the bus. The bus stop was nothing but a metal pole with a metal sign with the numbers of the buses that stop there. A little, mom & pop shop with sweets, snacks and other wonderful things that a child loves, was situated very close to the bus stop.
My mom would take my hand and we walked along the sandy lane, hedged by tall lalang grass. I was small for my age so the grass looked so very tall. I remember hearing the cicadas chirping as we made our way to the house.
My grandparents’ home was relatively brightly painted in glossy blue, green and yellow. The verandah was where my late grandfather would sit, smoking his pipe or talking to guests. As a child, the house compound seemed so big; the kitchen to one side of the house and the other side made up if fruit trees and a large (to me) poultry coop.
The house was shaded by a large tree that grew on a slope behind the house, so the darkest part of the house was the room facing the slope, where the fridge and the large grandfather’s clock was. That room had always given me the creeps and I found out much later that it creeped out almost everyone too.
I had very fond memories of spending time with my grandparents at their house. In the morning, I’d follow my grandma to the poultry coop to help her feed her chickens and ducks. All I had to do was grab a handful of corn and chuck it at them. It fascinated me as the animals would waddle over, making a lot of noise and pecking at the ground for the bits of corn.
Grandpa would be feeding his pet songbirds while I watched. The afternoons had me playing in the sand in front of the house or helping my grandma gathering the fallen dried leaves for burning. (It was the 80s, everyone burnt stuff openly)
Great-grandma was staying with them and on days that she was well, she would sit outside and preparing the central vein of the coconut leaf to be made into a broom. I’d sit outside with her on the concrete wrap-around the side of the house.
Being the youngest grandchild at that time, I wasn’t allowed to roam off the compound unless I was accompanied by an older cousin (which rarely happens) or by an adult (which is even rarer). So I spent a lot of time getting into mischief with sand, disturbing my grandma while she cooks or just doing what most children at that age do; nap.
I’m a little sad that my sisters never got to experience a similar childhood since they were born a couple of years after we moved but at least we have pictures to show them and so many stories to tell.