There’s something about a childhood home, or rather, the first home you remember living and growing up in. For me, it was a terrace house in the Singapore suburbs. It was simple, certainly nothing out of an issue of Better Homes and Gardens, but I thought it was absolutely perfect.
In evenings, Dad would come home from work and play the piano. He had a limited repertoire, and it would be one of the only three he knew—Bach’s Prelude in C or Arioso, or Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus—but I enjoyed the music as I pushed my doll’s pram about the living room. We had a cozy front porch with a small garden plot, a backyard with a rambutan tree and we kept a dog called Topsy. We lived opposite a mosquito-infested playground where I was seldom allowed for the aforementioned reason, but on the rare occasions that I was, the fun I had walking across see-saws and playing in the swing made the bites worth it. The back of the house overlooked a large canal where I once saw a group of men bathing in. That led Mum to deduce they were escapees from the mental institution a distance away, and I never looked at that canal the same way again. Dad had an impressive study featuring a slide projector, an Apple computer (the time when the Apple logo was still multicolored), a large desk globe, a dry box for camera equipment, and a CD collection back in the day when they were prized commodities. My siblings and I shared a room, and when they weren’t busy with schoolwork, we played a lot of UNO and Snakes and Ladders (I was too young to understand MONOPOLY or RISK) and watched plenty of Hong Kong period dramas in authentic Cantonese. While they had music lessons in town, mum would take me along on her shopping trips. I got to sit in dressing rooms and play with infinite-reflection mirrors, and if I was good, be rewarded afterward with almond jelly treats from the foodcourt. At bedtime, Dad, who was a bass in his University choir, would sing old-school tunes like “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Old Black Joe” to me, even if he ended up falling asleep before I did.
So you can see why, when I turned 6, I was upset when we moved to a newer, bigger place in a more central location because none of that mattered one bit. It was the end of an era. I resolved to grow up, make enough money, and then buy my old childhood home. Well that remains a pipe dream, and not necessarily one I’m pursuing actively at the moment. But the reason I’m blogging about my childhood home is that my son Etienne is going through something similar. At the time of his birth, we were living in an apartment in the western part of the country, but two years ago, we moved to our current place to be nearer to my parents, inlaws and good schools in the area. But till today, Etienne hasn’t forgotten, nor stopped talking about it. Every time we travel past his childhood home, he gets wistful and nostalgic. Once he almost cried. “I’m going to grow up, make money, and buy back the exact unit,” he announced to my husband and I. The kid in me understood—a house is never just a house.
Do you think about your childhood home?