The year was 1996. Michael Jackson music videos were on TV constantly. It was like the entire Malaysian broadcasting industry unanimously agreed that there shall only be one singer worthy of precious airtime. I agreed because Michael Jackson was the first man that I acknowledged as attractive and more of that was always great.
I was four at the time. I had maybe three Barbie dolls, all in various stages of undress and their hair a tangled mess.
In the kitchen, my mother tried desperately to save the hair of a Barbie tangled tightly to the wheel of a Hotwheels car. My two-year-old brother had decided that a Hotwheels car made a perfect comb for synthetic hair. Obviously, he was wrong.
That was the beginning of my earliest memories that made sense. The rest are bits of flashbacks that till today I wonder if it really happened. Like picking out a night lamp the night my first brother was born or attending someone’s wedding in a church.
Yeah, those memories don’t make any sense.
But it all began in 100-3.
I grew up in a tiny - though it never felt like it was - 400 square feet two-bedroom flat off Old Klang Road. It was a basic 4-storey flat built in the 80s. My unit was on the third floor.
The house was distinct because while almost every other unit had a standard flat toilet styled entrance door, my mother had installed a fancy Victorian style hard mahogany wood door. In front the door, there’s a grilled gate because nothing made my parents feel more secure than a padlocked steel grilled gate at night. Oh, and above the door there was a photo of Christ – for added divine protection.
The yellow gate had my fingerprints from when my parents told me the fresh coat of paint was still wet and that I was not to touch it. So, I touched it.
The corridors are decorated with potted plants. My house, we had purple bougainvillea and pandan. We also had jade plants that grew so long it almost touched the bottom of the second floor. I say almost because a neighbour from the second floor got so sick of seeing the creepers that while we were on holiday, she tied all of it back up with raffia string.
There was no lift system, so I grew up climbing a lot of stairs. Of course, for the first few years I could be a little bitch and whine about being tired until my parents gave in and carried me home. But then I ran out of cuteness and had to climb from then on.
Inside, it was my batcave. Occasionally, I had to share it.
Toys were littered on the floor and the homework my mother personally prepared and tried to make me finish usually laid abandoned somewhere.
It was just me and my first brother in the beginning. I can’t remember a time without him being in my life. We played, fought, argued and squabbled.
My brother and I were obsessed with Lego and we had a huge collection until my brother decided that Lego was food and my mother threw all the blocks out.
He also tried to eat his Hotwheels car later on but she didn't throw those out. I guessed she gave up on teaching him the food chart.
We watched Sesame Street from a bulky 15-inch Sony television. I don’t remember much of the episodes except the characters.
When we weren’t watching TV or playing with our toys, we jumped from chair to chair pretending the floor was hot lava. My mother would yell for us to stop it lest we break the wooden chairs. Eventually we did break one and that was the end of our volcanic adventures.
After our imaginary expeditions were over, we found out that with the cushions on the wooden chairs, we could make makeshift tents. And we’d spend hours in those tents playing with Barbie and Hotwheels. We were geniuses and had just turned our passion for Lego-building into liveable quarters. My mother yelled for us to put the cushions back because now my father had nowhere comfortable to sit.
She also yelled when my brother and I organised our own boxing match like we saw on TV.
Now that I think about it, my mother did a lot of yelling. My brother’s name was well known throughout the entire third floor. He always seemed to be up to more trouble than I was. I was the good one, the one who listened better. But the thing is, he just got caught in the act.
My neighbours teased him endlessly.
It was a time when everyone knew each other. Where I live now, the most I get is a friendly smile before we hurry off to wherever it is that we need to be.
I don’t know if I miss it.
To be continued…
I intended this blog to be about my work life and travelling but as both these important pieces are presently absent from my life, I shift my focus to writing about my childhood.
Unfortunately, as I get older, I’m aware that some memories can’t be recalled as pristinely as I want to remember them. And unless I try really hard, my childhood memories are beginning to fade. And to forget that a phase like that once existed for me is scary.
That said, I still feel like a child, though. I was laying in bed last night reminiscing about time passed.
No doubt I’m still at an incredibly young age and that’s another adventure in itself. But being entirely grown out from my childhood phase, sometimes I fear that I might never tell my story as well as it deserves.
In these short years, most of the people who I’ve grown up with and loved have moved on and become uncontactable. I don’t even remember their names anymore, let alone their faces.
That’s how bad my memory has gotten. So, enjoy what I’ve got left to puke.
I decided that I needed to go back in memory to 100-3, the tiny 400 square feet apartment where I spent the first 12 years of my life.