According to my mother, the house above is as old as I am. The foundation to the house was laid on the same day I was born. The house still stands to this day but no one has been living there since the 90's. I have a lot of fond childhood memories associated with the house. The last occupants of the house were the girls from Maktab Mahmud Kolej, about a kilometer away. The college rented the house and turned it into a hostel for their girl students. I did not grow up in the house but every school holidays and Hari Raya would see my parents heading back to that house, with me in tow, of course. The house belonged to my late grandfather, my mother's father. The house was the biggest along that stretch of road those days and it boasted of an impressive address as well ......No. 1, Jalan Pegawai, Alor Setar, Kedah.
No. 1 at 30 years oldBeing an only child, I was more shy and timid than spoilt, I think. I would follow mum everywhere like a shadow. Mum was an active W.I.(Women's Institute) member those days and I would tag along and sat at all the meetings she attended with her fellow members. I was the only child member albeit a passive one. I would sit prim and proper throughout the entire meeting. Any misbehaviour would spell disaster when I got home. Mum was a tough disciplinarian. The cane was her tool in shaping me into what I am today.....I guess. Being extremely shy and timid, I had very few friends. I preferred staying home playing with my dolls than running around outside with the other girls and boys my age. A bit of a weirdo, may be.
Mum and me
However, my true colours were unveiled the moment I set foot in the big house. Besides my grandparents and a few uncles and aunties who were not married yet at the time, my cousin Fushia and her mother were also staying there. Fushia was my best friend, still is now. Fushia was the direct opposite of me, she was an outdoor girl in every sense of the word. She was the one who taught me how to climb trees, fly kites, fish, paddle a mini sampan among other things.
Fushia (left) and I perched on top of a jambu tree
We would run around barefooted in the vast compound under the hot sun, much to the horror of my mother. My aunty, Fushia's mother, was apparently quite used to her daughter's antics. Our adventures were not restricted within the compound of the house only. Fushia would take me out on a cross country across padi fields without our mothers' knowledge and stopped at a dilapidated nyonya shop to buy ais kepal.(shaved ice shaped into a ball and sweetened with red and brown syrup). We would then slowly trace our way back home slurping the ais kepal as we trod along. Fushia was an adept slurper, but I encountered problems the moment the ais was put into my hands. My palms felt numb with cold,
(Fushia was not the slightest bit bothered by this) and the ice melted and trickled down my elbows soiling my dress. I remember crying out to Fushia for help and she came to my rescue like a good samaritan. To solve the problem, she handed her "dry" ice ball to me and took mine(which was still red and sugar-laden as compared to her almost white, already sugar-free) to dry it off!!!!!! I think she was quite genuine in her gesture. There were no ulterior motives of any kind, not between 5 year olds of yesteryear. I remember asking her why her ice ball was tasteless to which she murmured something incoherent being engrossed in slurping dry the melting ice ball. Anyway, by the time we reached the big house, the ice balls were gone. There was no clue left as to where we had disappeared for almost an hour save for my soiled dress.