[This was written in participation of the Brooklyn Archives art call for hand written letters to your childhood home.]
I remember the deep, dark, molten chocolate walls of your front verandah that Mummy painted. She was in a somewhat good place then. She was bold enough to make such a drastic decision in 1974. I’d sit my lonesome four year old self on the white, cast iron swingset, majestically holding court with my daytime friends made up of mangly, stray cats that roamed the neighbourhood. Your lawn was as lush as the plants that graced your structure. The potted palms, the myriad of orchid species that were Papa’s escape from Mummy’s verbal assaults. I remember the one mango tree which I would climb up onto, book in my pocket, to escape the chaos your walls struggled to contain.
There were kind folk who surround you and I. The gentle neighbours to the left, Mr. and Mrs Yap, who were of Chinese-Portugese descent and their two lovely girls – Christina, older,elegant and quiet and the hilarious, quick to smile Pauline. Old Mrs. Khoo, the widow, made jars of mouth-watering ginger pickles. She lived across from us. Then there was Mrs. Lim to the right. Mummy says she was the reason we left. See, Mrs. Lim suspected that her husband was up to no good, so she took herself to a nearby town in Thailand to learn black magic to help her keep him in check. What that entailed was night after night of sleeplessness as she’d play a cassette of chants while she whipped the whole length of her house. Somehow that memory doesn’t seem to hurt as much as the screams and shouts within the walls of this, my house.
Within your walls, o childhood house with the rich chocolate walls, my girl child learnt apprehension. I learnt to fear. Within your walls, I also learnt to dream through books and music. I learnt to hope.
Within your walls, I learnt to pray.