Grandma’s house

We went to check out the house my grandmother grew up in, which is in the countryside, where all the windows have a red diamond character above them, and all the doors have red banners above and beside them with good wishes for the new year. My uncle wasn’t sure of the way because the roads have changed since they were all kids riding their bikes out to play.

We didn’t know if the house was still tenanted– so many children have grown and gone, so many elders have passed on. However, when we arrived, we met my Grandmother’s cousin’s widow, who is over ninety. She insists on staying there, though when she entered the family compound as a bride, she told my cousin that she cried and tossed things the night before– afraid of getting married. Her son keeps on trying to entreat her to get a helper, but she insists that she’s perfectly capable on her own. The house is something of a ruin now– some rooms are filled with dust-covered belongings, windows pasted over with the faces of old political candidate posters. However, there are still the painted tiles on the rooftops and a ceramic dragon head at the cornices.

The family shrine has these ancient wonderful painted lanterns, as my maternal ancestors look down from black and white photographs framed on the wall.

The rooms in the back have grass growing in them, the roofs have fallen in, and there is the smell and sound of chickens in the yard next door.

(I was stepping on remains of the brick tile rooftop, cracking beneath my shoes to get these photos!)

Some of the wood doors have the tracings of old paintings on them, and the brick patio is cracked in some places. Old family photographs I’ve seen show old gatherings with all the tables set out on the patio for general feasting, weddings, etc.

I feel sorry for old houses. This one used to be so filled with life– all the children that played there, all the families that lived there– and now it’s mostly storage, mostly forgotten, keeping company with my great aunt.


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Free Rice

February 2007
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