My favourite memory of my childhood was the wooden stairs from the veranda to the bedroom on the first floor. Running up the stairs made a lot of noise and when I reached the top, the bedroom opened up into the terrace where my mom used to dry vadams (a South Indian delicacy made of rice flour and then fried). The partially dried vadams made a great snack and I used to consume half of the vadams kept for drying. I used to run around under the hot sun in the terrace.
Another of my favourite memory was to play Hide and Seek with my brother and cousins during the summer holidays. We ran up and down the whole house and make a lot of ruckus. There were a lot of things at home. It was a huge house, with many rooms and every room had a lot of pictures on the walls. There was a lot of furniture with every piece of furniture having a separate story and legacy attached to it. The house was my great grandfather’s and handed down to my grandmother.
Much of the house contained only perhaps junk for us, but a lot of memories for my grandmother, I guess. She had a story associated with each article present in the house, right from the old wooden candle stand to the flour grinding stone to the mango tree (planted by her husband) in the backyard. She always used to tell me stories about all the trees and plants in the backyard, she herself was a botanist. Sometimes we used to run away to go back to our play in the middle of these stories. I always wondered how someone could tell the same stories so many times without feeling bored.
And then one day I told the same story to my son. I told him how a rose shrub came to be. It was a gift from my school friend, M. And today, the same rose shrub stands in the same place. And the same computer on which I practised my C programming stays at the same desk in my room. My room is unaltered in so many ways. The same cot, the same book shelf, the same poster above the cot which reads, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going” stays stuck to the same piece of the wall too. When I enter my room, all memories rush back and there is just so much I want to speak about. I have stayed for 24 years in the same house. And when I got married, it was the first time, I ever moved out of ‘home’. It was a fairly big house, it was an ancestral home, renovated (rebuilt almost) once during my childhood. And I haven’t known ‘home’ until recently, when my husband and I built our own house here in Suburb Chennai.
And most of the memories from my ancestral home are perhaps junk now. But they were and are a great source of happiness to me. For instance, when my parents said they were trying to get rid of unnecessary things and that my brother and I should perhaps try to sort out our things, we couldn’t come up with anything we ever wanted to throw away. I mean, we sat down to sort things out, but we came up with so many photographs, albums, books, records, year books, gifts, multi coloured bangle-necklace sets from the last year of the college day get together, my brother’s favourite cricketers posters, his cricket bat seasoning oils, trivia, and well so much much more. We also have a lot of trivia of this sort of our dad, our aunts (from their school and college times) and more junk than the world can ever imagine. I once even came across the botany records of my 90 year old grandmother, her embroidery patterns book from 75 years ago, and my great grandfather’s pen. There was even the same grandfather clock with the pendulum and big gong standing in our living room until recently. It was rumoured to be my grandfather’s heirloom, which means he received it from his ancestors.
I sometimes think, maybe I have a museum there. And lots of happiness and memories. It is a combined collection of memories for all us - my brother, my cousins, my dad, my aunts, my grandmother, my great grandfather. It is a collection of happy beads worn on multiple threads of memories. Oh yes, some sad beads too, because life is made up of them both. There are a lot of physical and emotional valuables which are more than a century old there. Perhaps this is what they call as ‘roots’.
So, what is the point of this post other than of course going down the memory lane of my family and sharing with you all a very precious part of my heart?
Today, in this other home which my husband and I have built, I hope to cherish a lot of happy beads in the memory thread for my son. I want him to think fondly of his happy days of childhood when he grows up to be a man. I want him to share his wonderful memory lane stories with his wife and children, like I shared that rose shrub story which was gifted to me by M. Well, my son does not have siblings, or as many cousins as I had, but he has such a great group of friends for his young 7 years of age, that I can already see them giggle and discuss, “Do you remember what happened in X’s birthday party last year … ?” And his friend V’s tennis racquet from yesterday’s match is still lying around in living room floor right now as I type this…
What is life made of?
Of beautiful memories, shared and cherished with our loved ones!
Of childhood stories which we tell and retell to our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Of memorabilia and junk collected over a generation, and in some cases if preserved over a century.
Well, I cherish the first 24 years of my life even today as the greatest gift I could ever get from this world. And I hope that someday my son thinks of his growing up years in the same way. I am trying to live the same and improved life for my son, which my parents and extended family lived to create this treasure for me.
What is the one most thing you cherish from your childhood?
The picture is of my son posing on his great great grandfather's chair. He was almost 2 years old and the chair is more than a 100 years old.
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