the house that built me.

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Too fast, too fast. The world moves too fast, I think as I pace back and forth across the black marble of my grandparents’ house. There in the very living room where my grandfather used to walk, his even, slow steps, one after the other in a trail across the floor with my baby sister in his arms. Patient to the core, he was the only one among us all who would carry her in his arms when she cried. And for a while it was his touch uniquely that would soothe her. Now it is me pacing back and forth, wondering what comfort he must have sought from those walks inside our garden’s gates even as it was his strolls outside it that he relished most. My mind reels back and forth, my thoughts racing, pausing to chuckle only for a few seconds at this memory, one that spurts forth a recollection of many more.

In this living room with its marble floor and paneled window door. In this house on Longden Place. With its garden that my grandmother laid. Gone is the shelf of trinkets she used to collect – the purple hand sized chair with a bouquet placed upon it that I once proudly selected at some random craft bazaar in Colombo. The big bowled plastic red chairs I used to sit in. Gone now just as she is. Memories of her casket laying here in the dining room that lays just beyond where my grandfather used to pace come back slowly and quickly all at once, her passing so quick, her loss so deep, her memory… everywhere. Not just pictures but places and things, thoughts in the air that chase me like memories from long ago. The little magnets she placed on the fridge that are still here. The kitchen where she used to cook lunch before day even broke. The ash trays of my grandfather’s that she kept long after he had passed.

From this dining room I take in the foyer, its tiny prayer room in the corner. Sealed now, it’s where I once spent an afternoon in front of my grandmother’s Buddha statue playing with matches despite all my mother’s warnings (what else, after all, to do on a lazy afternoon?). There’s the table where she once taught me how to draw real fish not just little curves that intersected with abandon. The place where the organ once stood now replaced by a mini bar with my uncle’s dinner party alcohol collection, the chest in the corner that not even time has been able to move – even as I have no earthly clue what lays inside it.

Even as my uncle and aunt have made their own changes, slight additions, a new gate, a new bathroom even (!!), there remains these reminders like so many more just as the mosquitoes are still incessant, the whirring of the fan above still comforting. And I, I still remember the long days and quick nights I spent here as a child in this house, this house that built me.

I pace back and forth across the floor tears supplanted by memories that force me to laugh in recollection at myself. At how the mischievous miscreant I once was used to get up in the middle of the night, from between the sheets, tucked safely between my grandmother and grandfather, I’d dial the AC to the coldest degree possible. Waking up, shivering, I’d ask my grandmother why it was so cold. And to think! Ishani and I would fight to get up the fastest – racing to see who would get to help my grandmother cook for the day or bother our grandfather as he spread marmalade across his toast or a new concoction of bananas and seeni sambol – gross! Returned from his daily walk, he would settle in his chair to read his newspaper in peace, a prospect unimaginable with two rambunctious three year olds loitering about the place.

We were mischievous little ones, Ishani and I – more likely I was the real troublemaker, Ishani the coerced accomplice. And boy did we haveIMG_1164 adventures in this house–from refusing to eat the fish placed upon our dinner plates (and tip-toeing back into the kitchen to plop it back into its rightful pot) to sneaking behind the house and pressing  our eyes and ears against the back window to our grandparent’s room. From there we would observe quietly as our grandmother watched soap operas– and so did we, from right behind her through the window pane.

Pacing back and forth, these memories like fireflies that I try to catch come back to me. These have been quiet mornings here. Still jet lagged, I get up quite early, rise before the city outside our little gated home alights with the traffic and the birds and the honking. Colombo is a city unto itself. But it is in this house that I feel the most safe. It is here that  I have time, time to pace, to think, to sort out in my mind all that has transpired in these past years and all that has yet to come ahead. It is stressful at times, overwhelming even when I think of the 2014 that awaits. A job? More school? Senior year? Me – a senior in college? These things and so many others as time and the world outside pushes and moves. Too fast, too fast, I think.

It has been comforting, soothing even to start these first few days of the year here of all places, in a country that in the most magical and devilish of ways slows down all senses of time. It’s given me the space to process, to unpack, to settle for a while. If 2012 was the year I finally got my bearings in college, 2013 was the year I finally said to hell with it. I threw myself, perhaps prematurely, into so many new things, different things. We can wait for crises or create our own and this might have been the year I mastered the latter. 2013 was hard. Challenging. But I learned. Boy did I learn. I painted wide brush strokes on the canvas of my life and I’m excited to go back now and fill in the details, big and small, slowly, methodically as I pace back and forth across the contours of this living room and back into the life I lead halfway across the world.

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I thought if I could touch this place or feel it

This brokenness inside me might start healing

Out here it’s like I’m someone else

I thought that maybe I could find myself

If I could just come in

I swear I’ll leave

Won’t take nothing more than a memory

From the house that built me.

You leave home, you move on

And you do the best you can

I got lost in this old world

And forgot who I am

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it

This brokenness inside me might start healing

Out here it’s like I’m someone else

I thought that maybe I could find myself

 

If I could just come in

I swear I’ll leave

Won’t take nothing more than a memory

From the house that built me.

 

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3 thoughts on “the house that built me.”

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