It’s been a long time since I posted here. I’ve been trying to recall my childhood days that were spent at my maternal grandparents’ house up in a hill, then I realised I don’t even know exactly where this hill was situated, probably in the Bukit Timah area. I said ‘was’ because most of our land here had been flattened to build flats and factories and there aren’t many hills left anymore. The highest point in Singapore is the Bukit Timah hill, which stands at about 164m high, and is now a nature reserve.
Anyway, back to my grandparents’ house. I remember visiting them on Chinese New Year and some other occasions. The trek up to the house was tedious and at times treacherous, especially on a rainy day or after the rain because there was no proper path going up the hill. It would be slippery and we would be muddy by the time we got up there. I remember once my fourth sister slipped and dirtied her new dress on a CNY visit and my dad grumbled at her. She had to be cleaned up with rain water that was flowing down the slope.
My memory of the hill told me it wasn’t like the picturesque hills or mountains of countries like Scotland or Switzerland, just trees and shrubs and muddy paths, not to mention invisible dogs that barked and howled especially at night when we made our way downhill for home.
Anyway, if we were lucky, my uncle would come down the hill on his bike and one of us would get a ride up to the house. I can only remember a long wooden house with a kitchen on the far right and on the left were a few bedrooms. The statues or framed pictures of deities were placed facing the main door of the house so when you step in, you’ll see what we call the Tua Pek Gong, one of the deities worshipped by Taoists. I always remember an old, frail lady sitting beside the altar but I didn’t know who she was because I was too young to understand the meaning of the titles that we address our relatives by. As I grew older, I came to know that she was actually my mum’s grandmother, my great-grandmother.
This picture taken from this site: http://remembersingapore.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/from-villages-to-flats-part-1/ resembled what I remembered of my maternal granny’s house, though I have an impression that my granny’s house was much bigger, otherwise how could they have housed so many people? Grandparents, great-grandma, uncles and aunties, their families and kids…so many of them they made my little head swim just trying to remember their titles (we always have to address elder relatives by their titles, like 1st Uncle, 2nd Aunty, Brother John etc – note: John is just an example, none of my cousins go by the name John, they use their Chinese names or nicknames instead).
I remember being chased by one of the dogs once. These dogs belonged to my relatives and being so young and never having a pet dog before, I was naturally scared when the dog appeared so I ran straight into the house. Round and round the living room I ran screaming as the dog chased after me. Thankfully Grandpa came to the rescue and stopped the dog from eating me alive. I got a scolding for running in return 😦 Yeah, my grandparents weren’t that fun people at all. You should meet my grandma…
The kitchen…it was dimly lit, that’s all I remembered along with the flasks of black coffee on the table. It seemed they only drank black coffee because that was what I drank when we were there. Yep, I drank coffee at the age of what, 7-8? Oh, I think they might have sodas too on special occasions, and in glass bottles no less 🙂
Then there was the outhouse. Yuck! Never did like to go pee or poo when we were there. It stank to high heavens! It was just a pit covered by a wooden structure. Right inside the pit was a bucket that collect you-know-what. And of course this outhouse was situated far away from the main building. I can’t remember how my bladder survived during those times.
I also remember playing with my sisters and cousins on the patch of land just outside the house where they grew papaya trees and such. They had a white cockatoo that sat on a bird feeder pole outside the house. We would catch grasshoppers to feed it.
Sometimes we would catch dragonflies too and tie strings on the ends of their long bodies. Then we would let them fly while holding on to the strings, much like flying kites 😛 On one occasion, my eldest sister had the wrong notion and tied the string to the head of her dragonfly. You wouldn’t want to know the fate of that poor insect…
My sisters and I also had fun with the rubber tree seeds that were scattered around the compound. If you take a rubber seed and rub it back and forth on a concrete floor, it will turn very hot. One day, my fourth sister and I each took one seed and ‘heated’ it up. Then mischievously, we touched the seeds to the legs of our auntie’s husband. He shouted out in pain and we almost got whacked by him if not for our quick getaway. Needless to say, he was cussing away 😛
Of course there were also games like hide-and-seek, police and thief, and skipping ropes among many others with the cousins who were much older than us. The outdoor fun was endless, especially when you were a little kid with no cares in the world. Oh, why oh why do we have to grow up?