As far as I am concern, there is only one house that I can really call mine. The house in Bangkok that I grew up in.
Designed by my dad, this brick town home was way ahead of its time. It’s the house that launched several other brick town homes around the city.
The first town home (on the right in this picture) was share between the household kitchen and living quarter for our cook and driver on the ground floor. (Yes, we were very Downton Abbey in that sense). Princess Grandmother’s quarter was on the second floor, and dad’s company on third plus the mezzanine. After grandmother passed away, dad’s office took over all of the upstairs space. The unit in the middle is ours. There’s a door that opened into grandmother’s dining room and living room which she rarely used. When we were kids, that was an extended play area for my brothers and I and our cousins. The third one is my dad’s twin brother and his family.
There are so many memories between these walls. All of us kids used to run around the compound, leaving clues on the bricks around the house with either chalk or pencil. We learned to ride our bicycles around the perimeter and to roller skate in the polished concrete floor of the garage. We played our own version of baseball, practiced soccer, and went on many “adventures” in the gigantic backyard. A-Team! Kung fu drama! BMX extreme stunts! Science projects! Camping attempts!
Despite living literally next door to each other, Sunday luncheon at Princess Grandmother’s dining room was mandatory. We scheduled our lives around that, and not the other way around. Birthdays were always celebrated altogether. After dinner, we all gathered (in our jammies) at grandmother’s table where we opened presents and had cake.
The house is surrounded by willowy pine trees, an old jacaranda that blooms a few times a year, a couple of mango trees that yield nearly inedible ripe fruits but surprisingly great for green mango salads. A couple of white plumeria which were a favorite of both Princess Grandmother and my mom. And my mom’s absolute favorite night blooming orange jessamine at the front of the property.
So, this is the house that I grew up in. The house where my mom raised me. Where I watched my dad work countless hours. Where my nanny/housekeeper chased me around then and spoils me rotten now. Where most of my life has taken place. And where I still visit every couple of years.
It doesn’t matter where my life has taken me, how far I’ve gone, how broken up my family has become, the House is always there.
This June, it’s being torn down.
I am losing my constant.
The majority of the family has decided to develop the land we’re sitting on into a condo where we all will get our own unit. It’ll take a few years to build the new property. Meanwhile, dad, middle brother, and our housekeeper are moving into the other condo we owned next door.
The kicker is how I found out about it. You see, nobody was going to tell me about the demolition until I showed up back home this March. Middle brother, an active partner in the project, had IM’ed me for some branding suggestions. I jokingly asked how much time I had with the house, a year or two?
“Actually, when you come home you’ll be packing up your stuff.”
My heart sank. Tears welled up.
“What the fuck? Are you serious? And you guys weren’t going to tell me that until I get home?”
I cried for the next few hours. As a matter of fact, I’m about to cry right now writing about it.
It’s almost like when dad called me about mom’s passing. Suddenly, there was a hole in my chest and it ached. Tears came pouring out and wouldn’t stop.
The House is more than just a building. It’s my childhood. It’s my memory. It’s a part of my identity.
And much like losing my mother, I emotionally retreated into a weird space in my head where I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything or talk to anyone. Where I want a glass of alcohol in my hand at all time to numb my senses. Where I hide from reality even if it’s a few hours at a time.
But I know deep down that the moment I came out of that hiding place, I have to face the truth.
Not surprising, being a pop culture fiend that I am, I watch a lot of TV while “in hiding.” On a Downton Abbey episode, the estate next door to the Crawley’s was downsizing and moving to London, and they were auctioning off everything. That scene hit home. We’re abandoning our “estate” in the middle of a metropolis for a modern city living, trading in actual house for condo space just like everyone else in the city.
It’s definitely a sign to nudge me off the couch. I must let the House go, staring right now.
And in my own way, with my current residence, I did. Thus, the beginning of #ClutterChuck2016.
Room by room. Drawer by drawer. Closet by closet. I’m pulling things out into three piles: trash, donation, and re-gift. And off things came left and right. (Except for toys. Those are mostly staying for now.)
I will be operating in this Detachment Mode from now on as a warm up to the 10 days in March where I will have to part with a lot more stuff attached to a lot more memories and sentiments than what I have around in my apartment right now.
Thank god you can get Maker’s Mark in Thailand now. I’m going to need that.
P.S. And now to think of it, if we’re continuing the whole Downton analogy to my family then…holy shit, I’m Edith!