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!
Oh Oakley! I’m SO sorry! This is such sad news, and yes, the fact that no one was going to tell you makes it so much worse, but I have to say, I don’t think it’s as much as their insensitivity as ignorance. They simply don’t “get it”. We had something similar happen with our little bit of property in Italy, and it truly feels like someone punched you in the stomach. Not nice at all.
I hope you are able to manage through all your feelings and come to some kind of acceptance as the one thing we cannot stop is change. 🙁 Good luck, and a big virtual hug. xx
Thanks Christina! I believe the not telling me part was to protect me. It’s a track record with my family. (e.g. nobody told me my mom had cancer until I caught dad at hospital where mom was just coming out of surgery. He’s a horrible liar. lol.)
My brother promised to save me a brick from the house when they start the demolition.
Oh, I know, but still, you’re not 5. I understand, though-I’m Italian, and the culture seems very similar. The brick will be good, though
And like Edith you will come out strong in the end!! Love you Oakley!
I’d struggle with this as well. In fact I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time on Google Maps street view trying to find a home I lived in for only a couple of years when I was a little girl in a small town in Spain — nothing like yours with so much family history connected to it. But it gives me a sense of how hard this is for you — especially when your feelings weren’t considered to begin with. Feeling sad on your behalf.
The house in which you’re raised holds a very special place in memory and one’s heart. I didn’t think that I would be able to deal when my grandparents sold their cabin where we spent every summer. Memories and stories are what are most important to me. I visited the cabin ten or so years after it was sold. The new owners ruined it. Everything that made that cabin special was gone. But when I walked through the rooms I redecorated with my memories. Hang in there.
Your childhood sounds magical, actually, and your memories will sustain you, even when the physical house is gone. This is a hard transition. Sending you a big hug, and I know you will get through it. Give your brothers a smack upside the head for not telling you immediately.
And now my new home is kind of like my childhood home–3 story town home! Building new memories now. 🙂 (Sorry for late reply. It’s been a whirlwind since March!)
And now I’m getting into my own house! Crazy, right?