The transitional box

A lifetime (and more) of books

My household is going through a huge transition phase. After nearly 25 years of living in Subang Jaya, under the same roof, my family will be going our separate ways: my parents to their new riverside home, and I to the townhouse they bought me to ensure that neither they nor I would ever have to live with our in-laws — if we were to have any. To be honest, I think I would have been happy to live with them until or unless I get married, if they hadn’t decided that they would like to spend their remaining years living as far away from civilization as one can ever imagine (that would be Klang). Nevertheless, the transition is here and we have to hop on its coattails.

So the house is currently in a shambles. There are boxes, full, half-full and empty, everywhere, yards of newspaper lying around to wrap any breakables, and shipping tape getting stuck under everyone’s feet. My mother has spent the last few weeks going through old books to decide which ones should be recycled, which ones are to go to her new house or mine, and ancient birthday cards and letters that my grandparents kept from the time my own mother wrote to them as a child. She grumbles that they were hoarders and kept every last scrap they received, but I know that she will pack them all away and bring them with her.

Having moved to Subang Jaya when I was barely 2 years old, my earliest memory of it involves me falling down while holding a glass that someone was stupid enough to put in my hand, and cutting my wrist. The scar has since been covered up by my tattoo, but the memory, vague as it is, is there. I also remember the child-sized couch my father had ordered for me, to match the adults’ sofa set, and the baby cot that had been mine in our very first house in Cheras, later occupied by my brother when my parents brought him home from the hospital.

My brother on the baby couch

I also remember leaving the house and coming back to it over the next few years in my life. We moved around a lot, thanks to my father’s job, and no matter where in the world we moved to, we always came back to the house in Subang Jaya, putting it through several furniture makeovers and coats of paints. Even after I left for Buffalo, things never changed — except when my mother informed me over the phone that they had bought a new piece of land and were planning to build a house on it. But still it seemed as though nothing would change: my brother took over my room while I was gone, and relinquished it when I moved back, leaving me right where my life started, and where I felt it would come to an end.

The early years

I think I first felt that things were really going to change when my father announced that he had sold the house, not long after he bought the townhouse for me. No doubt I had been looking forward to living on my own, but in my mind, home had always, always been Subang Jaya, because I was much too young to remember being in the Cheras house at all. And then, a few days ago, when my mother said that the enormous cabinet that had been built into the wall in our upstairs hall would be given to her cousin, I gave myself a headache trying to imagine how that wall would look empty.

Now, mere weeks away from moving to our new houses, we have become tenants in our own house, as it now officially belongs to the man who bought it from my father, and we have been allowed to remain in it until the end of July while we get the new houses ready. In these last weeks running up to the day of the Big Move, I will likely be catapulting from frustration over packing (which I have barely begun), to excitement over moving, to sadness over leaving the only real home that I have ever known.

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