Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The big and small of it

As far as houses go, most would think the bigger, the better. Everyone can have his/her own personal space and there’s plenty of room for this and that.

When I was young, we all stayed in the same room. That may not sound like much until you hear that there were 6 of us to a tiny room. How did we all fit in? There was mum and youngest brother on the double bed, dad and elder brother to the bunk bed. Finally, younger brother and I were on mattresses on the floor.

To many, it would be a tad too clamped I think. How can we stand one another? On the contrary, I think it was part of some of the best times I had. Let me narrate the sleeping procedures. Every night, we would be ushered in to sleep. Some nights my parents would still be watching television in the living room but we never dared venture out when we were told that it was our bed time. Other nights, mum and dad would be turning in with us. So the logical thing to do was go to our individual sleeping area. Mine is mattress number 2 as you can see from the layout.

So we would all be in our beds and ready to travel to dreamland. But! The crucial question was, who would turn off the lights (which is at the foot of mattress 1)? Now, by logical deduction, you can see that it’s not going to be mum nor baby brother because they were furthest from the switch. So that’s two down, four to go. Judging from how dad is the man of the family, it would hardly be his role too right? Three to go. Elder brother was sleeping on the top bunk, so it was too much of a hassle. Besides, he might step on my leg and break it in the dark. I might not have to go to school after that, but I think it would hurt. Bad.

In the end, it was left with yours truly and younger brother in mattress 1. Remember, we were but kids. Like all kids, the only solution out of all these was a round of scissors, paper, stone. But luckily for me, younger brother was a very obliging boy. He would automatically get up and turn off the lights. My, it was a performance. Firstly, he could barely reach it and had to tiptoe. Secondly, there was the counting down. While contests had drumrolls before revealing the winners, my brother had his three-two-ones before turning off the lights. Sometimes, to break the monotony, it was three-two-two-and-a-half-one. You can imagine how it went after he learnt fraction in school.

Lights out and it was time to sleep. But sleep was not immediate. All of us would lie quietly in beds, listening to our parents talk. I can imagine that most adults are not used to sleeping at 9pm. So my parents would talk to each other about their day; typically with mum gossiping and dad saying “ah ha, ah ha”. It was in this cosy and tranquil state in which we fell asleep for most nights.

During the night, younger brother on mattress 1 would sneeze and sniff. He suffered from asthma and sinus. He would get up and rub his nose very loudly before returning to sleep. With me just next to him, it was not always easy to get uninterrupted sleep. But I had never once wished that he was somewhere else. I guess this is what they call family love.

Sometimes, I would wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare. It always made me feel better when I saw my dad just next to me. Although when I turned to my left, I would face the darkness below the bunk bed, it never quite freaked me out. I suppose monsters under the bed was not my kind of thing. On very bad nights, when I simply could not return to sleep, I would wake mum up and tell her about it. Being a pragmatic woman who knew that she had to grab her sleep whenever she could because she has four kids, mum would tell me to count the stars. And I did. Somehow, it had a calming effect and I would sleep again.

In the morning, there was the clearing up duties. My younger brothers were usually exempted from this because they were not quite tall enough. It would be up to me and my elder brother to stack the mattresses onto the top bunk. Back-breaking work I tell you but what has to be done, gets done.

Now, we have a different configuration. After my grandfather passed away, I had his room. Ah! The privilege of being the only girl. Shortly after, my uncles got married and moved out. Then my three brothers shared that room and my parents finally gained their own space. Some days, I would venture into my brothers’ room to talk to them. Most of the time, our post-dinner activity was to gather in my parents’ room to watch television together. I don’t think I can get enough of that.

So the adage “bigger is better” does not always apply. Not to me anyway.


Anonymous said...

very poignant entry! i couldn't agree more. nowadays there's so much 'space' between family members, we're like strangers living under the same roof.

Sheena said...

I envy you having such a close-knit large family. There's only me in mine, so I grew up without having to share my room or stuff with anyone else, but family warmth was always missing. =(

Anyway, hope you're doing well in Aussie. When're you coming back? Let's meet up when you're back babe!

Anonymous said...

was i so obedient last time? lol..

starstar said...

nice =)

i still sleep with my parents and sis nowadays, to save on the air-con money, heh. daddy and mummy on the double bed, me and sis on mattresses 1 and 2. can totally identify with this post, nodz!