In this room, in almost the exact same spot where my desk now sits in this photo, lies my earliest childhood memory. I was in kindergarten, around four or five years old, sitting in the wardrobe, wearing a dress I did not want to wear. I remember the soft, warm colour of morning filtering through the curtains, my sister still sleeping in the next bed. The hum of the air-conditioner in the wall, the same sound that put me to sleep at night. Inside the wardrobe it was dark and quiet. Strangely, it also felt comfortable. I don’t remember how long I was inside, but I also got very sick in school later that day. Which may be why I remember that day so well—it’s been said that our earliest memories are also tied to moments of strong emotion.
We moved out of this apartment when my younger sister was born. Again I remember something else from my childhood. Something happy. My mother and sister under the covers, waiting for my father to emerge from the shower to surprise him. My parents fought less then, or perhaps I just don’t remember. I want to join also, I must have said. But there was not enough space under the covers for three, so I hid by the side of the bed. The feeling of being left out hung like a shadow over my early years. Perhaps it is the same for all children who are not the firstborn. In the same large bed, I remember my mother’s growing belly. A green catalogue, a watercolour painting of a condominium with beautiful curved eaves. I learned it was called a maisonette, the ‘mai’ pronounced as may. It sounded full of possibilities.
I did not return to this apartment until my adult years. Newly married, I stayed in this very room for a year or so until our new home was ready. But in a few months this room will cease to exist. After many long years—the building was built in the 1970s, an ancient relic in Singapore architectural history—the entire estate has been sold en bloc to a developer, who will tear everything down and build something grander and more exciting over my childhood memories.
But for now, while this building breathes its last breaths, somewhere from within the walls my childhood ghost emerges, and walks in my words.
I’ve got a good feeling about this space.