The door swung open with the scent of familiarity, it was perfumed with subtle incense which was permeated from the vicinity of the deity’s altar, dimly lit with a single bulb hanging in the middle of the room which enlightened the dining table akin to a spotlight, making it resplendent. The rest of the house was sombre, marked with deep imprints, emblazonment from the essence of time.
The candles at the deity’s altar was blown out as I opened the door, letting myself in, and also a gust of gentle wind. I went to flick the switch to turn on the lights, but my grandma’s voice reverberated in my ribs, mai kui, liao dian (don’t on the lights and fans, it’s a waste of precious energy), in a rash Hokkien dialect that was her felicity, coarse, left out of time, archaic, but traditional, preserving the truest roots of our blood line.
I laid down my bag of goodies for her unto the baggy cushion which was bathed by a soft light emitted from the discoloured curtains hanging idly on the old-fashioned railings which rattled violently when the wind caressed them through the opened windows. Walking nonchalantly to the kitchen, nothing had changed, the wooden coffee table was still furbished with a red nylon cover, and a tin canned biscuit delicacies sat in front of the dinosaur television which was synonymous to a cardboard box, supported with a old-styled desk that elevated the TV to eye-level. The two plus three baggy flower plated cushion was not moved an inch, the three seated one sat below the discoloured curtains next to the TV, the two seated was placed directly in front of the TV. The deity’s altar was derelict, situated north to the door which was left ajar twenty-four seven because grandma believed that her Gods would pay her house a visit without giving any prompts by going through the main door, blessing the house and the household during those visits. The dining tables were squarish, made of plastic, similar to those of the hawkers’ food store, filled with rattan food covers which had no dishes under them.
There was a walkway leading to the kitchen beside the altar, it was outside the housing compound to negate the splashing of cooking oil unto the mosaic floor in the house. My grandma’s secret recipes were embedded at the back of my mind since the day she had taught me, entrusted me with this crucial legacy. I prepared, marinated, seasoned an array of foods, mostly meat. I started off with the whole steamed chicken which needed long hours to be done.
Secondly was the braised succulent pork with delicate dark sauce which was a special brew of an assortment of sauces that was passed down by my grandma. I started the fire, heated up the black Chinese frying wok, fried some vegetables which consisted of cauliflower, carrot, Chinese cabbage, Chinese mushrooms, and mok be, a kind of black moss which was my grandma’s favourite. After serving them unto separate individual plates, I garnished them with some chung- green and white circular vegetables which is spread ostentatiously on every Chinese dish ever seen, and placed them on the dining table, the only place in the house filled with electrical beams of light promulgated from the single light bulb which was dangling from the ceiling, and clinging to its life by its bitten-up wire.
I shouted to my grandma to eat, no response, as usual. I ate silently waiting for her to come down. Her words pounded unto my chest again, lao lang jiak liao lu ka ei jiak (elders eat first, only then the younger ones can lift the chopsticks, it’s an unspoken respect!) I put down my chopsticks, tears started to roll down my cheeks, the light bulb was flickering, burst into flames, shards of glass was shattered asunder around the dining table, the incense was burnt out, leaving only its small stick, standing merely upon the ash bowl.
The house reverted back into hollowness, emptiness, solitude, loneliness, where I was the single soul left in this perpetual broken, dissipated world where only trails of bread crumbs were left by her, enough to sink me back into a reverie, back to those good old days where the house was a home for a world created by grandma.
Old chains-bonds, bounded to us are rusty, easily breakable, and filled with wondrous experience. These bonds are a one-of-a-kind blessing to us, there are nothing more special, minute compared to other bonds. Learn to cherish, to acquire as much wisdom from them as possible is of utmost imperative because they had eaten more salt than us. If you had ever encountered with this kind of bond, seize it, capture it, do anything to get it, appreciate it, and the expressions could go on and on, you would never regret this chimerical artefact of life. Do not avoid it. Do not decimate it. Do not ever spoil it, if you have it.
This Chinese New Year, or any other festival period, astutely pay a visit to your parents and grandparents, set them as your first priority, or else they might pass on leaving you in oblivion, and you may fall into an abyss of dismay without knowing what or how this kind of bond works.