Hong Kong: Childhood memories

Category: By panda_eyed
When I was little, I was utterly fascinated by my grandparents' way of life, and how different it was to life back home. The house is a three-storey building in the village, with seven bedrooms, and a roof terrace (they had 7 children), and I loved it. To me, it was like a castle, and I could spend hours exploring it.

My grandad would wake at 6am and go straight to the roof to practice his tai chi and kung fu. He was a master of both, and I would watch and copy his movements. I was small and clumsy, and he would laugh affectionately at my weakly controlled attempts at this fine art. He taught me my first kung fu moves up there, whilst the sun appeared on the horizon.

After this, grandad would go through his morning routine of washing and shaving, sweeping the floor, watering the plants, cleaning the house. Then he and my grandma would then get the bus to the morning markets. They would always bring me back something delicious for breakfast.

During the day, grandad would work the small plot of land they used to grow all sorts of vegetables on, selecting only the best ones for dinner. My grandma would wash the clothes by hand, in huge buckets. Even though they had a washing machine, she was terribly old-fashioned, bless her. Then, when the washing was done, she would hang it. This involved stringing the clothes onto huge poles of strong bamboo, which were then propped up by a rack. I would watch, loving the quaintness of this.

Then, grandma would tend to the chickens she kept, making up their feed, sweeping out the run. I would follow her in, in wellington boots several sizes too big, trying and failing to avoid the chicken poo, as children do, and help her feed the chickens.

I remember one time when she decided to kill a chicken for a (buddhist) prayer, and eat for dinner afterwards. I couldn't have been more than eight or nine years old at the time. I was horrified that one of these lively pretty chickens would end up on my plate, but at the same time, I had a morbid curiosity about seeing how this would happen. Grandma passed the live chicken to me while she went to get a knife, instructing me to hold it tightly by the wings so that it wouldn't escape. I did this, looking at the chicken, the chicken looking back, eyes darting everywhere nervously. Then my gran came back, knife in hand, and attempted to slit the chicken's throat whilst I was still holding it. I wasn't expecting this, didn't expect to be taking part in the murder of this animal, and dropped the chicken faster than it could squawk. It ran off, as chickens do, and me and my grandma spent the best part of 20 minutes chasing it around the yard before she caught it again. I found it hilarious and couldn't stop giggling. It makes me smile to think of it now. I don't think I ate the chicken that night... I couldn't stop thinking of it's little eyes looking at me...

It's not quite the same now, when I go back. While I still have fond memories, my grandad has since passed away and my grandma has grown old and frail and has lost her sight. She'll be moving out of her home soon, and no one will be more sad than she. I'd kind of hoped that she and my grandad would grow old together, spending their days in the way I remember so well; tending the gardens, the chickens, the house; spending the afternoons strolling to the communal village area where there would be other people of a similar age chatting and playing cards. Life isn't always so rosy, but I'm glad I was able to witness the idyll of them at their happiest. A simple life with a loving partner - that's how I'd like to live out my last years.

5 comments so far.

  1. nikkipolani 5:13 pm, December 05, 2006
    Your picturesque memories are wonderful, Pandy. Will you get to see your grandmother soon?
  2. Jia Li 10:15 am, December 06, 2006
    I agree, you have wonderful memories.
  3. Livvy at Work 1:13 pm, December 06, 2006
    Awww, Pandy, that is how I want to live out my last years too, and how my mother thought she would live hers.

    Poor you not eating the chicken. We had a chicken and I could never eat her eggs, which were pinkish-beige and had the orangest yolks! My dad loved them.

    Got a funny story bout my mum, though. When she was a girl, one day she got a hankering for duck, so she went down to the pond (apparently they had one) and pelted this drake (baaad choice) with stones until he died, then she ran up to the house and said she had "found" a dead duck. Sure enough, they got duck for dinner. Her parents weren't stupid but that was like one time she didn't get belted for mischief!

    Another time, there was fish for dinner, and she was a feisty wee thing, so when they served her and she saw this thing lying in the plate she said, "Me no eat deeeead fiiiiish!"

    My fave part of the story is now my vivid image of a little you slipping about in chicken poo.

    Hey that rhymes...
  4. panda_eyed 1:52 pm, December 11, 2006
    Nikki, thanks. I might see my gran in HK, but she might be shipped over here early, in which case, I'd see her in the new year. I so wish she didn't have to leave her home though, she keeps saying she doesn't want to, but she has no choice now, she's too frail.

    JL, thanks luvvy, hope you're being a good girl x

    Livvy, I can't believe your mum stoned a duck to death, because she had a craving for it! Lol, you don't see that too often :)
    I've got to tell you of the time my grandma sold my mum's pet dog to a neighbour - she came home from school one day and he was hanging dead in the neighbour's yard - they stripped his skin off and cooked him! My mum was understandably devastated! That was the done thing back then I guess..
  5. Olivia 2:05 pm, December 11, 2006
    Oh no, the poor doggie, can you imagine how he trusted the humans?

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