Tuesday, 11 July 2017
SHORT STORY #7: The Meanings Of Home
This is a story I wrote a few months ago for a writing competition. I hope you like it!
#7: The meanings of home
All I remember is a lot of crashing, banging noises, and loud screaming shouts. Every time dad would lift Me-In-Diapers, holler a few unintelligible last words, and stalk out the front door. His steps would be heavy and stomping, like an elephant’s. He would bring me to that strange coffee shop, The Clue, which I always mispronounced as “The Goo”. There we would sit until morning, with me sleeping in his arms.
As for my mom, she just vanished somewhere in the middle of all that. Dad never spoke of her, and I didn’t ask, either. I don’t remember how mom looked like. In fact, I couldn’t really remember anything other than banging pans, clattering plates and shattering glass.
However, there is this one moment that I remember very vividly until today. Dad was helping me with my homework. I was doing a matching exercise, where you had to pair up the words with the same meaning.
“Which word do you think means the same thing as ‘House’?” asked my dad.
“Home,” I replied, and not yet knowing the proper way to use a ruler, drew a squiggly line across to match the two words.
“You know, there is a difference between the words ‘house’ and ‘home’,” said my dad. That caught my attention. I looked up at him, waiting impatiently for him to go on. Watching my expression, he laughed. “Alright, alright, my inquisitive daughter,” he chuckled.
Dad told me that actually, the terms “house” and “home” have very different meanings, although some people consider it the same thing. This really confused me, but I went on listening. Dad said that a house is just a structure, “the solid building that we live in,” he said, knocking the wall behind my table. “It’s just a thing,” he kept saying, trying to make it as simple as he could for me to understand, and I guess I did understand what “a thing” was, but not what he said next. “A home,” he said, “is a house, plus a family, plus feelings.” Wow, that was too much for me to grasp at the age of six. “A home,” he repeated, “is a building, like this,”-----he knocked the wall again-----“to protect us, plus the people in a family, like you and I, and, well, mom, last time.” He paused. “Then there’s feelings. You know, in a family, sometimes everyone is happy together, but sometimes there are bad feelings too.” I vaguely remember in this fleeting moment, dad stiffened slightly, but quickly regained his composure. “House, plus family, plus feelings. That is what makes a home.”
The night of the next day, dad died in a car accident. Now, as a twenty-one year old, I still cry just thinking about it. It was much, much too coincidental. One minute I was learning what a home was. Next minute, and I did not have a home.
I hardly understood anything my dad said then, but I understand now. Most importantly, as a grown up, I have come to understand the meaning of home in another way.
I don’t remember clearly, but somehow I was brought to a place full of other children, which I now know was an orphanage. I grew up there, and got a low but quality education. There were fifteen other children in the orphanage. We did things together, and had our shared fun moments together. Our caretaker, Miss Denise, also often explained to us and told us stories about the outside world, and we would ask questions, we would learn about the amazing and challenging outside world together. In spite of all that, though, as a little girl who didn’t mind and preferred solitude, I distanced myself from the rest most of the time.
During my early schooling years, I met many other children, all of various colourful personalities with different interests, habits, dreams and opinions. However, I never sought to understand the minds and hearts of these children. I saw them as only a mirror image of each other: loud, playful, mischievous, way-too-adventurous and far-too-energetic, and not-a-care-in-the-world children. So I isolated myself in school too. I never bothered to decipher the meaning of the meaning of those looks I got, those whispers I overheard. I just stroll into my classroom, walk to my seat, plop my bottom down in a sea of criticizing eyes, take out my storybook, and start reading. That was a summary of my very enjoyable life. I loved this way of life, calm, peaceful, no complications. I liked just going about my own business, indulging in my lovely storybook world.
Unfortunately, life is never meant to be that simple. I faced a lot of inner conflict. It was so infuriating! I remember how it felt like all those years, like two people were having a big quarrel in my heart. I knew I enjoyed just being in the world of words. I knew I preferred being alone. But sometimes when I watch the happy children in the orphanage, or when I peer at my carefree classmates from behind my storybook, I feel a slight twinge in my heart. However, I stuck to my principles, and stayed where I was.
As they say, life can always go on if there is something you can love in exchange for lots of happiness. I was lucky to have the love of my life - writing. I have this little notepad that I carry along with me every time, everywhere. Anytime I see something beautiful, or a lecturer says something that inspires me, or I simply think of something good, I just jot it down. This makes me different from others, but while I remain friendly towards my college friends, I continue being in this world of my own-----my writing.
I’ve loved reading and writing since I was eleven. All those things that people said about what reading could do to you-----touch you, change you, inspire you, bring you to another world-----I thought it was so wonderful, so…...magical. I still think so. At the age of eleven, reading millions of storybooks was my biggest goal. Until I was old enough to leave the orphanage alone, I often pleaded the adults to bring me to the public library, and when we arrived I would run to the children’s section and bury my head in that magical mountain of storybooks. The public library was my haven. And because I loved reading so much, I decided to write stories, to draw pictures with words, to create my very own universe, just like those famous authors.
So I wrote and wrote and wrote. I still remember the title of my first story, “Rainbow”, which was actually the name of a snake which had rainbow coloured skin. I was often unsatisfied with my works, but that did not stop my passion for writing. I especially loved descriptive writing. I vividly recall me in my early teens, surfing on the Internet for story writing competitions for hours. I didn’t just write as a hobby. I wanted my writing to be noticed, and recognized. I rarely won any of the competitions I joined, but that did not discourage me at all. I still remember how delighted I was when I won my first short story competition. I was overjoyed, I loved that feeling of victory, that indescribable feeling of being a winner in something I loved doing. It was like I was so much closer to my dream of becoming an author. I also got to keep the cash prize all to myself, to spend on only one thing: more books! It kept going in that cycle, and I never got bored. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and all the way until now, I still write and write and write.
One day, when I was fourteen, everything suddenly clicked into place. To be exact, it was on the 21st of May, as recorded in my diary. I remember how eager I was when writing this particular diary entry, describing in extra detail my Albert Einstein discovery. On this very special day, it dawned on me that, the true meaning of home is very simple indeed. Home, is a place you are happy and comfortable in. When I felt really dispirited, and no one else was there for me, writing always was. I had finally, finally found my retreat, my home!
I sloppily shut the door behind me and drag myself to the still-open laptop on my table, exhausted after a day of typical college lessons. I sit down at the table, turn on my laptop, and the slightly jarring title “So People Born Dumb Can’t Have Best Friends?” jumps out before my eyes, the book I am writing now. I sigh heavily, my heart sinking as I scroll through my story and think of all the editing and reediting I would have to do. In writing, writing is the fun part, editing is the boring part. However, I know that only the few writers that have the patience to edit their writings again and again will succeed.
“Hey.” She looks up from her doodles and walks over. “It’s okay.” She wraps her arms around my neck to comfort me. I thank Leila silently in my heart. I never actually had much experience in friendship, since I didn’t mix around much with the children in the orphanage, and made myself so different from the others in school. Now, though, I’ve found a sweet, kindhearted, and caring best friend, and I really love her.
Leila picks up a pen, and doodles some smiley faces on a piece of paper. She pushes it gently toward me.
I plant a kiss on her cheek, realizing that I’ve learned yet another meaning of home.
P.S., My very first micro story "Rainbow" that I mentioned earlier in this piece is for real :P I will be putting it up too!