A two-storied brick house appeared before Lwin, who could not believe his eyes, when his childhood friend pointed at it and blurted out:
“It’s the house where you were born and lived in!”
Lwin wiped both of his eyes with his palms to see more clearly. In fact, he came to see it forty years after moving to a new place, in order to enjoy an urban city life in a downtown area.
Unnoticeably, it was much changed compared to those days he lived in it. There were no more coconuts trees in front of the house. He sighed:
“Where are those coconut trees?”
Now, it was a modernized brick house surrounded by a high fence. The current owner must have torn down the previous wooden house and turned it into a brick abode.
But, those sweet memories were hard to erase, as if they were steadfast stains on a shirt. Lwin remembered every time those memories came back to him in due time, as if a small metal ball went up and down in a loop.
“It’s been nearly four decades, you know. I am sure there aren’t many of the old residents living here,” he remarked. His friend nodded in agreement:
“Yes, only two or three families still live here.”
“What about our old friends, Maung Naing, or Aung Zaw? Do you know where they are now?” asked Lwin eagerly.
His friend raked his head and shook it genteelly.
“No, I don’t know their whereabouts. It’s been a long time I lost contact with them. I am sure they are doing fine. As you know Maung Naing’s father owns a bookshop and Aung Zaw’s father is a chef.”
Lwin agreed. Since they moved from this house and settled downtown, they run a successful business, a teashop in a crowded part of the city. They were busy with their daily routine and found it difficult to visit their old place.
He sighed. But, he understood that the place he used to live in, has changed a lot. Those good memories will always be with him as if they were permanently stored in his brain’s cache area.
Lwin always remembered living happily in this house with his parents and sisters. Every evening was enjoyable and exciting because they were waiting to see the blooms of six o’clock flowers, whose flagrance was ecstatic. It was such a pleasure to watch the flower bloom and emit this fragrance.
Behind their house was a hill, where his childhood school was. He even attended kindergarten there. He had a few friends and still remembered a girl’s name which was too long. It was pure fun to talk about her and her name.
Lwin remembered his sister, who was very good at climbing betel nut trees, that surrounded their meager house. She was like a boy who dared do things, when their parents were away for business downtown. Whenever they held a competition climbing that betel nut tree, she was the one who won it.
His house was a two storied wooden house then. Lwin preferred upstairs, without knowing why. Once, they sneaked into a drawer to find recently born mice in it. They were so thrilled to see those pinkish little things. They did not tell their parents about what they saw. This was their sibling secret between him and his sister.
Their neighbors were very friendly, except for a haughty family who lived next to them. They knew they were braggarts, because, although they were frying water cress for their evening meal, they shouted out that they were cooking chicken.
It was a lovely habit to announce, when people fried or cooked smelly things, because they feared there might be some old or ailing people to shun away from that acrid smell, as it would have bad effect on their health.
They liked to play in the large compound next to their house. His sister made friends with one of the girls of the same age as her. He remembered that she’d wish them all well, when Christmas came.
Once in a year, on Revolution Day, they’d watch the fireworks in the sky in the Revolution Park. It was really spectacular to their young eyes.
He had so many good memories from that house, it felt hard to forget. Now, it was a brick building accommodating other tenants. When they lived there, it was more cordial and friendly. It was a good kind of human relationships. But those days seemed long gone and replaced with other things.
Though Lwin lived in a new place, he always wanted to live back in that house, reminiscing the good old days he spent there. At least, he had a chance to tell people how nice their old house was, though meager and squalid.
More mirthful scenes came back to Lwin, when they played fun games with the kids of the ward. In those days, they did not know much about T.V. or computer games. They lived in an unsophisticated world but they lived happily. Their games were fit for kids playing and having fun together.
Whenever they played Shwe Swon Nyo (catching the youngest player in a line of children players), Lwin took the role of Mi Htwe (the youngest) as the youngest in the group. He was pampered and loved by everyone. They would be strong for playing physical games. They would understand the importance of team work, which turned out to be very useful when they grew up. They tried to preserve their traditional games and handed down to next generations.
Whenever his father came back from work, he would bring food, fried noodles for them to eat. It was great to eat together with his sisters. He reflected that a house is a place where family values such as caring, loving and sharing are nurtured. Then, it would be an enjoyable home to live.
His childhood friend suggested to go to a nearby teashop to talk more about their past and have some tea, when they saw a man coming out of the house, looking at them suspiciously. Lwin readily nodded. For one last time, he glanced at the house with somewhat watery eyes. He wrapped his arms around his friend’s shoulder in an old friend’s fashion, and both happily headed to a teashop across the main road, on which vehicles were incessantly running to their destinations and directions.