The memories of one’s childhood years here, translated…
As I was growing up, there was only one bed in our house.
My father wasn’t around, and the four of us children, from ages seven to one. The youngest of us would be born, when our father was finally transferred back from Kinmen back to Taiwan again.
So, we’d squeezed in on the bed, with our mother. It was, a bamboo bed that was square in shape. It took two-thirds of the room, tightly against the walls, the four legs of the bed had mosquito nets tied around it. I was the eldest, always slept in the farthest to the door, next to the walls. Perhaps, it was to help my mother out, because other children might need to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the nights, and, she’d needed to carry them off the bed. And I could step over those big or small bodies, and get myself to the bathroom on my own. As we slept, she’d had her fourth child, my one year old baby sister, with an arm around my three year old sister, my younger brother, who was five, the only boy, and she’d slept, on the edge of the bed.
I’d slept by my mother’s feet, and I’d hugged on to her legs as I fell asleep at night. But, as my mother turned over, I‘d lost this connection. Back then, I’d faced the walls, and, feel that mosquito net, pressing against my face, through the openings on the net, I’d felt the smooth and cold surfaces of the walls.
And, the big bed we all slept on always had a mosquito net draped over it, it was green, with the small square holes on it. After using it for a very long time, the color became brown, perhaps, is the color, faded out, or maybe, it because it’d carried the dusts and the dirt over the years. Anyway, as my mother pulled down the mosquito net at night, our bed became like a cave, or an island, or a ship. That, was a small and tight space, and because of how narrow it was, it was, especially warm inside. And naturally, in the summers, it’d get, extremely hot.
All year long back then, mosquitoes would fly everywhere, malaria is still a legally recognized disease. Our world was filled with green, thin obstructions. The green window shades, as well as the green door shades, with the food on the supper table, with the green shades, draped over it. And, all the beds had mosquito nets, that were pulled down in the nights, and, tucked in, tightly, beneath the straw matting. During the daytime, it’d gotten lifted, with the two ends, tied with strings. The wings that were draped to the sides, hung on the edges of the bed became like the palaces in Arabian Nights, and, I’d imagined myself to be a character in those tales, maybe, the female slave who’d helped Ali Baba cooked those thieves with the oils. That, was an age, where we can fill up the blanks with our imaginations.
My mother didn’t know the destructiveness of letting a child sleep next to the walls. As she’d told us stories, to help us sleep, as we’d listened, everybody ELSE had fallen asleep, but I was awake, a lot of questions, are troubling up my mind. I knew I shouldn’t make trouble for my mother, so, I’d faced the wall, and, started using my fingers, to tear apart the holes on the mosquito nets, and, those thin threads, if I’d pushed the strings to the sides, then, I could make a hole. Not big at all, but enough, to stick my finger through it. After I’m done, poking a hole on this part of the net, I’d gone to the next part, and, poked another hole. The position where I slept, the big and small holes became like the stars of the night skies. And, those holes, in the dimming light became, various things to me, faces, flowers that got scattered all over the places, some looked like someone with a backpack, walking away.
There were many stories between those holes. I’d told them all, to myself.
You do feel that “scent” of loneliness, don’t you? The narrator, as a child, wanted her mother’s attention on her, but, the mother couldn’t, give her the attention, she had other kids to take care of, and, the narrator understood that, and, so, she’d found ways, to adapt, as all children would too…