Just for a minute …

5 April 2019

… or an hour or a day. Don’t you wish you could go somewhere for a short while, then leave and be home without everything that usually goes with a trip – the planning, the booking of transport and accommodation, the deciding what to pack, the organising around leaving your house, the getting to the airport or train station on time while running through the checklist (passport, keys, tickets, credit cards, medication …) in your mind as you dash? I often wish this.

One of my children is having a busy, stressful time and has no food in the fridge nor clean clothes in the cupboard. I would go over for a few hours, re-stock the fridge and pantry, empty the wash basket and put the clean, ironed clothes into drawers and wardrobes, cook a delicious dinner and leave it ready to be heated up and enjoyed. Then vanish back to my own home.

There was not much about my day-to-day life in Malaysia that I enjoyed. I was isolated, under-employed and often exhausted by the heat and humidity. But given the opportunity go back to Penang for a few hours to enjoy a swim on a balmy tropical evening and then savour some Nonya cuisine in a restored Chinese shop-house restaurant, I would snap it up.

This also applies to going back in time. No matter how old I get, I would not want to go back 10, 20 or 30 years and do it all over again. But it would be nice to go back to that summer’s day 18 years ago when we took our young children to a white sand beach. They played for hours in the small waves, happy in each other’s company while we relaxed under the umbrella, keeping a lazy eye on them. We had a picnic lunch and later bought ice cream cones. The children sat on a wall licking their ice creams and are captured in a photo – wet hair under sun hats, freckled noses and pink t-shirts, entirely content. This is perfect, I remember thinking, if only things could stay just the way they are today.

There is almost nothing about the city I grew up in that I miss. But if I could go back to my childhood home in a seaside suburb and sit with my brothers and our mother on the wide couches in the living room, with its cool stone floors and orange curtains billowing in the breeze from the open French doors, I would. We’d sit around reading a lot and talking a little, lazy in the summer warmth, taking each other’s company for granted. Just for a few hours. It would be wonderful to have our mother and our old youthful companionship back for a short while, unmarred by future discord, struggle, pain and death.