After I returned home from my long days at summer camp, I would always walk up concrete stairs and through a bright red front door with my cousins. I would slump into my seat at the table, as my grandmother, or pau pau as I called her, cooked for us.
I still remember playing with my cousins Chad and Karissa in pau pau’s house. It was huge, with more than 10 rooms. Some rooms were rented out for guests, while other were filled with miscellaneous items, like old yearbooks that belonged to my mother and her siblings.
In the summer, my cousins and I spent most of our time in the one room with air conditioning to escape the heat. We would play cards, listen to music or just talk. And when we wanted to watch out favorite VHS tapes, like the Pokémon series or “The Little Mermaid,” we would head to the TV room.
These memories of the mundane fueled my love for my pau pau’s home until we had to sell it three years ago.
The house itself wasn’t much, but growing up and visiting it every week, I developed an attachment to it like no other. It allowed me to spend time with my pau pau and to bond with my two cousins as we pushed our imaginations to their limits trying to find things to do.
“I remember we would be so bored sometimes that we fed the mice, and we would get in so much trouble,” Karissa said when we were reminiscing one day.
We often used blankets as capes and ran up and down the stairs, seeing who could race through the house fastest. Sometimes we would venture off to creepy, unkept parts of the house when we felt adventurous — but this mostly led to us running out of those rooms screaming that we saw something in the dark.
And before we knew it, our parents were there to pick us up.
It’s not just the summers spent with my cousins at pau pau’s house that stand out in my memory, it’s also the family dinners and holidays. I particularly remember the times I was sick and had to stay at my pau pau’s house while my parents were at work.
It was on these days I felt especially connected to my grandmother.
My pau pau wasn’t like other grandmothers. She wouldn’t say she loved us outright all the time, but she showed it. She was the most caring and kind woman I’ve met in my life.
One winter, I caught pneumonia and had to go to her house for three days straight. Her care helped ease the sickness.
She would make me as much soup as I could eat, wrap me up in what felt like a thousand blankets and let me watch every movie we had in the TV room.
As my cousins and I got older, we became more and more bored with the home. We started to focus on technology and sometimes just wanted Wi-Fi to keep us busy. We knew we still loved visiting pau pau at her home, but it felt like we were growing out of the house.
Years passed since then, and the thought of selling pau pau’s home never crossed my mind until she became ill. I knew she was getting older, but it had never occurred to me that one day the home would no longer belong to her.
But when my pau pau’s health started to worsen, we had to take her out of her home and put her into hospice care.
After she passed away, it was incredibly hard to walk back into the home knowing I wouldn’t see her at the table preparing dinner. All of these memories flooded back and made me really appreciate the home she had provided for me and my cousins.
We kept the house for almost a year. But its upkeep was too much for my family to handle.
The moment my mother told me we were selling the house, the belief that I had grown out of the home suddenly vanished. All I wanted to do was keep it forever. But as much as some family members wanted to keep it, we had to sell it.
It took some time, but we finally found the right person to buy it. The house was sold a few months later, but it felt like it was sold overnight.
When we started to clean out the house, it still didn’t feel real. Once it was entirely empty, I decided to take one more walk through.
I entered the rooms where I used to watch movies for hours, play make-believe with my cousins and simply talk with my pau pau — but it didn’t look the same. It was time to let go and say goodbye to the home I had grown up in and fallen in love with.
I walked down the long, crooked hallway and out that bright red front door for the last time.
Samantha Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.