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One of my earliest memories was probably when I was around five or six, busy growing up in a sea of endless exploration.
It involved particularly hot Saturday afternoons and hours of prancing around the depths of dad’s music room. At the peak of my imagination, his room was like a cavernous cave, with walls of towering shelves stacked high with vinyls and records of all sorts. I was surrounded with a comprehensive library, documenting the very best of life.
While I crawled around on the scrappy deep blue carpet floors, dad would always be there, keeping a watchful eye, while crouched behind a pile of boxes containing an assortment of knick-knacks. There were bits of metal pieces for his tube amplifiers, plastic cleaning apparatuses, and even bits of rubber car parts from his days of working at a rubber manufacturing company. To me, I never thought much of these often odd shaped tubular parts, lying around. In my mind’s inventory, they didn’t fit to anything else in the world so I had trouble relating them to any already know patterns in life. But it was what dad brought home, and it was pieces of him from his work at the outside world.
While I observed the remnants of the day, he would usually be cleaning his old, dirty records, while playing another as loud as the speakers would allow. I didn’t know it back then, but looking back now, the sounds of the Beatles, the Carpenters, Jeff Buckley or the Bee Gees were the unifying sounds of my childhood.
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At the space at the end of the room, his hi-fi system collected an endless mass of colored wires stretching across the expanse. Growing up, I have never heard him say ‘no’ to any of my explorations, except for this part. This was the only end of the room where I was never allowed to touch because it was the ‘danger zone’, and he said I would get electrocuted if I ventured near it. He did a funny electric-tro-shock dance to exemplify, as I giggled in amusement.
One day, on yet another one of my excavations into the depths of this trove, I discovered a pair of Fabergé eggs etched with an intricate oriental styled artwork. I had pretended I was a magic chicken that laid these heavy, treasured eggs. With the amount of cartoons I was exposed to, I had already understood the concepts of good and evil, and imagined poachers and the necessary evils bent on destroying my precious eggs. But like a true heroine of my own adventures, I knew that good always prevailed, so I escaped the grasps of my invisible foes.
Perhaps one of my favourite items amongst dad’s possessions, was the shiny object locked in a velvet case of deep red. In true magpie likeness, I was attracted to all things shiny. It was heavy in my then, tiny hands, but I held onto it in awe. He told me it was called a ‘harmonica’, and showed me how to play it. I placed the instrument on my lips and tasted its cold, hard surface. It smelled of metallic polish that always made me squirm somehow, and it had a feel distinct only to it. When I took in deep breaths, it blared a few lame notes, like bleats belonging to a dying donkey. So I laughed, and till this day the harmonica still left an aftertaste.
He used to travel a bit then too back then. I would remember his countless return from trips to Germany bearing chocolates and treats, and all sorts of weird sculptural, build-it-yourself toys. It was always things that worked the brain, or allowed us to explore our creativity, because these were the things he thought worth developing. He never said no to books, and I guess it had made me who I am.
Books- how I poured over them, I loved them. I devoured knowledge, and hungrily lapped up the beautiful images on the page. I flipped and pulled at the grand pull-the-tab pop-up books and spent hours reading and re-reading many of the same books; some of these you could never find again, falling out of circulation and marking the end of its publishing. 20 years later, I’m proud to say that they still lie in our library, in good form, and has probably amassed a small fortune by its own.
Right now, I’m 16 years older, buried deep in blankets, toes curled up like fists. I’m half a world away from a place I call home, wondering how many more years I can have with the man that made me everything I am. My art, my music, my passions were all sparked by a legacy he started, and the heritage he’s leaving behind. In the future, when I teach my children about life, I would tell them stories about how their grandfather taught me how to value hard work, to think differently than what the world follows, and how to never stop learning no matter how old you are. I could lie here for hours listening to this song on repeat. There’s that unmistakable hum of the harmonica I know so well, mixed in with a steady upstroke of the guitar strings just like the songs of my early days.
We escaped our days in that room. Maybe it was running away from the heat of February, or maybe one of mom’s moods, or maybe just the mutual love for music, I never knew. I would be too busy exploring all the treasures he’s collected in his life. I never knew it then, but it was the very first stages of discovering who he was, and I’m glad he let me.
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