Under the Same Roof
It was one rare morning when my mother sent us a message in our family’s LINE group:
“Mama sent a photo”.
She sent us this photograph, coupled with a relieved emoticon and a short message:
Although I have always been aware of her attempts to chase away the birds since before I left home, I never supported her idea, or thought that she would go through with it. When I think of ‘home’, I seldom imagined home as a physical entity, but rather the feeling of ‘being home’. Seeing the birds gone, however, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed and disorientated, as if a part of my memory had disappeared.
“Where did they go?”
“Seems like they moved to the building opposite us. I’m just glad that they don’t nest here anymore because that means the eggs will stop falling off the eaves. It breaks my heart whenever that happens.”
From thinking about the birds, my thoughts drift to P’ Som. Bound by sisterhood that is not by blood but by time, we called her “p” which intimately translates to “おねえさん” , and Som which meant みかん. Just like her name, her carefree character never fails to bring a refreshing, summery breeze. As our family’s caretaker, she looks after my brother and helps with our household long before the top of my brother’s head reached my shoulders. Our home was not her home before, for she had come from a province far away, her prior life I know nothing of.
Just like another member of our family, we cook together, eat together and sleep together. We exchange small gifts of gratitude as she surprises me with 20 baht flowers during Valentine’s and I share with her my 20 baht snacks that I bought after school. On the contrary, our exchange of words were never longer than a few sentences, with her questions about my special episodes at school and my questions about the highlights of her weekend. Despite the gaps, our silence weren’t uncomfortable- the chemistry we shared felt just right.
But a lot of the times, I wondered how long she’ll stay with us. Before her, lived with us another young woman name P’ Wan (which translates to “sweet おねえさん”). On the day we left for a short trip 4 years ago, she left us, only to find out from her colleague that she had returned to her ‘real home’ to take care of her family. I have never asked P’ Som about her life before moving, and there has always been a lingering thought that she might, like P’ Wan, silently slip away like the birds who used to nest here. While we are under the same roof we are not perpetually bound to remain in this place. I do not stop and interfere people as they leave: the role I play is much like an audience who simply watches, feel and let go.
In a month’s time as I return, I know that we will reunite and cook together our favourite foods.
In 10 years, or 20 years time, I wonder if she will still look back and remember me and the memories we had together as we lived under the same roof.