The place that we lived, Sanc Ville, was actually really hot property (literally) It was next to a park. There were also a few nice shops nearby but most importantly a train station was going to be built just opposite the road, which meant that the price of the place was going to shoot up like a rocket.
The construction had been an auditory thorn in my side (or should I say, ears) for YEARS now, and every time I heard the crash and bang of the pilders I just told myself “that’s ten dollars here, and ten dollars there, and ten dollars…” It numbed the pain somewhat.
We had received several bids for it over the years, the developers going back and forth on prices and agreements. There was quite a lot of drama among the residents – some wanting to sell, some wanting to hold out, some dithering – but I’m going to spare you all that. There were more than a few resident meetings as well. (guess who attended? with his mother?)
But the day had finally come for Sanc Ville to be sold. The real estate agency made a bid and it was accepted. Drama continued but frankly I was inured to most of it by now. It’s not like I didn’t have my own problems!
My mom waxed increasingly sentimental about it, but Sanc Ville had long since lost most of its sentimental value for me. Screaming your head off and calling the police (or alternatively, having the police called) quite a few times can do that to you. I wasn’t exactly in a rush to leave, but I couldn’t say that I wasn’t emotional in my own way either. After all, we had lived there for the better part of two decades, and once been The Happiest Family there.
I remember feeling very sorry for the neighbours. What with everything that was going on, we must have been the Neighbours from Hell. But amazingly they tried their best to be helpful. On certain occasions I think one of them came out to give me a drink. Our next-door neighbour inquired about us concernedly more than once.
Remember! You are causing trouble for your parents, your neighbours, the whole world! aren’t you ashamed of yourself? But that was once again Mum’s world. All these years I had never been as terrible as she made me out to be.
Moving house is widely considered one of the most stressful things one can do, but for me, it was very liberating. For one, I threw a lot of stuff away. And I mean a lot. I must have thrown over two hundred books and nearly a thousand CDs and DVDs away. I was quite surprised that I managed to be so brutal with my memorabilia, some of which I treasured greatly. What helped a lot is a technique I use to this day – take a picture of it and then junk it. (though nowadays I usually just jump straight to the junking it part.)
Spring cleaning is a time-honored way of letting go (out with the old, in with the new!) and it’s a good one! I felt much better. I felt nostalgia, of course – for books unread and now given away, for games unplayed and now thrown, but on the whole it felt ok. It felt…right. Which when you live in World 2 : Second-Guessing Land (or World 3 : Fearful Land) is not something that you feel often.
Meimei wasn’t that affected either. I think we had both emotionally and mentally left the place some time ago. Sure, there were memories (aren’t there always?) but it was time to let those go.
I’ll never forget the moment I actually left, though. I was staring at all the walls and all the rooms, at the place where I had spent the better part of my life, and remembering all the joys and pains and memories. It was as though everything was here again in this moment, all the good and bad and everything else besides.
Then something rushed into me and through me and I ran from one room to another, touching each wall. I was filled with such sadness and such gratitude that I felt that I might split open. For once in my life there was no worry of not having enough time, or not saying a proper goodbye. I ran and ran and touched and touched and it was like I was a little kid again, running through the rooms that I had spent my childhood in.
The muskmelon room that I slept in. The popcorn room with the red double-decker bed that I once played with C and C in. The brown bathroom at the side. The study with all the books that people used to call the library. The living room with the worn-down sofa and the kitchen with the flowers on the walls. So many happy memories before everything went wrong. But the happiest thing of all was to say farewell.
Obviously my mom called not a few minutes after that and demanded to know where I was and what I was doing and why I wasn’t back home already, but somehow that didn’t put a damper on the experience.
And so passed Sanc Ville from the world. It was born a brothel (for American GIs in WW2 – and when my sister learnt this in this school through a poem they were reading she burst out with “no wonder the bedrooms are so big!”) a home to ours and many others for a long time. Last I heard the company that bought it over actually made a loss on it – the market went into a slump soon after the sale. My mother was again all apologetic and tearful (wow, so the property market is her fault as well?) but that is just the cost of doing business.
There was, however, the matter of the money to be decided. The payout from the sale was around considerable – not a king’s ransom (not that I know what the going rate for kings is these days) but hardly something to sniff at either. Much of the gratitude that I experienced while running around saying goodbye was from this. I knew that if we invested it properly and didn’t do anything stupid that the money would mean that our family would be ok financially for the immediate future (and probably long afterwards) That was Sanc Ville’s final gift to us, and to this day I remain profoundly grateful…to my Mum as well actually, since she bought it!
A little history at this point. When SV was first bought it was split between my father and mother, but my father decided to sell it to my mother with the understanding that the money was going to be split between all of us. As in all of us – me, Meimei, Dad and Mum had a quarter share, before he sold his share. That was obviously NOT how my Mum saw it. After getting buying out Dad’s share she thought that the whole thing was hers and that she was going to give Meimei and I some of the money out of generosity.
What with everything that was going on at that moment, I decided to do the whole Filial Asian Son bit and accept the payout “gratefully”. This is an issue that five years onwards I still have not broached with my mother, because I don’t think it will go well. You want to know what I think? I think I should have gotten the lion’s share and then decided how to distribute it myself. I held down the fort and didn’t go insane and didn’t hurt anyone and saved our fucking lives. But yeah, perhaps not the wisest of things to say in those circumstances, and so I held my peace.
So how can I be grateful to my Mum for buying the place and also think that my share isn’t enough? Emotions are weird. I don’t really know what I felt then. I was still pretty angry at her for cutting my Dad out of the sale entirely (according to her she bought it) Family disputes are complicated enough without bringing in property into them.
The money did not change my life as much as I thought. To be completely honest I would have much rather had a normal life than the money (though we don’t get to pick these things) I’m not saying that it was chump change (far from it!) but I rather thought I had gotten the short end of the karmic stick. If I could have traded it for seventeen years of my life back, I would have done so in a heartbeat.
Don’t get me wrong at this point – it wasn’t as it I wasn’t grateful (to the Universe at least) for the money! There are abused children who are abused terribly and then ALSO don’t have money. So there was definitely that to consider. Something out of nothing is still something, and good money from a real-estate sale is definitely something.
It did, though, free me of the necessity of working for the foreseeable future. And that is no small thing! Believe me, even when I was feeling sorry for myself, even in the worst and most terrible of times, I never once belittled the advantage of not having to work. I would of course much rather been ABLE to work and not have to raise four kids all my myself while mentally ill (that’s a LOT harder than working, and I can say that with some degree of certainty having done both)
It bounced around in my head a lot. I could finally do what I wanted to. I didn’t HAVE to work, I didn’t really have to worry about the future all that much. Then why did I still feel so upset? The dreams of getting a job in “the industry”, of doing translation work, of having to support myself – I didn’t have to worry about these things anymore. I could get married (if so chose) I could go places. I could even buy a house of my own! (a small one, maybe)
It’s not so easy. There is a reason why lottery winners rarely report lasting success, and why some of them even end up committing suicide – thankfully I had enough experience with that route to not want to go down that particular path. The money doesn’t erase the past, any more than it ensures a happy future. People do stupid things when they have a lot of money – you have only to read the newspapers to see that.
However it was, (and still continues to be) the foundation for a better future. I invested most of it with an equity firm that I had found. I considered taking a more active hand in it but for now I was content to let it sit and grow. I could beat inflation and have a little on the side, which was more than enough for me. I could write novels, study music, play games. The world was my oyster again!
It sure didn’t feel like it, though. I lay awake and thought about the Holy Grail (you remember? play games and make money from it?) There was no real need for it anymore. Somehow it didn’t really sink in. Or maybe it did, but the past spoke too loudly for it to be heard. I didn’t feel like I had won the lottery (or any part of it in any case) I felt…sad. Not as sad as before but still sad. I hadn’t had depression for years and this was but a pale shadow of it but it still wasn’t pleasant.
The last days were a harder time that I thought in some ways. I lay on my bed at night feeling scared, really scared – of what I don’t even know. All I can remember doing was singing the Lunar : Silver Star Story remake opening and wondering at how my voice didn’t crack over the high notes despite my terror. It was the closest I got to a lullaby at that time – well actually it WAS a lullaby.
An era of my life had ended. A new one was just about to begin.