FFfAW – Yearly Reunion

Written for Flash Fiction for the Aspiring Writer

Thank you Priceless Joy for hosting this challenge.

photo-20170123154621554.jpg

a photo from me!

The old house sits wedged between a café and trinket shop these days, without a hint of what it used to be before. Turned into a restaurant below and the family lives upstairs.

But she still remembers it well because she lived there when her mind still had place for the happy things. She remembers the huge well at the entrance on the ground floor and chickens running down the corridor. Cousins falling asleep higgledy-piggledy on the top floor while adults talked and played mahjong below. Fireworks and juicy Mandarins, roasted peanuts and arrow root crackers, she could almost taste and smell her childhood.

But eldest brother owns it now and she loathes the yearly reunion dinner, when she will have to put on a stiff smile and stand upright when faced with questions like, “What do you do to fill your days? Are you still living alone?”

And all she wants to do is eat the last course and return to her little room above the Chinese theater, and remember the better years.

(174 words)

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36 thoughts on “FFfAW – Yearly Reunion

  1. Mark Ryan

    Nice post. I share more with her frustration in dealing with annoying others and wearing the false smile, than the sadness. I think their is much need for our own quiet and space. As Ms Woolf said, we all need a room of one’s own. I like the haze in the photo also….blurring into a different time.

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    1. I caught this photo on a hot afternoon in September last year, my grandma lived on this street, while this is not her old house, its here on this street that I have fond memories of the Lunar New Year. Walking on this street does take you back in time. How lovely that you caught that from the hazy photo! I am glad you connected with her, seeing behind the fake smile and standing tall under pressure, fulfilling duty but just wanting to be left alone. You spoke the words the lines told. Being alone is not such a bad thing until it gets rubbed in your face. Again the smug people who think they have perfect lives because they have what others don’t, but never content with themselves, their own worst enemy at times, but she is always her best friend. Thank you!

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      1. Mark Ryan

        Smug people are usually using a mask themselves to hide deeper unhappiness; feeling their lives with the junk of their hearts. I’m glad she’s content and happy with her own path. And yes, i like the photo. Is odd how places can take you back so far when when you see them. That and music i find are real tme travelers.

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      2. Not sure if I agree with that, smug people are just too caught up with themselves, but you always see the good in others and I respect that, I need to develop a little tolerance here eh?! Photos for sure take me back to way before but music now that transcends all else. some songs even bring a smell back to mind and I suddenly get a whiff of that old familiar feeling.

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  2. When you were describing the home, I felt like I could hear the chickens and smell the roasted peanuts. You really did delight all the senses. And I like the bittersweet feel you decided to take for the prompt. How often do we grow up and see how different we are from our families? Wonderful story, Gina.

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    1. Thanks my friend! Our childhood memories last the longest because as I wrote its at a time our mind can still keep the happy thoughts before all the negative thoughts come and stay. But you are so right – we drift away from the accepted way our family thinks we should be, and make us feel wrong and small or all those self-depreciating thoughts. And all she wanted was to have dinner at her old home, a place where her heart remembers, unlike the rest of the family who forgot their roots and used their home for material gain.

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  3. I can really empathise with the frustration, having faced ‘interrogations’ from prying relatives at many New Year reunions. But the special treats and festivities and food (and red packet money!) still provide some things we can look forward to 🙂

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  4. Sometimes relatives don’t realise just how much they hurt you when they ask their questions about your life, poking holes in the things they see as being wrong, but which might be exactly the way you want them to be. I hope she manages to find some happiness in her present and future, and not just when looking back at the past. A beautifully described story, Gina. 🙂

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    1. Thanks my dear friend! That was said so beautifully and I appreciate how much the story spoke. In Asian culture especially, there’s not a lot if tact and people say hurtful things without meaning to sometimes, and times are changing, traditionally accepted roles and behaviours are being replaced by new world models and ideals. In the city these days its not unusual for many to be living alone and doing things on their own. Older generation expect you to marry, have kids etc and for some its not their route to happiness. Who are we to judge eh? But yeah this woman, I think she was happier in her memories, so let’s let her be for now, one day someone will bring her back to the present. I the stories more when I get to discuss them with you, you have a way of making them real to me.

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  5. A sad one SingleDust, it sounds as if she had a really happy childhood and has many good memories. I suppose though, the present sometimes, is never as good as those fond old memories. I wonder about this woman, why she ended up spending her life alone. If the brother had anything to do with it, even though they ask her questions which are rude to be asking. Great write!

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    1. Its funny the way family dynamics can sometimes lead you down a path you dutifully follow and later you realise it wasn’t the right one but was forced upon you. It could be she had to care for the family when they were growing up and never had time for a suitor and so got left on the shelf. We have such strict protocol here and its not easing up that fast even as we move forward with technology – family, tradition, customs are fiercely guarded. This story is for the lonely people during this Lunar New Year. Thank you Mandi for asking about her – she only seems to be noticed at this time of year, she contrasts against the rest – sad and alone on the shelf.

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  6. I admire the woman’s independent spirit, and am happy she has found contentment in her life – living it as she chooses. Like many of us, she cherishes the memories of her early years and the house she spent them in, but she has moved on. The obligatory annual dinner, with all the probing questions, is a trial she bears for the sake of the family tradition.
    This is a delightful story, Gina. It’s heartfelt and realistic, and so well told.

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    1. A very real scenario indeed – and I did not add the worst and most huniliating….its customary for married people to give the red packets or angpau at New Year – unmarried persons receive only, once you reached a certain age that can become quite embarassing really – so poor lady – no wonder she wanted to run away as quickly as she could. Thank you Millie! Always appreciate your views on the story – keeps me on track with improving my writing.

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