23 years later, I realize I miss the lights at home.
I remember the power outages of our childhood, burnt power stations and stifling summer heat. I miss the candles, the struggle to locate a working lighter and the temporary white light of a rechargeable light which was never kept recharged. I miss the dancing shadows on the wall and the silence in the darkness.
I miss the old shades on the ceiling that were so high up and heavy that you needed a ladder and 2 people to change a light bulb. I don’t miss the time when the ceiling plate came loose and the shade nearly fell on mum and her student. I don’t miss the phase where we removed all the shades at home, leaving naked ceiling plates because we couldn’t do the ladder and 2 person routine any more. Of course that didn’t mean we didn’t have to change light bulbs anymore. I definitely do not miss having to steady my brother on a chair on top of another chair trying to change the lights in his room. Distinctively dangerous routine, that. I remember the phone calls to the grocery store for screw type bulbs, only to be delivered pin type bulbs instead. I miss how we phased out all our bulbs to energy savers, one grocery trip at a time. I don’t miss why. I remember the mismatched light of our house in the interim period, warm yellows and daylights splashed haphazardly across the walls. I remember shopping for new shades at Ikea.
Strangely enough, I miss the light switches at home. There’s a good reason for that, though. The light in the kitchen was never switched off (and changed only 2-3 times in the last 23 years), but I could never remember which switch was for the exhaust and I’d just switch on whatever wasn’t already on. Of course if they were both on, then you had me. The most confusing switches were for the living and dining area. The left switch turned on the right light and vice versa. My mind couldn’t cope with this obvious stupidity and so I always switched on the wrong light for the wrong area. Years later, someone came to replace the light switches, and decided that they would reverse the connections as well. Just when I thought I had it down, I was back to switching on the wrong lights. There was a set of 3 switches in the gallery for the toilet light, exhaust and gallery light. Again, at some point the connections were reversed and I could never tell which was the exhaust and which was the gallery light. The lights in my parents’ room and my brother’s aquarium are not so memorable, or perhaps they are because of the distinct lack of contradiction that plagued the rest of the house. My room, of course, was another story. Another set of 3 switches which switched on only 2 things – my room light, the light in my balcony and… who knows, we may have overlooked another secret room in the house. In hindsight, though, I wonder if the third switch wasn’t to turn on the light in my parents’ balcony. Hmmm… We never used the balcony lights after the first time they burnt out. Who in their right mind would climb up a ladder in a balcony on the third floor to change a light bulb? Only someone with a death wish, I’m sure. And so the lights were never changed until one day, the one in my balcony was. Who performed this daredevil stunt, I’l never know.
I miss lying in bed, curtain opened slightly, just enough to trace the lights and shadows of passing cars on the ceiling. I miss the familiar darkness – walking blindly without my glasses in the middle of the night to get a glass of water and jumping back into bed, no banged knees. I don’t miss waking up in the darkness to IBS tummy trouble and nose bleeds from dental antibiotics, wondering how to wake my mum up without giving her a heart attack. I do miss the nights of my childhood curled up in the darkness in the lower bunk ready to sleep, yelling out to mum to give us a goodnight kiss. I even miss the childhood nightmares and the comfort of the darkness lying next to mum – all the protection you would ever need from nightmares.