The Move – Of Toilets and IBS Quirks

When we went to Sri Lanka earlier this year, I told my mum, towards the end of the trip, that I had ranked each hotel’s bathroom according to comfort and convenience. Don’t think me weird, but as someone with IBS who has spent most of her time in the bathroom, these thoughts just occur naturally. When we moved house, one of my most random worries was if the bathrooms in the new house would be IBS friendly. The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable when you’re already uncomfortable (they are comfortable, though a bit dangerous because they’re small).

I miss the toilet at home, well only one to be honest. The other toilet was really just a waste of space… in fact I wonder if we shouldn’t have turned it into a storeroom. It was pretty useless by toilet standards, cramped and never flushed properly which made it a constant source of arguments at home. It also eternally smelled of the neighbour’s cooking. The neighbour, unfortunately, seemed rather attached to cabbage which made us rather detached from the prospect of having to use that toilet.  It was, I will admit, a handy backup – a “just-in-case” toilet which only my dad frequented. There was another thing that was strange about this toilet. The top most tile on the wall behind the door, if you looked carefully enough, resembled a rather dignified and thin old man with a monocle. This man-in-a-tile, I fondly called Alfred because he rather looked like Alfred from the Batman cartoons, except he was wearing a monocle. I miss Alfred. If I had any artistic skill, I would have sketched him out just so I don’t forget.

The toilet I do miss, the bathroom in fact, was pretty big all things considered which is good because it never felt stuffy, but bad considering the distance to the door in the event of an IBS attack. I don’t miss people being locked in when the lock didn’t work. I don’t miss the childhood water outages, when we’d try to fill up buckets with water. I do miss the random and rare post-it notes on the mirror asking for a wake up call. I miss the pinkish-beige bathtub with its seashell shaped non-slip treads, where my brother and I would play. It’s the same bathtub mum would bathe me in to the sounds of me crying thanks to the shampoo which would never fail to burn my eyes. I miss the laundry basket in the bathroom, eventually relegated to the smaller toilet, which was always blessed with an abundance of dirty clothes. I miss the water heater which, like the kitchen light, was hardly ever turned off, to make sure there was nice warm water on cold winter mornings and warm water for summer baths. I don’t miss the arguments with my brother on why all the warm water was used up after a bath, though. Here’s hoping those arguments don’t follow us here, though I have a sneaking suspicion they will… there’s no such thing as too much hot water even in a desert like the UAE. This bathroom has also seen some of the most painful moments of life. It was the place of refuge, where tears of heartbreak were shed by 11 year old me, during the miserable performance that was the 1999 World Cup Final. Could there have been a worse moment than that… well there was, but that’s a story for another time.

The Move- Of Light and Darkness

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.

The Move- Of Doors

Our first move in 23 years. Almost one month on and I’m starting to think about the home we left, which I can still see across the street from my living window. I’m not big on change. I never have been. I like the reassuring familiarity of routine. So while moving across the street would not really constitute a big move in other people’s books, it has been, for me, a giant leap of faith into the unknown. I’ve left a home and moved into a house in the hopes of making another home as loved as my  last.

23 years. That’s almost my whole life. It is in fact, all the life I can remember. 23 years in a 2 bedroom flat on the third floor. A room with a balcony from which I saw the world change. If walls had ears, then that home has heard the story of my life.

I miss my home  -the sounds of doors closing furtively to catch a movie on a school night, loudly to the shouts of arguments that needed to be shut out. I miss the door to my room which was never thick enough to keep the loud music from escaping, but enough to keep the world out. I miss the kitchen door which was never shut, and more the object of a shoving contest when trying to keep my brother out of the kitchen. I miss the toilet door, even the one that held us captive when the key wouldn’t turn in its lock. I don’t know if I miss the main door to the house, though… Not thick enough to keep out the voices of rowdy neighbours’ children yelling on a summer afternoon but thin enough to let out the wafting smells of mum’s amazing cooking, not thick enough to muffle the pounding but thin enough to hear the sound of the elevator landing and the jingle of house keys. It never opened fast enough when we were hot and tired and hungry and it didn’t close fast enough when we needed it to the most. That door was not the fortress wall I had thought it was. I miss the tinted glass door to my brother’s open air aquarium of a bedroom the most. It was a silent door that opened up to an image I don’t soon want to forget. It opened up to a friend, gaming with my brother, the requisite jellybeans and Snickers bars on the table between them. It opened up to a lot of laughter when my home felt like a tomb. It opened up to lots of lame jokes, Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies turned into comedies, “Dude, sweet!”s , pizzas and birthday surprises. I miss opening that door.