美國插畫家Maira Kalman在其著作《My Favorite Things》內，寫了以上一段關於憶及童年物件的片段。她所描述的那種似有若無的感覺，我一直深有共鳴。三歲多以前，我和爸媽、弟弟、嫲嫲和兩位姑姐一起同住；對於這段日子，我是幾乎完全沒有記憶了，唯獨有一則關於嫲嫲的小片段，總會間或在午夜夢迴重覆播放：夜闌人靜，小小的我坐在小小的紅色膠矮凳上瞪著電視看得入神，坐在後方沙發的嫲嫲突然起來把電視關掉，再把客廳的燈關上，然後轉身走往睡房方向；瞬間被漆黑籠罩的我立即跑到爸媽的睡房前，咚咚咚地用力拍門之際，回首窺見嫲嫲站在自己的睡房前，靜靜看我。
“There are memories. Vague and fleeting. Or sharp and searing. Moods leaving a sense of urgency. Or disquiet. Or a sense of well-being and belonging. And always, objects inhabit the memories. I am sitting on the cool floor next to a bed, reading a book. The window is open and the curtain billows in the breeze. My parents have left me alone in the room. I am not sure there was really a room like that. There are some rooms, real or imagined, some moments, some aspects of light that haunt you.”
In her book, My Favorite Things, the American illustrator Maira Kalman wrote the above paragraph recalling her childhood objects. I always have a deep resonance with such seemingly incomprehensible feeling which she describes. From birth till the age of three, I had lived with my parents, my little brother, my grandmother and two aunts. I almost have no memory of this period of time, but there is one snippet about my grandma that has been playing repeatedly in my dreams: It was quiet at night, I was sitting on a red plastic stool and watching TV intently. Grandma, who was sitting behind me on the sofa, suddenly stood up and went to turn off the TV and light. She then walked towards her bedroom. Surrounded by darkness all of a sudden, I immediately went to bang on my parents’ bedroom door, while grandma stood in front of her bedroom and watched me silently.
Has this recollection ever happened? I have always doubted about it. However, my mother has told me the red stool was indeed bought by my grandma because she knew I loved sitting in front of the TV all day long. From then on, this plastic stool has been growing up with me. Even after many years since my grandma’s death, it still exists. It has allowed me to sit on it at the balcony during hot summers when I was a child. It has also faithfully acted as my foot stool when I was a teenager. Having been at my service for so long, it has become very worn out with a deep crack, and it is now sitting quietly at a corner in my mother’s house. Perhaps due to my attachment to it, while I was searching for a small chair for my son Julian, it has taken me a long time to finally settle with this Azmaya bath stool made of hinoki wood. When Furze, our illustrator, emailed me the drawing of it, she told me she has deliberately placed it at one corner because she believes that is where a stool loves to be. Indeed, that should be a corner with great warmth, dreamily weaving with various fragments of life, so that bits and pieces of faint memories gradually gather together like a ball of dust.
The original purpose of a bath stool is for a person to sit on it and brush his/her body during bathing, but it seems such a pity to let this beautiful stool only to stay in a bathroom. Made with sturdy wooden material and the perfect height for a small child to sit on it, no doubt it would be the most ideal chair for my little son. Many years from now, when Julian touches this stool, I hope it would feel like gently stroking his own childhood, where beautiful memories remain, warm and palpable.