Tuesday, September 1, 2020



       Last month, I returned HOME to IPOH where I was born, and to the house my grandparents lived. The sale of my grandparents' house at No. 12, Jalan Venus, Star Park, IPOH was recently finalised after my Uncle passed on. The house is at least 60 years old, and the gate and letter box are still the original.  I saw that paint had peeled from the walls and rust on the once proud gate that had welcomed generations of Lees. This house now looked sad and lonely with no family to love it.

If this old house could talk, it'll spin tales of  love, good food, pranks and sadness too. 

        My brothers, sister and myself spent many school holidays with my "popo" (maternal grandma) and "gong gong" (maternal grandpa) in this house. We were her grandchildren from the Big City as my parents moved to KL when we were kids. 

Popo" and her city brats.

     "Popo" loved her city brats - my two brothers, myself on the left, my sister and cousin. We were just trouble -  I remember my eldest brother threw a piece of wood up the rambutan tree to dislodge the fruits and it landed right on top of my head,  but I was warned not to squeal a word to "Popo."  Another time, my sister and I got mauled and bitten by a pet monkey and we ran off screaming. 
     Me (5 years-old) on the right with my signature trade mark - NO FRONT TEETH. Little girls during that era had the typical bob haircut 😥. My sister (4 years-old) was always a real cutie (fair and plump).

   We slipped into the house quietly, scared and pretended nothing happened. Unfortunately, the monkey's owner checked every house along the road until he found us and apologised to a shocked "popo." We were grounded!
Country life was fun with trees to climb unlike the city where we lived in apartments.
My brothers and I - note the same haircut! WHY?       
     OHH .. my brothers, they were COOL DUDES even then. 
     It does not matter if one is dressed in Giorgio Armani's or "popo's" sewn pyjamas, when you are COOL, you are COOL in what ever! 

        When my brothers grew up and preferred to spend their holidays in the city with their friends, I would rush to Ipoh instead. Thus, I was very close to "popo."
 "Popo" and ME, and our very first car, a Moris Minor AA 9804. 
I was just 6 days old. 
  My mum would pack me off with biscuits, water and a plastic bag (a vomit bag) in a taxi on the Saturday the holidays began. 
Mie and I (3 years-old). 
        I  had to endure the four hour drive (no highways then) together with other passengers. I never got off for toilet breaks and never accepted any food. I just sat, slept , ate, drank or vomited quietly all the way as strictly instructed by mum.  I remember on arrival, every taxi driver would rave to my "popo" that I was their best passenger.
   "Sam Yee" (third aunty) with me at 5 months-old - bald as a coot, sigh.
     It was always safe then, in the small towns like Ipoh. I walked myself to the play ground at nights and watched the "kung fu" shows. Travelling medicinal men set up shop and demonstrated their skills with all sorts of gravity defying moves. I remember ONE particular skill where with one "chop," they would break a plank resting on tofu slices. The plank broke clean with the tofu still wobbling and intact. To a six-year old, 
         this was mesmerising and unbelievable. I would rush home with verbal diarrhoea to relay every single action and trick to "popo" and show off all the moves with my scrawny arms and legs.  "Popo" didn't speak English so I spoke Hakka with her. 
     "Popo" with us when we were around 11 years-old.
 "Popo" frequently took her city rascals for afternoon swims in this river which till today still runs close to the house. We begged her every day to take us there. So after lunch the five of us would meander over in the hot sun. The water was cool and crystal clear then.  But, one afternoon when we arrived at the river, it was swarming with police and neighbours. 
       Our former clear sparkling river now all muddy on August 2020.
  We were told a boy had drowned and they were looking for the body. "Popo" never took us there ever again as she believed the boy's spirit would reach out for more souls.
For "popo," 
         We return to a place in the past and remember it as it was. But it will never be the same. We  carry our memories deep in our minds, and sometimes they fade away into the far depths like a sudden cool breeze on a sunny day. 

    The phrase “You can’t go home again” comes from the title of the novel by Thomas Wolfe published posthumously in 1940.


  1. What beautiful memories you have to hug to yourself.
    I never knew any of my relatives, but only the immediate family.
    I had a very similar haircut in another country. You are right about your super cool dude brothers too. I learnt to swim in a river, and loved it.

  2. I live town I was born in. I meant all my grandparent except one. I have fond memories of them...