Time, the enemy of many things has begun to erode what little memory I have left of my childhood home. My family and I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 7 and I regrettably have not been able to return to Hong Kong, U.K. since. My memories of life on the lovely bustling little island have now begun to go missing in large portions, like one of those old movie reels where the acetate has started to erase the contents from existence.
One of my strongest memory was accompanying Mother everyday down the hill to the market for food. It was an open market by the docks. I always knew when we were close because the smell of the ocean mixed in with all the live seafood greets my nostrils long before my eyes can see the rolls of stalls. When we entered the cluster of stalls, vendors projected their voices advertising wares from the left, from the right, the sound of male voices covered the air in a loud hum. One louder than the other in hopes to capture shoppers’ attention like a moth to a flame. Combine the voices with the clucking of chickens and ducks, the swishing of fish still swimming, and the snapping of the live crabs and lobsters claws, it was almost a sensory overload at times. I remember one time specifically that Mother had purchased a particularly large fish for dinner. It was still swimming in its red plastic tub of salt water. We brought it home and Mother began to prepare it when she suddenly let out a rather undignified squeak. I ran into the kitchen to see the commotion and saw the fish fillet in half. Yet the white sack which I can only assume was the heart was still rising and falling as if it was still whole. Mother was terrified but I found it oddly curious and poked the white sack which made her let out a second squeamish noise followed by “how can you touch that?” I shrugged my shoulders and leisurely strolled out of the kitchen.
To this day, I still remember that fish laying on the wooden cutting board, partly dissected but refusing to die. Those fish eyes staring while it’s little heart drew its last ditch effort of living. Of course perhaps properly butchering the fish would have prevented such an jarring image but then that wonderful day of shopping would have been amongst one of many destined to be forgotten.
Fleeting Memories Redubbed
Time, the enemy of many things has begun to erode what little memory I have left of my childhood home. My family and I immigrated to Flushing, New York when I was 7 and I have yet returned to visit. My memories of life in Flushing, New York have begun to go missing in large portions, like one of those old movie reels where acetate has begun to erase it from existence.
One of my strongest memories of life in Flushing was the first time I accompanied Grandmother to the supermarket for food. Every Wednesday she would walk down Kissena Blvd to Waldbaum’s because Wednesday was double coupon day! With the little foldable wheeled grocery cart in hand we would venture to the large grocery chain taking small delights in the displays as we passed shop windows. The entrance to Waldbaum’s was two one-way automatic doors triggered by stepping on the thick black rubber matting, sometimes with bits of produce still stuck in the deep groves. Immediately upon entering, my ears were overwhelmed by the loud shrilling hum of the dusty overhead vent. Pouring down a veil of bitter cold air or subjecting its patrons with a wrath of sudden agonizing heat – depending on the time of year. There was always a faint fragrance of pine sol which illuminated the store. It was strange to go to a store to purchase food but the smell and sounds gave more of a hospital vibe, unwelcoming and full of dead things in packages. Everything was refrigerated and shrinkwrapped; the chicken, the beef, the seafood, all tidy in their own little designated spaces in the open cooling units complete with a set price. There were to be no haggling or choosing which fish looked the freshest. It was all uniformly controlled & priced for efficiency. It was profoundly odd to identify the fish not by its head or tail but by the baby blue styrofoam tray tightly shrinkwrapped for ‘freshness’ with a ‘sell-by date’ stamped on its label. The fillet itself was neatly packaged in perfectly surgical precisioned portions and the almighty shrinkwrap assured that no remnant of it ever being fishy in the ocean escaped its grasp.
To this day, I still remember how initially unsettling it was to go food shopping inside of a climate controlled building where almost everything were in tidy shrinkwrapped packages. Over the years the details begin to blur but certain moments such as this are ingrained with such force that it refuses to be one of many destined to be forgotten.