Memories of Childhood

One of the greater dreams of many men is to travel back in time, to explore and encounter moments in the past which have long become a memory - perhaps to change an event which shaped their lives thereafter, or to simply experience the joys of lost love, peaceful moments, sheer pleasure. I find my personal time machine in the silence of the late afternoon.

There has always been some mystical quality about the afternoon that seemed to bring me back to my childhood. The lazy air, the quietness as everyone is either out at work or enjoying an afternoon nap, the smell of the grass heated by the rays of the sun, the warmth… these sights, sounds and smells remind me of a time when I was once young, without a care in the world, eager to explore all that life had to offer.

I especially appreciate the magic of a late afternoon at the old estate where I used to live. In land scarce Singapore, it is uncommon to find large expanses of open land or water. Which was precisely what made Bedok Reservoir Housing Estate so special. Located just beside a small reservoir, with residents who were primarily young, working couples living in their first home, afternoons in the estate were especially lonely. Not that it mattered to me as a child. Armed with my Walkman and bike, I would spend hours upon hours during the school holidays exploring the estate. With Vivaldi or Beethoven's works as my companion, I sought to further acquaint myself with every inch of the small estate, not that I was not already familiar with it. I knew where each corner led to, where the drains had no covers, where the ground was smoother so that I could try stunts, where the views of the reservoir were most breathtaking.

And as the late afternoon slowly matured into the early evening, where the buses would come more often and the children would come home from school, the special feelings would slowly fade away. The sun loses its gentle touch at the back of your neck, the sleepy zephyr picks up and becomes an impersonal wind. The smells of nature are gone, replaced by the smells of houses cooking dinner. The silence, a sweet blanket, is rudely tugged away by the sounds of civilisation.

I found something special in those solitary journeys. Something that has now become a part of me. Like many feelings, it is impossible to describe. But it is there, evoked every time any of those individual sights, smells and sounds manifest themselves.

The magic of the late afternoon is still very real today. Although I am now older and - hopefully - more mature, I still have a yearning within me to reach out to those moments which were so beautiful to me as a child. It's much harder now. Many things vie for my attention. It seems such a 'waste' of time to spend an afternoon doing absolutely nothing.

But we must understand that there is no such thing as a 'waste' of time. Time is invested in different things, but instead of trying so hard to find returns in the form of money or love, let's rebuild our little personal time machines. And travel back to where we once were and rediscover the childhood that we so willingly lost but can never regain. Hmm. I'm beginning to sound preachy.

This was written on the 12th December 1995, for a college application essay.