I was really excited when I had to sketch a cognitive map of my neighbourhood when I was nine or ten years old. It has been a long time since I moved from that neighbourhood, so revisiting the place where I grew up would be a wonderful experience.
I was really unsure of what to sketch at first since there were so many memories. I had no idea where to begin. Thus, I decided to start from my house and, in my mind, walk to the places I used to frequent. Although I was ten at the time, I was still able to recall each space so vividly.
Just for a moment, the exercise made me want to go back to ten years old, to have fun with my friends at the bus stop and to relax at the corniche with my family.
When I asked my eight-year-old sister if she liked going outside and playing with her friends, she said she prefers staying at home and playing with her dollhouse, and playing Roblox with her friends over a video chat. She said she didn’t have any “real” friends in the neighbourhood and that she doesn’t go out much. It made me really sad how everything these days are limited to inside the home. If she were to sketch a cognitive map, would she be able to?
As part of the second exercise, I made a collage reflecting my relationship with my childhood home. I had to remember how my childhood home smelled, what the light was like inside, if it was hot and cold, and if it was noisy or quiet.
When I think about my childhood home, I always get an image of Friday mornings in my head, when my father used to get ready for the mosque and my mother was mopping the floor. I can actually smell the floor cleaner she used to use, which made our apartment smell very fresh. Later I came to know that she used to use a pine-scented disinfectant. I have smelled pine after that, but it never felt as similar or as good as my childhood home. While my parents were busy preparing for the day, I would spend my time sulking about it still being dark outside at nine in the morning and that I shouldn’t have to wake up so early on a weekend. I remember Friday being the only day our apartment was cool because this was the only day my mother would let us turn on the air conditioner. Stepping out to the balcony to say bye to my father while he left for the mosque was a completely different experience because it was always so hot outside. Our apartment always heard vehicles, and we only understood how annoying this was when we moved into a quiet neighbourhood. While I carved out from thermocol to make a model of my childhood, I realised just how small it had been. It was a whole world for me when I was younger.
I have lived in two other apartments apart from my childhood home, but I’m most attached to my childhood home. I think it is because I was so carefree when I was nine years old and spent so much time experiencing my home. Growing up meant that while I was physically present at home, I was mentally kept busy with schoolwork and a lot of other responsibilities.
While each of us think that it won’t be easy to remember the small details of something that happened more than ten years ago, our body and mind will always carry these memories.