the 4 pm routine – then & now

then; 14 years ago –

at three years old, life had a routine to it – a cycle of waking up after a long night’s sleep, going to the wet market, coming back for lunch, a blackout of memory (which I’ll assume to be a nap), going to the park, etc… for a while, life was stable, good, predictable, and filled with the same excitement each day.

going to the park was a regular 4PM thing. most of the time, we’d go to the park that was right below our building. you’d sit on the brown-tiled ledges and mingle in a chatter of words I could never decipher, while I ran around the metal complex, so huge and intricate only to me. I’d run back to you occasionally for the snacks and a drink of water from the small worn nylon bag, and you’d take the time to pull out a cloth to pat down my small hot and sweaty back. it was never comfortable when you left it tucked over the back of my shirt collar, cotton bristles poking my skin; somehow, it’d always mysteriously find its way to the floor.

on special days, when everything was done and cleaned and cooked and washed and we had time, we’d head over to the even bigger park with two (!!) swing sets, five themed sections of even more metal, and maybe even bump into my cousins.

no matter what, 4PM always trickled quickly into 5PM, and I’d return home with flushed skin, dripping wet bangs, and fresh callouses.

then; 8 years ago –

at nine years old, school was alright. after school was a lot more eventful – after school activities (that year, I did table tennis and chinese dance) left me exhausted when it was time to board the school bus home.

the cool, older kids always loitered outside the buses, standing around in the parking lot talking, next to long stretches of dying sunshine. it wasn’t a problem for us younger ones – despite the dark and somewhat dingy bus, we’d be trading snacks and games; a small handful of mamee noodles for half an oreo and , taking turns with cat’s cradle and trying to beat a non-existent record for the fastest double star pulled with a rubber band.

we’d always leave before 4.40, travelling under a darkening sky, and I’d always be home a little after 5.

now –

the past three-four years have brought so many changes, with each day running a different schedule. some days I’ll still be at school, stuck in class or at an after school activity; other days I’ll be on the road, stuck in a jam or on my merry way home. recently, i’ve had the pleasure of being at home at 4PM, having come home a little past noon.

the past week itself at the same time, on monday I had just gotten home; on tuesday I was out buying gifts; wednesday, out at the nearby market doing last-minute grocery shopping; thursday, at school preparing dinner; friday, at home napping.

nowadays, there’s no more routine or pattern to my days anymore, and that’s what makes them most fun.

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