When I was at a very young age, I remember playing with the kid next door named Ramlee, the girl from across the street - Tina with her shy little brother, Jonah, who was always tagging along. All of us lived in the same neighbourhood. All of the residents knew each other and built trust as time passed.
We spent most of our mornings running around the playground after we wolfed down our breakfast. Our mothers could not do anything to have us sit down at the breakfast table and finish off every morsel of what was on the plate without making a mess on the table. My mother would nag as she cleaned off the biscuit crumbs around the plate and sometimes, the floor.
By the time I finished my breakfast, Tina and Jonah would be at my door and we would rush to Ramlee's house to wake him up. He was pulled out of bed by us and then out of the house to the playground before he could even finish off his breakfast. A lot of people would pass by the playground on their way to work because it was the only way out of the neighbourhood. Neighbours would tell us to be careful playing and watch our footsteps while running and we would stick our tongues out before bidding them goodbye.
Before we knew it, afternoon came. Afternoons are the quietest time of the neighbourhood, with most of the residents at work and most of our brothers and sisters having school. Just as we were about to doze off on the slide, Tina's mother would call us in to her house for lunch. Mak Minah's cooking was the best back then. We could even smell the aroma from across the street sometimes. We would feel energised after licking the last drop of gravy off the plate. After that, Tina, Ramlee and I would have to watch the television show 'Tom and Jerry' for time to pass as we waited for Jonah, who was eating like a hamster to finish nibbling on his food.
In a blink of an eye, it was evening already. It was time for our daddies to come back home from work. We would rush back home to welcome our dads. Mother would have prepared dinner so we would dine together with our own families. Night came the fastest. I would kiss my parents good night before getting into bed and hoping to dream of Santa Claus.
As we grew up, many neighbours had moved out to a much busier city. I would never understand why all of them looked forward to living in some places full of hustle and bustle. Tina's family moved before we were even in elementary school. People we were once familiar with moved out and new neighbours moved in. But every time I look out of my window, the new family occupying Tina's house always have their door closed and windows shut tight. The last time I saw them was when they were moving in and declined our help.
Ramlee and I are still friends. We often talk about Tina, wondering what kind of lifestyle she is having. We could imagine her number of admirers as she must have grown up to be a beautiful lady while Jonah, a shy young lad. We have been hoping that Tina will one day show up and say she misses her childhood here and that she still remembers us. We have been hoping that the neighbours who are having their doors shut tight will one day open up their hearts and invite us to their homes for dinner.
Our neighbourhood had changed a lot in the last decade. I sincerely hope that one day, our warm smiles will improve the relationships between us and the new neighbours. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day that someone from the family living in the house across the street returns our smiles with a shy 'hello'.