Our Grandma's Stationery Shop


Being sisters who used to live under the same roof, Amethy and I inevitably share tons of memories. We have recently talked about how spending time in our grandma’s stationery shop was one of our best childhood memories and these little pieces still stayed in our mind throughout the years.

To give you a little bit of background, my grandparents started running a small stationery shop when they were in their early 30s. The shop was also their home, where my mother grew up in along with her siblings. Having the home and business in one place was a common practice for shop owners back in the days as it is more cost effective. With the front being the shop, the back, and the second-floor being storage and living area, it was very crowded considering the whole family of 11 used live together, including our great-grandmother!

Since our grandfather had passed away before we can remember, we have always referred this stationery store as “grandma’s shop”. It carries nothing fancy but basic office supplies along with a couple of home essentials, so you really see all kinds of people walking through the doors. It could have been a young working lady stopping by for some new pens for her office job, a mom bringing along her 12-year-old to get some new stationery for the new school year (they would get one of those fancy two-sided magnetic clasp pencil cases that I longed for), or the elderly store owner from the cafe next door buying a couple of tissue paper packs for his customers (he would stay and chat with grandma before heading back to work). I remember going to her shop always felt like going to Disneyland!

At grandma’s shop, Amethy and I used to jump up and down the store looking for things to “help out” with, but the most exciting task was taking the one and only grand seat at the storefront being the cashier behind this long glass display while grandma taking the *less important* seat at her work desk actually completing orders. This scene is so vivid that I still remember most of the product placement, especially that box of erasers on the top shelf we were so fond of rearranging every 30 minutes, that rusted can of scotch tape on the side shelf facing the street that our mother was always convinced that we need more at home, those scented notebooks with cartoon characters that we have never heard of (even until this day) that I love taking it out and sniffing. Although our grandma is no longer sitting in that store waiting for us to visit on Sundays, these heartwarming moments come rushing in whenever I think of her.

I am still in my mid-20s and the topic of death seems very far from me. However, recent events have brought me to think more deeply about mourning our deceased loved ones. I had always thought that if I love a person dearly, the pain and sadness would persist and that is how everyone faces death. However, when time goes by, I find it surprising that the wound would actually heal and it is not painful to think of them anymore, and I have moved on with my life without me realizing.

It almost feels like moving on is bound to happen, and it is left for us to choose how we want to carry on with these memories. Although I will never truly know what grandma would think, I am confident that she would not want me to feel sad whenever I think of her, and I refuse to let the end of our story define the relationship we built throughout the years. It was such pure and innocent time we spent together that they always bring a smile to my face, so I choose to remember her in our best memories and let a piece of her stay in me.

Although I personally am a skeptic about afterlives, I admire the Chinese tradition of the Qingming Festival where families pay a visit to their ancestors. I have to admit that when I was small, it had felt like a duty doing all the rituals, but I have finally come to the realization that I also want a time and a way to feel connected with them again.