THE OLD HOUSE
Written by Yo-Yo Lin, Creator & Art Director
Lao Jia is nestled in-between two jumbo apartment buildings and obscured by a highway overpass in Taipei. It seems quite out of place, like it had been transported from an ancient countryside and dropped into a metropolis. We call it Lao Jia, but you can call it The Old House, if you like.
This is where my father grew up. I never really understood how much he missed it when we moved to the United States. Whenever we would visit in the summer he would tell me stories about his childhood. My father would often talk to me about invisible things. The koi pond that my great-grandfather had loved. Or the railroad track that used to be in front of the house, where the highway is now. Or the river my father would spend his childhood days catching fish and swimming in.
A lot has changed since The Old House was built. The city skyline grew, roads narrowed and the modern world consumed everything around it. But it’s still there, barely noticeable behind a freeway exit.
Now my father is retired and living in Taipei. He visits Lao Jia every week and walks from empty room to empty room, touching up here and there. The house was once home to many. My father's grandfather, Ah Zho, had twelve sons and each had a room in Lao Jia. Ah Zho wanted to keep his family close and built the house in the 1960s so that his sons could also raise their children there. Soon enough, the home was filled with life. My father recalls playing baseball with all his cousins in the yard and fighting for food at the dinner table. If you were late to the table, you knew you were going to bed hungry. Daily life circulated around big family meals, religious celebrations, and running the factory down the street, now known as Taipei Oxygen Company. While the business has since grown exponentially, my great grandfather originally built Lao Jia with everything he made from selling bricks for construction. Because the family had little money, no one had a camera to document the house or what my father looked like as child. But more importantly, he said, no one wanted to record daily life anyway. That is an invention of a recent past, he says.
It’s obvious to me that I will never see Lao Jia as home. I often wonder if the children born in my generation will ever come back to that place. We didn’t grow up there, so why would we? Yet in the dusty floorboards and photographs of relatives whose names I could not pronounce, I found a place frozen in time where I can piece together the parts that made my father who he is.
And when it comes to places we love, my father and I aren't all that different.
Art Director, The Family