When talking about rooftops, I have endless stories to tell. When I was a child, I lived on the top floor, just below the rooftop, in a “tong lau” building in To Kwa Wan. The rooftop was shared by four interconnected buildings, so you can imagine how spacey it was!
During the daytime, the rooftop was a playground for children, where they played shuttlecock kicking, badminton, football, kite flying and all kinds of group games like “red light, green light”, hide-and-seek, and “eagle catches chicken”. At night, it became a leisure haven for adults. They practised kung fu, boxing with sandbags, played mahjongs, listened to the radio, played Erhu and harmonica, smoked shisa and enjoyed the breeze there. Some even set up a canvas bed and stayed overnight.
Celebrating festivals and holidays were the happiest moments. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, neighbours gathered on the rooftop gazing at the moon and enjoyed mooncakes together. Children ran around with lanterns and played with wax burning. During Chinese New Year, we celebrated by lighting firecrackers, leaving the red papers scattered around the floor. As I recall, the rooftop was filled with excitement, happiness and human warmth!
I remember the fence wall was hung with all kinds of potted plants, while on the other side, there was a small flower bed in which wild pursley and seasonal vegetables were grown. A shed was also built to grow bitter melons and asparagus beans. Some even raise poultry there. My family had two little Tang dogs as pets. To create more moving space for them, we always kept our entrance door open so they could travel freely to the rooftop. The rooftop was also where I used to bath them with my siblings, but they always resisted by running around and things ended up chaotic. When we moved to the public housing estate, we reluctantly transferred them to a friend.
I had a rather happy childhood thanks to the spacey rooftop, which provided more than enough space for the neighbours and I to walk around and we created a lot of happy memories there. Time and tide wait for no man. I know many tong lau buildings in To Kwa Wan are about to be demolished and be forgotten, but my childhood memories of the rooftop will always be in my heart.