Monday, November 30, 2009
I fear I concluded the story of my boy with the red ball too abruptly. My last night in Pong Yaeng came quickly and I was in a hurry to notify my family of a discovery.
There is a constant reoccurring theme in my life; a red thread, so to speak, that leads me to special people. For example, how I came to be at Bunnies By the Bay is a story that seems, upon the first hearing of it, unbelievable. I survived an earthquake in 1963 on Wu Fung Road. Others who survived are our shareholders and partners. We came together on the slimmest of reasons and tracked down two American sisters who had founded the company. We did not know at the time what desperate straits they were in. This tale knits us together even today, twelve years later, the way disasters bind strangers. The way soldiers become brothers. It amazes me how small signs and tokens have revealed themselves to me not to guide me, but to confirm new directions that seem frightening at the time.
These signs also seems haphazard and sometimes when I recount these tales to my analytical husband I see that look glaze across his eyes…”oh, there goes my artist wife again.” But he supports and believes in the luck that surrounds me. Even a handful of you, my new friends on Wu Fung Road, will be friends for life. I already know this. There are signs of red threads tangled about our ankles. And so my interest in this boy who has played in the fields across the ravine from my house in Thailand was one of those experiences I became almost embarrassed to reveal to my friends and partners.
It was hard explaining why I was so interested in him; I found his recycling of the TIGER BRAND RUBBER BALL into the many things I saw it become over three years very reassuring. Perhaps ALL things could be remade and used they way he constantly seemed to refashion his deflated red ball until it had been rued down to its truest, smallest thing. A red patch. Today, finally back in the USA, I tried to explain this to my partners who were curious why my last three posts were so “long and wordy.” That is when I realized how ridiculous I must appear to them. So over dramatic. Always digging for this connection. But then, I am ridiculous.
As I have written, my house in Thailand constantly needs to be aired out when I am away. This year, 12 months went by without visiting and when I arrived last week I spend nearly the entire time airing, cleaning and doing over 139 loads of laundry (stopped counting) and after only spending half an afternoon painting, I thought I must break down and hire a part time house keeper. It seemed an extravagance. A caretaker for an empty house. But a wonderful housekeeper came recommended by my neighbors. The next morning Kuhn Dao was at my door slipping off her shoes.
She was lovely, helpful, cheerful, independent and vaguely familiar. When she blew through a room, she left it hospital clean. It was only at the end of the day when I still could not quite put my finger on what it was about her that seemed so, well, close, I noticed that familiar color of coral that I have associated with the boy who had himself a grand time with a red ball and lost it. In a blink, I saw an eye-shaped patch on the back of her bicycle tire as she waved goodbye and scrambled over seat. I was as stunned to find my broken Thai voice as her feet were to find the pedals. With one hard push, she was off. I had just given her a key, established an account to pay her and handed over my Thai life to her. As I saw the red patch turn and turn it very suddenly dawned on me… she was the boy’s mother.
I raced after her, but she was gone so I continued through the gate running up to the Post Bar stumbling into his Post Office….”Did you know my new housekeeper is THE BOY’S mother?" I spilled a dozen questions in quick succession. Over a cup of tea the young Post Master calmed me down and told me what he knew. He IS the post office after all. He knows a lot. To protect her, I cannot be specific. I do know that last year she lost the land lease for the field she farmed and her motorcycle and was desperate for money so that her children could attend school. No one is too clear about her husband but it is presumed he is in Burma. She was introduced to my neighbors by the gardener who looks after our properties and in the year I have been away everything in her life has changed.
So what does this mean? Why is the very child I have sought to protect and worried about from my perch now live in the shadow of my eaves? Why did this boy seem to lunge at me so many times. Was he trying to get my attention without seeming to? What role will he play in my future?
I was sad to drive down the mountain yesterday dawn to catch my flight to Bangkok, on to Taipei, and finally overnight, back across the Pacific to Whidbey Island. As I flew I kept thinking with some amazement that they would be in and out of my house until I return at Christmas. I wondered what they would make of it. As I write this tonight, right now, Dao is unlocking my doors in Pong Yaeng and throwing open all the shutters to awaken the spirit living it my studio and sleeping rooms. She will keep my hearth going so that next month when our large extended Asian based family reunites for my daughter Leigh's wedding it will be cozy and clean.
Will she recognize the paintings hanging there as being of her children? Will the children come and visit and stare at my strange pictures wondering if I have been watching them? Maybe it will be something like Yoli’s daughter Paloma and Maia’s ball hurling QQ will experience someday when they come to behold the careful record their mother's have made of their journey to all of us. Will they understand they were cared for long before they were aware of it and by complete strangers? Will this empower them? We love them for no reason. Will Dau see that I have cared about her family since that day she took her strong willed boy and compliant daughter down the hill to sell their cabbages?
It does not matter either way.