Beginner's Heart

thai klong

via wikicommons

I am blessed w/ the most thoughtful & generous of friends. As anyone who has the slightest contact w/ me (through this blog or otherwise) knows, this has been a very rough week. Deaths, heart attacks, ugly lawsuits, and more. Not my happiest week!

So here comes yesterday’s mail, only retrieved from the mailbox this afternoon. Did I mention it’s just flat hard to even get out of bed (although to be fair, the arthritis precedes the bad days)? But after I cooked, cleaned, did bills, and all the other junk that fills average days, I decided to venture into the freshening winter chill and collect  yesterday’s mail.

And there it was: my friend Misha’s gift. A HUGE book of travel writing all about Thailand. In case you don’t know, I grew up in Thailand. Travelled all over central & southern Thailand, spending summers shuttling between our home in Bangkok and my father’s two other residences — one in the then-tiny town of Phuket (spelled Bhuket back then), and the other in Nakorn Srithammarat, over the mountains about 5 hours or so from Phuket.

the author's

my sister (in front) riding an elephant at a school fair

In those days, you took a ferry from the mainland to get to the island. It was a true backwater, only one hotel, serving only Thai food (if you exclude my father’s mainstay of tough steak). We rented a villa nestled cosily between a crematorium and a pig slaughterhouse. Daddy got it cheap. In Bangkok, each year we moved to a different residence. Alternate years we went ‘home’ to Oklahoma. The house in Nakorn was arguably the nieces one of all, but we spent very little time in it. A house on a beautiful island meant we could go to the beach! What could compare to that?

Since my younger childhood was spent in Saigon, most of my childhood memories centre on Southeast Asia. I first visited Bangkok at 9, when my mother & father went for a short trip. So many years ago there were still occasional elephants on the outskirts of town, ridden by slim young men and even boys, who guided the giant beasts w/ a short stick and well-developed leg muscles. Years later, my sister would ride one at a school fair.

Nakorn Srithammarat villa

Nakorn Srithammarat villa

All of this is by way of saying that Misha could have sent me nothing better guaranteed to take me out of my doldrums. While my life overseas was far from perfect — my father was gone most of the time, and I missed my old ladies desperately — it was far closer to bliss than my life in the intervening years, spent sadly out of place in suburban Oklahoma schools. It would take me years to figure out the name for this kind of visceral misplacedness: third culture kid. The kid who grew up neither here nor there, the expat brat who resigned herself to not having school reunions, or old friends.

But then there is Misha. And Pat. And Ben, and Dewayne, and Eileen, and so many of my friends from my job working with teachers. Since I’ve done nothing to deserve such wonderful friends (and really — I am NOT just saying that), I am more than content to acknowledge how lucky I am. Just Friday Pat texted me (from the hospital!), to tell me BFFs tell their friends when they have heart palpitations (yes, they do!) And Ben sends me his fiction to read, & Eileen asks me to work with her, while Dewayne answers FB questions… I am the luckiest of folks in terms of my friends. Even if (maybe particularly because!) they didn’t go to middle or high school with me.

Beginner’s heart… the process of trying to figure out how we can all love each other a little better, a little more generously, with a little more wisdom & compassion. Trying to be present, to listen, to be the friend you’d like to have. I don’t do it nearly well enough, but apparently I’m doing something right. I have the coolest of friends to show for it; The book of Thailand travel narratives is just icing. 🙂

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