29 February 2012

FAMILY – Part 2: Meeting my mother and Thai Family

Due to some unbelievable dedication by my friend’s brother, Tony (my hero!  Pictured below and in another post...), and his network of friends and family, along with a governor of another province and a village leader, they were able to track down my mother.   Their initial findings were that she was alive and her last known address was in a village north of Korat.

From Tony: (This) would not be accomplished without the help from my cousin--the ex-governor of Ratburi Province. He helped to contact Chaiyapum's City official to find April's mom whereabouts. Then, the head of the district contacted me back that they found April's mom’s house and even gave me the phone # of April's brother. A big thanks to P' Oood (Mr. Suthep Komonphamorn)

Shortly after that, Tony spoke with my brother who remembers writing the card to me for my mother seven years ago and said that my mother was in Korat and would go pick her up until I got there.  Tony arranged for a van and driver to take us there on Monday and when he called my brother, Ord, to let him know of the arrangements, he said that when he told my mom that I was here to find her, she started crying.

Monday morning I met up with Tony, his mom and his aunt from Australia as they’re all going with me to meet my mom.  It was so great to have the emotional support and to help guide me through some Thai cultural greetings and such by giving me a crash course in the van on the way there as it’s supposed to be a three-hour ride to my brother’s house north of Korat.

Lunch stop on the way to my family's (Tony, his aunt and mom)
Me with my new extended family

During the drive a million emotions are going through my body at any given moment.  And I can’t stop wanting to cry…. Which is so unlike me.  I’m happy, scared, excited, anxious, in disbelief, and just in pure shock that my brain is not computing how to respond.  To be honest, I had no idea what to even say or ask first.  Thirty years I’ve been waiting for this moment and my mind is blank as to what to say.  Typical.

As we approach my brother’s village through a lot of farmland, I wonder what would my life had been like had I been raised by my mother here in Thailand.  Would I be living in this farmland?  Would I be one of those Thai people that knows little to no English? Would I be escorting a bunch of cows to some pasture?  Would I be selling pineapple out of a cart? I can’t possibly imagine what my life would have been here or what I would be doing for a career/survival.  Talk about a major split in the road 30 years ago.

We get to the outside of the village and someone meets us outside of it in a car and escorts us to the house.  We’re driving through dirt roads and I’m told that the village specializes in chicken shit for manure.  (Hmm, that would definitely have been a very different life I would have had here.)  We finally pull up to the house and I’m nervous.  I don’t even know what to do with myself.  I get out of the van and turn around to get my bag when Tony is speaking to a woman behind me and then tells me it’s my mother.  I instantly go to hug her even though I was told that should bow to her first, but she went in for the hug too.  Of course I start crying, I’ve been a big, sopping, emotional mess for days now.  I initially didn’t recognize her (that answers that question I’ve always had) but then saw that there was something in her eyes that I recognized.  And while studying her face more, I saw all the facial features I once knew.

FIRST time my mother and I have seen each other in 30 years
(Btw, I just noticed my family in the background watching us.  Super cute!)

Traditional bow to elders

After that it was meeting one family member after another – and there were a lot of them!  I met my sister and two brothers all in their late 40’s, early 50’s.  Then I met my nieces and nephews and their children.  I’m an aunt!   And I’m a great-aunt!  And a sister!  All these titles I never had before (not in a blood-relation sense).

I was escorted into the home to sit down on the ground (typical Thai-style) with my mother and look at a bag filled with all of the cards, letters and pictures that she has kept all these years along with letters that my dad had sent, addresses and phone numbers of my family members in the US.  I was so unbelievably moved that she had kept all these mementos of me.  What I also didn’t realize was that one of the last letters that I sent was right before I went into junior high.  Pretty much since then, I stopped all contact.  I don’t even remember why I stopped writing her.  Being a typical teenager perhaps.

My mom showing all the cards, letters and pictures of me that she's kept for the last 30 years
A letter that I wrote to her before going into junior high
Showing my mom pictures of me growing up over the last 30 years

When she was done showing me all of those items, I presented her with a small photo album with all of my photos of growing up over the years.  There were photos of Halloween costumes, birthday parties, Amy, Holly, and I growing up together, proms, homecoming, travel and current photos of myself and my friends.

Sticky rice with mango

Then we (Tony, his mother, aunt and I – they’re family to me now too) were presented with an amazing display of food that was soooo good! I even ate all of it (you’d be very proud of me!).  We talked, asked questions, took pictures together and I kept holding this one cute (big) baby (my great-nephew) who really liked me and apparently wanted to be breast-fed by me, to which I amusingly hand him back over to my niece to take care of.  Then I’m asked to sit in a different location, to which my mother then held my right hand and rubbed a string on my wrist that had a knot in it and tied it to my wrist as a symbol of welcoming me to Thailand, to the family, and to keep our spirit connected. Then the rest of the family, friends and village proceeded to do the same in this welcoming ceremony.  It was incredibly moving to hear them welcoming me and saying they’ve been waiting for me to come home along with some other things in Thai of which I didn’t understand but hopefully in the same spirit as what everyone else was saying.  Of course I kept crying.  They also welcomed Tony and his family too.  I look down and I have a bunch of white strings tied to my wrists of all these people who have tied their spirit to me. 

Welcome/spirit ceremony

My nephew... who's probably my age

My brother and I

Even Tony and his family are welcomed to the family

Presenting gifts to the family to remember me by

When people say they’ve been waiting for you, I wonder if they have all the same questions and thoughts that I’ve had for the last 30 years?  Were they as curious about me as I was about them?  With a language barrier, it’s difficult to ask them these kinds of questions.  I would love to hear what they have to share, but we all struggled through questions.

The family... well, part of it.

This baby is my great-nephew!  But everyone including myself call him my son.  He even looks like my baby pictures!
And was taken right after he wanted me to breast-feed him...

Unfortunately after a couple of hours, we had to get back to Bangkok.  I take more pictures of them and with them, along with exchange contact info.  I tell my mom that I’ll come back to visit her and spend time with her in Korat where she lives.  We all say our goodbyes and we depart.  

My mom, sister and great-nephew

The village leader who helped in locating my family who was greeting me on my way out

Many thanks to Tony for taking all these pictures and documenting the whole reunion. They turned out wonderfully and you forever have my gratitude for all that you have done. 

More to come...


At February 29, 2012 at 3:23 AM , Blogger Cynthia Allred Virtual Assistant/Marketing/Event Planning said...

Beautiful! I am so touched and happy for your bliss April!!!!

At February 29, 2012 at 11:47 AM , Anonymous nils said...

That's so great April. I have tears in my eyes

At March 1, 2012 at 4:22 AM , Blogger Albert said...

Amazing! What an incredible moment. Thank you for sharing, April.

At March 2, 2012 at 2:13 PM , Anonymous Marcella said...

What a story! I'm crying and sooo happy for you! I'm lovin' this blog!

At March 8, 2012 at 8:29 AM , Anonymous J. Lee said...

Great story April! (I got the forward from Vishnu). Thanks for sharing. This was awesome!

At April 1, 2012 at 3:53 AM , Anonymous Sean said...

Man... Really glad that you've
found her and been welcomed into such a warm family...


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