Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mother's Day - Thailand

Yesterday, Wednesday 12 August, was the Queen's birthday. It was also Mother's day in Thailand. Mother's Day has coincided with the Queen's Birthday since the early 1950s.

Since it was the Queen's Birthday, the Royal flags along the streets and roads had been changed to blue with the Queen's logo. Each day of the week has a color associated with it. Duang and I were both born on Thursday so our color is orange. The Queen was born on Friday so her color is blue. Since the King was born on a Monday, his color is yellow. Many Thais dress according to this color scheme. On Mondays especially you will see many people wearing yellow shirts in honor of the King. There were many large pictures of the Queen prominently displayed alongside the roads, public buildings and businesses. At the Mall there was a large display dedicated to her along with a book where you could write birthday greetings to her. I was a little confused for awhile. She was born in 1930, but many of the formal portraits were of a young woman - I thought that they were of her daughter. It turns out that the photos were actually of the Queen when she was younger.

I guess that it is similar to some of the obituaries that I see in US newspapers. There will be a picture of a handsome young man or beautiful woman in their mid-thirties. When you read the obituary, you determine that they were 85 years old at the time of their death! I don't know if the disparity is due to a lack of a more recent photography or is how people wanted others to remember the departed.

For Mother's day, children are expected to visit their mother as well as favorite older Aunts and pay their respects to them. The day before, Duang and I had gone to the Mall to pay a bill. There was a craft fair being held in the parking lot across from the Mall. We ended up buying two blouses for Duang's mother and a blouse for one of her Aunts. The blouses were $3.00 each.

We drove out to Tahsang Village to pay our respects to Duang's mother. As we have been doing lately, I drove from our home to just past Kumphawapi while Duang drove the remainder of the way to the village. She recently got her driver's license and developing more confidence in driving. Confidence was definitely needed yesterday. The roads were very busy with people travelling to visit their mothers. There was more crazy driving then is normal - perhaps due to "celebrating".

We arrived at the village and waited for Duang's older sister to arrive before presenting the gifts. I occupied my time playing with Peelawat - our 6 month old grandson. When Duang's sister arrived, both daughters put their gifts on a plate. They supplicated themselves (krab) on the floor at their Mother's feet and offered their plates to her. They said something along the lines of "I love you. I am very happy that you are a good Mother. You took care of me for a long time. I wish that you live a very long time." Their Mother put her hand on the plate while it was being offered and said things along the line of "Good Luck for you. I wish you a long life. You take care of Mother and Father. When Mother and father die, you take care of sister, brother, grandson. You love your husband. Buddha will take care of you." She then accepted the gifts. After taking care of her mother, Duang repeated the ritual with her Aunt who is blind.

I was suffering from a sore foot that Duang had massaged and put "Tiger Balm" on prior to leaving the house. Duang's aunt was known to be an expert in massage therapy so I was encouraged to see what she could do for me. She was very old and appeared to be frail however her fingers were like rods of steel! She commenced to massage my sore foot. My flinches and gasps were all quite entertaining to Peelawat as I held him. He smiled and laughed every time I gasped in pain and flinched my body. I told her that I thought she worked as an interrogator for the police and that I was ready to confess. If I had not been holding Peelawat, the flinching would have been much greater. The old woman worked me over for a very long time. She seemed to know exactly where it hurt the most. After a very long time she was finally done. I wiped the moisture from my eyes and refocused on playing with Peelawat. Today the foot is better but that may only be due to the endorphines brought on by her strong fingers.

Duang's old aunt disappeared. Soon I heard Duang's father yelling and moaning from outside. He lays on a raised platform outside the house under the shade of the roof overhang, smoking, and listening to the radio. Today he was getting a massage. I felt much better listening to his agony and made sure that everyone knew that he was making much more noise as well as fuss as I had.

Duang's brothers came and paid their respects to their mother. As is traditional they gave her garlands of jasmine and some cash.

As Duang did her family thing and got caught up on the village gossip, I played with Peelawat. Today he crawled for the first time. Things are going to change quickly now. In the first 5 minutes of being able to crawl, he had gotten into trouble three times.

Peelawat is also working very hard at "talking". He and I ended up having a 10 minute conversation. Every sound that he made, I repeated or at least tried to repeat. He enjoyed it and smiled a great deal.



Later that night, Duang's son came to our home with his girl friend and another girl. They brought two pretty garlands and a bag of eggs. They had Duang sit on the couch and then had me sit next to her. They gave Duang the jasmine garland and gave me the garland that had two orchids. I protested and said that I was not a mother but they insisted that I was to be included in the ritual. They bowed to our feet and wished us luck, happiness and a long life. Duang had me give them our blessing and best wishes.

It was a very nice way to end a special day here in Isaan.

2 comments:

  1. Hi LXA Bro,
    You speak the truth. Her in the small Florida town we live in we see youthful pictures of people we only new as old people in the obits. Maybe some truth of not having new pictures, but I think the relatives want the parents to look young and happy like they remember. Love the part about the pain in the massage. You are funny. j

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  2. Humor and joking is a big aspect of lao Loum culture.

    My sons when they were younger, perhaps even today, never appreciated what they referred to as "Hale Humor"

    No problem here in Isaan. They seem to appreciate. Perhaps they are only more polite. Perhaps they are not so difficult to entertain. Whatever it makes everything so much more pleasant and enjoyable. In Thailand - it is OK and socially acceptable to laugh and smile.

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