Book Trailer for Pilikia

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Chinese statue

This is how Mary Fran and I ended up with two terrific sons. We arrived in Thailand with the Peace Corps in 1972. While we were still in training, my sister announced that she was getting married, so we went looking for a wedding present among the art and antique shops on New Road in Bangkok (New Road is the oldest street in Bangkok.) We ended up in a shop called Southeast Asian Curios, owned by a Chinese man who fled the communist takeover. The girl who ran the shop asked, in perfect English, if she could help us. Since, by that time, we had a few weeks of language training under our belt, we answered in Thai. She was flattered and we began talking, though we switched to immediately to English as we soon exhausted our knowledge of Thai and she was fluent in four languages. We told her what we wanted and she brought out two statues of the moon goddess that were exquisitely carved in soapstone. One was a little more delicate than the other and that's the one we bought for my sister. We were so taken with the statues that we would have bought the other one for ourselves if we could have afforded it. After training, we were assigned to Pitsunaloke, an eight-hour train ride from Bangkok, so we got to Bangkok about twice a year, but we visited the shop every time. The girl remembered us and our interest in soapstone, but unfortunately, the soapstone statues were hard to get and she never had any more. In 1976, however, we made a trip to Bangkok and visited the shop again, but this time, Mary Fran was visibly pregnant. As soon as we entered, our friend said, "I was hoping you'd come. I have a statue for you. It's the Chinese god of good fortune and, if you buy it, I guarantee you will have a boy." The Chinese god of good fortune is an old man holding a baby boy. The statue is about a foot high, delicately carved out of brown soapstone. We bought it, of course, and have the good fortune of two terrific boys. When we left Thailand for the U.S. five weeks after Ted was born, Mary Fran carried both precious objects--Ted and the statue--with her the whole trip.