I was putting the laundry in the washer yesterday, an automatic motion I usually don’t think about much any more.
Coins in.Â Water runs for a few seconds.Â Add soap. Let water run some more.Â Add laundry.
A thought popped into my head.
“When was that first time you used the washing machine?”
I grew up in Thailand in a household full of service staff. In the 3-attached home complex, 3 families, each with its own maid, shared a cook,Â a groundskeeper, a laundry lady, and a driver.
Pretty much everything has always been done for me.Â The cooking. The cleaning. The laundry.
Until I came to the U.S. for high school, I have never used a washing machine before.Â Sure, I have washed a few pieces of clothing before then at summer camps, but that was all by hand. Even when traveling abroad on my own, the adults were doing the laundry be it my chaperon to the international camp or the many host families I lived with.
Besides, with the maids doing all the work in Thailand, not a lot of people use washing machines back then.Â It wasn’t like someone could teach me back home the way the cook showed me how to make basic Thai food. (Kicking myself now that I didn’t take interests in cooking back then. But that’s another post for another time.)
It was my aunt here in Garden Grove who taught me how to use the washer and dryer while I was staying with her during the transition into my high school host family’s home.
That was also where I learn the “water then soap then water” trick to not get clumpy detergent powder or concentrated amount of liquid detergent in your clothes.
A flashback so vivid it stopped me in my track.
How far I have come since 1993!
Next month, I would have been in America longer than I have been in Thailand.
Next month completes my 16th year in the U.S., then I’m on to 17th.Â (Yeah, I just gave away my age. So?)
For that one moment in the laundry room, I did have half of my life flashed before my eyes.
I remembered my mom reading to me my fortune she got from a psychic back when I was in 7th or 8th grade.Â It was predicted that I would study abroad like my brothers, but unlike them, I would live abroad and “leave [mom] behind”.
I laughed.Â No way I would ever do that, I told her.
I stood my ground that I would be studying at Thammasat University, the anti-Chulalongkorn was where I wanted to be.Â I would not be going abroad because that would be snooty and pretentious and I wasn’t about to leave my friends.Â And even if I’d study abroad, I would come back here because my brain wasn’t going to drain out of my beloved motherland, and because I would never leave my mom.
Well, obviously the trend-bucking, anti-establishment, friends-loving, patriotic me died somewhere during my first visit to the U.S. in March 1993.
After 2 months of having tasted the freedom of American life, I didn’t quite want to go back.
Fortune teller was right about all of it.Â I think my mom kind of knew after my summer in the U.K. in 1992 that this bird wouldn’t stay in the cage for long.
I wasn’t sure if she expected that I would really leave her behind.Â I never thought I wouldn’t be there when she passed away.
So yes, I did leave her behind in that sense.
Everything changed then.
August used to be just another month with except for Thai Mother’s Day on the 12th, and meant the end of summer and beginning of school.
Now, August is the anniversary of my life in the U.S. and the anniversary of my mom’s passing.
16 and 2 years respectively.
What a journey so far.
What an interesting story and life you’ve had, Oakley. Have you ever thought about writing a memoir? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading about your life.
Time flies, doesn’t it? Can’t believe you’ll be there for more years that you were in Thailand. Talking about washing machine, I myself don’t remember how to operate them anymore.