Amanda Kovattana

Middle-aged musings in interesting times

Friday, January 25, 2019

Flashback Friday

While in Thailand I felt compelled to post this picture to remind me of the lineage that is lodged in the memory of this land that I called home. The photo was taken in the garden during a visit I made back in 1977. My boy cousin Thop sitting between my grandmother and his mother (my Aunty Ah Pahdt). Thop still lives here with his family as does Aun daughter of Prayoon the little girl in the lower left hand corner who is now the family cook. She was at the time of this picture the playmate of my girl cousin Pong on the right. Pong lives nearby at her in-laws household.

My grandmother bought this property in the 1930s and built her house here which still stands. She was born into the social class of Bangkok now known as Hi-So short for the English phrase ‘high society’. She spent her life working in jobs befitting her station. At one time for the prime minister in the capacity of receiving and taking care of foreign visitors i.e. Ladybird Johnson and the President. Also Queen Elizabeth and later Neil Armstrong.

She was a devout Buddhist and a philanthropist. She passed along to me her frugal values of living simply. Her original house was never remodeled, just added onto. She had only one child, a son she sent to college in England where he earned a Ph.D in engineering. She raised and educated Ah Pahdt (my father's half sister of another mother) who at the time of this picture was managing director of the alumium blind company started by my grandmother's second husband. It's complex this family you don't need to tell me. heh.

My grandmother's baby sister my Aunty Lily who also lived here was once the managing director of the Bangkok franchise of Polish Ocean Lines which was her husband’s business passed to her at his death. Aunty Lily had her own stylish 60s era house on their parent’s original land (now sold to Bayer Aspirin for its Bangkok headquarters). Aunty Lily lost her wealth to an embezzling manager in the company. Thus my grandmother invited her to come and live on our compound along with her loyal maid Weil and her family.

My grandmother housed the staff, invited them to bring their boyfriends/husbands and sometimes their elderly mothers to live here and helped educate their children. Prayoon's sister Saiyud also lived here while attending college and did my grandmother's bookkeeping.

My grandmother was a great lady in everyone's eyes and her memory remains vivid in all our minds. Late in life she received the title of Khun Ying from the late King Bhumibol.

I am the offspring of a college romance and shotgun marriage to an English lass majoring in psychology. I am called a Look Klueng, a child who is half—half Thai. I was brought back to this household when I was three until my mother migrated us to California when I was ten. My father would further complicate this family by marrying twice more.

At the time of this picture I am still in college and had the choice as I always had of where I would make my home. I was my grandmother’s only grandchild and she loved me to death. A bit too much for my independent spirit and I squirmed away for many years.

I would spend my queer life wandering around explaining myself to everyone who asked because in the West people did ask incessantly until I finally published my memoir “Diamonds In My Pocket”. The book also served to explain myself to myself and make me into a whole person.

I took this photo with my father's vintage Leica on a tripod using a long squeeze bulb gripped in my left hand. This technology already trailing edge as is my habit. We are assembled here on the wall bordering the patio of my grandmother's house.

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