When I woke up this morning, I had a little stomach dip of anxiety about what, exactly I would be writing about today. It is snowing where I am, and with a baby and nowhere in particular to get to, I was pretty sure it would be a day to stay at home in our pajamas and play with Christmas presents. Like we have been doing for the last 6 or so days.
It has been fabulous to have the luxury of doing this, please don’t misunderstand. But in my arbitrary setting of rules for what I will post here I had decided that the Fabulous Thing had to be something new and potentially unique to that day. Otherwise, I could just cop out and write about how fabulous my kid or my husband are whenever I didn’t feel like stretching myself.
So, I considered writing about how fabulous a cup of good coffee is in the predawn hours when your 11-month-old is in the best mood he will be in all day, and you are attempting to match his energy and good humor. Then I considered writing about how fabulous Second Breakfast is, in particular the wonders of reheating Baked French Toast left over from New Year’s Brunch and enjoying it for a second day, the cleanup already behind you.
Then there was a knock at the door, and our mailman handed over a package along with the rest of our mail. A package coming after the Christmas influx of stuff is thought to be over is pretty fabulous. A package from your father who lives halfway around the world, a package with Thai writing and something that certainly was not purchased at Target inside is a Fabulous Thing.
My dad moved to Thailand over seven years ago. My parents have not been together since I was a small child, so my relationship with my dad has always been of the weekend-visits-and-holidays variety. He moved to Thailand when the aftermath of 09/11 meant a sharp drop in demand for both his skills as an ESL teacher and a steady decline of people hosting parties that called for a live band. He was able to find work in both capacities on the island of Phuket, and has lived there ever since.
Thailand was not a random choice for him. When I was in college I lived in Thailand for a summer, ostensibly doing an internship at a community services agency for expats in Bangkok. Really what I was doing is probably best saved for a different time. My dad came to visit me there and loved the pace of life, the warm weather, and the people he met. Four years later, he made it his home. My husband likes to say that my dad is Jimmy Buffett, and that’s about right I think.
Having a parent or close relative or friend move far away does interesting things to that relationship. Geographically they are farther away, but at the same time the level of communication changes, and visits become more intense and meaningful. Through emails and phone calls with my dad, I have come to understand his political views, the way he viewed our relationship and his role as a father while I was growing up, and that the choices he has made in his life have really been in keeping with his priorities – something I admire more and more as I get older. I also have been able to hear his band perform on YouTube, and learn about how another part of the world is viewing events that are happening here in the United States.
Visits have been few and far between, but lasting for a few weeks when they have occurred. They have all been centered around events that are momentous in nature: the death of my grandfather, the tsunami, my wedding and the birth of my son. No doubt that has contributed to the depth and content of the conversations we have had during those visits, but I don’t think that the same depth would have been reached or those same issues would have been discussed if my father still lived stateside and we spoke more often. There is a preciousness to that time spent with someone who you don’t see often that lends itself to a better quality of interaction, which is paradoxical but great in a lot of ways.
The package held two cards, one for my husband and me and one for our son. The cards themselves are pretty neat, handmade paper, “Happy Merry Christmas” message and all. The fact that they even exist is funny, since Thais don’t celebrate Christmas. It is the messages inside though, my dad expressing his joy at being a grandfather and trying to take part in his grandson’s first Christmas, and relating memories he had of my Christmases with him as a kid, that make them special. If my dad lived here, we no doubt would have squeezed him into our jammed schedule of relative visits and paper-ripping. But I have a hard time believing that the same sentiments that were written in those cards would have been expressed in person, and I know for a fact that my son would not have received this fabulous gift.
So, Fabulous Thing #2: Unexpected things from far away that bring the people we love closer to us.