Asian American · Thailand · Writing

What’s that one special story?

I’m participating in iversity’s The Future of Storytelling which I learned about through Aerogramme Writers’ Studio. At the end of Chapter 1 (and I’m assuming this will be the case at the end of all the chapters) we were given a creative task. Here it is:

Please think about which story you have read, seen, listened to, played or experienced has impressed you most in your life. Write down both, the summary of this story and – what made it so special to you that you can still remember it.

There are, of course, many stories to choose from, but I held on to the word ‘special’ and I thought, the most special stories for me were whenever my mother or grandmother told me about my father, who died when I was 6 years old. They fed me little pieces about a man I missed and love. And the one I liked to request the most, was the story of how my parents met.

The funny thing about the story my mom told me (and my brother) was, it wasn’t even true! She had baptized it, cleaned it up, and made it acceptable for her young children’s ears.

In version one, my father came to the restaurant where my mother worked. He asked about her, but she wasn’t interested in Thai men anymore. Nevertheless, he pursued her until she decided to go on a date with him.

This took place during the Vietnam War, but in Thailand, where my father was stationed at a US/Thai Air Force Base. My father, an immigrant Chinese American followed in his British American step-father’s footsteps, and joined the military like him. So it was funny that my mom thought my dad was Thai.

My Thai mother was, at the time, very far from her hometown, because she had run away from her first husband. This was, as you might imagine, a crazy/brave thing to do for a woman with little education, no money, but then again he cheated on her, and unlike many women around the world, she didn’t tolerate it.

As I said, that was version one, and in version one there wasn’t mom running away from first husband. First husband? What do you mean dad was your second husband? I was simply too young to go beyond the glow I felt from hearing a happy story about my parents.

As I got older, my mom would tell me a little more, and a little more until I caught her in her lies. Then she had to tell me the truth, and it was shocking but funny because she was embarrassed, which made the story even more intriguing, and my mom – vulnerable and endearing.

Something that author Cornelia Funke shared in Unit 7 or 8 of the Storytelling course, that really resonated with me, was her belief that LOCATION is a major character in her stories. Immediately my mind started to rollback through my stories and this one in particular.

Thailand was where my father died, but it is also where my mother was born. It was this place, a LOCATION that held my attention as much as the characters in the stories because it set the stage on fire for my imagination.

So, what is that one special story? It’s the one that held meaning, mystery, laughter, shocks, coverups and lies, Thailand, “mistakes”, version 2, 3 and 4, and a part of me that I can’t let go.

mom-and-dad
Thailand circa 1973

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4 thoughts on “What’s that one special story?

    1. Thanks. That photo was in my mom’s bedroom for many years before I asked her if I could take it. I love it for so many reasons.

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  1. Love the picture. Can see your characteristics in both parents. Yeah, one’s parents will have stories, and different stories about how they met, and probably for many, what went wrong and who was responsible. Kids are naturally interested in the back story of their parents’ lives.

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    1. Actually, I think kids are about split when it comes to their interest in their parent’s previous lives. This was a story I asked about again and again. Maybe it’s because my mom didn’t read to us, and kids naturally want to hear stories. Yeah, I’ve always wanted to know my father’s perspective on all of this…I’m left with her wife and his mom to talk about him.

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