My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.
The White Stork’s Christmas Story or how a little boy and his mother found a home.
Life is an adventure but you can never be sure where it’s going to lead. My friends in Bangkok, Lee and Rick, have an unusual story I’ve asked them to share in this season of giving. Although you might think it’s about giving, it’s really a story about how much we can receive when we open our hearts – and wallets.
Rick tells the story:
“In the real world, a new-born baby comes home from the hospital in a car. In fairy stories, a white stork leaves them in swaddling clothes on doorsteps. However, our baby boy arrived at our neighbor’s house when he was three weeks old.
In early October 2008, my partner Lee came across neighbors who were hosting a single Thai woman, aged 22, and her new born baby. Her name is Uay and she is from a northern suburb of Bangkok. Unfortunately the father wanted nothing to do with his new family and Uay had no home and nowhere to go. So Uay and the baby were staying with long lost school friends near our house. Lee became involved because Uay had no means to provide her baby with bedding, clothing or food, other than breast feeding.
Lee called me in the USA but I couldn’t at first understand what he was trying to explain. Caring for a three-week old baby was just too far off my radar screen of future dreams! I work as a flight attendant based in Hawaii and return to Thailand about every six weeks.
This time Lee awkwardly asked me to buy some American-made baby formula and other baby essentials. What was this all about? I had no idea what to expect but the night before departing for Bangkok I went shopping. I didn’t know what I was doing, let alone what was going happen in the days and weeks to come. I purchased baby formula, baby bottles, basic baby clothing and other essentials. Thankfully, other new American mothers were purchasing baby items as well and they were a wealth of information for a “clueless new daddy” which I’m sure is what they were thinking through their giggling smiles!
Soon as I arrived in Bangkok Lee took me to the neighbor’s small and meager home to see the newborn baby boy and his mother. We set up the new bedding and clothing. Then, with everyone watching, I began feeding with the baby formula. I was nervous and fumbling but I knew the baby needed more than just the breast milk, which wasn’t enough for him. Much to my amazement (or should I say ignorance), he transitioned over to this strange American milk without one bit of fuss — he drank 4 oz. without missing a gulp his first helping! ~
This young infant had never seen a Westerner before but he held me in his gaze for the longest time and I just knew he was very, very special. I was thinking…a future Thai Prime Minister, Dali Lama, or the next Gandhi?
“What’s his name?” I asked. Lee, Uay and all the neighbors looked at me anxiously, eagerly for guidance. I thought for a few seconds then blurted out, “So what should we call this Little Ricky?” Lee immediately responded, “Ricky”! So, Little Ricky is his nickname. For his official Thai first name I asked a longtime and revered Thai friend if we could use his very traditional name “Nandhawat.” Khun (Mr.) Nandhawat was very honored to be asked and said nobody had ever asked this of him.
The days to follow were exciting, merry, full of joy BUT crucial decisions with enormous consequences for mother and child and for us were looming. Within a week, Thai social and economic constraints would force Uay to make tough choices. She had no means of support, no home to return to, and the neighbors just couldn’t continue keeping her and the baby. Twice she contemplated leaving Little Ricky in an orphanage. On the second occasion she was actually flagging down a taxi to take her son to the orphanage, with money borrowed from someone on the street, when one of the old Thai “aunties” on the street convinced her to think about it again. Uay, had no ill intentions for her baby; she wanted Ricky to have a better life and opportunities she knew she would never be able to provide.
By this time, saddened by what was happening, Lee and I realized we needed to make a decision — either to step-in or step-out. At the same time Uay sent a message via the Thai auntie, who worked as a maid down the small street. (At times, the bamboo telegraph works as fast as e-mail.) Uay offered to allow us to legally adopt Little Ricky. Lee and I discussed it for a few minutes alone — and we both said “Yes.” We couldn’t let Little Ricky be sent into the dull, drab and dingy rooms of a Third World orphanage.
However, who would take care of the baby when Lee was at his graphic design job and I was back traveling to and from the US? Believe it or not, we had a wonderful, yet compelling option to take both Ricky and Uay. So we did – mother and child moved in to our home in late October 2008, and they are still with us today.
Since then we’ve received so much support and encouragement, both in Thailand and in the US from my family and friends, and have received bags of hand-me-down cloths and toys. Everything is well-received and put to very good use. Soon as Ricky has outgrown clothes and toys, we’ve passed them on to others in need near our Bangkok home. (Thankfully, working as a flight attendant, it’s been easy for me to visit frequently, anywhere between one and three weeks at a time.) Within a few months, the Thai Ministry of Social Welfare will grant Lee’s formal adoption request, thus giving Ricky his official name: Nandhawat Chanaudompassorn.
If Lee and I are giving Ricky the promise of a better life – and I believe we are – we are also receiving many gifts in return. Watching Little Ricky’s developmental progress over the past year has been remarkable, to say the least. He was sitting up and rocking to classical music by six months, pointing at seven months, turning book pages at eight months, walking at nine months one week, and is now talking both English and Thai words at 14 months. What a joy! Ricky is a gift Lee and I never wished for, but we never, ever regret Little Ricky coming into our lives.”