Pueng and Oakley in front of the house
“Oh, Oakley! Get away from the table and give me that,” exclaimed my manager Angela as I was wiping down the glass conference table after a little office birthday cake party.
“What? What? What did I do?” I surrendered the wet paper towel and the spray bottle of Windex.
“You have maids back home, don’t you?” Angela asked, spraying the table with one hand.
“You clean like a princess. That’ll take all day.”
Clean like a princess? Well, hell I am the frelling princess (another story for another time)! But that’s not the point is it?
An average middle to upper class Thai household usually comes equipped with a live-in maid. Can I be blamed for growing up without having to lift my fingers to do anything?
Don’t hate the player. Hate the game. Dawg. 😉
I grew up in a household where my and my uncle’s families each had a maid and a nanny (who also doubled as a maid), my grandmother had her own attendant, and the household shared the cook, the driver (the cook’s husband—also our driver), the laundry lady, and a groundkeeper.
With all that help in the house, I, for one, had never really laid my hands on any household chores.
The first time I actually had to do dishes was in 4th grade in home economics after we cooked a meal, and then at 5th grade we had to wash our own dishes after lunch. The first time I actually had to iron my own clothes–outside of Home Ec–was in 1993, when I came to the US. The first time I actually used a broom for it actual purpose–not as a flying device for Oakley the Mighty Sorceress or the microphone for Oakley and the Rocking Teddy Bears band–was in 3rd grade when students had to take turn cleaning up the classroom after school. The cleaning up duties include straightening up the desks, cleaning the blackboard with sponge and a bucket of water, wipe down the teacher’s desk, sweeping and mopping the floor, and emptying out the trashcan.
Outside of school, my mom tried to train me before I’d leave for yet another international adventure. Like going down to the main kitchen to learn from my cook. (I wrote about earlier.) Like going to learn to iron your clothes and fold your laundry with the laundry lady.
So there goes my extent of housewifery! I never really have to clean up that much, or cook my own dinner for that matter. Although through the 12 years in the US (holy crap…it IS my 12th year anniversary this month!) I have learned to take care of myself.
I have come to realize I can’t run away from all of these chores, especially as they are my duties as a wife and a responsible adult. Yet, in the back of my head, I still long to live the easy life with my maid Pueng doing things for me.
Pueng started working in her teen years as my grandmother’s attendant. About the time my grandmother passed away, my nanny, the lady who raised both of my brothers and myself, was leaving us as her services were not required now that I was old enough. Our other maid was also leaving to get married. So Pueng came to us, and she’s been with us since.
Pueng has been with us when our whole household was full of people. And then the migration began. My oldest brother left for school in England, my other brother to Detroit a few years after, and a few years after that I left for California. My uncle’s family moved out. The cook and the driver retired. Ditto the laundry lady.
Suddenly, Pueng was the one-woman show, serving an empty nest. Just my mom and dad. She took on the laundry and helped my mom with cooking occasionally.
Every time I visited home, Pueng would be there to greet me. She’d lugged my huge suitcases up the stairs by herself. For the past 5 years I have forbidden her from doing that without someone else’s helping. She’s no spring chicken after all. Haha! When I got upstairs, she’d already had out the grubs I missed whether it was the fixings for boiled rice when I arrived from a late night flight, or bowls of noodles if I made it there in the afternoon. Bed is always made. A fresh towel every few days. No dishes or laundry to do or to put away, and never ran out of either. Food is either being bought or being cooked for me.
It’s the life of middle to upper class Thai. Not middle class American.
Many times I wish I have Pueng in my spare bedroom here in California so she could do my dishes and laundry. Many times I wish I could have a pot of Pueng’s delicious Panang Beef sent over via an intercontinental dumb waiter. She told me many times to pack her in my suitcase. Brandon and I damn near did that at our last trip since Brandon’s become so addicted to her Panang beef.
But in the end, it’s just me in the kitchen at 10 p.m. with stacks of dishes and pots and pans from my making dinner, and piles of laundry still has yet to be put away. And no killer Panang beef.
Gosh. I miss Pueng soooooooo much!