Walking the distance to send Spud to school every morning before getting me to work (also on foot) was a conscious decision I made when we decided to enroll Spud in a nursery. I could easily get away with the school van picking her up, but I wanted to do this for us for as long as I could – regardless of how inconvenient it may seem to me.
In fact, I think me walking her to school has eased up the tension between us, especially so during the phase when she was rejecting me. Since then, Spud has been much more pleasant to me. Some form of healing has taken place and that has allowed us to bond better in our own weird way.
I have been doing this for more than 18 months now, and even though walking her to school can be hard work, especially with the odd occasion when Spud decided that she was not going to walk the whole way (something extremely trying when I was heavily pregnant with Squirt, and when I was lugging my breast pump!), it was, and still is, something I truly enjoy doing.
We always hold hands when we walk. She carries her little backpack and I carry mine. On some days, one of the street vendors at the end of our soi would, with a huge smile on his face, give her one fresh lychee (when the fruit was in season). She would grin, said “kop khun kah” (meaning Thank You) at my insistence, put it in her pocket, told me she would be eating it in school and then we would walk on.
On good days (which is, thankfully for most of the time), we sing silly little songs, we chat, we look at the clouds, we count the steps, we spot the different colours we could find in both English and Malay, we look out for pink taxis (her favourite colour), we dodge hot stove along the streets, nasty pot-holes and crazy motorbike riders, talked about the millipede which we saw the day before, or simply just reciting stories she had memorised from her books. Spud loves to chatter, and most times, I find myself listening and acknowledging Spud nattering away about nothing.
We always pass by the same building, the same road signs and mostly the same people which include pockets of beggars whom she would say bye and wave to. And if there is a new sight, Spud is sure to point to it before I even realised it.
One morning, as we descended the stairs to the other side of the BTS station, there sat a blind person (with a donation box in her hands, of course) at the foot of the staircase. Spud was quick to notice that it was a new person and pointed out, as a matter of factly to me, with a “Mama, she is sitting down. She spilled, Mama!”
As I acknowledged what Spud saw, I noticed that she was sitting on a very wet patch of brown liquid. As I got nearer to her, I saw an empty cup of what used to be a full-cup filled with iced-coffee and that the coffee was now all over her. Her feet were practically submerged in a pool of iced-coffee, her flip-flops all soaked up and I remembered thinking how uncomfortable it must feel to be sitting on a puddle of sweet, sticky liquid dripping all over.
I then pulled Spud aside gently, signaling her to avoid the coffee puddle, and continued walking. I didn’t see when and how the Blind Lady dropped her coffee (or maybe the coffee wasn’t even hers!), and as we walked on, my mind kept running back to her.
I felt sorry for the blind lady – and she may have been a beggar from a notorious syndicate group or she could have been a genuine case – but I realised that whoever walked by her before or after us didn’t really care the predicament she was in. She was invisible and the fact that she was sitting uncomfortably in a pool of spilled ice-coffee didn’t even warrant a second glance by the passer-by.
The whole thing bugged me. I couldn’t help but kept looking back to where she was at while we made our way onwards. I was so very compelled to do something for her, but couldn’t figure out how. About 15 steps later, I recalled that we had a packet of wet wipes in Spud’s bag. I then retraced my steps at that realization, and walked back towards her with a confused Spud in tow.
As soon as we got to her, I took out the packet of wet-wipes from Spud’s bag. I held the Blind Lady’s hand and placed the packet of wet wipes into it, telling her that it was “tissue”. I then took several pieces from her and helped her cleaned up. Without giving it much thought and with Spud standing just next to me, I cleaned up her coffee-puddle flip-flops and wiped off the remaining dripping coffee from her feet – much like how I would clean up after a child. She lit up, had seemed rather surprised to have gotten some help and thanked me profusely as I was doing the clean up.
Spud was watching the whole thing intently, and when I was done, Spud went, “What are you doing Mama? Spill yukky!”, causing the Blind Lady’s face to light up a little more when she heard Spud’s voice. She then began interacting with her soon after which added on to Spud’s amusement.
Feeling really happy to be able to help, I then said “ Ok mai kah? Chok dee na kah” (meaning are you Ok? Good Luck) to her before leaving her to her own device. I then left her a small donation before taking Spud’s hand once again for our onward journey. I later realised that whoever had walked by then must have thought that I was a crazy nutter to clean up a beggar’s feet! But that didn’t matter – I felt good inside.
As we walked on, I explained to Spud what I was doing, and why I thought it was important for able people like us to help. While I beamed at the fact that Spud had seen me doing what I did and hoping that she was able to grasp some learning from watching me, Spud was more concerned on the fact that I had used up her entire packet of wet wipes and that she was left with none. (!)
In a split second right after my unintentional good deed, I felt a little assaulted as I had to endure 5 minutes of nagging from my 2.5-year-old child who continuously went, “Tissue finished, Mama! That was mine. My tissue! My tissue! Why you give away my tissue!”
Even after I explained to her that we would be getting her a new pack of tissue at the nearest 7-11 on our way to school, Spud went on and on and on, on why in god’s name did I give away her precious pack of wet wipes!
Her reaction brought a little grin to my face as the reality of how the mind of a 2.5-year-old child worked, hit me. There I was trying to bask in a small deed I did, hoping Spud would be enlightened in the ways of the world, there was Spud bitching about her packet of tissue paper which I, in her eyes, had callously given away. How dare I!
I could sense that a meltdown was coming, but to her credit she managed to keep calm (although not without nagging still!), as I repeatedly reminded her of a 7-11 which we would be passing, and that we would stop by to get her a new pack of wet wipes. I certainly was gambling when I told Spud we would be buying her a new pack at the nearest 7-11 as I wasn’t sure if that particular 7-11 was selling wet-wipes at all – but I was relieved that they had several different types which Spud could choose from.
For the rest of our walk to school, she then refused to keep the new pack of wet-wipes in her back-pack and insisted that she hold it in her hands, proclaiming, “This is mine!”
We may have been running a little behind schedule that day, but damn! that really was one hell of an interesting morning I have ever had with Spud!