So much of what I know of my family in Thailand has been told to me in stories. Every so often, a story is more alive with sounds and smells that I can imagine. In this story of my grandfather heading home at the end of his workday, it is the smell of jasmine rice (a scent I know well) and the plunk of a watermelon (imagine a heavy stone landing in water). And we all know the sight and taste of a perfectly sweet watermelon. These small sensory windows into a long ago time and a home I hardly know, connect me in the best possible way to my grandfather. Even now, 35 years after his death, we can share an experience across generations and place.


It was the end of an ordinary day,

the close announced with metal clacking

of the gate along its tracks, the click

of a key, pedaling away from the dark

shop.  First, a stop at the market to pick

up a watermelon for his family at home.

It was easy for him.  Long ago, he had

worked at a watermelon farm and

knew the color and heft of one that

was just right.  He pedaled home,

the melon in the basket in front,

moving through the traffic and

crowds of people also going home.

He spun into the next part

of the day, maybe thinking about

the work day behind, the home

life in front, or the places off to

the side that pulled at him, too –

his temple, the hill tribe people

he had come to know, the poor

to whom he offered food on

Tuesdays.  On those days, he

was sure to offer sweets, which

gave such pleasure, and he knew

fed the place in our spirits

that needed beauty.  He was

close to home now.  First, the dogs

knew, waking from naps, stretching,

ready to play.  The noises the

children made grew louder,

some laughter, and some arguing,

too.  Even the jasmine rice on

the stove knew it was time to be

ready, releasing its fragrance

into the air.  And how do I

know, so many years later,

imagining this ordinary day?

I hear the plunk of the

watermelon he dropped into

the cool depth of the well in

back.  His youngest boy would

fish it out with a bucket after dinner.

It would be cut wide open on the table.

It would not be disappointing.

It would be red, glowing,

its juices spilling out, its

black seeds punctuating the

flesh in a steady line.

“Plunk!” went the melon.

The noise from the house

stopped for a moment.  His

family knew, with that familiar

sound, that their father was home.