Happy Birthday Fatty…
An Incarnation of Eppie

This is a backstory about Fatty. I love my family in Myanmar. They have helped me, and I have helped them. For example, I used to send my granddaughters gifts on their birthdays due to Ti Ti and I having a bit of an argument two years ago at Ocean, which is a department store in Taunggyi. I happened, as the story goes, to meet Bo Bo Gyi, a Buddhist nat and spiritual guardian, before I left America to visit my family. Interestingly, that name means in their language great grandfather.

Apparently, Bo Bo Gyi knew about my impending trip to Myanmar and gave me some gifts for my granddaughters. When I got to Taunggyi where they live, I gave the girls their gifts and a note to them from Bo Bo Gyi. In addition, I took them to the Ocean, which is a department store to buy them each a couple of gifts from me. The two younger girls picked out some tops and stuffed animals as their gifts in a matter of a few minutes. However, Ti Ti said that she didn’t need anything. Finally, I convinced her about the gift issue, but she wanted me to pick it out. In that way, she would remember me when she wore a blouse or dress.

I processed that comment and got her message. After visiting them during winter break two years ago, I returned home. A month before each of their birthdays, I went shopping, which was a massive dilemma. What could a 74-year old grandfather get a teenager and two much younger girls? I reluctantly went shopping to get them some clothes at Kohl’s, which is my favorite department store. I went shopping with pictures of each granddaughter. I’d pick things out and then ask the salespeople about sizes. To say that I was out of my element would be grossly inaccurate. I must have looked like some pathetic old man shopping for my granddaughters who live halfway around the world.

I would send each of the girls their gifts a month before their birthdays. It would take three or four days to get to Myanmar. Then, once the package arrived in their country, it took two or three weeks to be delivered. I would tell Moh Moh two weeks after I had sent the gifts. Therefore, she could expect the gift in a week or so. Fatty and Ti Ti’s gifts arrived. Snow’s birthday was on July 22nd. I sent it a month in advance like I had with her sisters’ gifts and emailed Moh Moh. Moh Moh replied that it never arrived.

Off I went to Kohl’s and picked out another cute top and repeated my first failed attempt. This attempt failed also. It cost more to send them the gift than it cost for the tops. After wasting $100 on two failed tries, I realized that someone in Myanmar really appreciated me sending them gifts, but it wasn’t Snow.

After returning home from my third trip to visit my family, I settled back to teaching, writing, and caring for Ginger. Fatty’s birthday is on February 10th. I sent Moh Moh an email about her getting a gift for Fatty from me. My only stipulation was that Moh Moh was to ask Fatty about what she wanted most of all for her birthday. Fatty was 9 a couple days ago. The next day, Moh Moh replied. This is part of her email.

As for something that she really wants, yes, I will do for her. Do
you want to know, what she really wants to do at her birthday? Let
me allow you to know. Actually, at her Birthday,she want to feed
some food to her friends and teachers at Karate class at stadium
where I took you during your visit. So, I will arrange some foods for
them at that day.

Before replying to Moh Moh, I just sat there starring at the email. I fought back tears, and, to be honest, I am fighting back tears now as I am writing this essay. Finally, I replied to Moh Moh that if I were an incarnation of Lord Buddha, I would be proud of Fatty and the family. Each member of my family in Myanmar cares for each other. Nevertheless, they care for people outside the family also. Fatty is only 9 years old, but she wanted to take food for her karate class.

This is Fatty at her karate class.

Now, there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to have a birthday party with a cake and ice cream along with gifts for a child celebrating his or her birthday. Every child deserves that type of celebration. Regardless, what was the special thing that Fatty wanted on her birthday? She wanted to feed her peers and teachers. I sat there looking at Moh Moh’s email. I thought about how many more birthdays will I have to have before I get as wise and as caring as my 9-year-old granddaughter. As you read this essay, how many more of your birthdays will you have to have to be like Fatty?

I replied to Moh Moh that if I were an incarnation of the Buddha, I would admire the way Fatty and her family follow the Middle Way in all that they do. I love my family, but I admire their modus operandi in life. It is so very basic and simple…care for others.

I graduated from high school in 1961. Exactly a century before that, George Eliot wrote her novella, Silas Marner. I memorized this paragraph six decades ago for my English class and can still recite it today.

In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's.

Eliot was correct; the hand of a little child might lead us. If Eliot only knew how correct she was.