Miss Independent
Bo Bo Gyi’s Granddaughter

A couple of months ago, I asked my three granddaughters to write a poem about the times in which they were living. They live in a world filled with COVID and the coup. I remember being in Yangon with Moh Moh talking about when she was a young child during the 88 Uprising. Those times were trying for anyone, especially for a young child. Moh Moh would go to bed at night wondering whether there would be food for breakfast. Those types of thoughts were etched into her childhood memory. While Moh Moh’s reminiscences were said quietly, they still echo loudly in my mind. That was the motivation behind asking my granddaughters to write their feelings in their poems.

Ti Ti and Snow penned their poems about their thoughts and feelings. Fatty delayed writing her poem. Then COVID struck her family. Both her parents and her two older sisters got the coronavirus. Therefore, they tested Fatty several times for COVID, all of which came back negative. So, they sent Fatty to stay with her grandmother to avoid her catching COVID. She was there for several weeks until everyone had gotten over their COVID cases in her family.

That is when I reminded Fatty about her writing assignment. Another couple of weeks elapsed before she emailed her assignment to me. Fatty decided that she would write a letter rather than a poem. I haven’t explored her motivation to go a different path with a letter. However, Fatty has always been Miss Independent.

Eight years ago, I met Fatty, but she was about two years old and attending a preschool daycare center. Several years later, I was planning to revisit my family. Her parents told her that I was coming for a visit. However, Ti Ti also told Fatty and Snow who I was. In fact, Ti Ti named me PaPa Al.

Snow accepted Ti Ti’s name and her reason for my moniker. When I arrived for a visit, Ti Ti and Snow called me PaPa Al but not Fatty. Fatty insisted on calling me or yelling her name for me, Bo Bo Gyi.

Bo Bo Gyi means “hallowed grandfather.” Bo Bo Gyi was a Buddhist. In Buddhism, nats are similar to what we, in the West, call saints, except they only appear to be real. They are spirits, which look like they are real people but aren’t. Bo Bo Gyi was an alchemist, but he also cared for children. Apparently, Fatty sees me as a recent incarnation of Bo Bo Gyi, which I consider an honor. Therefore, this is Ti Ti busily writing to me.

After working diligently on her letter to me, this is her masterpiece.

Fatty, Bo Bo Gyi loves you, and let me count the ways.

  • You are sweet and fun to be with. After yelling my name, I’d grabbed and tickled you. Then you looked up at me and fluttered your Betty Davis Eyes.
  • You learn from your older sisters. Do you remember singing Auld Lange Syne? at Nyaung Shwe Restaurant?
  • Once you figure out the dance, you get into it and enjoy the moment.
  • You learn from others also. On our family tour a couple of years ago, you watched everyone we saw working.
  • You are a thinker. After our balloon ride over Bagan, the adults celebrated with a glass of champagne. You got the cork from one of the bottles and sat there pondering for a moment. You were able to tie the balloon ride to the cork.
  • Fatty, don’t forget this one thing, Bo Bo Gyi loves you. I’ll be back for another family tour. And we will laugh and have the time of our lives...again.