Thailand in New Jersey |

Thailand in New Jersey

We are in Belcoville, N.J., visiting Sammy, our four-month-old great-grandson. Danielle, the darling wife of our grandson Jay, has just brought my computer back to life. Without Danielle’s help, I’d be sitting here whittling a point on the end of a pencil.

We are staying in Dame Tessa (British national) and Sir Henry Goldsmith’s (former casino president) home. They are in London for a week. Tessa has lavished a plethora of art objects on their home and her decorator skills are beyond reproach. For instance, in our bedroom, just beneath the ceiling level, is a 12-inch strip of rose imprinted wall paper that wraps around the room. The ceiling is white, the walls are a creamy, light green and the whole room shimmers with joy.

The living room is centered around a stone fireplace bracketed by a view of the brackish waters of the Great Egg Harbor River. Tessa’s work room is just down the hall where she makes and donates items for her many charities. Downstairs is the reading salon and Henry’s office. As a final plumb, we have been given use of Tessa’s Prius to do our scouting around. Jackpot!

Our daughter Marla suggests we return to our favorite Thai restaurant for an early dinner. This will be our second visit in three days. As we enter, a lovely woman greets us. We learn she is the person responsible for the absolute perfection of the cuisine and the ambiance of the place. She’s the owner, and her name is Sandy. After we decide on menu choices, a spontaneous discourse takes place.

At 19, Sandy left Thailand with only a suitcase in hand. She tells us of her passion of opening a restaurant, moving on and opening a new one. At one time in her life, she owned three restaurants at the same time. Completing the unveiling of her business prowess, she relates the somewhat gory details of her scramble to survive when the economy tumbles.

Somewhere, either while waiting for our dinners to arrive, or immediately thereafter, Sandy introduces her more personal side.

“I have no children, I lost my mother very young and then my dad died. That’s why I like people like the two of you”, meaning Orllyene and me. You have been together for so many years, and still have each other.” A scattering of thoughts takes over. With a wistful smile, she says, “I love the mountains. It’s too flat here, I want to retire,” and many words ramble between us.

A bell goes off in my mind. “Sandy, we live in Smith Valley, and we are surrounded by mountains. We see the Sierra from our patio. Sandy, please bring me a piece of paper. I want to give you my street address and my email address,” I tell her. She immediately returns, adding light heartedly “Be sure to add your telephone number. I don’t what to just show up.”

Following dinner, Sandy surprises us with delicious Thai desserts, and many warm-hearted words. It’s clear Sandy truly likes us, and we her.

Moments later a customer enters. Our time together is finished, but our friendship is just beginning.

Ron Walker can be reached at