Monday, October 30, 2006


Me: Max, do you want to be a dog or an elephant for Halloween?
Max: A bald eagle.
Me: How about a dog?
Max: Bald eagle.
Me: How about an elephant?
Max: Bald eagle. (Nods head fiercely.) I mean it!

...Later.. (after salvaging several cardboard boxes for wings, cutting feathers out of construction paper, gluing them on the wings...)

Aiden: Mommy, I’ll give you a choice: do you want me to be Obi-Wan or Darth Vader?
Me: How about Anakin? We have an Anakin costume.
Aiden: That wasn’t a choice: either Obi-Wan or Darth Vader.
Me: The Anakin costume is really cool, and it would fit you perfectly.
Aiden: MOMMY. I SAID Obi-Wan or Darth Vader. CHOOSE.
Me: OK... Darth Vader. You can wear all black and carry your light saber and I’ll just make you a mask.
Aiden: ASA! I’m going to be Darth Vader! Szzzssshhh + heavy breathing sounds
Max: Hyung-ah, YOU be a bald eagle, Max will be Darth Vader.

My thoughts:
1. I think I’m getting worked by the system here. Funny how they take your parenting techniques and turn them against you. Especially the second child.
2. Thank goodness I married an engineer. He did the architectures underlying both hats. I did the drawing.
3. I don’t have any time for my own costume. Shouldn’t have thrown away my tree costume from last year.
4. All this and we don’t even get to go trick-or-treating! I think I deserve some sugar for all this effort. Maybe will treat myself to some wine instead. Think I need a drink.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

symptoms of nuke fear?

I found this article fascinating. I thought people here didn't seem that afraid... but I was basing my assumptions on the wrong research! I was listening to what they said rather than looking at condom sales! Silly me!

An alternate explanation: lots of people are reading about the Yangpa's human trafficking lights and other recent prostitution stories and running out to protect themselves and book hotel rooms.

Bedtime Stories

Aiden is afraid of the dark crevices of our apartment; he refuses to sleep next to the dresser with its threatening, murky underbelly. The three of us lay together as the boys fall asleep, Max quietly nursing, Aiden holding my hand, wriggling around, full of questions, mind restless, wondering about why people die, why people have bad behavior, why Anakin turned to the Dark Side. Sometimes I tell him bedtime stories to calm him and ease his fears, to distract him as he falls asleep, and to turn his thoughts towards hopeful things.

In the bedtimes stories I tell my sons at night, I create the world as it should be, as we want to make it, paving the way for he and I to make that world together in the light of the new day. I tell him stories of him having trouble and overcoming that trouble, of him being compassionate and heroic, of him saving the day, of rising after a fall, of winning competitions and hearts, of love and togetherness. These stories help him to understand the world as I see it, the utopia I imagine for him, the utopia I want for him, and the potential I see in him. This is how I understand parenting -- shaping the world for him, making it possible for him to become the kind of person I hope he will become. Giving him power to imagine all the possible paths and possibilities.

We all have our bedtime stories -- stories we tell ourselves about where our lives are going, about what we will become; stories which piece together the small bits and weave them into a larger tale of Redemption. These tales, like the ones I make for Aiden, subdue our fears and self-doubts as well as encourage our secret hopes.

If I have two particularly strong personality traits they are: optimism and a strong capability for denial. I have always had fantastic bedtime stories. The range has been narrowed now that I am older and have to accept that I will never be a famous artist, or Olympic gymnast, or save millions from certain death. Romance is out of the picture since I am already married. But I can work well with what I still have. Usually the uncertainty of life excites me, gives me more room to play and dream. In real life I am cautious but tend to do the things I set out to do.

But there was a time when my stories failed me, and I saw only the dark spaces and failures of my life -- the things I am usually so good at denying. Failure and depression left an empty space where the bedtime stories usually carried me forward, and it took me a long time to recover. I still have not come up with a new bedtime story, but I’m learning to live with small partial ones, and not to seek grand meanings in every gesture.

When I look around at myself and many of my mommy friends, I see the same dilemma over and over again: conflicted guilt about how to weigh the roles of parenthood and career. I suspect that my friend M, who works full time and leaves her child with a nanny, fights off the feeling that if you are successful but not incredibly successful, you’re being selfish to leave your kid with someone else so you can work. No matter what choice you make, you carry the guilt around with you like your child’s shadow twin.

So I had set myself up to do either the impossible or the ideal, depending on how I looked at it. I was a parent doing a PhD, so I essentially was a mom with a career but one I could try to fit around my child. My husband and I had agreed we didn’t want to farm Aiden out to someone else to be raised, that we wanted to raise him ourselves. We were juggling child care between ourselves -- him, struggling with his new business and commuting between Ann Arbor and San Francisco. Me, struggling with my doctoral work. Both of us suddenly without our old friendships and communities, feeling stretched too thin, irritable. But then we somehow made this work, and I found a groove as a mom and found a community of moms who supported me, and we were all happy and comfortable. So we decided to have another child. I have it all, I told myself. I can avoid the choice, because I can have it both ways.

This during the time that we decide to move to Korea. We both felt, I think, giddy at the possibility of taking charge our lives in that way. Had fantastic bedtime stories about becoming metropolitan, really interesting people, speaking all sorts of languages, having a gaggle of cool multilingual kids.

Things were falling apart but I was good at holding it outside my conscious mind. My school life was unraveling for various reasons -- changing climate in my program, my own lack of commitment, me and the program not suiting each other well. Having always been good at school and academia playing a large role in the way I saw myself I wasn’t ready to let go or to accept that we wouldn’t be able to work things out. I was cool with the idea of moving, and denied all the losses (of friends, of wonderful house, of open spaces) as long as I could.

I was pregnant again, and hiding it from my committee because I thought they would freak out. But then we lost the baby and we moved, and everything started to unravel. Three months later, still overwhelmed with the loss of baby, home, and the warm community which had nurtured me, I was tensely pregnant again, but without joy.

This pregnancy was different. Before, I had welcomed the babies into my heart and my bedtime stories before they were even conceived; this time I held back, watching from a distance, seeing if this one would make the cut. Unable to concentrate on my dissertation proposal, but also unable to deal with that, I began to descend into the shadows which until then I had always kept at bay. I lay awake at night, mind reverberating with FAILURE FAILURE FAILURE, thinking that in my thirty years on this planet I hadn’t done one good thing. I stopped brushing my teeth, shaving my legs, taking showers. I was terse and angry with Aiden. Months went by. My grandfather passed away. Now my whole day and night was wrapped up in the anxiety of living as a failure -- but I thought, in my warped way -- that telling anybody that I was enveloped by this anxiety would be another type of failure. I’m a tough cookie, I should be able to keep my chin up and handle this! So I kept it to myself.

Later, after a friend on the phone remarked, “you sound depressed,” I suddenly realized that in fact I was. I should have known, I should have recognized the signs, but I was so overwhelmed by the feeling of failure and trying to hide it from everyone else that I didn’t recognize that this wasn’t normal, it wasn’t “me.” With the birth of Max my mind cleared and I could see again. I could make decisions again. I decided to leave the doctoral program, to refocus my life, to take a different path. And that has made all the difference.

Armed with the label “partum depression” I could look back and follow the trajectory of the deviation between “normal me” and “depressed me.” But suddenly the ability to be me, to feel like myself, was a tenuous and special thing, and even months later, I carefully monitored myself each day to see if I “felt like myself.” It’s a funny thing, this fading grasp of “being me.”

Part of the problem with “being me” is that “being me” has always been tied to a certain trajectory -- becoming a professor, writing a book, whatever. But although the cloud had lifted and the weight of the PhD was off, I was missing a bedtime story, something to cushion and protect me during the transition from daytime reality to nighttime shadow. The mechanics of day to day living I knew how to do, but I needed something to guide my thinking about where I was heading. And I didn’t know. And I still don’t know.

The hardest thing about leaving the PhD was not, in the end, making the decision (which after all this time I still feel was the right decision, and one which left me feeling wonderfully free and liberated), but having to learn to fall asleep without the security blanket of a definable future. This was really the first time in my life that I had to deal with the notion of failure. But I found that failure is not such a scary monster after all. You can live with it under your bed and it won’t eat you up. You can even lean over and take a peek at it, make friends with it, invite it over for tea. It might just introduce you to its friends.

We are again poised on a precipice. We are planning to move to China in the next few years and need to make a decision about a Third. The thing I admire most, perhaps, about KC is his ability to pick a goal and stick with it -- to live without self-doubt and uncertainty. He knows what he wants and he goes out and gets it. I’m still waiting for the deity to descend from the heavens and tell me why I’m here. Should I try to write? Is this blog just a way of trying on a new skillset, a new future, like one would try on a pair of jeans? Or just a container for my fascination and anxiety?

There are so many ways to lose yourself -- chemically, geographically and culturally, and directionally (wow, I didn’t know that was a word but spellcheck doesn’t have a problem with it). In a way, being a stranger in a strange land provides a good background for this kind of anxiety about the meaning of one’s life: removed is the pressure to keep up with the Jones and being dislocated is like picking up a rock from the ground -- I turn it over and suddenly all sorts of creatures of strange colors and shapes are visible, living their lives in ways I never dreamed of.

Perhaps most importantly, in a place where I’m am still learning new, fascinating words, seeing new things, and meeting new people, my absorption in the day to day act of exploring has taken the pressure off of the urge to sum up and explain. Now, for Aiden and myself, I change the stories every day, and each one of them can be true and beautiful, and useful -- for the moment.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Random Mommy moments

People I know spend Friday mornings writing code, sitting in meetings, going to the grocery store, or recovering from a hangover. I spent a recent Friday morning cutting open the vacuum cleaner bag and sorting through the dust, hair, lint, sand, and crumbs to find missing Lego pieces. I found five of them. Kids: this is how much Mommy loves you.

Between three pregnancies, 5 years of breastfeeding and whatnot, I’ve been gaining and losing weight for the last 6 years. I don’t know if it was the post on appearance or what, but I finally decided to go out and buy a pair of jeans that fit. I had been hearing vague rumblings about jeans being the new couture but I was shocked to find that Levis here cost $170! What?! Maybe I should stick with accessories. Or glasses! Hey, I could buy a new pair of glasses instead!

Aiden got a new lightsaber for Chusok, a really cool one that turns red and blue. It is, of course, broken now. You can hear the glass bits rattling inside. But for a while the kids would lock themselves in the dark bedroom and say, “Mommy, we’re fighting in the Dark Side of the Force.”

Max has finally started to sleep well at night again, so of course something else has to keep me up. The weather has turned colder here so all the mosquitos have taken shelter in our apartment. Korean mosquitos are not like the mosquitos in Maryland, San Francisco, and Ann Arbor. Korean mosquitos are fast and smart and very hard to kill. I turn on the light and they hide in the crevices of the room. I turn off the light and they come buzzing out again, ready to torture me away from sleep and give my kids huge welts. KC, of course, can’t resist a gadget-solution to every problem, so he arrived home last night with a device that looks like a badminton racket, which is supposed to suck up and zap the offending mosquitos. It didn’t work all that well in the sucking department, but the zapping was effective. So our nightly mosquito hunt was a little more humorous and vicious than usual.

Friday, October 20, 2006


We had an air-raid drill the other day; apparently it took many foreigners by surprise -- well -- scared the living daylights out of them. I had seen the flags so I knew what was going on. During the drill you’re supposed to stop driving and go into one of the air raid shelters, but in practice most people don’t do much of anything.
I really want to edit my post on “fear” to talk about the different contours of fear here and in the U.S. but that will take me a while. So I’ll just put some impressions up about reactions to this whole North Korea scare.
My father-in-law, from the generation that lived through the Korean War, freaked out and asked us if we had stocked supplies or booked plane tickets. We had not. I did check the embassy’s evacuation plan, so I know where I need to run in case something happens, but I’m not really worried. For my in-laws and, I suspect, other members of that generation, the specter of war with North Korea is very real and very scary. I remember some years back (96? 97?) we were here for a visit and there was a big plane Korean Air crash (Guam) at the same time that there was another submarine incident on the East coast of Korea. The crash dominated the news; most people were pretty upset about it (everyone died), but there wasn’t much reaction at the sub incident. My in-laws were the opposite; they didn’t blink an eye at the plane crash but they lectured me every day about how I should grab my passport and run to the embassy if anything should happen with North Korea.

I also got several freaked out emails from people at home asking me what is going on here and if I was scared.
But all the other (younger) Koreas I talk to are blase. They don’t seem to think that Kim Jong Il will attack them -- “fellow Koreans” -- they see him as taking a stand to get more power and to protect himself. Some even express some admiration for him, in the sense that Korea, a place with few natural resources or real importance, has been elevated to such a place of importance in the world.

What does seem to worry people is that because of the nuclear threat, Korea’s fate is at the hands of so many other powers. If anything, it seems to me that young people here are more worried about the power of the U.S. and how the U.S. will react. The threat of U.S. power and dominance is more real to them.

Then again, compared to how things were in the late 90s, when there were a lot of demonstrations for unification, young people seem more apathetic now. There is also a lot of dissatisfaction with President Roh. I’m not sure who is more hated, Roh or Bush. Probably Roh.

What I want to do in my fear rewrite is to talk about the irony of this -- here I am a stone’s throw from the DMZ and “axis of evil” but I feel pretty safe. I send my kid to the playground by himself and in general, don’t live in fear. (There’s a control aspect to this -- can’t do much about the nuclear weapons, but can train my kids to behave in certain ways.) But the atmosphere of the U.S., on the other hand, feels very fearful. If I were to send Aiden to the bathroom by himself in Target someone might call Social Services. Who knows where the next school shootings or terrorist attacks will be. Even the Amish aren’t safe unless Harrison Ford is around! Although my friends over there imagine me here in some barrack-style military zone, my knee-jerk impression of the U.S. is a place full of guns, drugs, and child molesters; a place where I need to be vigilant about the safety of my children.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

other blogs

I think of my blog as sort of a staging area -- an area where I can post essays and ideas that are partially formulated, inflicting them on an innocent public (of 5 or so). I am a terrible editor of my own work and hate editing. But these days I've been going through some of my old posts for other blogs, an exciting and excrutiating process. A lightly edited "Origin Story" went to Multicultural Living magazine for the November-December edition. After Chusok spent in a petulant rage I lobotomized Self-Monitoring to become "My so-called ex-pat life" for Printculture. Check me out on these other sites...

I want to thank my best friend Emily for being my textual foil as well as my patient editor and hand-holder during this process. In my own blog I don't feel so much anxiety and I can write whatever the hell I want, but for other people there's a lot of angst and anxiety in the process of writing something. Sometimes I just need someone around who will repeat "get rid of all the extra words!" "This idea doesn't belong here" and "It's OK, it's OK, it's fine, get some sleep" over and over again. Thanks, Em! AND she took that picture of me in my profile. And I also should mention (because I know she's been holding on to this for quite some time) that she cut my bangs in 10th grade, thereby inaugerating a new era of Jennifer Style.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Coming of Age

I am restless these days. Perhaps it is the coming of winter -- in the back of my mind I know that the darkness and cold are coming, and want to make the most of the light while I have it. Or perhaps writing this blog (and now writing for some other blogs as well) is making me restless. Suddenly Max is in school and I have some free time -- free time to confront the unanswered questions about what the hell I’m doing with my life, if I am putting my skills(?) to good use, and whether we should have another child, thereby delaying any resolution for another 3 or 4 years. I’m just starting to really get into this blog (so, dear readers, keep reading -- all 5 of you) and into the mode of writing and thinking again. I love being a parent, and it is important to me to raise my kids myself, but on days like this I am restless to exercise other faculties as well.

Aiden will be entering elementary school in March, and we are planning to send him to the local school. I view this change with excitement and trepidation -- it is a big milestone for him, but I am unfamiliar with what elementary school in Korea entails, and I keep hearing horror stories from other parents. Horror stories of big classes, outdated educational methods, old teachers who play favorites, lots of busy work for mommies, bribery, social pressure, and the pressure of competition. (Sounds like a Roald Dahl book!) Starting around this age, the educational system starts to become a black hole that sucks up every other aspect of life for children. On one hand, KC and I aren’t TOO worried -- we know we won’t be around for more than 2 years, and we want Aiden to get as much Korean out of this experience as he can, and we don’t care if he’s not ranked at the top of his class. Aiden doesn’t have to worry about English, which is a huge source of pressure (I could write a book on English anxiety just based on the conversations I eavesdrop on over at the sauna), his math skills are pretty good, he’s social and athletic, and I will help out at school as much as I can (apparently the teachers favor those whose mommies help out). On the other hand, the situation is so unfamiliar I am nervous, and Aiden has attended such a good kindergarten (5 kids in his class, bilingual education, excellent teaching -- go to FYKO, everyone!) that I am also worried that he will have trouble transitioning to a more hostile environment. At least he’s stopped pulling his pants down in public.

Childhood is supposed to prepare one for adulthood. But what does that mean? Take a quick look at the parenting books on the shelf: confident kids, self-sufficient kids, kids in touch with their emotions, kids comfortable with their sexuality, who don’t do drugs, who are healthy, who communicate well, who have good body images, etc. But the more time I spend listening to the collective anxieties of mommies here, the it seems to me that the monster of Getting into a Good College overshadows all other concerns and goals. The college entrance exam is a vortex that seems to engulf all other aspects of childhood, minimizing other responsibilities and abilities to the point that many young 20-somethings become dysfunctional adults.

Take young women, for example. Although women are entering the workforce at higher rates now, there is still a heavy social expectation that these women will get married and become primarily caretakers of the house, children, and of their husbands. But there is so much pressure to spend every moment of their childhood studying that very few girls or boys ever learn anything about how to run a household -- their mothers cook, clean, do laundry, pay bills, even wash their hair for them. They get through high school and college, get married, and suddenly find themselves the target of rage because they (women, I’m talking about now) have for the most part lived with their parents until marriage and have no idea how to live independently, much less fulfill the rigid expectations of hostile in-laws.

A Korean friend of mine describes how she went into her marriage with no knowledge of household tasks (집안일). One day she received an alarming phone call from her mother-in-law, who had gone to visit the apartment while she was out. “You’ve been robbed! Someone came in here and tore up the place!!” Hurrying home she found the apartment just as she had left it.

I remember a non-Korean friend of mine, living with another non-Korean plus two young Korean girls, who would daily rail at the inconsiderate living habits of the two girls. They would leave their dirty plates all over the place, never helped cook or clean or take the garbage out, and it never occurred to them to help. They were used to having things done for them.

As much as I hate to hear people bitch and moan about how hard life is, it really is hard for lots of women to adjust. How fair is it to train your child to study for 20 years and then rate them on how dust-free their floor is and how good their kimchee tastes? Hey, I can explain about “discourse” and object-oriented programming, I can make a kick-ass train track and do magic tricks and recite the star wars trilogy backwards and forwards but I’m judged on my housekeeping sins. It does not bother me to have books and papers lying around. A little dust never hurt anyone. I don’t feel the need to sterilize everything. Do I belong in the same category as the depraved and perverse?

The problem is not just with women. I’m sure we all remember quite vividly the tortures and deprivations our parents put us through. (For my part, we were only allowed to have one piece of candy a week, so my brothers and I spent much of Saturday morning in the candy aisle of the drug store contemplating what would last the longest.) KC spent his childhood being told not to indulge in his favorite things: sports, music, and even family; always to put study first. He was a talented athlete but was told “sports are for stupid people.” He didn’t have to attend family events because he was supposed to study. His father taught him to put study over his own relationship with his brother and sister. After he moved to the U.S., he didn’t even learn of his sister’s death right away; his father thought it would interfere with his schoolwork. For that KC will never forgive him. What kind of family is that? Sure, he has a doctorate. That degree doesn't hold the family together, or substitute for past neglects and hurts.

Aiden is heading to school, and I am still trying to figure out what place my years of education will play in my adult life. He’ll be entering a pressure cooker where he’ll be constantly compared to and ranked against his peers, admired for his English, and pushed to learn the next year’s worth of material after school. I’ll most likely be serving meals in the lunch room and helping kids cross the street safely during the day; cuddling my children to bed at night then donning my cape and gown and rushing out into the night of my thoughts, wrestling with the Bad Guys of Identity and the Management of Urine.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Making memories

A lot of my parenting techniques use digital imaging to help my kids gain a sense of control and ownership over their lives and their knowledge. For instance, each time we travel we make a travel "book" with pictures of parts of our trip and a narrative co-written by myself and Silly. I started these because when the kids were young they often wouldn't see one side of the family or another for a year at a time and I wanted them to remember their relatives, to have a face to go with the voice on the phone, and also to remember their experiences. We always take them with us when we travel because we believe traveling is part of their education, part of the gift we give to them, part of making them feel comfortable in and excited about the world. So I wanted them to remember their travels.

The kids love to take out the books and read them. They are kids' books, told from their perspective (or what I imagine their perspective to be), full of images and words about the food we ate, a "wet paint" sign, the toys they played with or the gifts received, which playground was the most fun, which animals they encountered.

Naughty started preschool recently. Naughty is a tough little cookie. He doesn’t deal with changes very well, he’s very attached to mommy, wanting to “nurt” all the time, he has a tendency to freak out suddenly and unexpectedly. So I made him a “Max goes to school” book, with a story about how he’s a big boy so he gets to go to school like his big brother, with pictures of the school, his teacher, his classroom, the other kids in his class, the activities he would do, and the order of his day at school. It helped him with the transition a lot (he still cried for the first month).

Anyway, the point of this was that at the end of my last post, I was wondering what forms of remembering my kids will rely on. And I started to think that while we and previous generations may have relied on monuments and places, with digital technology people are much more able to make the narration of memories a part of everyday life. Forget about photo albums you dust off every time Aunt Sally comes to visit. We have pictures on our cell phone, e-mail newsletters we send to family, multi-media slideshows complete with soundtrack. If these books last (I bind them now because the first few I made were real photos on construction paper and these fell apart as they were thumbed) my kids will have all these narratives of trips they took with their grandparents. But how does that change the form of the memory? Does it become more visual than say olfactory? Some of my memories from childhood are from photographs -- I know, because I can see myself in them, as if from the third person.

This blog seems to ravel and unravel... just as my posts were becoming more focused, more subject-oriented... I’m back to stream of consciousness. The funny thing is that I still have about 25 topics -- real subjects -- I’ve been meaning to blog on and haven’t had the time. Yes, I know, if I wrote shorter posts...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Remembering the Dead

Chusok. Chusok is most commonly referred to as the “Korean Thanksgiving” and, like Thanksgiving, involved overeating, waaaay too much time with extended family, and travel. Everyone’s emotions were particularly sharp and sensitive and all simmering resentments and unmet expectations somehow emerged in stupid generational arguments over what is OK to say to a 2-year old. Nevermind.

But unlike Thanksgiving, a significant part of Chusok involves remembrance of the dead. And I’m not talking about Pilgrims and Indians. During Chusok many families perform rites of ancestor worship, which I can’t really speak about because my in-laws are Christian and don’t do them, so I haven’t been able to witness this particular aspect of Chusok. All I know is the other mom friends who do these rituals don't enjoy them; they involve a lot of cooking and preparation and close contact with critical mother-in-laws.

The part that I do know about is visiting the graves. Koreans traditionally are buried on mountainsides, in graveplots like this one. Family members are supposed to care for the graves, trimming the grass and keeping them clean and looking nice. On holidays like Chusok, families go and spend a day at the gravesite, trimming and weeding and eating and drinking and talking and singing rather loudly (good thing we don't do the singing, we wouldn't want to upset the dead). If you live close enough to your ancestor’s grave, and can figure out how to avoid traffic on the holidays, it is a nice tradition. I like the idea of gathering at the grave and having something productive to do rather than just standing around awkwardly and putting flowers down. But for many people, the ancestor’s graves are a source of guilt, annoyance, and frustration. These days, between the declining birth rate, increased immigration to other countries, and worsening traffic at holiday times, deciding who will take care of these graves is a big problem. And, with so few holidays, many Koreans (like us) are choosing to travel abroad over Chusok rather than perform their familial duties.

This aspect of Chusok -- the part about remembering the dead -- was particularly poignant since it was on Chusok that I found out that my grandmother had passed away. The funeral was scheduled for less than 36 hours after I had found out (we had actually been in Malaysia, feasting while many were fasting for Ramadan, so I was out of contact for a day or so) and it was not humanly possible for us to make it back to the U.S. for the funeral without a private jet. So I am here, in Korea, remembering my grandmother and experiencing the funeral through cellphone calls from my brother and mother in Denver.

My grandmother is my last grandparent to pass. She was 93 and died in her sleep after steadily declining for several years. She had a good, long life, so I am not overcome with a sense of loss; and yet it disturbs me that she has passed and I’m not sure how I will remember her. I mean that her grave is in Denver, a place I rarely go. Even though she lived in the U.S. for 50 years, the most significant parts of her life are a mystery to me, since I only saw my grandparents once or twice a year while I was growing up; plus her English was not strong and my Chinese was minimal at best. I know some of the stories about her in the War: she gave birth to my mom on an ammunitions train while escaping from the Japanese. But she and my grandfather didn’t like to talk about these memories much so they have mostly faded into the past. Now I will never hear her talk of them again.

I think my grandmother's death bothers me most because it is the end of an era. Now my parents are the oldest generation. I see them age each year, see their hands wrinkle and their reflexes slow. My grandmother had been the reason I visited that side of the family; now, for various reasons, I don't think I will them very often at all.

I am glad my kids are spending so much time with their grandparents these days (although right now I think I will go INSANE if I have to see any more of my in-laws this week. Deep breath. Serenity now!); I'm glad they can speak the same languages and go on trips together. My father-in-law has already expressed concern that being buried will cause us too much hassle, especially since we plan on leaving Korea sometime in the next few years. He wants to be cremated. He, like my grandparents, survived horrors during the Korean War of which he doesn't like to speak. A gravesite or a war memorial give one a place to focus one's memory; a day like Chusok gives one a time set aside to remember.

What will my children remember of their grandparents? Where will they go to remember them? And when will they remember?

For once, a short post.