My siblings and I headed to Austin, Texas for a long weekend that was all about books…
…and family time:
…and more eating:
While I was away, my oldest turned 18. I came back home just in time to celebrate his birthday with the Tres Leches Cake his little sis made for him.
We celebrated the start of the kids’ spring break at Maru, the new Korean restaurant on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.
There are some interesting twists on the menu, like kimchi arancini.
And there are straight classics, like dolsot bibimbap.
The kids loved their bossam, (lettuce wraps).
I took the kids to see Fun Home at LiveArts. The themes and language were far more adult than I was expecting, but the musical was deeply moving and beautifully performed.
I awoke in the early hours of the morning to the sound of tape being ripped with ferocious intensity. The night before the younger two made their declaration of war. Their older brother asked to be left out of the battle. It took me a moment to figure out that the Great April Fools Easter War of 2018 had officially begun.
The noise I had heard was the sound of the 15 year old taping saran wrap to his sister’s bedroom door. She had frozen his toothbrush in a mug of water the night before. He retaliated by using his Water Pik against her like a makeshift water gun. She in turn attacked him with chalk fingerprints all over his choir robe.
Finally, after singing for two Easter services in a row, we were all feeling rather exhausted.
“Please, let’s stop this. I can’t take anymore,” the 15 year old said as we trudged back to the car.
The 12 year old was exultant: “Does that mean I won?!”
“Yes! You won. I’ll take my punishment. But, please let me do it tomorrow. I just can’t face it today.” (More on that later).
And so an Easter Armistice was declared.
The kids celebrated the end of war with the Easter egg hunt that awaited them back at home…
The biggest hit was the new basketball the Easter bunny left for them…
That evening we sat down to a traditional Easter dinner…if Easter just so happened to coincide with April Fool’s Day…The parents had one last trick up their sleeve:
Oh…and that punishment I mentioned earlier?
Spring has sprung in C’ville! I took the day off work to spend some time with family and friends…
…who came to support our favorite author at the Virginia Festival of the Book!
Tiger Pelt book signing…
The kids knew since Tuesday afternoon that they would have a snow day on Wednesday. For me it wasn’t so clear. I checked the university website early yesterday morning to see that they had announced that “non-designated ” employees did not have to report to work.
The announcement raised some burning existential questions in those early morning hours…Who am I? What am I? Oh, dear God, please let me be “non-designated”!
My prayers were answered!
The two younger kids got bundled up to play in the snow. Their older brother remained seated in the living room, tapping away at his laptop with an air of serious concentration.
He had always been the first kid to rush outdoors in any kind of weather. Now, he’s at the tail end of his senior year and is weighing his college options… Lately he’s been enlightening us with impromptu dinner time lectures on everything from the immortal science of Marx to intersectionality…
Aren’t you going to go out to play with your siblings in the snow?!
It’s too cold out there!!!
Believe me, I can totally relate…but are you sure?
Yeah! I don’t want to freeze!
Hmmm…I replied sadly…I feel like you’ve crossed some kind of Rubicon. It’s kind of bumming me out a little to be honest.
I’m still doing childish things! He said as he continued to type away at this laptop. I’m playing a video game! Just indoors!
For as long as I can remember, my parents have been fond of torturing us by talking about the afterlife with unseemly anticipation. My mother, in particular, has harbored a long time death wish. As a little girl, I remember feeling rather offended by the wistful quaver in her voice as she would sing: “Beyond the sunset, o blissful morning when with our Savior, heaven is begun. Earth’s toiling ended, o glorious dawning, beyond the sunset when day is done.”
“Jesus Christ!” I’d think to myself huffily. “Don’t trip over your feet in your rush to ditch your little kid!”
When my mother was diagnosed with a serious illness and given eighteen months to live (ten years ago), it looked like her dreams were finally coming true. My parents began to prepare for the end in earnest. My dad already had a suitable poster-sized photo to display at his own funeral, but my mother did not. My dad rarely gets bothered about anything, but about this particular issue he fussed endlessly. He hired a photographer to come to their apartment in Seoul to take photos of my mother. In the end he rejected every single one, because he felt that she looked too sick in all of them. (Should have taken her to Glamour Shots, Dad!) Over the next eighteen months, he rooted around in old photo albums searching for possible funeral photos. When we’d see him at Thanksgiving, or Christmas he’d find a moment when my mother wasn’t around to pull one of us aside and furtively slip us an envelope containing her photo. We inevitably viewed his choices with dismay. (Really, Dad? She’s got a poodle pama* in this photo. Ugh – not this one! Her dress is hideous!)
We kept these uncharitable thoughts to ourselves, of course, and dutifully promised our dad that we would deal with the odious task of getting the photo enlarged. We would then routinely, perhaps subconsciously, sabotage the project by putting it off until we forgot all about it…only to be reminded the next time we saw our dad and he would give us a meaningful look and ask if we’d “taken care of the thing I asked you to do.” Once, in advance of a family get-together, my sister called me in a panic and confessed to me that she’d misplaced the latest photo my dad had given her. She knew he’d ask her about it, and she couldn’t admit to him that she’d lost it…The poor man kept plying us with new photos and pestering us until at long last we finally showed him one of the photos he’d chosen, enlarged to poster size and ready to display at my mom’s funeral. Lord only knows where it’s gathering dust now…
The next issue to be sorted out was where my parents would be buried. During the worst of my mother’s illness, when she truly was close to death, my father, brother, and I helped her stagger up the mountain to the spot where her parents are buried.
My brother and I wept that day, our hearts wrung with searing grief, when our dad told us she had come to say a final goodbye to her parents because she knew she would never be able to make it back up the mountain again.
As it turned out, that indomitable old woman was able to haul herself back up the mountain again under her own steam just a few years ago.
But back then, on that terrible day on the mountainside with the chill shadow of death looming over us, we could never have imagined that we would one day stand next to her again at the gravesite years later. On that day my mother recognized the caretaker who was tending the graves. She summoned him over in her usual imperious fashion, all the more freighted by her deathly pallor. The man hustled over with a deferential air, and listened with a bowed head as she weakly gestured to a spot she had picked near her parents. She informed him in a barely audible, raspy voice that this was where she wished to be laid to rest. My father, brother and I stood there, a mute tableau of sorrow, with rivulets of burning tears trickling down our faces. I believe in a just God, because S/He meted out swift punishment to our mother for torturing us with her maudlin performance. After hearing her out, the man informed her that the mountain, (which her own father had bought), was reserved solely for members of the church he had founded, and therefore she was ineligible to be buried there.
In a final twist, later that day when my brother and I had caught our breaths after the repeated sucker punches to the gut, my dad privately complained to us that although my mother wanted to be buried with her parents, she should in fact be buried with his people, in the countryside far away from Seoul.
My siblings and I discussed this latest revelation amongst ourselves. We had always known that dying was our parents’ version of winning a trip to Disney Land, but until then – the idea of having to bury them had been purely notional. It was then that we realized we had no idea how to actually handle it. It’s not really the kind of casual conversation one wants to have, say, over Thanksgiving dinner. My parents cleared up all our doubts a couple years ago by announcing that they had purchased burial plots in Virginia. They handed each of their children identical envelopes containing maps to their adjacent plots and instructions for their funeral services, including the phone numbers for the ministers who had already agreed to officiate and instructions for how much to pay them. After a major freakout, my siblings and I finally settled down. Eventually, we even felt grateful that they had made their wishes so perfectly clear.
Our dad, who is usually fairly vague about pretty much everything else, spelled out with exacting specificity the kind of coffin he wanted: a plain, pine coffin with absolutely no decorative elements or adornments of any kind.
Thereby ensuring that everyone will think his children are a bunch of cheap $%^@s! my sister concluded.
*Korean women are required by law to get a short, homely perm (“pama”) the minute they turn 40.