Weekend Snapshots 12

Six summers ago we moved to Carrboro, a great little town right next to Chapel Hill.

IMG_9673We lived in this house for a year while my husband did a sabbatical at the Humanities Center.

IMG_9642The two boys were in third and first grade here:

IMG_2267My daughter and I did our own “home preschool,” just the two of us.

We spent a happy year exploring the area and making new friends. This weekend we went back to attend the 25th wedding anniversary party of two of these friends. It was lovely to meet up with old friends and to revisit some of our old haunts. More on this later this week. For now, just a few snapshots from the weekend…




Stories from Easter Island

My father occupies any space he is in with a stoic, silent, and monumental presence. His impassive demeanor has prompted us to call him (behind his back, but with the greatest of affection!): The Easter Island Head.

When he was an active minister, my father would break his silence once a week on Sundays to preside over a Korean congregation in Northern Virginia. For one hour a week, between the hours of eleven and twelve, he would undergo a remarkable transformation. I couldn’t understand the sermons he would preach, but I could practically surf along the dramatic swells and crests that would come billowing into the pews from the pulpit. His animated face would glow and he would gesticulate to emphasize a point. Every once in a while, the congregants would burst into appreciative laughter and I would wonder what he could have possibly said that was so funny. During the hymns, he would forget to step away from the microphone, so his strong, fine voice could always be heard over everyone else’s. At the stroke of noon, the spell would be broken. He would fall silent and the impassive façade would settle back over his features like a mask, and would remain there until the next sermon he gave, or the next class he taught.

Only one other circumstance would cause the stony exterior to fall away to reveal the gentle river of memories and deep emotions that, in truth, have always floated fairly close to the surface. Within the close circle of his own immediate family, my father would often talk about his difficult childhood. Unlike my mother, who buries the unhappy memories of her past in some secret, inaccessible vault to which only she has the key, my father seems compelled to share his personal history through the stories he repeats over and over in an almost ritualistic way. Though I’ve heard them countless times, I never get tired of listening. When my father tells us about his childhood, and about the deaths of his father and siblings in his quiet, measured tones, it feels as if we are partaking in a sacred rite of remembrance to honor family members we would never know.

My father’s family lived in the country. They lived through the Japanese occupation, World War II, and the Korean War. Life was a struggle. Disease was rampant. When he was eleven years old, his entire family was struck down by typhoid fever for two weeks.  Only his mother did not get sick, because she had already survived her own bout of typhoid fever as a child. By the end of those terrible two weeks, my father’s father was dead. He left behind a widow with ten young children and a farm to run. This disastrous change in the family’s fortunes unleashed a whole chain of calamities.

To save grain, the family would skip lunch and only eat twice a day. My father watched three sisters and two brothers, between infancy and second grade, succumb to malnutrition and disease. Of all the siblings he lost, the one he talks about most is a beloved younger brother, who died at the age of four.

Whenever he speaks of this brother, he prefaces everything by saying that he was a genius. He always mentions his enormous head.

“Other than his big head, how could you tell he was a genius, Dad?” I asked, when he spoke of him most recently.

“I would carry him on my back and teach him Bible verses. I would recite a long passage such as Psalm 23rd just once, and he’d be able to repeat it back verbatim.”

He continued, “We had gotten used to the sound of WWII B-29 bombers. But when the communists overtook our village, American sabre jets flew over for the first time. We had never heard them before, and the noise…it was like a terrifying thundering metallic sound raining down from heaven.”

My father’s little brother was already weak and ill, but he thinks it was the noise of the sabre jets that literally scared him to death. When they would pass over, he would tremble with fear. Every time he would start to recover from the shock, another jet would fly over and he would get sick again.

There wasn’t enough to eat, and no one could risk going outside to forage for food for fear of falling bombs. “He would have survived if we had paid more attention,” my dad concludes. After a long pause, he says, “I really wished I could have caught bullfrogs to feed him.”

In the past my mother would try to comfort him when he finally arrived at this sad conclusion. She would say, “You were just a child. There was nothing you could do. It was too dangerous to go outside.” Nowadays, we all remain silent.

This last time, there was a coda to the story. My father told me that he was flying into LA for a conference when they announced over the intercom that the U.S. had just invaded Iraq.

“I was shocked when people started cheering. These people had never lived through a war. I immediately thought of the women and children, who would be terrified. When we landed and were arriving at the airport, everyone looked excited and happy…”

He shook his head in dismay and grew silent.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought to myself that if they had ever lived through bombings, they would never be cheering for such a thing.”

Though he only lived four short years on this earth, my father’s little brother lives on through the words of his loving brother, and the burnished memories he has passed on to his own children.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Related post: Little brown haired girl


Rosy Maple Moth

I found this beautiful moth on the road today…

The moth reminded me of a poem I hadn’t thought about in years. I was lurking in my high school library when I stumbled across a dusty old book that probably hadn’t been cracked in decades. It was a collection of “archy and mehitabel” poems, supposedly written by a cockroach named Archy, but actually penned by New York Evening Sun columnist Don Marquis (1878-1937). Archy pounds out his work on Marquis’ typewriter at night after everyone has left the office for the day. He types by diving headfirst into the keys, and because he can’t manage to hold down a shift key and type a letter at the same time, his poems are in lowercase. And Mehitabel? She’s Archy’s friend, an insouciant alley cat who claims to have been Cleopatra in another life and whose philosophy is: “wotthehell wotthehell toujours gai toujours gai.

the lesson of the moth

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself



Here’s hoping the moth I found today was burned up in one moment of exquisite beauty.

My Grandchild

As you may know, I recently became a grandmother. It was quite a shock when the adult friend my son was with at the beach for a week announced that he had become a teenage parent. He texted me this photo of my son holding my new grandchildren.

If you’ve been following along, you may also know that tragedy struck soon thereafter. My grandchildren turned on each other in a savage and gruesome display of sibling rivalry of Biblical proportions. We buried the mangled, suppurating bodies of Cain and Abel, and now it’s just my own namesake Adrienne who’s left.

Despite my initial misgivings, I have to admit, I’ve grown quite fond of the little murderess.

I find myself checking on her all the time.

“She looks hungry to me. Don’t you think you ought to give her a little snack?” I nudge my son.

Today during my lunch break, I did some clothes shopping for her…”Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “These shells are super cute, but will they feel too scratchy?”

The more I get to know my new grandchild, the more I’m convinced that we have far more than our name in common. In fact, I will go so far as to say that we are kindred spirits.

We are both a couple of night owls. We like to prowl around when everyone else in the house is fast asleep. Sometimes we like to have a midnight chat over a cup of tea…We discuss how the stock market’s doing, compare notes on the novels we’ve been reading, gossip about our mutual friends and acquaintances…

We are both indecisive, especially when it comes to clothing. She is constantly changing her outfits:

Sometimes she can be a little insecure:

She’s generally peaceable, but if you mess with her, she can get, well, pretty crabby. She doesn’t really like to be touched, for example:

She’ll tolerate only so much, and then she just might nip you.

And as her siblings (may they rest in peace) discovered too late for their own good, it’s unwise to really cross her:

I think she got my looks, too.

Weekend Snapshots 11

We spent the 4th of July weekend in Arlington with my extended family. The kids were delighted to see their New Jersey cousins.


At Korshi Restaurant: “Party of 14?! You made a reservation? No reservation?! 14?

Hours of fun (?) at Brookstone in Pentagon City Mall

Still having fun…

We took the shuttle from Pentagon City Mall to Long Bridge Park to watch the DC fireworks from across the river:


Yechon for dinner and Breeze Cafe for dessert (and the penalty shoot-out for the Holland vs. Costa Rica game):

My husband’s greatest triumph to date…separating four of my sister’s necklaces that had twisted themselves into a Gordion Knot.


I think my favorite memory of this weekend will be sitting in my parents’ living room with my fourteen year old son, as he played them the electronic dance music he’s been producing. You have to understand, the only secular music I can ever remember being played in our household when I was a child was an old John Denver LP. Whenever my siblings and I ventured to play music of our own choosing, a pained expression would pass across my parents’ faces. Within minutes they’d ask us in no uncertain terms to turn it off. On Sunday afternoon, my elderly parents listened to the thumping, throbbing Electro house, progressive house, Melbourne Bounce, and Happy hardcore tracks my son played for them with thoughtful expressions on their faces. Every now and then, they would bob their heads appreciatively and say, “I like that part.” “You did that yourself?” “Very good, very good.” As my sister put it, “Now that’s true love.”

Want to listen?


Home again, home again, jiggity jig: