We’ve been learning my parents’ favorite old hymns, and making recordings for them…My mom ruined this particular song for me for all of eternity by saying she wanted us to sing it at her funeral. Thanks, Mom.
During the pandemic, my daughter launched a wildly successful matchmaking service…for snails. It happened quite by accident. She found her first snail, christened him Seamus, and created a bachelor’s pad for him. But social distancing was hard on Seamus. He seemed to be pining away. My daughter was on the verge of letting him go when we found a friend for him in the garden. Seamus the snail perked right up. Sparks flew. One thing led to another. And then this happened…
Historians have been encouraging students to keep a diary of their lives during the pandemic. When I suggested that my daughter start one, she gazed up at the ceiling for a few moments before replying in a voice riven with weariness: “What would I write? ‘Today I played NBA2K and scored 34 points for the Toronto Raptors.’ Enthralling material.”
Here’s a photo diary of what she’s ACTUALLY been up to…
Preparing for the apocalypse:
She has NOT been traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard to play soccer, but she HAS been participating in video chats and video compilations with her teammates.
(In case you’re wondering, that valuable roll of toilet paper was not sacrificed for the video).
Transforming Gingersnap into a future agility champ:
To be continued…tomorrow’s diary entry will reveal her biggest project to date.
We recorded another hymn this week…
According to my mother, the only reason she ever regretted not teaching us Korean was that we could never appreciate my dad’s sermons. I grew up hearing my dad preach every Sunday, but never understanding a word. As you might imagine, Sunday mornings were a kind of mild torture for me. I would zone out through the sermon and the endless prayers, (so very many prayers!). My only relief came whenever it would be time to sing a hymn. I knew every hymn we sang, because I’d been singing them with my family my whole life.
My mother’s fondest fantasy was that we would be the Korean Von Trapps. She even went so far as to make us matching purple crushed velvet pantsuits out of entirely unsuitable heavy curtain fabric. In her fanciful vision, we would trudge together in velvet splendor through some alpine landscape singing in close harmony not Edelweiss or Do-Re-Mi, but Amazing Grace and What a Friend We Have in Jesus! The closest we ever came to fulfilling my mom’s most cherished dream was during church services. My dad never remembered to turn off his microphone, and his booming voice would fill the chapel. My mother would sing the alto part to my dad’s melody in her beautiful and powerful voice. My siblings and I would play supporting roles, singing in English while the rest of the congregation sang in Korean.
For me, my inability to speak Korean was never more painful than when my grandparents came to visit us. I felt acutely that they were bitterly disappointed that we couldn’t communicate with them. On one of their occasional visits, my grandfather took his customary guest turn at the pulpit and suddenly broke out into song in the middle of his sermon. His rich a cappella voice reverberated around the small chapel and roused me from my usual Sunday morning reverie. I knew the song he was singing, because I’d sung it with my own family hundreds of times. Higher Ground connects me to my childhood, and always makes me think of my father and grandfather.
When my friend told me she’d been doing quarantine hymn sings with her in-laws over FaceTime, I knew my parents would love this idea, and I knew Higher Ground was one of the songs we had to sing. My husband and kids learned the hymn and we made this recording for my parents:
It was such a joy to work on this song with my family. Now if only I knew how to sew! I’m sure I could rustle up some old curtains we don’t need anymore…
Remember when you and Stefan taught us how to make German potato pancakes?
After all that hard work, the kids demolished those pancakes in the blink of an eye! I’m sure they tasted even better, because they all took part in making them.
After dinner, your boys taught my kids how to play Settlers of Catan.
Let’s do this again when social distancing is a distant memory. We can have the party at my house this time. Maybe we’ll make Korean pancakes (pajeon)! I’ll have to get a recipe from my mom…
I miss you, and am thinking about you all the time. Please stay strong! I’ll write again tomorrow.
Isn’t it funny that we both have three kids who are all in the same grades and have often been classmates?
Remember how our youngest ones met in Kindergarten? You laughed when you told me how your son would crow about my daughter’s soccer exploits. He would brag to you about how she had scored ten goals in one game.
Remember the funny story you told me about the assignment they had to write about what they wanted to be when they grew up? I loved how you bubbled over with laughter when you told me your son said he wanted to be a cook so that he could make delicious soup for my daughter.
“And what does she want to be when she grows up?” you asked.
“A lawyer!” he said.
One day my daughter came home from Kindergarten looking a little perturbed.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“There’s a boy in my class and he’s telling everyone we’re going to get married and it’s so embarrassing!”
Of course it turned out that it was your son.
What a silly girl not to realize she had what we all dream of having: someone willing to dedicate his life to our happiness!
You’ve raised such sweet and generous children, my dear friend. They are a beautiful reflection of their mother’s spirit.
It’s late and it’s been a long day. I spent most of it giving travel signatures to students in face masks anxious to get home to their families around the world. I went shopping to stock up on groceries in case there are none the next time I venture to the store. My oldest son stepped off the train this evening at 7:30. Who knows when he’ll get back to New York? Has your son returned home yet? I hope so! Doesn’t it feel good to have everyone together again back in the nest, even though it’s under trying circumstances?
I am sending you lots of love and thinking about what I will write for you tomorrow…
I’ve been trying to remember when we first met…Was it nine or ten years ago when you first moved to Charlottesville from Germany and our boys became friends at school? This is the earliest photo I can find of our two boys together.
They look like they could be brothers…
I think our boys were glad to have each other through their last years at elementary school. Being a non-white student in a rural community with little diversity can be hard. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for your son to go from a German school to an American one. Remember when you told me he never uttered a single word at school and I was shocked, because he never ceased talking at our house? I loved hearing his perfectly unique, lilting Chinese-German accent. Our boys are both sensitive dreamers, who have always marched to the beat of their own drums. Remember how we used to laugh and sigh about their shockingly messy backpacks? And to discover they both never knew what their homework assignments were, and that when they miraculously did manage to complete their homework assignments, they both scrupulously forgot to turn them in? Remember when my boy started to learn Chinese, and we talked about him going with your family to visit China one day? Remember how we discovered they both had a passion for music? We tried (as meddlesome parents are wont to do) to get them to play the piano together. We failed, of course.
I’ve been so glad for your friendship over the years. Like our boys, we have a lot of similarities…Maybe we look like we could be sisters? We both married academics from other countries, and followed them to Charlottesville. But you have always been braver and more resilient than I am. I don’t think I could have made the move from China to the U.S. to Germany and back to the U.S. again with three young children in tow. I have always appreciated and admired your open-hearted spirit. I have always loved hearing your generous laugh. Your friendship has been a treasure to me, especially during these last couple of years, which have been difficult for both us. Many of the things that used to bring me joy (like writing) have fallen by the wayside. I wanted to come visit you this week, but I worried about your health. You told me to stay at home, because you worried about mine. You said, “I have to keep you healthy. I like to read what you write to me.” And so this week I will write for you, my dear friend. More tomorrow…
I just wanted to send you this picture of the primula you brought me when you came to visit us years ago. It’s blooming again in the garden of our third house in Charlottesville, after making the trans-Atlantic voyage wrapped in a tissue in your handbag decades ago, after being transplanted from your garden in Scotland to your garden in Altrincham many, many more years before that. Every year when those faithful little flowers bloom so steadfastly and so generously, it makes me happy to think of you, and all the friends with whom I’ve shared it over the years. I’m sure those little divisions are blooming in gardens all across America right now. I imagine it’s still blooming in the first beautiful garden you planted in Dollar. I picture Colin as a baby in that great big pram, parked like a little prince amidst those flowers. I think of the small miracle that the American daughter of Korean immigrants could fall in love with and marry a boy from a third continent. In these days of “social distancing” and closing borders, the flowers remind me that enduring friendship and love are constants in our lives, even when things seem so unstable, and the world so dark…even when we are so far apart. I think of you both often with love and deepest affection.