Tag Archives: Annabelle Kim

Weekend Snapshots 57

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Friday

Spring has sprung in C’ville!  I took the day off work to spend some time with family and friends…img_3383

…who came to support our favorite author at the Virginia Festival of the Book!

Saturday

Tiger Pelt book signing…

Sunday

Past, Present, & Future Tense

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Past

A couple years ago when my dad was turning 80, my sister offered to take him anywhere in the world to celebrate the milestone. She thought he might want to visit a country he had never been to such as Italy or England. He said he wanted to go back to Korea. My sister and I accompanied my parents back to their native land for one last visit.

Our home base was Seoul, but early on in the trip we drove two and a half hours south to Yesan-gun in Chungcheong province to visit my father’s last living sibling. As we drove deeper and deeper into the countryside, I asked my dad to tell me about his hometown. Of the place where he spent his childhood he had this to say: There is absolutely no reason why you would have ever heard of it.

We drove past endless rice paddies and greenhouses until we finally pulled into a narrow alley. My father’s brother who inherited the family farm built a more modern house in the place where the old hanok used to be…IMG_3904

His widow (second from the left) came out to greet us. My dad’s older brother and his wife (in the middle) were also waiting for us at the house.

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I didn’t notice it at the time, but at some point during that visit, my aunt gave my mother a bunch of gingko nuts from the huge sack of them she had harvested from her own trees. I imagine they were from trees that were part of the landscape of my dad’s childhood. My parents brought a handful of them back to their home in Arlington, Virginia.

Fast forward a year…Last autumn I was telling my parents about the “Pratt Gingko” planted in 1860 near the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. When it’s in its full glory, it is a magical experience to stand under the leaves as they rustle in the wind and float down to the ground, which becomes draped in a shimmering coverlet of its golden leaves.

“Did you know your dad planted some gingko trees in the backyard?” my mother asked when I had finished rhapsodizing about the tree.  He had planted the seeds from that handful of gingkos they brought back from his family’s farm.

Present

My sister brought my parents down to Charlottesville this weekend for a visit. My sister and I were going to the Virginia Festival of the Book and thought for sure my dad, who loves books more than anyone else I know, would want to join us.

“I’m not going to go to the book festival,” he announced, “I brought the gingko trees to plant for you. Show me where you want me to put them.”

“How about in a row all along the back fence of the paddock?” I suggested, imagining the vision of golden radiance I would one day see from my kitchen window.

“Well, that would be ok,” he replied gently, “But…no one will be able to see them there.”

I had given the Wrong Answer: “Let’s put them wherever you think would be best, Dad!”

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I watched my dad struggling to break through the tough soil in the part of the (FRONT) yard where he chose to plant the trees. I hovered around uselessly, then went to join my mother on the front porch where we sat and watched.

When she saw that he was having trouble standing up, she nudged me and said, “Go! Help your dad! He can’t get up!”

I ran over to him and reached out my hand.

“Can I help you up, Dad?” I asked hesitantly, afraid to embarrass him.

He wouldn’t take my proffered hand and told me he just needed a moment to rest.

Reluctantly, I left to make it on time to the workshop my sister and I were attending at the Festival. I only had time to urge my daughter to get her grandfather a glass of ice water before I had to drive away.

Future

Later, my mother and I walked around the area where my dad had planted the seven baby gingko trees he had grown from seeds. My mama, the drama queen, always ready to devastate her audience with a toss of her head or a tragic line sighed and said, “As I watched him planting the trees, I realized these really are the last days of his life.” In the end, she told me that she and my son had to help him back to his feet and that my son took over digging the holes…

“One day, when the trees are grown,” she said as we inspected the tiny little saplings, “Your children will remember planting them with their grandpa.”

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Command performance for the grandparents…and one supremely unimpressed dog.

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Related posts: 

My Parents’ Journey

Visiting the Gravesite

Lumpy and Stupid

Lumpy and Stupid Visit the Country, Part 1

Lumpy and Stupid Visit the Country, Part 2

In Which Lumpy and Stupid Try Not to Disgrace the Family Name

Last Day in Seoul

Pssst! P.S.: My sister Annabelle Kim recently published her novel Tiger Pelt, a Kirkus Best Books of 2015, partly inspired by stories my dad told us about his childhood. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Indiebound!

On love, loss, and life.

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img_3733Thank you for bringing me here.

This line from my sister’s novel Tiger Pelt has been on my mind this past week. A year ago today, a dear friend died. This evening I will gather with Carla‘s friends and family. We’ll have dinner together and we will celebrate her life and the many ways she touched our own. At the end of the week, I will attend the memorial service for another friend who died almost a week ago today. Peter was one of the finest human beings I have ever met. I feel honored to have known him and to have called him a friend.

It’s been a rough year, if I’m being honest. I’ve been trying to prepare a celebratory post about Tiger Pelt, which is launching today, but I’ve been reeling with sadness and stumbling my way through the week. This past year, a beloved uncle and aunt also died, a close friend moved far away, and we worried about the health of our elderly parents. In a moment of overwhelming anguish I declared to my husband that I didn’t want to know any more people. Knowing people sets you up for sorrow.

Many years ago when I was in graduate school I ended a relationship with the person I thought I was going to marry. I was completely undone. My oldest sister rushed to my side to be with me in my misery. I wailed to her that I wished I had never met the person in the first place. I could have spared myself so much grief! I had invested so much of myself into the relationship, only to be left with a heart that was literally throbbing with pain. My sister told me that despite the hurt, I shouldn’t wish that time away. She said that every experience – good and bad – creates the layers and depths that make you more of a human being. One day, she told me, I would realize that the relationship had been a valuable one, and for all the pain I was feeling, my life would be fuller and richer because of it. I didn’t believe her at the time, but she was right of course.

In Tiger Pelt, the two main characters experience loss after terrible loss. Toward the end of the novel, Young Nam clasps the hand of Hana, whose life has intersected with his own in painful, and even destructive ways and says, “Thank you for bringing me here.” In this line he acknowledges the truth of what my sister once told me long ago. I think this is what I love most about this novel. The protagonists endure unimaginable suffering, but they choose hope, love, and gratitude over despair. You may cry when you read Tiger Pelt, but you may also laugh and be inspired by the strength of the human spirit. Hopefully, the stories of Young Nam and Hana will settle into your hearts forever.

And so I end with this. To Carla and to Peter, who both inspired me with their character, integrity, and spirit: Thank you for bringing me here. You are now a part of my heart and my story. I am better for having known you and I am so grateful.