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…
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.
I began the year with a trip to Charlotte for the annual reunion of my college roommates…It just so happened that two of our daughters were there for different sports competitions. I was so grateful to my friend, who drove me to my daughter’s four games and even stood out in the freezing cold rain with me to watch a little. Now that‘s truly a good friend!
A few weeks later, our oldest headed back to school in NYC.
I went to New Jersey to visit my sister and her faithful dog Daisy.
My friend Katherine and I woke up at an ungodly hour to board a 6 am flight to NYC to check in on our kids, who are both studying there…
We stayed in a hotel at Hudson Yards, right next to The Vessel.
Our hotel bathroom must have been three times as large as the one in my son’s apartment…
On Saturday we went to Chinatown for dim sum and found ourselves wading through huge crowds that had come out for the Chinese New Year parade:
This last Sunday my second son gave a sermon during the youth-led service at our church…
So proud of him. So not ready for him to leave for college next Fall.
Meanwhile, Gingersnap continues her ruthless and devastatingly efficient campaign to conquer the universe with expressions like these…
At the dog park today…
This winter I started wearing a brand new, never before worn coat that’s been hanging in my closet for…the last decade. I know this is extreme. I blame it on what my husband likes to call “genetic garbage.” It makes me who I am, and marks me as a member of my own little tribe of weirdos.
A couple years ago, I was at an event with my two sisters. Two of us couldn’t stop cooing over the dress our sister was wearing.
“You look so chic!”
“How come we’ve never seen you wear that before? Is it new?”
Our sister sheepishly confessed that it wasn’t new, but she had never worn it before. It had been hanging in her closet for a while.
“I have this thing about wearing new clothes…I’m too embarrassed to wear things right away when I buy them. So then when I eventually do wear something and someone asks me if it’s new, I can honestly say: No, I’ve had it for a while.”
“I DO THAT TOO!!!” I shrieked.
“SO DO I!!!” our other sister said.
We’ve made other discoveries like this over the years. Once my sister told us that she would hate it when people sang Happy Birthday to her, because it always made her tear up from embarrassment. Until then, I thought I was the only who had that weird reaction.
A few years ago that same sister and I realized we share yet another genetic garbage trait. For years I suffered from the feeling that my legs were burning hot. One day I texted my sisters to ask, “Does anyone else feel like their thighs are as hot as curling irons?” To my surprise, my sister immediately texted back “YES!” She went on to explain that her natural instinct to research the problem was hampered by her fear of googling “hot thighs.” She eventually diagnosed our issue as a kind of neuropathy, for which there is nothing to be done but to commiserate with one’s sister and fellow sufferer!
The classic example of genetic garbage on my husband ‘s side of the family is “concentration tongue.” Whenever my father-in-law, husband, son, or daughter are performing a task that requires focus, their tongues slide out of their mouths. If the task is really demanding, the tongue starts to waggle back and forth. The harder the task, the faster the waggle:
Anybody else share “genetic garbage” traits with their family members?
Happy Weekend! It looks like we’re going to get walloped with snow in our corner of the world. Good thing I have a coat to wear! ; )
Shutterfly has jumped on the “Memory” wagon and I love it…Last week they emailed me these photos from a Christmas card photo shoot ten years ago!
We’re going to see that no-longer-little-sprite-on-the-right very soon…I just bought his train ticket. He’ll be home for the holidays from his first semester of college by the end of the week!
It was pouring rain this morning when I asked my trusty sidekick to get dressed and go vote with me, even though she hasn’t been feeling well. Just a couple weeks ago, she had played the role of Leslie Cockburn in a debate for Civics class and had won the mock election. I wanted her to be there when I cast my vote.
Despite the wide grins…
…we’ve actually been feeling like this all day:
But the future is NOW…and we are going to live in hope. Even on a cold and wet day, there is beauty to be found…
By the time I got home from work, the sun was shining. There were even some flowers valiantly blooming, bowed but unbroken by the torrential downpours we’ve been having lately…
We live in hope.
Ummm…can we talk about The Elephant in the Room?
What a hoot!
Boy Who Has No Time For Such Foolish Nonsense