Be my guest

from my mother of 70 or 68 years

I watched her - my mother of 70 or 68 years (the jury is still out; her birth certificate was lost in her family's flight to South Korea) - as she regaled the story of her family's journey some 60 years ago.

We were at the Thanksgiving dinner table, and an alternative one at that – complete with kimchee, galbi and other Korean fixings - as my bf was learning a bit about my mom's past, that in small and big ways has certainly shaped her present.  She said she left their house in North Korea when her brother heard the bombs, smelled the chaos, and knew that war was imminent.  There were what seemed to be infinite children in the house at that time; and my mom - all ten years old of her - dragged two of her younger siblings in tow (my Aunt Rosa was a wee two years old) and walked 40 miles to her aunt's house, which she had only been to once via train.  At one point on this journey, she lost her siblings - their little hands slipped through hers, and she went searching for them against a sea of families walking due south, while she ambled due north.  Gratefully, she found them - tucked in a melon farm eating fruit to their delight, sweetly oblivious to the shower of weaponry arching its dangerous back over them.

They made it.  Somehow, someway, like artful dodgers they made it to their aunt's door, and ultimately to safety as they traversed what is now the demilitarized zone.  Others did not fare as well.  With so many crowding for safety, the boats could not carry the weight of so many and dare I say, some did not make it ashore.  Some did not ever clasp their hand in their daddy's hand, as my mom and her siblings did when they reached the other side.  And for their hearts, and for their families, my heart is heavy.

I watched her - my mother of 70 or 68 years, as she shared this story anew.  I learned new things in hearing her speak, I felt more, I loved more.  And I thought to myself - my god, my dear and unknown and epic god, I am so grateful I am a product of this strength, her strength, and that I am here because my family before me clamored every step of the way to survive. 

My friend, Sharon Schneider, wrote recently of the blessings in which we were born in this excellent post: The Most Important Thing to Be Grateful For.  And this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for not only the world that cocooned me at birth, but the grit of my family who walked to freedom, so that one day I could take my walk around the sun.

I watched her, and I fell in love all over again. 

Maria Kim

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