From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."


사랑합니다, Omonim… Abonim.

This morning, I was awakened by the clinking of chopsticks and my parents-in-law’s conversation over breakfast. If it had been an ordinary day, I would have hit the hay again, but today is Parent’s Day and I had to get up to greet them. I set the alarm at 7 before going to bed last night, because that’s the time my in-laws usually wake up, but they got up pretty early. It was a few minutes past 6 when I heard them in the dining room. I woke up my husband who was snoring louder than a lawnmower, hastened to change, washed my face and brushed my teeth. By the time, I was done, my father-in-law had already put on his jacket and was heading out for work. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, was tidying up the dining table. I greeted them good morning. They were probably wondering why I was up so early. I told them that I was going to the hospital which was actually true, but the real reason why I was scurrying out of the bedroom was because I wanted to be the first to pin carnation boutonnieres on their shirts. The tradition of giving carnations during Parents’ Day in Korea typifies respect and gratitude for parents.


At school, students make paper carnations and cards to give to their parents. A day before the occasion, you can already find carnation bouquets being sold on the streets or in various shops and convenience stores. Bakeries sell cakes in the semblance of a carnation like this lovely ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins:


Cosmetic shops and department stores display Parents’ Day gift sets. Restaurants offer promos. Parents are usually given lavish presents or money, treated to dinner or pampered in the salon. On our way to the hospital, most of the big restaurants we passed by were full. In the department store, we saw a couple of parents and their adult children shopping together. I suddenly remembered my Mom. How I miss her. On Mothers’ Day, I take her shopping, too.

May 8 was originally Mother’s Day in Korea, but after some time, it became Parents’ Day (어버이 날 ). The occasion was altered, so fathers can also be recognized and thanked.

Tonight, my in-laws are going to have dinner with the family. My husband and I won’t be there, because we have to go to work, but I’m glad that we were the first to greet them today and tell them that we appreciate everything they have done for us. I rarely tell my parents-in-law that I love them, though I really do. When I told them “사랑합니다, 어머님… 아버님” (I love you, Omonim… Abonim.) as I hugged them this morning, their face lit up. My parents-in-law and I have lived together for four years, and though our relationship is not near to perfect, I believe that we have learned to truly appreciate one another. They care about me like parents to a daughter and I am grateful for their love. I may not be an outstanding 며느리 (daughter-in-law), but I try my best to show them that I also care about them the way a daughter cares for her parents.



What I Want To Be as a Grown-up (A Mother’s Day Special)

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a fashion model. I would wear my Mommy‘s high-heeled shoes and her pretty clothes, do the catwalk in front of the mirror, and imagine that I was being watched by famous designers in the world as I flaunt their latest creations… but then I grew up and realized I am not model material. Models don’t have to be pretty, but they have to be tall and skinny. I am only 5 ft 2 and I eat like a horse. There is no way I’m going to grow taller and I just can’t give up my love for food to make me look close to being anorexic.

When I had my first crush and I thought that Ricky Martin of Menudo was the most handsome boy in the world, I wanted to be a singer, so I could go on a concert with him. We’d sing a duo and travel  the world together to promote our song, and when we get a bit older, we’d get married, write and sing more songs that would make us one of the most famous celebrity couples. I can sing. It’s one of my talents. However, talent alone is not enough to make it to show business. I can still wow some listeners with my singing, but I am no longer interested in Ricky Martin nor in becoming a professional singer. I am now more interested in becoming the best wife to my husband who can’t sing and dance La Vida Loca, but can make my heart flutter like a Korean teenager who sees her favorite boy band in person.

(Believe it or not, boy bands used to dance awkwardly and dress like the power rangers. ^^)

When I was a teenager, I thought it would be cool to be one of the richest people in the world. I was always watching the TV series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and how I envied those who have everything they could ever dream of. I wanted a mansion with a swimming pool and a very big garden; the fastest and the most luxurious cars in my garage; a huge walk-in closet that has all the latest branded clothes, shoes, bags and other accessories I could possibly own; and most of all, money, money, money… lots and lots of them… not just for me, but also for my family. I promised myself I would work hard or do something out of the ordinary and get paid for it A LOT. There was even a time I thought of becoming a scientist and inventing a money-making machine… but thank God, the daydreaming ended. I’ve learned that the BEST THINGS in life are those that don’t come with price tags. Money makes life easier and more comfortable, but it isn’t money that makes life worth living. I kept my promise to myself, though. Now that I’m older, I work hard to earn, spend and save money… but my main goal in life is not to be “rich”. I don’t need to be wealthy. I’ve got all I need to make me happy although I don’t have much (but of course, If God allows, I would be overjoyed if my husband were to win the lotto ^^).

When I finished high school, I wanted to be a lawyer. I really believed I would be taking up Law. I had one university in mind, and I was ready to burn the midnight oil to get admitted to that law school… but I ended up being a teacher, not just a teacher… an EDUCATOR. I don’t have any regrets. I love TEACHING and I’m good at what I do… but sometimes I think about my dream of becoming a lawyer. It’s not too late. I can still fulfill it… but you see, as you trudge farther through life, your priorities change. I choose not to sacrifice my earnings, time, effort, attention, and all of “me” to achieve that dream, because now I know what I really want to be.

I was looking at some old photographs in my laptop. One photo is that of my sister when she was pregnant with her second child. She looked so happy, as my nephew, her first child, was kissing her bulging tummy.

There are a couple of pictures of me and my Mom, too, that I’ve seen a dozen times… but every time I miss her, I look at them over and over again until it feels like we’re not miles apart.

I found my sister’s wedding photos. One of my favorite pictures in her wedding album is the one with Mom, which was taken in the hotel right after they had their hair and make-up done. They are similar in many ways, people tend to notice.

There is always pride in Mom’s eyes every time she speaks of us, her daughters… but on our wedding day, she would not give a speech, maybe because as a mother, no words can describe how proud, happy and at the same time, sad she was to see her daughters walk down the aisle with the man they would be spending the rest of their lives with. She told us she would only end up crying and smudging her make-up if she gave us a message. My Mom cries when she’s sad for us. She cries, too, when she’s happy for us.

Then I saw a folder that says Little Dei-dei, and upon clicking it, tons of memories unfolded before my eyes. I remember my nephew when he was born, how excited everybody in the family was to see and hold him, and how delighted and nervous I was when I finally held him for the first time. He was so tiny I was afraid to hold him tighter, but I moved him closer to my face, kissed him on the forehead, and whispered in my heart that he will make his Mommy and Daddy very proud.


It must be a wondrous feeling to have life growing inside your womb, to carry a little angel for nine months, and bring that little one into this world; to hear your baby’s first cry, see his first yawn, touch his tiny fingers and toes for the first time, when the nurse lays him beside you. Though it may be exhausting and stressful to wake up in the middle of the night because of his sudden crying, what an adventure it would be not to know what to do at first, when you give him his milk but he would not stop crying, and you check his diaper if it’s wet but it isn’t, and then you find out later on that all he wants is his “Mommy” to cuddle him and sing him a lullaby until he falls asleep in your arms.

It must be priceless to see your child grow up day by day; witness him learn how to talk, walk and do silly things on his own.

My Mommy told me that her greatest accomplishment in life is having me and my sister, and watching us grow up to be the women that we are now.

Some people want to be popular or wealthy. Some want to fulfill a childhood dream. My Mommy and my sister, my grandma, too, your Mom or maybe even you, and all the mothers in the world all wanted (or want) to be somebody else and achieve greatness… but what could be greater than being a MOTHER?

Now I know what I really want to be. I WANT TO BE A MOTHER JUST LIKE MY MOM, whose unconditional love and simple words of encouragement can make everything wrong RIGHT, and who seems to have all the medicine in this world to cure not only cold and flu, but also cold feet, heartache and self-doubt. I want to raise my children well like she did, without hearing her complain a bit.  I want to teach my kids how to pray, and count and recite the alphabet, and tell them bedtime stories like what my Mom had dutifully done for me when I was younger. I want to be a model of strength and faith and inspire my children to  be optimistic about life no matter what comes their way.

I want to be LIKE MOM. I want to be A MOM. What do you want to be now that you’re a grown-up?