But I can honestly say that this was our best visit yet. It provided me with a whole new level of 엄마 understanding. In more ways than one.
First of all, without realizing it... my Korean (at least my listening) has finally arrived! I was able to converse with 엄마 without the training wheels of a translator of my electronic dictionary. To be honest, she speaks craazyfast and uses a lot of slang/country dialect, so there's a lot I can't understand. But when she tells a story, I can usually understand 50%~70% and fill in the rest. There may be misunderstandings, but at least there's a degree of understanding. Finally.
Secondly, the ability to converse has provided me with some much needed perspective on my relationship with my 엄마. Ironically, almost a year ago I posted about experiencing post-reunion awkwardness. I felt that 엄마 was overly touchy-feely and didn't respect my boundaries since to me she was essentially a stranger.
But the thing is, I was not a stranger to her. This time, she described the special pregnancy dream she had about me. (This is something Koreans believe in ~ the mother or a close family member will have a very vivid dream about the unborn child and it foretells the child's fortune/life/temperament.) My special dream was about a gold ring. (That's got to be good, right?!)
Then 엄마 told me that they were so poor, she couldn't afford to go to the hospital to have me. So she had me in her house... with no drugs... and just a older lady to help her. But then once I was born, they had no money, so it was hard to keep me fed. She said sometimes all she could do was give me rice, even though I really needed milk. And I as a baby I was sick a lot because of that. And as any mother would, she worried. But she tried to keep me, and managed to until I was a little over a year.
One year old. I think about my good friends who have children who are a year old. These are not babies... these are little people who react to things, have personalities, and most importantly know who their parents are.
So what I failed to understand, was that this woman really knew me. It was I who had forgotten about her. And even though I went to America and had a whole new life without giving her much of a second thought, she was in Korea thinking of me... missing me...
Actually, when we met, she brought along a little girl. I *think* she might be a second cousin. But 엄마 told me that when she misses SangKwun and me, she spends time with this little girl and her sisters. (I apologize for this terrible picture, but it was the only picture from the day. Too busy living it to record it, I guess.)
I don't think life has been as kind to 엄마 as it has to Birth Father or 아버지. As a woman in Korea... especially a single woman... it's hard to earn a decent living. But every time we meet, she insists on paying and slips me some cash telling me to "맛있게 먹어" or "eat delicious food." I know it's a sacrifice for her so I try to refuse it, but she always insists. Impossible to ever lose that motherly instinct, I guess.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to get to know the woman I knew so well almost 30 years ago and who has never forgotten me. So I guess I'll end it with the words she says every time she sees me and every time we talk on the phone. I used to pretend not to understand, then awkwardly said it back... but now I that I opened my mind to her I can say and mean...
엄마... 사랑해 ~~~~ I love you.