My grandmother had six children. A boy, and then a girl, and then another boy, and then another girl, and then another boy, and then another girl. My dad was the middle boy.
A professor of population studies asked me during a discussion if my grandmother had six children and if my mother had two. I answered yes. Yes and yes. Apparently, Korea had very strict population control and those were the ideal numbers for those days. I was quite dismayed to learn that my family was so typical. The number of cousins and siblings so determined by governmental forces.
My Halmoni died at the age of 92. She passed on peacefully, surrounded by her family and with a smile on her face. She raised me for a couple of years when we first immigrated to America. I remember she used to make chojang (sweet and sour hot pepper paste? gochujang with a bit of vinegar and sugar). I would stand in the kitchen and take the spoon she used to mix the sauce. I would use my pinkie to take a little bit of chojang off of the spoon at a time and then suck if off of my pinkie. I loved chojang and all things spicy. Still do. She would let me eat it and would tell me how she would marry me off to a gochujang factory owner since I loved spicy food so much. I didn't say anything in reply that I remember.
I was assigned chores when we lived together. Dusting was one of them. I would use one piece of paper towel to dust the entire house. The stereo speakers, the piano, the coffee table, the bookcases... I would use that one piece of paper towel until it tattered and was no good. If it was still good, I would save it for the next dusting. I used the one piece of paper towel and Windex to dust the entire house. I remember doing that chore regularly. Never once did I even think about using two pieces of paper towels. It didn't even occur to me because wasting things was just out of the question in that household.
About a year or two ago, I was talking to her at one of our family gatherings. By this time, she had dementia and could not remember that I was already married and had two kids. She seemed surprised at these facts. She asked me why I hadn't married a White boy, since they are so nice. (One of my uncles is White and he really is like an angel.) I didn't say anything in reply that I remember. She told me how she regretted scolding me that time for not using both sides of the notebook. I told her that I don't even remember her scolding me for such a thing and laughed it off. She said she was sorry.
Goodbye Halmoni. Thank you for raising me and for raising all of your children and grandchildren. For surviving for so long when it may have seemed like it might be easier to just end it all. For suriving through all the shame and hopelessness and heartache that war brings. You must be reunited with Halahbuhji now.. the one you've been waiting for all these years. I'm so happy for you. Finally, you don't have to wait any longer.