Monday, October 21, 2013

Hey Seoul Sister

This certainly has been an eye-opening way to spend my birthday.  While the celebration is over here in Asia where everyone in the house is sound asleep, according to my watch it's only 4:21 in the afternoon, still my birthday in New Jersey. I like this 37 hour day.

For the first time I'm having a difficult time finding a funny story to tell. Sure I can recount yesterday's bathroom adventure at the sheep farm (couldn't do the squatting over a hole in the floor-gimme a toilet puh-leeze)! I can say that as a foreigner, I wasn't required to watch the propaganda film at the DMZ, but after a lengthy indoctrination, am ready to fight, fight, fight. I can tell you that a car full of Koreans eating strong-smelling sushi rolls first thing in the morning is about as close to feeing hungover as I have been in a very long time.
No, this is about realizing who I am in son #1's world and finding my rightful place in his family. The old adage about "a son is yours until he takes a wife" is totally true-at least in this case. My daughter-in-law and her family have embraced him as their own and he seems more comfortable here than he is or was in America. The fact that he's given them our granddaughter links them in an even stronger bond. Being here and not understanding the easy conversations they all have with each other makes me wish I had used the Rosetta Stone Korean Level One I bought before he got married.  I completely understand now how my daughter-in-law felt when she lived with us early on for a few months-alone and isolated by the language and cultural differences.

So anyway, here I am spending ten days with them, trying to bond with a baby who doesn't know me except on a computer screen once a week, and where my native language isn't one she understands. I see that she has 20 Korean books for every one in English.  She sits on my lap and I make up stories to correspond with the pictures.  It's pretty easy to fool a one-year old but what about next year and the years to come?

Her Korean grandma or "halmoni" has been great in making sure she tells the baby to hug me and kiss me. She's even downloaded the video of the baby dancing to a Korean song to my phone. It breaks my heart to think that I'll always be just the "other"grandma who sends presents on birthdays and Christmas but isn't a part of her everyday life. I am probably the only person in America other than Chuck Hagel that would welcome a war between North and South Korea, as that's the only thing that would pry them out of their Sanbon home and back to the states to safely raise their daughter.

Then again, maybe this little girl needs an Auntie Mame type of grandma as well as an everyday one, taking her on trips and singing "Open a New Window" as together we check things off my Awesome List, and I help her create a list of her own. And that goes for any Seoul sisters and brothers she might have and their American cousins as well.

Only time will tell. Right now, it's time to get up and eat kimchi instead of bacon and eggs.
And that is a story for another day.

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