(Photo credit en.wikipedia.org)
My timing is deliberate, and yes, I was very cautious approaching my Korean mother with the issue of Korean coal briquettes. Not with the suicide of the 27 year-old singer, Kim Jong Hyun.
(Before another gets offended, my Korean mother lived through WWII and the Korean War. She understands very little about South Korea as it currently exists. Please browse around to read more about the, or your own culture.)
She refuses to look back at South Korea since she left back in the late 1950’s. It’s partially a way to protect herself from a life she left, that she will never see, or return to ever again.
I did show her photos of his adoring Korean fans. One stood out with beautiful thick hair – bleached white, and tinted with pink. She got up to get her glasses quickly, Then said with great disappointment – very long and drawn out – then slowly in one breath,
“Oh – my – goodness.
Who is that?”
-©My Korean Mother
I explained some details.
I showed her the last text the young man sent to his sister written in Korean. She read it aloud, softly, yet in a whisper. I know what it says, but with her reciting it in her native language of Korean? It sounded more delicate, heartfelt, and beautiful.
(I use the word “beautiful” a lot! It means – Pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically. I have worked with suicidal people – professionally and voluntarily – so please remain calm. I’m here for any questions too.)
She didn’t understand what it meant, leading into a deeper conversation.
I’ve been curious about this coal she’s mentioned for years, and it was my personal segue with her.
The last time my mother saw her mother in Korea was after the Korean War. She had taken out a loan as a gift to her mother, and given her a large amount of cash. It was large because it was worthless paper, and in order to amount to anything, it required a lot of paper currency.
The next time she returned, her mother had passed away, and my mother looked around… seeing the coal briquettes her mother bought with her gift of money – neatly stacked preparing for winter.
That piece of coal is not merely an object to my Korean mother, and cannot be carelessly flashed in her face.
That identical block of coal has safely kept the lives of families warm before WWII, and more so – after the Korean War.
After the Korean War, the mountains of beautiful green trees were obliterated. They no longer had wood to burn, and depended upon the coal to live. My mother took one last look on the airplane as she was leaving for the USA. The trees on the mountains were – GONE!
(I refuse to post any war photographs that may bring back memories to any readers.)
I finally got a description of the interior of her childhood house, and how the floor was heated methodically with coal, through well ventilated tunnels. Now I know why she and her friends love(d) blankets, gave them away lavishly, have perfect posture and more. I picked up on where my own appreciation for rugs originated.
Maybe I’ll share the details some day. Let me just say – her innocence in talking to me is SUPER FUNNY! We sit there and roll in laughter together over the silliest things – that happen to be – true.
It’s important that others are interested in history, their heritage, culture, or effects of war, architecture, energy – and survival without electricity – something!
She left me with her mother’s advice too.
Give me a reason please.
Otherwise, I’m doing other things.
One final thing.
She feels sorry for those who refuse to listen, if one day all electricity is – GONE! Kim Jong-un’s threats of obliterating any power grid are meaningless to her. She’s already lived through two wars.
(Those are my Korean mother’s general words to generations younger than her.)
As they say, “Asking for a friend.”