We, daughters are like a life-long trust fund to our mothers. The start of the relationship was maybe rocky, but it gets gradually better in time, like well-aged cheese. We share similar challenges, experiences, frustrations and joy. We understand each other better as mothers, as daughters, as sisters, as sister-in-law and as most of all, as women. We become friends. Maybe not the best friends, but very trusty friends.
We Koreans are not good at expressing feelings. Of course there are differences between individuals, but the general rule of the society is ‘don’t show your emotion’. The same principal has been applied since thousands years ago. Anyway, so that’s why you don’t hear much of ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you’ in average Korean families. I surely didn’t hear much when I was growing up. As time goes by, my parents are getting old and so am I, I found out my mum shows more feelings more openly. She mentioned a few times that she’s going to miss having me at home when I leave. It surprised me.
Yesterday my mum and I flipped through old photos. My parents don’t have many photos (of them). It was a rare occasion to take photos when they were growing up in 1950s and 60s (graduation and wedding are the two biggest). They didn’t grow up with money, and neither did we. We were a typical working class, economically slightly below average, but happy family. They do have collections of photos, but they were too busy maintaining life rather than cherishing the good times. Hence, most of the photos were just sitting in big boxes. The piles of photos in the boxes were a mixture of my parents when they were even younger than me, my grandparents and tons of my brother and I growing up. And for the first time in my life, I saw many different photos of my mum.
It was very uncommon to take picture with silly facial expressions back then (even now), but I found a few of my mum, having fun. Her facial expressions from thirty years ago were exactly same as mine now. I could tell, without looking at mirror. It was totally me. It’s very natural when you think about it. She raised me for 18+ years, and we looked at each other for almost everyday for these long years; it is only logical that I got my mother’s look. But it was more than the logic, it was kind of a rewarding moment. I always knew that I looked a lot like her. Face, height, figures are very similar. We used to make jokes that we could easily find each other by resemblance even if we were separated by the Korean War. It was a subtle joy. To know the fact, I got a lot of my mother in me made me happy. Biologically, emotionally and spiritually, I am a lot like my mum, not just a face. I wonder if she thinks the same when she looks at me.
Of course we wear different style clothes now, since our age difference is more than thirty years, but I could tell she had very similar sense of style as mine now. She liked colours (she still does). She wore something goes well with her height: boots, trench coat and long hair. By the mothers’ nature of saving stuff, my mum saved a few of her items for her daughter, me. Her brown leather boots, trench coat, shoulder bag are now in my closet. Surprise, surprise – I look good in them. My mum looked very graceful and stylish when she was my age. Maybe she had better sense of fashion than me now. Huh.
There were a few photos of her at the mountains and temples when she went hiking. Photos of her with a backpack reminded me of myself, naturally. We went to a lot of family trips when we were little, and it was usually either hiking in the mountains or swimming in the ocean. I climbed Seoraksan to the top when I was 8 or 9. I always wondered where did I get this adventurous nature, and now I know the answer.
My family isn’t the biggest fan of my lifestyle, but my mum always has been my secret admirer. She asked me a while ago, that is there any way she can see what I do (meaning, look at my websites) with calling somewhere with her phone. She was thinking the logic of phone banking – she thought if she can do all the bank business by phone, why not general websites. She has absolutely no sense of technology. Her asking this adorable question meant the world to me.
The population of pigeons is quite high in Seoul. They were always a part of my daily life. Feeding street animals, cats, dogs, and birds, were quite common when I was growing up. I wonder why pigeons became people’s worst favourite. Anyway, my mum has been feeding pigeons on her roof ever since I could remember. She always saved leftover rice or old grains. Sometimes she carried a bag of rice for the street pigeons. It was her way of loving the world. Ever since I started traveling extensively, she kept the ritual more seriously. She said, she talked to the birds when feeding them, to keep an eye on me if and when they see me. Birds are the symbol of travelers for my mum. It is her way of loving me.
When I hit the hard wall of negativity from the society including my family, I was full of negativity. I think of myself as ‘easy to please’ kind of person, but it was very hard to power through. Friends who were on my side kept telling me, that my family still cares about me even if I couldn’t feel at that time. Honestly I was skeptical about the hopeful future. But I temporarily forgot, that I had my mum on my side. The relationship between my family and I are still not perfect, but we understand each other better. After all, we are the people who are having the longest relationship in our lives. We’ve known each other for 20 some years and we still have many decades to go. Since the relationship is going smoother, my mum is openly supporting my decisions. She’s living her life through me. I’m making her life more fulfilled. I’m the strong woman herself.
My mum may never see my websites on her own, but she will see me standing tall and reaching my goal. Now I now for sure that she will be there, no matter when and where. She will always be my supporter.
The path I’m walking on is not even. There will be a lot of tough moments to face. But now I know my limit is a lot higher than I though. I feel stronger, because I’m more certain that I am the daughter of my mother, the strongest woman I know.