Mother-in-Law


To my Mother-In-Law,
Finding in the attic the bundle of hemp cloth you used to raise the nine children and that you left behind, I thought of your sigh as you lamented the synthetic fabric they would spin out now like your hemp cloth, and I felt the tears start. You made the cozy baby blanket for my first baby, with the cotton you asked from a villager who grew it on the small side of a mountain. That baby is now grown taller than I and his thick black hair, seen from the back, is exactly as yours used to be.

When I was filled with anxiety watching my children sleep, you told me that I know your heart and that you know mine, but you left my side before I was old enough, wise enough to really understand your heart. Even though the tooth you lost everytime you gained a child made chewing difficult, you loved zucchini pancakes; now, every time I prepare zucchini pancakes, the lump in my throat keeps me from swallowing. When the afternoon drowsiness flooded in, you put two pillows side-by-side and told the long-ago stories of your son, my husband, as if there would be, could be, no end, but when will you hear the stories that have piled up since you left our side?

Putting your hand, rough as arrowroot brambles, on the inner flesh still white and soft, you looked at your hand I saw in your eyes our lack of devotion, but it was too late to revoke your sorrow. On the day when the family heir was born, you held him in your arms and asked him where he had been. And where are you now?

In the snow and in the rain, in the alternate rise and fall of the sun and the moon, your expression was always hardened, but stepping out from the front door with the first child on your back, bent with years of hardship, where did you get such light feet, such bursts of joyous energy?

Your smile as you told me that the new baby of our house has a heel softer than an egg has inspired my patience. The day you left, my white mourning dress wound around the coffin and would not let go.

In the midst of time that allows neither going nor coming, you and I have separated, but in the taste of the bean paste of our house, your heart is still deeply buried.

 

Lee Sook-Jung


Copyrighted by Yisei Magazine
Return to Table of Contents for Spring '95 Issue
Yisei homepage