I am an artist.
I create with clay, paper and food.
I married my high school crush. He is a wonderful man.
I am a mother to two beautiful people. One lives with us, the other with his biological mother in Germany.
I am still trying to figure out life, but I’m happy doing so.
The Old Me
Really, where is the best place for one to start this kind of thing? I am an artist who often feels a bit overwhelmed by the expectations such a title causes others to have. I am still a student working on my undergrad in art. In light of turning 28 later this year, I sometimes wonder why it took me so long to get it all together. My only goal as far as school is concerned is to get that BFA by the time I turn 30.
I am the middle of child of three girls. I hated being the middle child so much while growing up. It really does suck. My sisters and I were born in Seoul, South Korea while our father was stationed there with the Army. Our mother is Korean. My mother and I spent my childhood, teenage years and early twenties not getting along. Things are better now. I spent more of my childhood outside of the US than in it. We went from Korea to Colorado Springs and back again within my first three years.
Then we left Korea for Ft. Bragg (Fayetteville), North Carolina. Our mother stopped speaking to us in our native tongue and we learned to become Americans. I think she regretted that decision more than most as she struggled to enforce a Korean upbringing on a trio of Americans. I finished kindergarten in Ft. Benning (Columbus), Georgia. At that age, we never noticed that the place is kind of
a shit hole in need of some upkeep. My defining memories of this place were that we all got chicken pox upon arrival, I thought Mrs. Hamilton was the most beautiful teacher I’d ever seen, and the Challenger exploded.
The second half of second grade found me in Berlin at Thomas A. Roberts Elementary. I adored that city more than any place I’d ever been. I started learning German in school and at the age of 10 when I got my military ID, I roamed the city at will. Public transportation in those days were free to servicemen and their dependents with an ID. As long as I got home before dark, I was allowed to explore to my heart’s content. In this city I discovered that I loved reading and spent hours of my free time in the marvelous glass American library. The culture clashes with my mother got worse as we grew older and we went through a time that most Korean-Americans are familiar with; it vaguely resembled hell. In many cases, this is about the time the Korean bride has become so frustrated that she leaves her American husband. She asks her children things like, “If Mommy and Daddy get a divorce, who would you want to live with?” We avoid answering those questions. Somehow, my parents keep it together. I don’t remember another time period when my parents got into loud arguments that ended with some one storming out of the apartment. I know I stayed in my room and hoped that it was Dad who stayed because I knew he wouldn’t take his anger out on us.
After taking exit exams to certify that I was done with the 5th grade a month or so early, we all flew to Atlanta and spent the summer in Marietta, Georgia. My mother’s parents and my aunts and uncles were in a two bedroom townhouse apartment in what is now not a very nice part of town. I’m amazed that so many of us lived together: my two sisters, parents and I; our grandparents; two aunts and four uncles.
Before the summer ended, my sisters, parents and I packed into a little car and drove to our new home in Ft. Bliss (El Paso), Texas. While still in the guest house before we’d been assigned housing, I managed to break my leg by falling in just the wrong way. I fractured my tibia in two places and spent a week at William Beaumont Army Medical Center recovering. My parents gave me the first teddy bear I ever got while I was there. I stayed in one cast or another for six months. During the autumn, we heard from friends still in Berlin. The Wall had come down and the cold war was over. We were all stunned. After all, we’d lived only a few miles from the Wall and there hadn’t even been a whisper of things to come while we were there. Now that I’m old enough to put it into context, I realize that I stood with my family and thousands of others at Brandenburg Gate while a man I could barely see gave a speech I couldn’t hear, urging “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
At my first and only airshow, while still in Texas, I remember not understanding why there were people handing out stickers that read “Free Kuwait.” Even as our family was torn apart when Dad scores of other mothers and fathers boarded planes bound for Saudi Arabia to begin Operation Desert Shield I didn’t understand. None of us kids in the neighborhood understood; we only knew that our fathers and mothers were gone and the parents remaining at home walked on pins and needles. I recall not being able to watch cartoons after school because the television was constantly glued to CNN. Even when there were BBQ’s and cook-outs, CNN was constantly a sound in the background. I knew things had gotten more serious when I came home to find other adults huddled together with my Mother around our television. I was shocked to see so many adults crying and clinging to each other and to us children as they explained that war had begun and suddenly Desert Shield turned into Desert Storm.
Our parents stayed in that unfamiliar desert for about a year before they finally came home to us. In his absence, we did what we could to keep up the feeling for normalacy. For the first time ever, I tried my hand at cooking holiday meals without my father. In one of the few phone conversations I had with him while he was gone, he outlined for me how he made dressing and sweet potato pie. He sent us letters and polaroids of him cooking fish he’d caught on a makeshift grill in the desert. He wrote us about having found a box of dehydrated peaches that had apparently fallen off of a supply truck while out on patrol. Somehow, he managed to turn them into peach turnovers.
We all, my family, our friends and their parents, stood in a cold hanger one night on an Army airfield. Someone was passing out hot cider and coffee while we waited. An airplane finally touched down and my father and the other parents filed out. Everything became chaos as they searched for faces they knew and as we searched theirs. When my father wrapped me up in his arms, I cried tears that I had not shed once in time he’d been gone. I was an Army Brat, I was supposed to be strong and I did my best. Now that he was safe and back with us, I shed tears for every fear I kept inside me during that year.
Writing this makes the second time I cried for the hurt of not having my father with us that year and for not understanding why we were even at war. I don’t think I ever managed to understand why our family was broken during that time. I again find myself not understanding why we are at war in the same place. I do not agree with our Executive Branch and will breath a sigh of relief when this term is over. Anyone who thinks that not supporting this war calls into question a person’s patriotism or support for the military can go to hell.
Eighth grade found us back in Marietta. Dad was sent to northern Germany and we could not go with him. I spent a miserable year as one of a handful of colored faces in my middle school after the vast diversity of Texas. Two weeks before the start of high school, Mom told us to pack our suitcases and she set the three of us on an airplane bound for Frankfurt, Germany and our father. I began high school in Bad Kreuznach, Germany and felt as if I’d returned home. We were supposed to be there for four years, but after two, our mother brought us back to Marietta while Dad finished out his tour in Germany. I was angry for a long time at having been forced to come back. I’d planned out my next few years and college. I was supposed to graduate as Valedictorian of my class and go on to the Air Force Academy to study aerospace engineering; returning to Georgia did not figure into those plans. I spent more years in Germany growing up than in any other place we’d lived and love it with a passion that my husband will never understand. I was crushed when I had to leave it so early and upset that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to visit more places while I living in Europe. I found out last month that Mom returned to the States because she was having more and more medical problems which the clinic on base could not help and she didn’t want to go to a German hospital. The thing is, she thought she told us girls why we left Germany when she hadn’t. All those years, we just thought it was a whim.
The next two years back in Marietta were not particularly notable. I hated being in Georgia and didn’t make any great efforts to make friends knowing that I’d be off to college soon. I clashed more and more with my mother…I’ll have to finish this up later. Just a few more years to go.
I married the guy I met as a freshman at Georgia Tech after we’d been together for seven years or so. I don’t think either of us turned into quite the adults the other was expecting after all this time. After all, I was an Aerospace Engineering major and he initially had a Comp E/EE major. Now I’m an art student and he’s a police officer.
Then, after too many years, I divorced that guy because I was worth so much more than he gave me credit.