My Korea – Halmonee

November 4, 2009 - 4:04 pm Comments Off on My Korea – Halmonee

Halmonee’s face was pale but full. Her lips reminded me of Dad.
Black eyes rimmed with watery blue sparkled behind her glassy wire-frames.
Harabuhjee had blue eyes the last time I saw him before he died.
The black runs out of our eyes like dye after so many years.

After my belly was full and warmed with her special daenjang – a rich broth bursting with savory fermented juiciness, slices of Korean chilis floating to the top – we walked outside her apartment building for pat-bing-su.

She wore a sakura patterned cotton hat only to walk a few feet from her doorway – always cognizant of that stubborn July sun trying to tan her delicate skin.

In the small neighborhood bakery always painted in that inviting yellow, Halmonee ordered two bowls of pat-bing-su. To go!

Back home we patted, scooped, and scraped the shave ice topped with red bean with our white plastic spoons.
We were two little girls in that moment instead of generations apart, as we giggled and slurped and giggled again.
Sometimes she’d let one fly and I’d get a head freeze from laughing so hard.

I remember how quietly I lay next to Halmonee on the floor as we watched her Korean variety show that evening. And in between her drowsy naps, she would suddenly awake and sing on cue to the old folk song playing – off and on, awake, asleep – like the hypnotic flash of neon coming in from the street.

Even under the cold sheet of fluorescent light in her living room, I felt warm.

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