In Fall 2010, I attended a Korean wedding reception. Not the wedding, just the reception. I was made to attend by my birth parents, even though they didn’t know the bride or groom, either. We had to attend because it was my grandmother’s friend’s grandson’s wedding. (Oh, Korea!) The previous day, I had undergone Lasik eye surgery in 명동 Myeongdong. I knew something was wrong with my recovery, but 엄마 Omma kept telling me I needed to “give it time.” Sure enough, I had a fold in my corneal flap. It was as painful as it sounds! So the morning of the wedding, I was undergoing a second, more complicated, much more painful surgery to correct the problem.
That afternoon, I begged 엄마 Omma and 아빠 Appa to let me skip the wedding because I could hardly see and I just wanted to rest. They said we had to go. So I reluctantly went along to this wedding reception for a family that none of us had ever met. The banquet hall was lovely (at least, the two feet in front of me that I could see) and the buffet held copious amounts of food. I ate more than my fill. As I was slowing down, my maternal grandmother was still filling up plates and plates of food. I knew she couldn’t possibly eat all that. “할머니 Halmoni,” I jokingly asked, “Are you hungry?” She didn’t laugh. “Hand me my purse,” she ordered. I obediently did as she asked. “Hold these bags,” she said, grabbing out three plastic Ziploc-type bags. What in the world? I took the bags and held one open. My grandmother took a glance over each shoulder and proceeded to scrape the contents of one of her many plates into the plastic bag. “Halmoni!,” I looked at her completely shocked and amused and in awe of her brazenness. I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or what. Could I be considered an accessory to this obviously pre-meditated crime? I looked on (and yes, assisted!) as my grandmother emptied an overflowing plate of food into each of the bags. They were filled to the brim. “Help me,” she said, as she stuffed each of them carefully into her purse.
When it came time to leave, she handed me her bag to carry. Containing half of the buffet, that thing weighed a ton! We loaded up the car and headed to her house to drop her off before we returned to Omma + Appa’s for the night. She told me to hold her bag in the backseat. As we drove through the countryside, I started to feel motion sick. “Ugh,” I moaned. The drugs from my surgery were making me feel nauseous along with the motion sickness, combined with the potent stench of kimchi + bulgogi + other various spicy, marinated things. I thought I was going to die. I remember thinking, “This is the worst night ever!”
Five years later, I cherish this memory. It certainly felt like the worst night ever at the time, but as an adoptee, how many like me have stories and experiences like this to share with their birth families? My grandmother is a hilarious (even more so because she doesn’t realize it), spunky, criminal version of myself. I love getting to know her and her personality. When I get older, I know I want to be exactly like her (minus the wedding crashing thievery).
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