Childhood memory is priceless especially for older people like me in my 60s.  All memories of landscape, schooling, and my own experience of being a parent filter through our core developmental stages of early childhood.  The fuzzy and foggy details of the past are not only gift but also resentment laced with sadness.  I also talked about my growing up in South Korea in my upcoming memoir, “Ring of Fire.”   I struggled how to bring my image of the little girl in context of this older woman, images six decades apart geographically, socially and politically different climate.  Below is the excerpt of my memoir.

The Child and the Woman

I, the woman, introduce myself to the little girl in the ill-fitting dress.

“Hi, we haven’t been together for a while.  Visiting now is better than never.  Right?”

I, the child, uneasy in my loose dress, twist my hands in its folds.  Then I take a few steps backward, waving my hand timidly, looking intensely at the woman.  The woman and child make small steps toward each other.

As glimpses of memory reach me over distance and time, I search for answers to my eternal questions of how, why, who, when and where.  I blink and rub my eyes, hoping to see the blank screen fill with something.  I ask myself, “Do I want to see it?  What if……..?”

The child implores, “Where have you been?  You have been away for a long time!”  Her plea echoes.

The woman’s eyes fill up with tears.  The woman-child stands frozen, remembering oma getting ready to leave for work in another town. Is she asking this question?  The woman moves towards the child.  Should she hug her and tell her she loves her?

“Living changes like a river,” the woman says, “Remember the monsoon with all the brown water gurgling like an old man?  That’s what I am talking about – things change like that river.”

The child shakes her head under the low sky, and says in a tiny voice, “Did you look for me?  You were gone a long, long time!”

The child notices the discomfort of the woman and blurts out, “Let’s go to the river!”  She runs down the dirt road in her worn out canvas shoes, her long hair trailing in the air.

I, the woman in Colrain, stand at the door of memory.  I fear to see what is inside, as the sweet smell of decay drifts through the cracks of time, the time of growing up in Masan, Korea (35.2o N, 128.6o E).  The craggy mountains and their tumultuous history have shaped me, and every drop of my blood, having traveled 60,000 miles since then, belongs to that place.

What if my memory is in a foreign tongue?  What if my memory has developed long wriggling arms like Medusa’s hair?  Now memories of my family’s life are solid lines, and emotions are dotted lines.  They shape each other in the way a prism disburses sunrays into a spectrum of colors, each of a different hue.  Memories become a dance where one moves forward and backward, into sun, then retreating to shade.






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