January 13, 2020

Mom Never Yields with the Power of Love for Her Children

Lee Su-ja from Gumi, Korea

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My phone rang while I was washing dishes.

It was Mom.

I could guess why she was calling me. Mom must have called me to give me some side dishes. At the thought, ‘I should’ve called her first,’ I was sorry to her.

I have four older sisters and one younger brother. Although I’m over forty, in the eyes of Mom I’m still a little girl who causes anxiety to her. The youngest child is my brother, but maybe because he’s a reliable son, Mom treats me like the youngest one. I answered the phone like a kid, “Mommy.” I guessed right. Mom asked me to come and take some fruit and meat because she had too many things left after my aunt and uncles visited her yesterday because of a family event.

In the following afternoon, I headed to Mom’s house that I hadn’t visited for long. Entering, I saw smoking coming from the backyard. I followed the smoke and saw beef bone broth boiling in the fireplace. To seek Mom who didn’t respond to my call, I went inside. Mom welcomed me in the kitchen.

Mom was making dotori-muk [acorn jelly] with acorns that she had picked last fall. In order to make it, she had to put acorns in water until the bitter taste was removed and dry them for grinding. And she had to dissolve the powder in water and boil it. In the meantime, she had to keep stirring with a wooden spatula to prevent it from getting burned and stuck to the bottom of the pot. It must have been hard for her to stand up for long while stirring; she sat on the sink with a chair as her footstool. Before, I had just brought the cooked jelly and enjoyed it. This time, however, I could see the process of making it and realized how hard it was.

As she always did for me, my favorite steamed sweat potatoes and corns were set on the table. Beside them, there were fresh sesame oil, vegetables that were prepared for cooking, enough kimchi to eat until the next kimch-making season, and laver cut in good size for eating after being roasted with perilla oil. Moreover, there were various side dishes. In addition to this, six packs of all sorts of fruits, including fresh sweet persimmons that Mom had picked up in the sloping farm she went to by bike were prepared.

Mom did all that on an empty stomach as she had a reservation for colonofiberscopy in the hospital that day. She packed up so much for her daughter as she had no idea when I would visit her again. For so long time, she has lived a life of only giving to her children. Whenever I see Mom do everything for her children without taking care of herself as if she’s accustomed to such a life, I am heartbroken.

When her first child, who raises chickens, brings her eggs, she gives them to her youngest child, saying, “He likes eggs.” When the fourth child buys her a box of delicious apples, she gives it to the second child, saying, “She likes apples.” When the third child makes her rice cake, she gives it to the fourth one, saying, “She likes rice cake.”

Knowing this, my third older sister was upset and grumbled, “I’m not going to bring anything to Mom from now.” Then Mom said, “I’m happier when my children eat good things than when I do. I can’t help.” Although we all even declared Mom in unison that we would not take what she gives us, we were finally persuaded by the power of her love for us.

Sometimes, we are sorry even to look at Mom, who gets thinner with her waist bent forwards as she ages, thinking, ‘I made Mom change like that.’ Without knowing what to do due to the feeling of guilt, I’m still enjoying abundance in my heart, thanks to the concentrated love in Mom’s labor and sacrifice.

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