Love, According to Mother

It Meant He Would Leave

Over lunch on our shopping day…

“Mother,” I said in Korean, “were you angry when [Good Man] said he had an American girlfriend?”

“Ahhhh, of course.”


“Because it meant he would leave.”

I nodded. How could I answer that? He left. He left for school, sure, but he stayed for me. For us.

Mother continued, “But it’s OK because I have two kids. If I only had one child, I wouldn’t let them marry a foreigner.”

“So [Sister] has to marry a Korean?”

“Yes.” She thought for a moment. “What would happen to Korea if everyone left?”

I had no answer for that.

Three Months vs Three Years

While on a walk without Good Man…

“Mother, how did you meet Father?”

“We were introduced to each other.”

“How long did you date before marrying?”

She held up three fingers. “Three years.”

“Oh, three years? A lot of Koreans marry after three months. Why?”

Mother scoffed. “I don’t know. But that is too soon.”

I laughed, “So if [Sister] met someone and said she wanted to marry him after three mon—”

“Nope. She can’t. That is too soon.”

“[Good Man] and I dated for two years. My mom always says you should know someone at least one year. Because you go through summer, win—”

“Fall,” Mother corrected me.

“Fall, winter…um…” Mother gave me the word, “spring.”

“And maybe a funeral or a new job or moving.”

Mother sounded confused. “Why?”

“Because a funeral, a new job, moving…those are all hard things. They make a lot of stress.”

“Ah, that makes sense.”

Grandmother and Grandfather

On the same walk…

“Mother, how did your parents meet?”

“My mother’s mother, my father’s mother, [some word].” Mother slowly explained it and I got it. They were an arranged marriage. Of course, that makes sense. They were married nearly 60 years ago. The fact that Mother and Father were a “love match” in ~1980 is rather unusual. “They met when they were 18 and got married very soon after that.”

“When you were growing up, did they like each other? Did they understand each other?”

“Hmm. They liked each other and then didn’t like each other and then liked each other and didn’t like each other…”

I laughed, “And now?”

“Now? Now I think they’re OK.”