Like an Ajumma; Like a Daughter

“I am like an ajumma,” I said to Mother, as we walked to Herb Garden. “I am not working. I am exercising. My husband works very hard. I am wearing a hat…”

Mother giggled, “Being an ajumma is not bad,” she said, “it is not scary.”

I looked at her, “Ajummas on the subway are scary. Their elbows are like knives!” I picked up my pace and elbowed my invisible competition before throwing my imaginary purse in a seat to mark my spot.

“Oh my God, oh my goodness, that is true.”


Mother and I went for a walk at Herb Garden when it was rainy. We both had umbrellas and the park was mostly empty. But it started raining really hard, so we stopped for a few minutes under a covered rest area, where two women were already waiting.

“We will wait here until the rain becomes lighter,” Mother said.

“I understand,” I said, stretching my calves, “It will be more comfortable if we wait.”

One of the women turned to Mother. “Is she your daughter?”

Mother smiled, “Yes.”

I had expected I would constantly be referred to as “the foreign daughter-in-law,” but I was wrong. I have mostly been the daughter-in-law. This time I was simply the daughter. Mother hasn’t called me a foreigner nearly as much as I thought she would.

The two women nodded. I closed my eyes and sighed contentedly.