one for my mother

posted by jroselkim

My mother is always prepared for everything.
She would peel countless cloves of garlic
while watching her evening television
so she wouldn’t waste any time
idling around, even when she’s idle.

Setting a straightforward path
with simple steps, she says.

A perfect housewife,
she was bred in a women’s university.
One that produced headstrong women
writing the country’s prominent feminist manifestoes like
Women, Become Terrorists!
(before 9/11, of course.)

But she
thought the feminists on campus were
“too much,”
and did what she was told –
study English literature,
a “useful subject” for gaining employment in Korea.

And gain, she did –
as one of the few women who obtained a
prestigious position at a foreign bank,
working past her marriage –
working past having her daughter.

In her complacency to follow the rules
she went further than she was supposed to;
and in her unknowing progression
she was ostracized –

by her colleagues,
(a nanny for her daughter?)
by her equally headstrong sisters-in-law
(how can she run her household?).

So she resented them,
resented them for being resented
for following the path too well –

Perhaps, if this were a Hollywood narrative
there may be dramatized struggle,
but then some kind of a happy fanfare –
a closing of an arc.

But real life keeps going.
She quit her job and learned how to cook,
learned to keep her resentment in check
and learned to
“worship the husband and the in-laws like Gods”
like she was told
all the while being skeptical of what she was told.

My mother is still wary of the feminists –
calls them too strong-headed,
too judgmental.
She just followed the rules.

But somewhere along following the strict rules
she broke some of them,
and
made a rule-breaking feminist out of me.

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