My mom emerged from the other room with a clipping from the Korean newspaper. My parents have pointed out newspaper articles and shared inspiring stories with us for as long as I can remember. My dad even gave me a book titled "The Real Coming of Age" for my 30th birthday, claiming it came highly recommended by Dr. Phil. How or why he knew that, I didn't ask.
My parents' attempts often made me laugh and/or sigh in exasperation, but I did always remember them. This particular news article ranked the top schools in the U.S. "These are the medical schools, law schools..." My mom pointed to each section as she spoke. "And look at this! Do you see this? The top schools tied for number one for English literature are Harvard, Berkeley and Yale. Berkeley English major - that's you! I wish you had more drive. You are so talented, you could be anything!
"You are good with people, and you are a good speaker. You could be a politician!" Sure I could... if I had any interest in politics. A politician?!?? Wasn't seeing me wear the ill-fitting straight jacket of law school for three years of my life enough for them?
I wanted to tell my mom that she didn't have to talk to me as though I were moving to another country. My move to the east coast was not equivalent to her move to the States years ago, when she left her parents in Korea. But I knew she wouldn't listen. This talk was as much for herself as it was for me.
"We won't have time for these kinds of talks anymore. Yuhl-shim-ee sah-ruh. Put 110% into everything. Live life fully and honestly, and you will be fine. You don't understand what I am saying now, and you think we are silly. Someday, when you have your own kids, you will understand."
I understand now. I feel her mother's love and pain of losing me now. I understand that she feels the pain of not being more thoughtful of her own mother's sadness during her departure, how difficult it was that she only got the chance to go back to Korea a handful of times.
My dad continued the heartfelt talk and brought tears to my eyes. "First of all, I want to tell you that your Mommy and I are very proud of you. You have been a joy as a daughter.
"Now you are [something in Korean I couldn't understand]; it means you are 'leaving our laps.' This time comes for everyone, but I hope you know that you can always call us to talk about anything. Don't forget that this will always be your home too. We will support you as much as we can. I did not have that because my own father passed away when I was young. I had to come here on my own and support myself, and I made a lot of mistakes.
"You can always call us. Always. You make your own decisions now. We will support you in any decision you make. We love you very much."
When my parents dropped me off at the airport, my mom insisted on helping me roll one of my huge bags inside. I think it may have been bigger than her 5' frame, and I knew I could handle it on my own, but she insisted. And no one can win in an argument against my insistent Korean mama. No matter how big, old or responsible I get, I know I will always be her baby daughter.
My dad hugged me and simply instructed, "Call your Umma often."