There was a huge snowstorm in January a few years back in the NY/NJ area, and in the middle of it all my girlfriend Diana went into labor and had a baby. A baby boy. Calvin.
I trekked out to the bumblefuck-nowhere hospital out in the hills of New Jersey that Diana had purposely chosen because it was quiet, and in the boondocks. I got lost eventually and hopelessly, wearing 3-inch-heeled leather boots in knee-high suburban snowbanks. I stereotypically believed that I could just hail a cab, like I always did in the city.
I eventually got to Diana and baby Calvin in the middle of that snowstorm, and I held him in my arms. I loved him right away, and Diana too. I also loved Hyun, Diana’s husband and baby daddy, for making their little family happen. I was so thrilled for them. I was far from being married or having a baby at that time myself, and I was just happy to be an auntie to Calvin.
I remember on that cold and snowy day seeing Hyun’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jo, meeting their grandchild for the first time. You don’t have to be Korean to be doting grandparents, but Mr. and Mrs. Jo were pretty damn cute Koreans. If you looked close enough you could see them jumping out of their skin so excited to hold their first grandchild.
What I actually remember most was the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Jo brought gallons of Korean suh long tong soup with them that day to the hospital, for Diana. Koreans are all about soup, and especially soup for new mothers still laid up after child-birth. Suh long tong is made from broth out of ox bones, and quality beef, and it can take up to a day to make. Dedication.
Along with the soup Mr. and Mrs. Jo made sure there was enough rice and rice noodles, chopped scallion and kosher salt, and fresh and stinky kimchi to go with it all. Spicy red angry kimchi, to balance the milky salty suh long tong. Diana got hooked up, and by her in-laws no less.
Mrs. Jo kept telling me to eat together with Diana. My own Korean mother had always taught me to politely decline food if offered, but she’d also taught me never to say no to food offered from a Korean mother. So I’d feigned politeness and declined the meal, but Mrs. Jo made sure I ate of course. I ate well. I sat there warm and full inside while it snowed and howled outside. There’s nothing like suh long tong on a cold day.
I made it back into the city in one piece later that evening, and fast forward to today…
Lots has happened. Diana and Hyun have moved around a few times, but always stayed in New Jersey. I got married to Davy, and Diana and Hyun were there to celebrate with us together. I moved to Belgium, but last year our little Noah got to meet their little Calvin, and Andrew their second son.
Two days ago Hyun lost his mother. Mrs. Jo is dead. In one morning she lost her life. She died after being hit by a speeding SUV in a quiet suburb of New Jersey. These things are only supposed to happen in the movies.
In one morning Hyun lost his mother. Diana lost her mother-in-law, and she grieves for Hyun’s loss. Their two little boys lost their grandmother, and both Hyun and Diana grieve for them in turn.
I have no right to be so shaken when it’s not my mother who died. Hyun said to me today I know that you know what it’s like. To lose a parent? Yes, I do, but it doesn’t make Hyun’s loss any less great.
I lost my father after a year-long battle he lost in health. Hyun lost his mother to a sudden and freak accident. Extremes cause deaths. I have no right to cry so much when I only met Mrs. Jo a few times. I know though that she always kept Diana’s freezer full of sacks of home-made suh long tong soup. Every time I visited Diana’s house I remember she’d show me all the soup stocked in her freezer. I thought it was a bit much, but Diana loved her mother-in-law’s soup. So did Hyun and Calvin and Andrew. I’ve eaten it and it was damn good.
I can’t be with Diana now, but I really wish I could. I really wish I could hug her, and tell her everything’s going to be okay because it will. Even if all I can blog about is some stupid soup.
You know what i’m saying Diana.
Rest in peace Mrs. Jo. You will be missed and remembered. Always remembered.
P.S. White ribbons symbolize mourning in Korean culture. White ribbons are worn on lapels of male family members of the mourning family. White ribbons are worn as barrettes in the hair of female family members. Hence the photo of the white ribbons.