My Family, in Korea and the US, 1984-1990

Continuing a series of retrospectives on the life of my grandmother, who passed away recently at the age of 76.

Below are two pictures I found from a family trip to Korea in 1984 (incidentally, the only time my dad returned to his homeland since leaving in 1976 before finally returning on the recent trip that this blog has devoted much attention to).


Top row, L-R: Mom, Grandmom, Mom’s sister, Mom’s brother
Bottom row, L-R: My older brother, me, unknown.

What strikes me about these pictures is how rural this scene is. This is the real deal: dirt roads, huts with grass roofs, and no high rises in the background (which is how my dad’s old village is like now). I again feel compelled to state the obvious: this is where I came from.

Below is a great picture of my grandmother serving a pitcher of Coke at my brother’s 8th birthday party (1986). Upon closer inspection, I realized that this was at a Show Biz Pizza (now Chuck-E-Cheese).

Think about this. In 1984, this woman was in the first two pictures, on a dirt road in Korea. In 1986, only two years later, she’s in suburban Augusta, GA, at a Show Biz Pizza. I can only begin to imagine how out of place she must have felt during this time, but here she is, three white kids on her right, her three Korean grandkids on the left, at a gaudy American pizza parlor.

I really know how to read too much into photographs. Moving along, on a similar vein, my grandmom and my sister at a roller skating rink, circa 1990.

Also circa 1990, my gradmother and my two uncles who made it to the US first at my first communion in Birmingham, AL.

What struck me the most about these pictures is that these folks have really been with me for the vast majority of my childhood. But I think the language gap created an artificial sense of distance from them, as if they had just showed up sometime the mid 90’s, then slowly faded out of view.

Such was not the case. For my grandmother, she had made it about 20 years in the USA, and she saw all of us grow up from children to young adults. She was there for it all.