In fact, when I first knew I had to do the homework of this chapter, I really hated writing this essay because I thought this could only let me recall the painful past of my mother. I could have written about others, but anyway for now I decide to write about mother. Now that I write about mother, all of a sudden I am reminded of many things about mother at this point. First of all, mother was old. This fact agonizes me because I have achieved very little. Now that I want to be a good son, mother doesn't leave many years. So, before I write about mother, I am already sufficiently demoralized and sad.
The weather turning cold, the sun setting more quickly, we, mother and I, were about to have dinner. Today is the day when students take the College Scholastic Ability Test. I usually eat a meal at school cafeterias, but this evening, we decide to eat at home. I ask, "Mother, what is today's menu?" She answers, "The bean paste stew." "Mmm, it smells really wonderful." I reply. "Mother, I have to interview you because this is school homework." "Ok, I am not sure whether I can give you a good answer, but let's try." Sometimes I help mother to set a table though I don't help a lot. The proverb goes, 'Many hands make light work.'
The first question I asked was about her childhood. Mother was born in 1944 at a small and peaceful island called the Dumido situated at the southernmost tip of Korea. I ask, "Mother, could you talk about your childhood in more detail? I heard that before you got married you had lived in the island. Then, did you live only in the house where we visited several times before?" "No, actually I didn't live there. I lived in another place." "Wow, what a revelation! I've never heard about that." I respond. Though I have several times been to the island where she lived, mother never talked about that. There are many things that I still don't know about mother's life. Mother draws a picture in person in order to let me know more about where she lived actually. Then I could make a rough guess.
I have another curious question. There broke out the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. Mother was born in 1944. So, she must know about the war. The Koreans were involved in the war in one form or another. I ask, "Dumido is situated at a very remote place. Do you remember the war?" "Well, I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. I was playing in the field. Suddenly there appeared a few planes in the sky overhead, so I ran home for dear life, but that was all about the war." After her answer, I think Dumido was situated at so remote a place that it wasn't affected as much by the war.
Under normal circumstances, we finish the meal within 30 minutes, but today the meal is very long. An interview tonight is more pleasant because we eat dinner tasty with stir-fried anchovies and cubed radish kimchi. I ask, "Do you have another interesting story to talk about?" Mother respond, "Well, it was summertime. When I was maybe 5 or 6, I went into the grass to pick and eat raspberry, but suddenly and unexpectedly I felt I was bit at the heel by some ominous thing. When I turned back, there was a poisonous snake." "Oh, no! So, What did you do about that?" I coundn't do anything but cry. "Hearing my voice, my father hurried to rescue me." "Then, what did he do?" "Carrying a kind of needle, he pricked the bitten area a few times until all the poison was drain."
As far as I can remember, mother was always busy bringing up children. She didn't have her own free time much up to today. There were some reasons. First, there were four children in my family. You can easily imagine how hard parents' life would be if you have many children in your family. Second, father didn't fulfill his responsibility as father. Those days, marriage was usually arranged. There wasn't much time and chance to previously know more about each other. As for mother, the marriage itself was no better than foretelling that the gate to hell would wide open. Father was not a prepared person for marriage, family and others. He was a heavy drinker and extremely lazy, not worrying about a living. He used to hit and say the most foul, dirty and abusive language to mother. Mother almost always felt indescribably agonized and grieved. There were not any communications between father and the other members. Sometimes, I felt that father was a highly irregular person. The more serious problem was that no matter how seriously and earnestly I and mother recommended him to rethink about his course of action, he never listened. The most terrible thing was that we still would live under these miserable situations for a very long time. So, the whole family were severely affected by father mentally, emotionally and physically.
I am eldest son in my family. All other younger brother and sisters were married, but I am not married. Now, I live with mother. Though I know that this question could throw a wet blanket at dinner table, I still ask in a more careful tone this time, "Mother, then how was your life with father?" "I don't even want to think about father. I already told enough to you about that. I am now 70 years old. My life feels like a dream. I feel like I was brought from the age of 32 to the age of 70 in an instant." I don't ask any more about father. I already know more about how mother was harshly afflicted than any other family member and any other person. There was an awkward silence at the table in a very short time.
I don't know how much time passed by because of the absorption in the interview. With darkness falling, everything comes to a standstill, but my consciousness still is wandering about in the past. Suddenly I looked out the window. There was a street lamp illuminating the whole alley.