Posts Tagged ‘1923’

Korean confusion

May 14, 2013

My sister is visiting from Hawaii. This is an enormous treat for me.

After work today I swung by her mom’s house. The girls were there, and there was great visiting going on. They were talking about family history, and interesting or funny stories. My favorite.

My grama was telling us about her stepdad. He was Korean.

He came to the United States because he was involved in some kind of covert political business.

Nana said when he got his driver license the DMV employee was among the many Southern Californians at the time who had never heard of Koreans.

In response to ‘What is your race?’ he thought he heard ‘Aquarian.’ That’s what’s on the license, which Nana says she still has.

My aunt Doreen said that during World War II he wore a button on his shirt that said, ‘I am Korean,’ so he wasn’t mistaken for Japanese. This was protection from being taken to a Japanese concentration camp.

A button? I’m astounded. Why didn’t the Japanese go get some of these buttons?

My sister wanted to know about Korean dishes that may have become family recipes.

“Oh, yes!” all the women said. They described Korean noodles, a soup with pork, cabbage, celery, soy sauce and thick noodles.

“How could I never have seen this in Hawaii?” my sister asked. “There are a lot of Koreans there.”

“Maybe you’re confused,” I said. “Maybe they’re all Aquarians.”

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My great-grandfather’s murder

July 18, 2012

My children asked me the other night about all my grama’s siblings. They were trying to name all nine kids in order by age.

I was surprised that they were surprised when, after six of them, I said, “Those were all from the first dad; then you have the last three from after the murder.”

They did a cartoon-style double take.

How could they not know the murder story? This is a big family tale, not because of the murder, so much as because of the supernatural lore that comes with it.

I will tell it from the beginning.

My great-grandmother was orphaned in Mexico at age 5, and came to live with an aunt in the Southern Californian town I live in now.

When she was a teen her aunt arranged a marriage with a Korean boy. They mistakenly thought his family owned a laundromat, and that he was consequently rich.

Neither of them spoke English, or each other’s language.

“Mom,” as everyone refers to her, told her children later this arrangement broke her heart, because she was desperately in love with someone else.

“Papa” and his best friend (or cousin, depending on whose version you get) had come to the States during the Japanese occupation of Korea. 

At some point in the marriage, he began to work covertly for the Korean Underground — a secret war against the Japanese. He told his wife he had to keep his activities secret from her, for her own safety.

All she knew was that he was giving speeches, and inciting politcal unrest.

When my grama, the sixth child, was six months old, he told Mom that if anything happened to him, he wanted her to marry his friend from Korea. He gave her his watch and told her to keep it safe.

The next day my grama’s two oldest sisters were walking home from school. Mom was on the porch with a neighbor and my infant grama when the girls approached the house.

From another direction they saw Papa riding his bicycle — his only form of transportation. They all saw a car come from out of nowhere and run him down. It appeared deliberate.

Marguerite and MaryAnn, 12 and 10, dropped their books and ran to him. Mom handed the baby over to the neighbor and joined the rush.

When they got to him, everything vanished. The car, the bike and the body dissipated like an apparition, right there on the edge of the orange grove.

That night Papa didn’t come home from work. The police came.

They found his body in the grove. He had been beaten to death with brass knuckles.

The family line is that MaryAnn is psychic, and everyone was riding her psychic energy as she picked up on his death. She had the time right, but not the method.

Mom did as she was told. She married the friend/cousin and saw to the watch. One of my uncles has the watch now. I’d love to take it apart, and see if there’s something hidden it.

Eighty-five years later, MaryAnn still talks to Papa all the time.