I'm going back to Korea! Forty years later...
Travels with my mom, pt. 1. In which I'm an emotional mess as I prepare to leave my family for a trip.
When mom goes out of town
There’s a scene in a K-drama called Reply 1988 that I watched recently where the mother prepares to go out of town, leaving her husband and two young adult sons to fend for themselves for a few days. The scene opens with the mother squatting on the floor in front of the open refrigerator with the men huddled close together above her, peering into the fridge. She points to all the various containers of food that she’s prepared for them while she’s gone, rattling off detailed instructions on what to eat with what and when. As she leaves for her trip, suitcase in hand, she hesitates and stops repeatedly in the middle of the alley with an anxious expression on her face, looking back as she worries how they’ll survive without her.
Of course as soon as she is out of sight, the men rush back into the house, strip down to their boxers, and lay on the floor to watch TV with a bowl of snacks, crumbs flying everywhere. For dinner, rather than serving each side dish (banchan) in separate bowls to eat with their rice as instructed, they dump all the containers of food into one huge mixing bowl, stir it up with some sesame oil and red pepper paste and eat it straight out of the communal bowl. When she returns a few days later, the mom grows despondent after inspecting the house because it appeared that the family managed just fine without her. One observant son picks up on his mother’s energy and signals to his father and brother to feign incompetence for the sake of her feelings. The balance in the household is restored as the mother resettles into her role as the indispensable matriarch whose family would fall apart without her.
It’s a funny scene that I found endearing because just this weekend I realized that my mom has this habit of always leaving out containers of food that she sets aside for breakfast, pulling various items from the fridge and stacking them neatly on the counter before she leaves early for church on Sundays when we stay over at her place. I’m a middle-aged adult married to a chef, yet my mother can’t stop mothering for fear that we’ll starve on her watch.
But the main reason why that scene pulled at my heart strings (I’ve been an emotional mess lately) is because I’m preparing for a trip without my family for the first time in like a decade.