September 11, 2022
by Dr. Plastic Picker
I hadn’t realized it was the 20th anniversary of September 11th? It’s 421am and I’m sitting in the quiet and semi-dark of our kitchen. I want to go for a run this morning and try to get some more cardio in. I slept very deeply yesterday in a fundamental way after a wonderful night with my family. My parents are visiting from their island home, and we gathered together in a beautiful house near the beach. I walked in and I told my younger brother, “I’m curious to see what is the ruckus you caused!” And indeed the whole house was in a ruckus because he was moving from one house to another, and the new house held mementos.
I’m still watching a lot of Kdramas lately but I realize for me and for others, it’s fun and silly and addictive because we are not Korean. I’m certainly a Korean daughter-in-law and the wife to a very Korean man, and I speak decent amount of Korean and eat mostly Korean foods these days – but I am not and have never claimed to be Korean. I am fundamentally comfortable with myself, and as I was eating this lovely banh cuon my older brother had brought to the gathering – I leaned over to my daughter and said. “No matter how much I love your father, Vietnamese food is better.” And indeed dear readers to my palate, it is. The banh cuon yesterday was so delicious. I savored each bite. The thin rice noodles were so thin, and soaked up the nuoc mam so well. I will never forget the banh cuon from yesterday. Even Mr. Plastic Picker admitted that the food was pretty amazing.
My children will often times try to correct me when I make pronouncements like that. But in the setting we were at, the food was indeed extraordinary and no one dared argue.
We ate, and for a time my daughter was looking through old photos from Vietnam. Most were of my parents when they were young. It was interesting to see which photos she decided to take digital snapshots. There is the romantic one at the beginning of the blog that she took.
Mr. Plastic Picker’s cousin almost 20 years ago, gifted us a pair of wooden ducks on our wedding trip to South Korea. Twenty years ago my parents-in-law had taken us up and down South Korea to meet relatives and introduce us to family and friends. We were in the midst of our third year of medical school at Harvard as well, and had been married just four months at that time. Now 20 years later, I’m truly realizing the significance of that trip and the love and care my parents-in-law bestowed on me. I had bought special winter clothes at Ann Taylor to wear to the various dinners, and we even went to Jeju Do and stayed at a traditional Korean home of a wealthy friend who owned a plantation.
Back to the wooden ducks. It was after watching Kdramas and then looking at the wooden ducks that were gifted to us twenty years ago, that I kept not knowing the significance as we moved from Boston to DC to San Diego and to various homes in San Diego. The ducks are still with us and seated with some succulents right now in our garden. I think they are happier outside. Aix galericulata, Mandarin ducks, in Chinese and Korean culture symbolize “peace, fidelity, and plentiful offspring. Similar to the Chinese, they believe that these ducks mate for life. For these reasons, pairs of wooden-carved mandarin ducks called wedding ducks are often given as wedding gifts and play a significant role in Korean marriage.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandarin_duck
And I’ve been thinking about monogamy and family, and having the normal worries of a mother of two teenagers. We are very strict with our children, and even our high school senior has not started dating. Certainly my daughter knows to respect herself enough to give herself time to become a full person before entering into any sort of romantic relationship. I’ve been trying to teach my children about monogamy and the word has come up multiple times at dinner. My son will push back and say the world has changed. I’m liberal in most ways, but I still fundamentally believe that a healthy society is one that encourages life-long partners be in whatever gender you prefer. I am certainly progressive and realize that there are many societal reasons (war, genocide, historic injustices) that have prevented some that should have mated for life, to have been ripped apart.
But yesterday I think my campaign to instill in my children the importance of valuing oneself and valuing one’s life-long partner much easier. My daughter chose to remember the picture of my own parents over 50 years ago, when they were young and carefree students gazing at each other. They are a pair of ducks, mated for life. Mr. Plastic Picker and I are the same. And those examples are important to uphold, and I didn’t realize something I take for granted is actually uncommon. Everyone at clinic was amazed that Mr. Plastic Picker and I had been married happily for 20 years. Mr. Plastic Picker’s parents have been married now almost 60 years, and my own parents 50 years. This is through war, immigration, poverty and many adverse life events. It’s easier to go through life with one person. Whoever that one person is for my daughter (and my son), I will love you. Just like my parents-in-law love me, and my parents love Mr. Plastic Picker.