My mother grew up with knowledge that her birth was met with deep disappointment. She was named Last One, being a 6th daughter. She watched her father bring home a second wife …he needed a son for an heir. Ironically my grandmother’s last child, her 7th, was a son … the whole village rejoiced. Master Park finally had an heir…. His second wife had a daughter when his first son was born to his first wife. My mother’s life was quite happy until her mother died at age 11. She was not prepared for life without a loving mother. Her longing for her mother was ..oh so deep. Her step mother who was always around as a background helper in the estate, now took over the role of the Lady of the house. Her immediate differentiation between her 4 children and 7 children of the 1st wife was manifested. She despised that her husband’s other children excelled in school and her own children did poorly.
My maternal grandmother was delicate in health. She was a lady of much learning. She not only knew how to read and write, she was versed in famous writings…. And she wrote poems. Having 7 children must have been too much for her frail health, yet she had to produce an heir. Her life was not easy.
My grandmother gave her love for learning to her children. My mother would often tell me stories of school teachers lifting up my uncle on their shoulders to announce his achievements to the whole school. As a boy he was small and slight in frame and any teacher who wanted to show him off would lift him. When my mother excelled, who was 2 years older, it became a small phenomena in the old country school. The second wife had 2 children at school simultaneously. As fate would have it, her children barely could keep up and often was being disciplined as troublemakers. It must have been humiliating to the 2nd wife. After the death of the 1st wife she was not an easy mother for the children.
Throughout my growing up years, my mother would tell me what I would not get if I had a step mother. When she bought a piano with their meager income as a new immigrant to US, she said…”my step mother would not allow a piano to be bought for us, and we wanted it so… Enjoy.” I did my best to please my mother. My brother and sister did not last long with their lessons.
Every time she bought us clothes, she would let us know that how much it is in her heart to give us wings to fly. Nice clothing did that for her. I understood that her stepmother did not have that in her…that everything was given reluctantly.
In high school, to avoid family tension, my grandfather provided his first set of children a home and household help in another town to go to school. It became evident the 2nd wife’s jealousy made it very difficult any other way.
I don’t know very much about my step grandmother. My only recollection is when we went to my grandfather’s 60th birthday, she received us warmly.
When my mother graduated high school, it was my grandfather’s desire to send her to college and set her up with a business. If she went to a pharmacy school, he would give her a pharmacy upon graduation. At this juncture, my mother wanted a home of her own. She wanted to be married. She no longer wanted to come home where she was not welcome.
There would be many battles between my mother and her father who wanted so much more for her life. He tried to reason with her. She was smart. He could finance any education and business she desired. She could have a future well set. I think he was thinking that she does not get inheritance yet he could have her well established. My mother was set, she wanted her own home. My grandfather gave in and hired a matchmaker to bring a good husband for my mother. She was beautiful, brilliant, and a daughter of a village lord. She would have many good prospects wanting her.
War had started. North Korea invaded South Korea. North Korean army was pushing South Korean and American army to south where my mother lived. Korean war would change her destiny. The man she would marry would be from Seoul. He was handsome as she was beautiful. All her woes under her step mother would be nothing… Her new life would bring much suffering in the world of war torn land.