A Springtime Korean-American Story

I used to work as an Art Assistant for the US Edition of Reader's Digest Magazine. I loved that job, because I got to pick out the back cover art, during my tenure there. I left that job to move to Virginia. This move changed my life in so many ways. I told this story to my 85 year old friend and I love her version of a story she told to me a few years ago, while we were caring for her husband, in their home. We share a Korean heritage. We share a love of caring for others. We both have birthdays in the first days of Spring. This lady still remains an inspiration to me, because she is, like me, energetic, active, full of life, and a strong-minded Korean American woman. We shared our stories about how we were both born in Korea, we both came to America, we both ended up in Virginia. 

Here is her version of her story: She told me that her father and mother always told her, "Dear Daughter, you are so beautiful and accomplished that you would make a good wife. You do not have to have a professional career!" She bristled at their comments, because she wanted to be independent and studied pediatric medicine. This was ground-breaking, to be a Korean woman and a Pediatrician. It was 1947. When she made the decision to go to the United States to practice Pediatric Medicine, she couldn't decide where in the US to go. While all of her other friends were saying, "Go to NY!" her intuition told her not to "follow the crowd." One day, she was reading Reader's Digest Magazine. She saw the back cover art. It was a painting of Dogwood Trees in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She felt they looked so beautiful and Asian. She liked the name, "Vir-gin-ia", it sounded so easy and melodic when she pronounced it. She made her decision and got accepted to MCV, to practice Pediatrics. While there, she met an ambitious, hard-working Korean immigrant, like herself. He was a one of the first surgeons to develop Transplant Surgery. They fell in love and got married and lived a good, long life together. He left a legacy of healing that endures, today. She ended up being a housewife and a mother, to support his work. She never regretted her decision to live her life here, practicing medicine in Vir-gin-i-a. She claims that that picture on the back cover of Reader's Digest, changed her life. 

Next week, March 24th, in Korean tradition, "gije" (hangul: 기제) we celebrate Death Anniversary, together, since it is the anniversary of her husband's passing. I am looking forward to seeing her, getting together, celebrate life and the upcoming Spring season, and eating our favorite Korean foods.

 

Richmond, VA

Another Proud Korean American