Empowering undocumented young people to achieve educational and career goals
STUDENT VOICES IMMIGRATION STORIES
I remember the autumn of South Korea. Leaves that once colored mountains and streets in red and yellow would turn brown and fall softly to the ground. The air was so fresh and cool that I felt as if I were truly breathing for the first time. The cloudless sky was the color of most gorgeous blue as if God, the artist, mixed the pigments just right to paint the perfect blue sky. October, especially, was the month that I looked forward to most because of Korean Thanksgiving. We usually got an entire week off from school for Thanksgiving since it is the biggest holiday in Korea.
In the kitchen, I could hear the loud pan-frying of vegetables. I would help spoon little honey fillings into mini-dumpling shaped rice cakes and make a cylindrical statue with them. My mother set the table with pictures of our ancestors in the middle, incense that smelled like mosquito-repellant on the sides, and five-grain rice and side dishes that were meant for the spirits in the front. And the entire table would be filled with fruits and meat-dishes: deep-orange colored persimmons, ruby-red apples, pears that were as big as human heads, peeled and steamed chestnuts, meat loaf and soup made with taros of a unique texture that American-grown taros simply cannot replicate. And I would poke around the kitchen just like a little mouse, taking a nibble of everything, and stick around by my grandmother who was so happy to feed me.
All day I would jump up and down and run around in a happy frenzy because my cousins were coming. We would have so much fun together, playing catch out in the front yard or cards in the living room until late at night. I wished that everyday would be Thanksgiving, so I could eat and play more than usual and bask in the warmth of my relatives who accepted me as me, without condition or judgment.
Here in America, I feel the loneliest during Thanksgiving. My friends have big plans for their Thanksgiving vacations; they know where they will be going, whom they will see, and what elaborate dishes they can expect. They have grandmothers and grandfathers who spoil them, and cousins who mentor them about college life. But my family is always at a loss on Thanksgiving. Our celebration ends with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken because turkey is not popular with my family, and my mom's salad with homemade dressing. There are no guests invited because our apartment is too small to accommodate more than four people and our relatives are miles across the Pacific Ocean. I never appreciated the small things I took for granted until they were taken from me. I didn't know how special it was to be surrounded by people who share the same blood. I miss my aunts and uncles who teased me and said "미스코리아 왔네!" even though I never grew taller than five three, and my cousins who gave me little trinkets and worn toys they had grown tired of. Every Thanksgiving, I keep hoping that my relatives will come join us. Our house, now so quiet and solemn, will be filled with laughter, clanging dishes, and frying vegetables again, and we will have a true Korean Thanksgiving, a celebration of reunion and kinship.
About the Author Grace is one of E4FC's 2010 Scholars. She is a junior studying electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley. Grace plans to become a CG animator and entertain and inspire millions and millions of people. She emigrated from South Korea with her family when she was twelve years old.