Satie and Saeren,
My darling nieces, I look forward to seeing you in Irvine this coming weekend. Satie, you are a full sized toddler while your sister, Saeren, walks and grins but is still very much a baby.
I do not write these letters for you to understand now, but to be read one day years into the future when you are older and curious about your relatives and the world they lived in. I suppose now, in my early thirties, I contemplate the past as much the future, perhaps more so as marriage and age have led me to calmer, happier waters (being single is an exciting though turbulent time, at least for your uncle). I wonder what my parents, your grandparents, were thinking when your mother and I were still so young.
I’m not sure what to write about. I suppose I will share stories about our respective childhoods and into adulthood. These are periods of time which will no doubt seem ancient to you but hopefully will give some sense of connection to how things were.
I will share stories about your grandparents. This comes out of my own lack of grandparents growing up - this is not a lament at such a lacking but rather a sad outcome of history and geography. Your great grandfathers perished early in their lives, an unfortunate set of circumstances after the Korean War. Your maternal great grandmother passed away when I was in the second grade – I remember this vividly as I traveled with your grandmother to Seoul to see her after she suffered a stroke. It was a sad time but also a nostalgic one as I met my cousins and aunts for the first time and realized I (and you) have an extended family. Your great grandmother on your grandfather’s side (my paternal grandmother) only passed away a few months ago in Seoul, though we did not know her well due to distance.
Your maternal grandparents (my parents) were a helluva pair. They are the classic immigrant family who came in the seventies and through hard work and a bit of luck, made it. I have no doubt as you grow up they will regale stories of how hard your mother and uncle worked, but they might neglect to share stories of their own.
Your grandparents babysit you every Saturday morning. They take you to the mall to ride the carousel and eat lunch, and they send photos of you to your aunt and me via text message. When we receive them, we stop everything and smile and marvel at how cute you are but also worry how fast you both are growing up.
Right now your grandmother (your mother and my mother) is currently is Seoul visiting her sister (your great aunt) and college friends from many years back. While I do not believe you will ever meet your great aunt (as she and her husband are much older and unable to travel), you should know how kind and loving they were to your sister and me. Beyond gifts or material things, they always were happy to see us and we felt a tangible warmth whenever we spoke on the phone or embraced on a visit. Your grandmother and great aunt were very close, as they suffered much together growing up in post war Seoul.
There is much more to write about, and I will try to actually tell stories versus write “about” what I will write (as I have done today) but this is a start. Your aunt and I love and miss you very much. While you both are many miles away, you are never far from our thoughts.