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Mulberry Trees

Updated: Apr 8

sometimes, i wish you would just die. life would be much easier without everyone asking is that your grandpa?

this is what i wrote in my journal when i was 8.

mulberry trees

it was 6 pm, our class was picking mulberries outside. rows of mulberry trees lined the parking lot and we picked the little fruits off the branches and popped them right into our mouths. when we went back to the lobby, you were waiting for me, standing hunched over your white cane. an indescribable feeling washed over me -- was it disappointment? shame? i wanted umma to pick me up, not you. is your grandpa sick? why does he look like that? disgusting. monster.

don’t pick me up ever again.


when i was eight, i visited korea and made a new friend at the trampoline park. she thought i was cool for being a foreigner. we went down giant slides that turned our stomachs into mush, we stabbed the bubbles floating past our heads, we tried to bounce back up from our knees on the trampoline.

we entered the sand building area where other kids and adults were molding castles out of colorful sand. you limped over and sat down next to me.

what’s this old man doing here? do you know him?

no. i don’t. then, i turned my body away from you and met her eyes with a smile.

let’s keep building.

i just wanted to be gia the cool foreigner, not gia the granddaughter of a sick geezer.


foreigner, alien

i’ve never felt korean in korea, american in america. when i was in kindergarten, i went to an after-school program for korean children whose parents were at work. i was the only student in the class who couldn’t speak english so i had a teacher’s assistant who served as my personal translator. that day, i had finished my school work early so we moved on to the classwork assigned by the after-school. i took a worksheet--we were learning how to count coins. a quarter is 25, a nickel is 5. do you know how to count coins? no. then you don’t need to do this worksheet. there were other kids who needed help and i guess she didn’t feel like sitting next to me, teaching me how to count coins. i wanted to learn, but i couldn’t. my classmates at after-school always translated their conversations around me, asked do you understand what i just said.

i started speaking english at home until talking to my parents in korean felt unnatural. i buried my native language deeper and deeper into the depths of my mind. then when my parents sent me to korean school in 4th grade, i was placed in the basics class, back to kindergarten.

our palms on the grass, our foreheads resting against the backs of our hands

we drove hours to the countryside, arriving at the cemetery. you told us that if we bowed to the tombstone, money would rain. so davin and i kneeled, our palms on the grass, our foreheads resting against the backs of our hands. the grass was prickly. i took a small peek from my arms, kind of like how i did while playing 7-Up at summer school. and there it was. a yellow 50000 won -- 50 dollars -- in front of me. i immediately snatched it up and thanked the sun, the clouds, the sky.