~ 25 Random things about My Mom ~
I originally wrote this for Mother’s Day, but it works today as well. Happy Birthday, Mommy.
1. She was a HUGE New York Yankees fan. She loved Lou Piniella and Don Mattingly, especially. And a little guy she called Mike Pagalulu. We once took a drive to see Sweet Lou’s house in Upper Saddle River, NJ. And she told me she’d like me to marry Mattingly. My sisters and I gave her a Cabbage Patch doll in a Yankees uniform for Mother’s Day one year. She named him Donnie Junior and kept him with her to watch the games. (I have Donnie Junior now).
2. She had an amazing laugh. I wish I could explain it. It started out quiet, then got kind of rollicking. She didn’t laugh a lot, but when she did, you couldn’t help but laugh too.
3. Her name was Hyon, but everyone called her “Lee”. Easier to spell and pronounce. But she made us call her “Mommy,” no matter how old we got. We still call her “Mommy” when we talk about her. Even my dad calls her that when he talks about her.
4. She was a huge soap opera fan. From the time she moved to the US with my dad in the 60’s, she watched the same shows: All My Children, One Life to Live, General Hospital. In later years, she’d tape each day’s episode and watch when she got home from work.
5. She loved Christmas. Our tree was decorated with so many ornaments, candy canes and tinsel, you couldn’t see the tree. My dad had to secure the tree to the ceiling to make sure it didn’t topple over. We also got cans of “snow” to spray in all the windows. And Christmas lights stayed up outside the house all year round. She also never failed to give us socks in our stockings, in addition to other little gifts.
6. She was a pro bowler. She bowled in several tournaments a year. She had a number of bowling balls and shoes (“for different lane conditions”) and took most of them with her. She’d never let us go watch, either. But she called every day to tell us how she did.
7. She was Korean but made a mean homemade spaghetti and meatballs, and baked ziti. I think my Aunts Ann, Cathy and Antionette helped her hone her Italian cooking skills a bit, but she was a whiz in the kitchen. And her garlic bread? Let’s just say no vampires ever came to OUR house.
8. I once asked her for a recipe for bulgogi. She looked at me scornfully and said, “Recipe? Where’s the recipe? You watch, taste, learn.” So I watched, tasted and learned. Later on, I found a cook book that she and other members of the greater Washington, DC chapter of the Korean-American Wives Club put together. Inside: a recipe for bulgogi. But I still go by what I learned by watching her.
9. I played softball for 5 years. She never missed a game. She might not have gotten there for the beginning sometimes because of work, but she was always there for the last few innings.
10. She always drove about ten miles UNDER the speed limit, and moved her seat up so she was almost right up against the steering wheel. She didn’t like to drive with me. Once, I drove her home from my older sister’s house in Newark. I thought she’d fallen asleep. When we got home, I proudly told my dad that Mommy was comfortable riding in the car with me because she’d fallen asleep. She retorted, “Asleep? I was too scared to open my eyes!”
11. She was a huge fan of “Wheel of Fortune” and “The Price is Right.” One year, she went to bowl in the National Championships in Pasadena, so I got her and her team tickets to “The Price is Right.” Not only did they get to see the show, they got a tour of the studio and got to meet Bob Barker. She thought I’d set that up, but I hadn’t. She didn’t tell her friends - she let them continue thinking that I rocked.
12. She liked gefilte fish.
13. She made some pretty amazing fruit cake.
14. She had 2 refrigerators. One for groceries. The other for kimchee.
15. She met my dad when she was a teacher in Korea and he was stationed there. He said he and a couple of other soldiers went to the school to help move furniture. She was the only one who spoke English well enough to tell them where to put everything. He says, “And she’s been telling me what to do since then.”
16. Her favorite musical was “Phantom of the Opera.” She went to see it a number of times, with a number of family members. She played the soundtrack a lot at home. She also liked the movie and soundtrack to “Dirty Dancing” and “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”
17. She loved the “Indiana Jones” movies. But she’d leave the room whenever a scene involving snakes came on the screen. She hated snakes.
18. She was able to go home to Korea for the 1988 Summer Olympics. She loved watching summer and winter games. Her favorite events were: figure skating, gymnastics and track and field. She may have liked other events. I just can’t remember all of them right now.
19. She loved watching Miss Universe pageants and always rooted for Miss South Korea.
20. She loved Johnny Mathis, Jim Nabors and Andy Williams. Her favorite song was “Danny Boy.” My dad and I danced to Andy Williams’ version of that song in her memory at my wedding. Every Christmas, she played Johnny Mathis’ Christmas album. I’m sure my brother and sisters could sing you pretty much any Johnny Mathis Christmas song.
21. When I worked for a PR company in NYC, one of the clients was Andy Williams. When I told him my mom was a fan, he autographed a photo for her. When I gave it to her, she didn’t believe he’d signed it. She thought I had done it. When I saw him again, he asked if my mom had liked the photo. When I told him that she thought I’d forged his signature, he had me call her, then chatted with her for several minutes. After their conversation, she yelled at me for telling him that she’d thought I’d forged his signature. But I know she was pleased.
22. She once had me call in sick to work, and stand in line for hours outside Penn Station in NYC to buy lottery tickets for her because the jackpot was something ridiculously high. As my luck would have it, a TV news crew showed up to interview people in line! I managed to hide my face and my boss never found out. Or maybe she did but decided not to say anything. (BTW, we did NOT win that jackpot)
23. She LOVED going to Atlantic City. She loved slot machines, period. A few New Year’s Eves were spent at Bally’s Casino. We’d start by eating the buffet, then having a champagne toast at midnight. Then, it was time to play the slots until the sun came up. She was pretty lucky, too. She usually won a good chunk of change. One year, she bowled in a tournament in Reno, Nevada. Every time she called home, we could hear slot machines in the background. She’d excitedly tell us she was playing slots at the supermarket. At the airport. At the gas station. And at the bowling alley!
24. She had a calculator in her head. She could add and subtract columns in her mind.
25. My mother was a tough, strict, determined woman. But she could not beat the illness that shut her liver down. She passed away on May 8, 1991 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where she’d been flown to undergo a liver transplant. Unfortunately, she was too sick to undergo the surgery. Visitation for her took place over Mother’s Day weekend. We didn’t think many people would come on Mother’s Day, but the funeral home was packed. What a great testament to a woman who left her country and lived the life of an Army family and raise 5 kids. I like to think we all came out all right.