She ended her own life when I was 9. For the first time,writing about her, I am trying to remember how old she was. She was in her early 50's. How strange memory is! It just sticks to one particular moment. I could only picture her as an old woman. Now, I realize that I am nearing the age I remember her as.
I understand that bodies turn into the natural elements from where they came. But, what about one's unachieved hopes, desires, grudges, yearnings, and resentments? Where on earth would they go?
Living under a strong Confuscion dominated society, grandmother, like many of her contemporaries, was forced to live her life as an anonymous mother rather than pursuing her own individual achievements. My father was the third generation of being an only one son. When he married, grandma, Lee Buksul yi, wished them a lot of sons, so that they could continue to their patriarchal inheritance and hold the ancestral rites.
My parents had only two daughters till granmother's death. I used to hear her lamenting that after her death she wouldn't know where to find her ancestral table, since she had no grandson.
It's interesting to think about the relation of the shape of bowls and tombs in Korea. Korean tombs look like bowls place upside down. When we stop nourishing our body ( with bowls) the upside down shape of the bowl becomes the shape of tomb.
Because I am the younger one, I had to hear her regrets of not having grandsons. Whenever I behaved well or demonstrated some talents, she used to tell me " I wish you were born with two balls." Her deep attachment to having a grandson even made me dream of making a penis with flour- the only material I could think of at that time. I seriously thought that if I could keep it well, it could become part of my body. I was around 5 years old, and at that time I really wanted to fulfill my grand mother's wish. It's still so vivid in my memory of the moment when I confessed this conspiracy to my mother, and grandmother. How much they laughed at me and how embarrassed I was!
I used to see my grandmother praying in front of the tree. She carefully filled a bowl with clean water, and murmured " Please allow our family to have a boy" She prayed and prayed, circling and rubbing the tree.
How can I pacify her regretful soul which can also be part of mine which is deeply connected with my femininity as a Korean woman? As a grown woman, once again I want to resolve her wish, without worrying about being embarrassed or laughed at.