Korean Kickboard Terrors
She is a woman haunted by the dreamlike memory of a market in Seoul, South Korea, chasing after the legs of a man she thinks may have been her father as they receded further and further into the distance. She remembers sobbing and sobbing and a man who came to comfort her and then it’s all just a haze. She recalls little of the orphanage except the straw mats she slept on every night as rats skittered past. To this day she is terrified of rodents, so much so that she would jump into his arms whenever a low flying sparrow would swoop by.
Her only other strong recollection is the army base she would go to in Seoul where she would sing and dance like a trick pony for all the families of the American G.I.’s. The army personnel would give the kids lollipops and candies and other treats. It’s possible he saw her then or missed her by a year, because she was but a toddler when she was doing that and almost certainly came to the same army base he lived on for two or three months in summer 1969 with his sister and his parents.
He was safe inside the gates of that base, safe from the every day Seoul that she experienced every day until she came to America on Independence Day 1972 to be the daughter of a California Far Right religious “tough love” Christian father who viewed her as a China doll, a caucasian sister who teased her constantly for being different, and a mother who resented her at every moment until she left the family never to be seen again while she was still but a teenager. You’ve got to wonder if her father blamed her on some level. How else to explain his brutal treatment of his daughter, kicking her out of her house and giving her not a cent of support as she worked her way to a college education, a job in London and a return to the States because she felt a compulsion to paint on canvasses in the Art Capital of the world, a compulsion one can only understand as a need to purge those nightmares inside her.
His family, meanwhile, left Korea and stopped in Hawaii on the way back to the States. He remembers to this day being in the ocean on a kickboard with his mother. The vastness of the ocean amidst the swells of gentle waves overwhelmed him and he began to cry. His mother rubbed his back and he stopped. He felt safe. He’s loved to have his back rubbed ever since. A few days later he spent his fourth birthday blowing out candles in a hotel room after a day spent at Disneyland. He still has one of the plastic decorations from that cake, Donald Duck, on his writing desk each day as he works. The legs are both broken, but old Donald, he’s still hanging in there because he’s fighting for every little girl who never had her back rubbed as a child and had to confront those kickboard terrors of the world all by herself. He’s fighting to turn those nightmares into dreams with Hollywood endings because he knows we could all use a few more stories in the world with happy hopeful endings and we all know we write our best when writing about the things we know.
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