several weeks ago, i wrote about my “auntie han” who passed away, and how much i loved and will miss her. i also mentioned the only photograph of her and uncle han i had, which was ironically a terrible photograph—the camera malfunctioned and more than half of the image was washed in red.
a while ago my mom had read my blog and sent it to one of auntie han’s closest friends, sungja moon. well, this past week, sungja sent a letter to me, care of my mom. it reads, “i am mi-aie’s student from 14 years of age. she adored you. loved your personality, charm and your abilities.” enclosed was a beautiful photo of auntie mi-aie han. in it, auntie han is smiling, as though caught a little by surprise, and her hair is full and nearly all-white. her skin is radiant. i love it and have framed it and placed it on the piano.
incidentally, one of my favorite childhood memories of auntie and uncle han and our exciting trips into the city involved sungja. we were eating a chinatown banquet after taking in a show at a gallery or museum, i can’t remember which. it was a private room, a fact that will become important later. course after course we were fed incredible oddities to my child’s mind, the most interesting being snails still in their shell which I had to poke out with toothpicks, after picking off the little round cap that served as their front door, i suppose. as strange as the texture was, i loved it. now i might say it was really because of the black bean sauce. but at the time, who could say? i just ate and ate and found it all delicious.
then the entree arrived. it was peking duck. the duck was glazed and sitting on a platter with its neck in an odd curved position. and it was the whole duck, the head was still on the plate, propped up by the chefs to look like it was still attached, even though all of its body had been hacked into pieces! by that point, all the grown-ups had had plenty to drink and there was quite a bit of laughter and jokes in korean that i didn’t follow. so when sungja saw my distress at seeing the duck’s head on the plate, she said something like, “if you don’t like this, i’ll take care of it!”
with that, she grabbed the duck head with her napkin, wrapped it all up, and then with an exaggerated style like it was a baseball, she tossed it across the room!
the head gone. i happily ate the hacked-up duck.