Another year passes . . .
My birthday came around again yesterday, leaving another year discarded onto the heaped-up rubble of my life, and I gaze back upon the growing pile like Walter Benjamin's Angel of History, dismayed by the storm blowing from Paradise . . .
But I can smile anyway, for my wife found my favorite sort of ice-cream cake to remind me that birthdays aren't just about looking back upon the past but about enjoying the present, and my son and daughter wrote notes to turn my gaze forward to the future as I contemplate my two best contributions to the world. From eleven-year-old En-Uk:
Happy birthday. I'm En-Uk. Today is May 14th! Have a good day. Wow! Happy face.And he drew a cake with four candles and a smiling face to cheer me up, I suppose. My fourteen-year-old daughter, Sa-Rah, wrote a somewhat longer note:
Good morning, and happy birthday daddy! This is your lovely daughter (who needs more basketball practice). I just want to tell you how much I love you (and mama, of course), and wish you a happy birthday. Feel free to do whatever you want today! You can get brain-freezed from eating ice-cream cake, go ride your bicycle alone, write a 500 page poem about how much you love Milton, and even feel depressed by the fact that you are now 54 YEARS OLD. Go have a Guiness or somethin'. Anyway, that's not the point! The reason I'm writing this letter at 1:00 a.m. in the morning is NOT to make fun of your hobbies. Daddy, you are a wonderful father and I am happy and blessed that you are my "daddy." Thank you for taking care of me, teaching me English since I was a tiny infant, and thank you soooo much fer watchin' me weight . . . yeah . . . thanks . . . (Just kidding). Keep up the good work! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Love, Sa-Rah.That's the nicest letter that she's ever written me. She seems to be growing up . . . but judge for yourself from the photos below, taken by my wife, Sun-Ae, on our day trip to Chuncheon. First, a photo to prove that we did indeed head for Chuncheon:
I hope that I'm looking bemused by another year, not that those are just more age lines on my face. Be that as it may, we next see the younger, and better-looking generation in the form of my lovely daughter, Sa-Rah, posing with statues commemorating soldiers in the Korean War:
I'm not sure that she's taking history so seriously, but she at least appears to be contemplating things. En-Uk, in the next photo, looks to be celebrating a victory by South Korean soldiers as I look on:
I suppose that he's being serious enough. Finally, we see Sun-Ae, my beautiful wife . . . or a small reflection of her, anyway, along with equally tiny images of the rest of us as we enjoy treats in the cafe of an art museum called "R. Mutt 1917" -- in honor of Duchamp's famous 'fountain':
As you see, the shadows were lengthening, reminding us that time is short and moving us to head back toward Seoul . . .
Incidentally, today is Teacher's Day here in Korea, and a couple of forward-thinking students gave me some small gifts last week. Both are taking my history class, and one of them attached this note to her gift:
Dear Prof. Hodges: HAPPY TEACHER'S DAY! Thank you for your experimental classes that involve students in various discussions. It's a rare opportunity to talk to our peers about race, religion, and integration, but your classes made it possible. Also, this class deepened my interest in immigrants in Korea and in Korean identity. I hope Korea makes a smooth transition from a conservative society to a liberal, multi-ethnic one. Again, thank you for your effort you put in class. Sincerely, Tae-Yeon KimA very nice, thoughtful note from a good student. I hope that all of the students feel the same way, but that's probably too much to expect.
Enough for now from me . . .