May 27: My book club is reading “Crying in H Mart,” a memoir by Michelle Zauner, who also leads the indy band Japanese Breakfast. (Jeremiah is a big fan of the band; President Obama is a big fan of the book.) I’ll be hosting our book club’s discussion, and I’m already assembling my props. Yes, I’ll display covers of her albums. Yes, I’ll show off Zauner’s autographed poster. I might even wear Jeremiah’s Japanese Breakfast sweater for a while. But I realized that my biggest preparation should involve a trip to H Mart.
H Mart is a supermarket chain that specializes in Asian food. As Zauner explains, “The H stands for han ah reum, a Korean phrase that roughly translates to ‘one arm full of groceries.’ . . . It’s the only place where you can find a giant vat of peeled garlic, because it’s the only place that truly understands how much garlic you’ll need for the kind of food your people eat.”
An H Mart opened just a few miles away. With “Crying in H Mart” as my guide (this book is as much a celebration of Korean food as it is a memoir grieving the death of Zauner’s mom), I grabbed noodles, munchies and sweets. Some tastes may be exotic; this story of friction, love and loss is not.
May 28: Nate phoned me from the beach at Assateague to tell me the surf was “firing.” When he saw I wasn’t on video, he urged me to ditch my gardening gloves and just pay attention. I obliged and he held up his phone for me to savor the glorious waves, breaks and barrels. Shortly after, Jeremiah invited me to play a game he knows I enjoy, using a deck he gave me and coaching me through all the tricky parts.
I’d say that was a pretty nice day.
May 29: Although the sun scorched our upper deck seats, Jeremiah and I happily shared a sandwich, a bucket of popcorn and two cold beers. We shared baseball news (Jeremiah had far more insights than I did) and baseball memories. We also shared a surprising Washington Nationals victory. I recorded every hit and out in my scorecard. I didn’t need a pen to remember everything else.
May 30: As I climbed the hill, I could hear the horns and drums of our town’s concert band. The band drew me to town center, to the memorial garden, to our town’s annual Memorial Day commemoration.
Every year is the same, but different. The same: a roll call for our town’s war dead. Different: the prayer, the quotations, the inspiration.
Perhaps the salt on my cheeks was perspiration. Perhaps it was tears: to see a sixty-five year old war veteran informally offering, from his participant’s seat, American Sign Language to someone close to him. To hear the names of so many people who put themselves in harm’s way for the common good. To thank the majestic uniformed singer who, before closing the ceremony with the chorus of “God Bless America,” sang immigrant Irving Berlin’s verse, imploring prayer as storm clouds gather.
I almost didn’t attend the ceremony: so many chores to do. But once again I’m enriched when I make a modest effort. May I remember this wisdom next year.
May 31: Yesterday I stumbled upon a full page newspaper clipping my Dad had given me on Opening Day, 1999. Photographed from behind, a father and his young daughter stand in a dark archway that frames the bright greens and tans of a baseball diamond. The father looks lovingly at his little girl. The little girl, wearing her baseball glove and seeing the field appear suddenly before her, is frozen in a kind of enchantment. (Why am I crying?)
Based on their attire and the style of the ballpark, this could be the 1960s.
The caption reads: “There’s nothing like the first time you make it to the majors.” My Dad wrote in red ink at the top, “Carol Ann and Daddy at Shea Stadium, 1969.” And taped to the back is my ticket stub for August 23, 1969. (My beloved New York Mets won that game.)
I showed it to Jeremiah. He studied the image. “It must give you great pleasure to do for us what your dad did for you.”
June 1: Sure, I told my friend Lee, I’ll join you for a walk along the Potomac River. Indeed, we walked and walked and walked. And it was so much more.
We watched local fire & rescue experts train for river emergencies. (We later saw them battling the whitewater of Great Falls.) Lee kindly took a photo of a family visiting the Falls from England. We talked to a journalist from a German news service (@ ARD Washington), who was recording a story about canal boats and mules. We studied the 190-year old engineering that created the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and towpath (now a National Park) and the 160-year old engineering of the aqueduct that, to this day, delivers drinking water to Washington, D.C.
Because Great Falls National Park hugs both sides of the river, we marveled at the towering trees and uninterrupted views everywhere we looked. And all this is within 20 minutes of Washington, D.C. I’ll definitely say “yes” again the next time Lee asks.
June 2: I fall back onto the sofa, happy and exhausted. I hosted my book club tonight for the very first time. (Nervous, nervous.) In a break from club custom, I decided to cluster us around the dining room table. The Korean snacks, Korean noodles, Korean sweets, and Korean packaging were big hits.
Maybe it was the intimacy. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was a tribute to our last gathering until September. Whatever the reason, we lingered a very long time and pledged to see each other this summer. I smile at the memory — and the fact that my house is really, really clean.
Bonus: Thanks to my New Zealand blog-friend Thistles and Kiwis, I watched the Moldovan entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 2022. With wild exuberance (and a tiny story) it flings five minutes of joy and cultural insight into the videosphere. The Ukraine entry won the prize, but this video won my heart.
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