My immigrant mother’s love language was not hugging and kissing, but rather cutting mangoes into neat cubes and plating it neatly for us, while she scraped the remaining fruit off the pit with her teeth for herself. As Sae-ri observes, “The American marriage is talking and hugging. But that is not the Korean marriage. The Korean marriage is — what. It is one day after the other. It is the breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
For many second-generation Americans, visiting the “motherland” can be a jarring experience. We’re initially delighted to be around people who look like us and speak like us — only to find out the way we dress, pronounce words and behave are all “wrong.” That, even in our “home countries,” we are outsiders. And yet, we might have sparkling experiences as well, ones that cross borders and place us in the cosmos, leaving us thinking, I can’t wait to come back.