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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)

TITLE: You Become a Mother


If you were a Christian, you would cry to God when you learn you're pregnant. Instead, you yell at the doctor, “Whaaaat! I’m here because of infernal headaches. There’s a mistake!” After all, you are stationed in Germany while the man you love is stationed in Korea. You haven’t seen him in. . . let’s see. . . three months. “Ah, ah, ah,” you panic, not because of your age—twenty-two, not because you’re unwed—you have trust, but because you lack all knowledge maternal. That’s what happens when you’re shy a role-model.

The man you love, though, is there—5,500 miles away—dictating your “to do” list.

  1. Obtain a discharge from the European theatre of operations and proceed directly to the Asian theatre, bypassing the home of record.

“What’s next,” you ask.

“Nothing, I’ll take care of the rest.”

When you finally arrive at the airport in Seoul, he's there to embrace you—all of you. He signals a taxi that will bring you way out to the town of Ui-Jong-Bu. You’ve heard horror stories and hope you’re not in for dirt floors and a thatched roof.

You think light thoughts as he carries you over the threshold.

You adore your first home: the high-gloss parquet floors that house water pipes running underneath, providing for toasty mornings; the diminutive furniture, making you feel like Snow White; the sliding double windows with the wide space in between, acting like a greenhouse; and of course, the piece de résistance—the small stove the man you love bought special—making you the only woman in the neighborhood with an oven.

He shows you the empty room that will be the nursery. This he has left for you.

Over the next three months you get married and learn to bake bread and haggle at the market— all the while spying on the Korean ajumas to see how they do this mothering thing. You stare at babies and toddlers molded to their mother’s backs when wrapped in their blanket carriers. The wrapping appears altogether too intricate, but you don’t want a stroller anymore, either. You opt for a front pack.

Next, you wonder at the toddlers who run naked from the waist down. Someone explains this is part of toilet training. Once the child is ready, diapers are removed—period. It effectively avoids confusion. You tuck that information away.

The crib is your current problem. You can’t find one. What do these Korean babies sleep in? You learn they rest on thick pads covered in jewel-tone solids mixed with pastel prints. An odd combination, but you go with it.

You purchase a vinyl covered cardboard dresser with cartoons stamped on the front—cartoon prints are everywhere. You cut Styrofoam into balloon shapes and cover them in broadcloth. You use combat boot laces for balloon strings, and the man you married attaches your decorations to the wall.

You hand-sew a quilt and curtains.

You wish you were as ready for this baby as the room is.

This baby arrives in alarming short order. For two weeks you nurse and sleep next to her on the pad made warm by the floors. She quickly begins sleeping through the night.

The first time you take her out, the smiles that greet you, melt you.

The first time you take her to the laundromat, American wives surround you and offer to hold your baby while you fold your laundry. The second time you take her to the laundromat, Korean wives surround you but offer to fold your laundry while you hold your baby. This summarizes the cultural differences in attitudes of bonding.

The security Korean children feel will come full circle fifty years later in a ceremonial gathering of friends and family. At the appointed time, the son follows his mother as she takes a lap around the room. As they begin the second lap, they change places, and he lifts his mother to his back, signifying that as she cared for him, now he will care for her.

You will keep these attitudes of infant bonding and of honoring the older generation for the rest of your life.

You, the man you married (and will always love), and your baby flourish in this warm, hospitable atmosphere, where you have become a mother. Several years later when your family accepts Christ, you will look back on the two years you spent in the Land of the Morning Calm and realize what a gift from God it was.

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This article has been read 931 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 03/07/09
Very interesting voice and POV. Gave a different feel to the story. I could certainly feel for the MC and her changing attitudes and such.
Beth LaBuff 03/07/09
Wow… what an interesting way to potty-train. I would imagine it would be effective. This is such a unique way to tell this story. Fascinating writing!
Sonya Leigh03/07/09
Beautiful writng, excellent POV, wonderful true story. This just warmed me all over. Great, great job.
Eliza Evans 03/08/09
*A Gifted Writer*

"... he's there to embrace you—all of you." Sigh. That is the stuff I want to put under my pillow and keep.
Those lovely, little details that make reading rich. Thank you.

This piece has so much heart and many of those warming, "sigh" moments. Almost makes me envious that I didn't get to have my babies in Korea!

Unusual choice of second person narrative. I don't know ...I'm not sure if it was the very best choice.
I'd love to see this written in first and also in third.
That'd be a great writing exercise!

Thank you SO much for sharing.... YOU.

Sheri Gordon03/08/09
Very good...funny, with such a great message. This was my favorite line: "You think light thoughts as he carries you over the threshold." That cracked me up.

Not sure about the second-person POV. The first paragraph was tough for me to get through with that POV--it could just be that I'm hungry and light-headed though. :)

You are a very talented writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
Connie Dixon03/08/09
This seemed very natural in the 2nd person. I really liked it. Very interesting and informational entry, told in a creative way. Good job!
Gerald Shuler 03/08/09
I got distracted, and riveted, by the first parts of the first two sentences. "If you were a Christian you would cry... instead you yell." What a statement about our need for Christ.

The rest of the story was rich but I kept looking for when she accepted the Lord.

I agree about maybe using first or third person POV. Second person worked, though.
Carol Slider 03/08/09
I loved this beautiful story about birth and cultural differences. Very well written!
Norma-Anne Hough03/09/09
I really enjoyed this. Being in the 2nd person didn't bother me.
Lovely reading about the korean customs and way of life.
Well done.
Sharon Kane03/10/09
This is just gorgeous! I have to confess I was comparing mothering in Korea and Zimbabwe all the way through. Potty training, check; strapping baby on back, check... Plus home made decorations, yes did that too!! But what I loved most of all was the Korean family bonding, and the way it helped your new family to bond. Really beautiful.
Karlene Jacobsen03/10/09
I love this POV. It is interesting the differences in cultural attitudes (concerning women in the laundry). WOW!
I enjoyed this story.
Kara Dunham 03/10/09
Love it! I found I could easily relate to this story seeing as its 2 weeks until my due date and I'm in Thailand (lots of cultural differences from America). "making you the only woman on your street with an oven" yeah that is totally me!
Jan Ackerson 03/10/09
Only one word for this one: Perfect.
Mona Purvis03/11/09
Fresh with 2nd POV. Engages the reader. Creative and interesting.
Sara Harricharan 03/11/09
What an interesting story! I loved the voice here, especially that first line! The humor is just right in this piece.
Lyn Churchyard03/11/09
Wonderful! I loved the little window you opened which allowed me to see into your MC's world. Exactly what we've come to expect of you Lisa... excellence.
Gary J. Borgstede03/11/09
I really liked the creative writing style that brought the reader right into the story! I almost feel like I became a mother. :):)Perhaps an interesting creative follow-up could be how You Become A Father. :):) Great story!
Peter Stone03/12/09
Absolutely beautiful, my fav this week. Loved the details such as 'Once the child is ready, diapers are removed—period.' I saw this once in Japan too. Trains 'em quick. My favorite line was the way the son carried his mother, 'signifying that as she cared for him, now he will care for her.' Wonderful to see countries that respect their elderly like this, rather than shoving them in homes.
Laury Hubrich 03/12/09
I loved this piece. It is fun to see how other cultures raise their babies. Great writing, as always.