Saturday, June 14, 2014

Freedom Station

Amul and I took the KTX down to Ulsan yesterday, a trip I've very much been anticipating.  While I've been reunited with Omma for going on four years now, this is my first time visiting the city in which she lives.  Additionally, both Gayoung and Jiyoung have recently moved back home, and have opened up a cafe together a few minutes away from Omma's house.

Freedom Station.  A quaint and cozy cafe, another reaffirmation of the strength of DNA. My sisters have created my dream cafe. I could spend hours, days, tucked in the cozy corners of their little shop, sipping vanilla lattes, reading poetry, and watching the light of the afternoon make its way across the room through the window.

Stepping through the door, I see my sisters. So wonderful and surreal to say that. To have both of them there in the same room as I. And still quite strange. Jiyoung doesn't know yet. She probably won't know for quite some time. It's an indescribable experienced to meet your sister when she doesn't know she's your sister. To Jiyoung, I am a friend Gayoung met during her time in the US.  Not even an adoptee, but a Korean American who only knows the most basic of sentences in Korean. Yet something more profound manages to peek through. Those intangible connections that seem to abound in my interactions with my Korean family. Gayoung tells me that Jiyoung was certain she had seen me somewhere before. My face is so familiar. Perhaps some of her own features shining through without her even realizing it. But despite the veil of secrets, it is wonderful to meet and talk to Jiyoung, even as a stranger, as a friend of her sister. She is sweet and charming. Happy in this space of hers that she's created, bustling back and forth about the cafe with her sister and her boyfriend, who works just down the street at Hyundai, and visits multiple times a day.  Our baby sister lives in an enchanted world, and I am more than willing to maintain the facade we've created to keep that innocent happiness in her eyes and in her smile.  Not that the knowledge of our connection would destroy her, corrupt her. Someday she will know the truth. When the time is right. But she is content in the place she is right now, and I understand Omma's and Gayoung's desire to shelter her from such complexities of our situation for now.

Gayoung and Jiyoung serve us with care, each item on the menu made with sincerity and deliberation. Jiyoung holds her breath as I taste the brownie she handmade this morning, her hand over her heart. It is delicious, and I savor the effort and care she has put into every bite.  The five of us sit around the table--myself, Gayoung, Jiyoung, Amul, and Jiyoung's boyfriend of two years, Youngho. We chat and laugh, and I think that we all could be doing this years from now as family. The Park sisters getting together over coffee with their husbands. The familiarity which we immediately seem to find is remarkable to me.  Youngho, who has only just met us minutes ago, to whom we are merely the American friends of his girlfriend's older sister, offers us his car to use for the afternoon.  We decline the offer, but it impresses me that Jiyoung has found such a good man. Maybe someday I will call him my brother-in-law.  Someday all things will come to light.

Freedom Station's handmade menu (all menu photos by Jiyoung):

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