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Minseong Hong: The Song of Home

Movement 1 

Home has a song. 

The first time I heard it I was standing outside of Incheon International Airport. I was surrounded by people with faces that looked like mine, and the sound of a language that had only ever belonged to me, and to my right, Mom and Dad smiled, wider than I’d ever seen. 

In this sight, a melody was born. 

Movement 2 

That July in South Korea passed as a dream of sweltering heat and familiar faces and memories too happy to believe. When I woke up, I was on a plane, watching Seoul’s lights shrink beneath me. 

To my right, Mom stared out the window with tears streaming down her face. For a moment she turned and met my eyes. She quickly looked away, but I’ve never forgotten her face at that moment– like when she saw me she saw everything she would never have. 

I wept in darkness to a roaring engine and the crying of a baby three seats before me. Neither Mom nor I spoke the million words sinking between us. By the time we landed, our distance was a ravine, and we dangled on separate cliffs. 

Movement 3 

I live in a bubble that surrounds a little white house at the end of a street in suburban Ohio. Walk into this bubble, and you can smell freshly-made Kimchi, see Korean singing competitions playing from the television, and listen to debates about Korean politics around the dinner table.

I have spent my whole life with one foot inside of this bubble and one foot out. One day, I will look back, and find myself on the outside of it. 

I have these memories that haven’t happened yet. They take place when I am thirty, or forty, or fifty, graduated from college and with a job and far away from the bubble. 

Every year, on my birthday, I drive to the nearest Korean restaurant and order miyeokguk. Miyeokguk is a seaweed soup, and it’s Korean tradition to have on birthdays because mothers often eat it during pregnancy. When a waitress sets it on the table, I remember Mom telling me this. 

At the first taste, I cry, because it’s just close enough to how Mom made it, and yet just not the same. 

My second greatest fear is that one year, I will stop doing this.


Movement 4 

Dad arrived in America on Christmas Eve of 1999. He was twenty-four, a college student. He met Mom on a trip back to Korea and she joined him in 2005. They hadn’t been planning on staying, but that was what happened. 

I think a lot about their first moment on American soil. It must’ve felt like stepping onto the Moon for the first time. Now they have been on the Moon for twenty years, watching the Earth from a distance.

Do they regret everything?


Here is the thing I fear the most– the answer to that question. But I know I already know the answer. 

Movement 5 

I barely got out of my bed that first week back from Korea, too worn out by jet lag and a strange feeling of loneliness. Then Mom opened the door to my room one Monday afternoon. 

“I’m going grocery shopping,” she said. Her tone was warm, and I was surprised—we’d barely spoken since we’d been back. “Will you go?”

I considered it. 

“Sure,” I finally replied. And I got up. 

The nearest Korean Mart is thirty minutes away. It's a tiny place, nestled right between an empty lot and a video game store. But the moment Mom and I stepped inside, and the cashier greeted us in Korean, and I saw the packages on the shelves I could barely read but knew like the back of my hand– I felt as though I could breathe again. 

As Mom picked out the right package of bean sprouts, I wandered up and down the aisles. Every bag of candy and chips seemed to bring me back to my grandparents’ apartment, city lights, family reunions. And the memories didn’t hurt as much as they had before. 

When Mom had everything, we walked outside with hands full of bags. There was a light breeze and the sky was a clear blue. We got into the car and drove all the way home eating red bean popsicles, laughing when they stained our faces. And as we pulled up to the driveway of our house, I turned and I saw Mom’s smile. 

In the distance, I thought I could hear a familiar melody. 

That was when I realized The Song of Home would never leave us.

About the Author:

Minseong Hong is a young writer from the United States. In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to music, and drawing.


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