It was Korean Thanksgiving Day.
Gun-Ho's family headed to Gun-Ho's parents' home in Guweol Town, Incheon City. His car was loaded with the gift that Gun-Ho prepared for thema box of semi-dried persimmon and another box of short ribs. Because of the memorial service for the ancestors that his family conducted on Korean Thanksgiving Day every year, Gun-Ho went there early in the morning. When Gun-Ho arrived at his parents' home with his wife and son, Gun-Ho's mother and father happily greeted Sang-Min without even laying a glance on their son and daughter-in-law.
"Oh, my. My Pumpkin is here."
Gun-Ho's mother and father competed for holding their grandson first. Sang-Min laughed watching his grandparents, and he looked incredibly cute.
When Gun-Ho noticed that his sister was not there, he asked his mother, "Mom, where is Gun-Sook sister and her husband?"
"They went to his parents' home."
"Oh, her parents-in-law's home? Isn't it in Jeongeup City, North Jeolla Province?"
"Their home is quite distant from downtown Jeongeop City. He told me the name of the town, but I don't remember what it was."
Gun-Ho's father chipped in while holding the baby, "It's Taein Town."
"That's right. It's Taein Town."
Gun-Ho had never been to Taein Town, Jeongeup City before. All he knew about it was that the town was quite far from where he was. But, he heard of Jeongeup City before. He remembered that YS Tech's president told him that he had grown up in downtown Jeongeup City. Gun-Ho wondered if his brother-in-law and YS Tech's president knew each other since they grew up in the same city.
"His parents must be very old, aren't they?"
"They are. Your sister couldn't often visit her parents-in-law for quite a while until now because she was so busy making a living. But, this year, she went there with her husband and Jeong-Ah, carrying a lot of gifts for them."
"They must be very happy to see their son and his family."
"They cherish Jeong-Ah so much whenever she visits her grandparents there. Jeong-Ah told me once that she feels like she became a princess when she was with her grandparents there."
Realizing that the conversation between Gun-Ho and his mother wouldn't end soon, Young-Eun stood up from her seat.
"I will start preparing the food for the memorial service."
"It's all done already. We don't cook every single dish for the memorial service these days. We order most of them from a store. Those rice cakes and stuff over there are all from a store. We just need to warm those foods."
"Starting next year, Sang-Min's mom and I will come on the day before Thanksgiving Day to help you with the preparation of food since Gun-Sook sister won't be here to help you."
"You don't have to do that. You have a baby to take care of. A child at his age can be a handful, and he requires your full attention. Just come on Thanksgiving Day as you did today. We don't cook much at home as we used to in the past anymore."
"But, it's Thanksgiving Day, mom."
"I insist, son. We don't cook a large quantity of food any longer either these days because we have only a few family members who would attend the memorial service. We don't want to waste food."
Even though Gun-Ho's mother stated that she bought most of the dishes this time, there were still things that needed to be taken care of. Gun-Ho's mother and Young-Eun put on an apron and began to set the table, and Gun-Ho's father watched the baby. Gun-Ho was watching the TV in his parents' bedroom for a while, but knowing that everyone was busy doing something to get ready for the memorial service for the ancestors, he didn't feel comfortable doing nothing. He eventually walked out to the kitchen and asked if they needed his help.
"Umm, is there anything that I can do to help?"
"Nothing. You are not supposed to come into the kitchen. You are a man," Gun-Ho's mother replied.
Young-Eun chipped in, "You know what? These days, if a man doesn't come into the kitchen to do kitchen work, he could be kicked out of his home."
"Really? Haha. I can't let that happen to my son. Gun-Ho, do this for us thenput the large floor table in the living room and place these dishes on it."
Gun-Ho placed two large floor tables side by side in the living room to make a larger table and started putting the dishes on it.
Young-Eun was placing fruits on a plate when she received a call.
From the way that Young-Eun referred to the person on the other line, Gun-Ho could tell that the call was from his sister. After a brief conversation, Young-Eun hung up the phone and resumed what she had been doing.
"Was that Gun-Sook sister? What did she say?"
"She said that she felt sorry that she couldn't be here to help us."
"Hmm, I see."
"And she talked about how things were going thereher parents-in-law's home. According to her, they are having lots of visitors maybe because it's in the countryside, and she is having a hectic day. She went there two days ago and started preparing food for the memorial service for the past two days. She is having back pain now."
"Really? Can they just make the process simple?"
"Well, her parents-in-law are following Korean tradition. While people in a city tend to simplify the procedure, most of the people in the countryside still follow the way that our ancestors had done. She said that her parents-in-law looked extremely happy when they saw Jeong-Ah."
Gun-Ho's mother chipped in, "Jeong-Ah's dad's uncle and other family members didn't show enough respect to him before. But, now the same people are trying to flatter him whenever he visits there."
"Of course. He now has a good social position, doesn't he? He is running a transportation company. He is driving an expensive car. And, he always brings a lot of presents for everyone there. They'd better respect him. He paid for his father's medical bill for his denture too."
"Hmm, I see."
"Also, I was told that he hired four truck drivers who are from the same town where he grew up."
"I guess he is helping the community too."
"They hadn't enjoyed visiting his parents' home before, but I guess they will go there on every occasion from now on since they are making a good living."
"That makes sense. When people don't have stable financial situations, they can't even afford to visit their parents' home, most of the time."
"They should keep in mind that they are financially doing great because of you, Gun-Ho."
"Don't say that, mom. Gun-Sook sister and her husband are working hard to make a good living."
Gun-Ho's mother and Young-Eun continued to prepare food in the kitchen, and Gun-Ho moved those dishes to the living room and placed them on the floor table there. And Gun-Ho's father was playing with Sang-Min in the bedroom.
The memorial service for the ancestors for this Korean Thanksgiving Day started. It was for Gun-Ho's ancestors, and Young-Eun as a new addition to Gun-Ho's family made a full bow to the ancestors who she hadn't even met before.
Observing the way that Young-Eun gave a full bow, Gun-Ho's father gave a compliment to her, "Young-Eun is doing very well. Her parents must have taught her well at home."
After the memorial service, they sat at the dining table and had their first meal of the day. It was just four of them since Gun-Ho's sister's family were not there this year.
"This home feels empty without Gun-Sook sister's family," Gun-Ho said.
"I think you two should have one more child."
"Young-Eun won't be able to get back to her career as a medical doctor with two children."
"We really feel like you need to have more children, son."
"Not many married couples these days have more than one child. It's hard and expensive to raise even one child."
"That's true. It used to be an easy job to bring up a child when we raised you. Watching what Gun-Sook does in raising Jeong-Ah, I know how hard it is. Moreover, it takes a lot of money too. Jeong-Ah takes a piano lesson from a private tutor. She also gets help for her study in school as well. But, you can afford more than that, Gun-Ho. I really think you should have one more child."
Gun-Ho and Young-Eun didn't even try to reply to what Gun-Ho's mother suggested, but they just quietly had their meal.
When Gun-Ho's mother noticed that she was making her son and his wife feel uncomfortable, she dropped the topic right away.
"You brought us semi-dried persimmon and short ribs, right? You don't have to spend your money on gifts for us. When you visit us next time, do not bring anything."
"I don't want to come to see my parents empty-handed, mom, especially when it's a holiday."
"Then, bring us fruits or some liquor instead, so we can use them to set the table for the memorial service for our ancestors."
"Yeah, fruits and liquor are heavy to carry all the way from the supermarket to home anyway."
"Okay, I will do that."