Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Charmed Life

As a young girl, I remember my mother having the most fascinating charm bracelet.  I'm not sure when she began collecting the unique small sterling silver charms, or how I came to inherit her bracelet.  Her charms were wonderful tiny mechanical marvels; each representing an experience from my mom's life.  I can hardly write about it now, without being overcome with emotion.  There was a little hen, that was hinged and opened to a nest full tiny chicks.  Mom had a full and lively nest, having given birth to eight of us "birds", as dad used to call us.  A hinged little church house opened to reveal several rows of pews.  Being raised in a spiritual LDS home, church was an integral part of our family life. I remember mom bringing home a "junk" or ancient Asian sailing ship from a rare trip she and dad went on to Hong Kong. There may have been a cash register to represent my Grandpa Parkinson's general store, or a crown like the one mom wore as royalty in the "Day's of '47 Parade.  Three little blind mice with glasses dangled from the bracelet along side a baby carriage with a moving hood and wheels.

I seem to recall Cinderella's pumpkin carriage with wheels that really turned   Perhaps it was purchased in memory of the special trips to Disneyland that our family could barely afford.  I remember one family trip from Utah to California - a miracle journey with all us children rolling around in the back of a station wagon before seat-belts or car-seats were the law!  There was cursing from dad and prayers being said for car problems, with help arriving soon thereafter.  And with all those boys (I'm the only daughter), there were bottles filled with urine to avoid another pit stop along the way.  We stayed at the "Eden Rock Motel", in a cheap room for the whole bunch of us; huddled in sleeping bags on the floor.  It was close to the amusement park, and was our family castle for the night.  Back then, the rides at Disneyland each had a separate price according to popularity.  In 1971, the ticket price for an "A" ride was about 10 cents and a desirable "E" ticket ride required an investment of 90 cents.  It would have been a few years later that we went, and the ticket prices were a burden for my parents.  To get one or two "E" tickets was an extraordinary treat!  The Matterhorn was always a favorite, and the newly opened Space Mountain was the must-do ride of the trip! I guess I learned to love roller-coaster rides at a very young age - though that probably developed at Lagoon amusement park in Utah, with it's wonderfully terrifying big white wooden roller-coaster.  The fascination with adrenaline pumping thrills continued with me into my junior high years, fueled by our neighbors, The Finlaysons, who operated a small travelling amusement park.  I remember being hired to operate some of the rides, and especially loved riding on the chairs which hung from long chains and spun forward and then backward around a tall stationary pole.

Charms are memories.  And those memories are precious!   That's why I fell in love with them - the vintage variety of charms.  So, like my mom, I choose to collect memories over other "things".

The very favorite of my mom's charms was a two-seater outhouse with a door that opened and shut.  Maybe it's "Triumph Over Tragedy", or "Father to the Rescue" represented here that tugs at my heart.  When my mom was a little girl, they had a similar "restroom" out back behind their home.  One day, she accidentally slipped through the hole and had to be rescued from the muck by her father!  The very thought of such a mishap was horrifying - perhaps because it had been a very real possibility in my life.  My dad and his sisters jointly owned a small cabin at Strawberry Reservoir where we often vacationed.  And the outhouse we used there was always a harrowing experience for me.

There were more charms, but they have since passed from my memory.  It was sometime after Bob and I moved from our home in North Lauderdale, Florida to Bartlesville, Oklahoma in 1987, that I realized my mom's charm bracelet was gone.  Somehow in the move it disappeared.

But I continued the tradition, perhaps with a passionate zeal propelled by guilt or sorrow.  Most of my charms are stored safely away back in the states, where I will record the memory associated with each when I return.  This June, I decided to label the charms I have collected since coming to Korea.  The priceless memories connected are written within the pages of this blog.  I have acquired a couple of charms similar to those of my mother's, and someday I hope to replace others.  Additionally, the hunt is ongoing for charms representing some places I have visited, such as Japan, where shopping time was just too limited . . . as well as memories from my childhood and the lives of my children.

Here's to you mom!  Thanks for the memories and for the traditions.  I love, appreciate, and miss you more with each passing day.  As you can see, my prince has truly given me a charmed life!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dongdaemun Fabric Market and Floating Buildings

One of the hardest things for me to do in Seoul is to shop.  Yep, shop for just about anything!  It's not that there is a lack of merchandise; but to the contrary, there is way too much to sort through.  Take, for instance, the fabric market in Dongdaemun, Seoul.  In a 6-story building about a block in length, there are crammed thousands of vendors selling every imaginable sewing notion, ribbon, and fabric.  A quilter or crafter's paradise you might think.  And perhaps it is - just think of Hobby Lobby, Michael's, and Jo-Ann's  all rolled into one great store on steroids!  Sure, there are bargains to be had, with a huge finding-fee attached.  But to this foreigner, it is a hot, crowded, unorganized sensory overload, and an impossible place to find that one little thing you need to complete a specific project.  But don't take my word for it - I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  And PLEASE don't ask me to find something you need from the market.

 If you don't sew, and find someone who will translate, you can hire someone who will sew something for you, such as a "Hanbok" or quilt!

So, if you wanna kill a day with me, wondering through mazes of booths overflowing with crafty supplies, I make a great companion explorer!  The catch is that you've gotta look the part - an "ajumma" (middle-aged woman) dressed comfortably, in a totally random mix of prints, patterns and colors!  But then, when it comes to Korean fashion, anything goes . . . Gotta love it!

In May, I attended an Ambassador's Wives Garden Club luncheon at the invitation of Helen, one of my tennis teammates from Australia.  She was in charge of the event which was held at the recently re-opened "Floating Buildings", officially called "Some Sevit" on the Han River.  You may recognize these buildings from the Hollywood movie "Avengers, Age of Ultron", some of which was filmed in Seoul.  Korean architecture, both ancient and modern, is one of the fascinating curiosities of Seoul.  The first photo shows a structure that is used as a media art gallery, and for concerts and stage performances. The three other buildings were designed to represent a flower - beginning as a bud, starting to blossom, and finally achieving full bloom.  These buildings are really a lovely sight at night, when they light up in ever changing patterns of color.  They are currently used to house restaurants, wedding, exhibition, and conference venues.

As part of the luncheon, we enjoyed a beautiful performance by a couple of professional Korean opera singers, who also happened to perform at the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul.

K-pop isn't the only music to love in Korea!