every card, every letter

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i’ve kept every card and every letter i’ve ever gotten through the years. i’m a minimalist when it comes to most things, deploring clutter and saying “pack rat” as if it has nothing to do with me. when it has come to letters and cards from family and friends though, they’ve staked out a slice of real estate wherever i’ve lived and have stuck with me through every move. the boxes of letters as time capsules of sorts, i suppose.

i love their tangible quality in much the way i will always love paperback books. you can feel the weight of them in your hands, the glittery or sparkly texture of some, and smile at a dear friend’s round handwriting that you’ve grown to love over the years. i love the handmade cards of one friend especially. when i was about to graduate from stanford law years ago, a handmade card arrived from her in the mail. it was one of the best graduation gifts to open up the envelope and find her card. she had procured a miniature cap and gown, a tiny diploma, and glossy paper with the stanford “S” logo and had assembled all those pieces into a card that made me smile. in it, she had written, “i want to remain life long friends with you and of course, someday, i would like you to be in my wedding! well, when i find the one that is … I love you so much and you are the only person i can laugh like crazy with.” reading those words and seeing her card will always make me smile.

there are also ones from my grandma. i opened one up recently, to read the year “2003” written in her beautiful hangul (korean). she, who also loved to read and write as much as i did, always sent me a handwritten card for at least one occasion every year.

i also love sending cards and letters. in the midst of frenetic work weeks (though happily shortened as of late), weekend goings on, and chores … it’s a happy respite to be able to sit down with a card chosen especially for a dear family member or friend and scrawl a few lines or more.

bridesmaid-ing through the years

closet space in this city is a precious commodity. and yet, i’ve chosen to hold onto the bridesmaids dresses i’ve donned over the years. along with framed pictures of the festivities, they are reminders of having stood beside some of my favorite people as they exchanged vows.

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the summer of ’03. i had just graduated from stanford undergrad, and was about to embark on yet another journey – stanford law school. and my dear friend theresa was about to become someone’s wife. we were only 22. i was thrilled to be her maid of honor, but also a little wistful — a little sad that she was about to embark on a journey that i had a feeling would remain uncharted territory for me for awhile yet (little did i know it would be a SUPER LONG WHILE for me). it didn’t seem too long ago that we had bonded in high school over our love of the same books (“i can’t believe you’ve also read ‘girl of the limberlost’ – i LOVE that book”). in the days leading up to her wedding, she threw us a bridesmaids’ tea party at a cozy little tea parlor in wheaton — tea served in chubby teapots, a tiered cake stand of scones and cookies, and little trinkets hidden amongst the scones with flowy ribbons attached for each of us. she wanted each of us, her bridesmaids, to pluck a flowy ribbon from the bunch. attached to each flowy ribbon was a mystery trinket and message scrawled in theresa’s handwriting. attached to the ribbon i plucked was a charm in the shape of a sailboat and a note that read: “you’ll be sailing away on great adventures that await you.” it couldn’t have been more right. i couldn’t have fathomed all the changes and adventures that would unfold in the years ahead — the people who would become fixtures in my life, the different landscapes i’d inhabit …

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the year: 2008. i was two years into living in new york city and working as an attorney at a large firm. nyc was still novel to me –the first two winters had been deceptively mild, the bags of trash adorning its streets had yet to grate my nerves, and i was still starry eyed about all the city held and offered. and my dear friend sarah was about to marry sam. and i was thrilled to stand beside her as her maid of honor. she wasn’t one to make choices lightly or impulsively, and i was happy knowing that this choice of hers would be a lasting one.

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the year: 2013. mb, as i had dubbed her at some point early on in law school, was about to drop the “b” in her name and become mrs. R. in mb fashion, she had asked us to choose each of our bridesmaid dresses. not surprisingly, i chose one for myself in a shade very much like the one i’ve chosen for my own bridesmaids to wear in a few months time. as for me, i had, by this time, hurtled through three dramatic years in the courtrooms of brooklyn as a prosecutor, becoming enmeshed in lives i’d otherwise not have encountered. mb looked radiant as she walked down the aisle in her mom’s wedding gown. as for bee, she’ll always be “mb” to me.

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the year: 2014. my dear college friend sheenie, surrounded by sparkles, antique china, accents of her navajo culture, and rosewater PINK, is a stunning bride. having known since college that we’d be in each other’s weddings, it was all the more memorable to stand beside her as she became mrs. cooper. here’s more on this wedding.

bridesmaids are unique to american culture (they don’t have them in korea) and though some may have horror stories when it comes to bridesmaid-ing, i have loved standing beside my dearest friends on their biggest of days.

childhood chronicles: my parent’s place

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whenever i return home, i drift, without fail, to my shelves of childhood books. and by home, i don’t mean my apartment in new york where sirens and incessant car horns invade the tiny space. i mean my parent’s place.

it is here that i can find rows upon rows of my childhood books. my first thought is, always: i’m thankful to my parents for having kept them all these years. i open one up to see “susan” written in thick black sharpie on the front flap. the writing is round and childish. fourth grade? maybe earlier.

i love flipping through the roald dahls and remembering the first time i read matilda. the boy i’d had a crush on at the time (this was in third grade) pointed at the cover and told me i looked just like matilda who was perched on a bookshelf, surrounded by piles of books. i remember not knowing whether to feel flattered, annoyed, or amused. i don’t really remember his face, but i do remember this matilda incident.

i love the anne of green gables-es too.  anne of the island – third in the anne series. i’ve reread this one countless times – mostly in the fall. it’s been years since my life has been tethered to the start of school years and winter and summer breaks, but most falls, i’ll seek out this third in the series. it’s the one where anne goes off to college. she leaves home, shares a house with friends, expands her intellectual horizons in lecture halls, dances at soirees, and misses home. it may take place in nova scotia in the early 1900s (omg), but the emotions are the same. and i love re-reading it in the fall – close to the start of a “school year.”

the little mermaid

they don’t make children’s stories the way they used to. when i was four or five, my mom and aunts read me the little mermaid. the hard core, hans christian andersen version. translated into korean. the version where the little mermaid turns into white sea foam at the end because she can’t stab her prince in the heart with a dagger. they told me years later that i’d cry on cue at that part – after reciting much of it with them. a feminist from an early age. [i’m assuming i was heartbroken that she’d put some self-absorbed loser she’d rescued above her own life].

a few years later, the disney version came out. my youngest aunt took me to see it at the movie theater – twice. i loved it that much. the disney cast of characters was raucous, silly, animated (literally). i loved sebastian the lobster (or crab?). a far swim from hans christian andersen. i still love that disney version and always will. the disney fairy dust – sterilizing and prettifying everything.

i think there’s something to be said for the original HCA version though. for one, it’s the original. and two, it’s good to expose children to a range and depth of emotions. yes, the little mermaid felt as if she were walking on daggers every time she took a step with her human legs. there’s value, i think, in exposing kids to that in a story. to all the complicated layers of life that fall short of being disney moments. and all for the better, likely.

“you’re gonna make it after all”

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i love the mary tyler moore theme song. her expression as her eyes scan the roads of her new city pre-GPS days, her twirling around (on foot) in her newfound city … i think a part of me will always feel this way (or remember feeling this way), regardless of how old i am or become.

that overwhelming but thrilling feeling as i drove my new MINI from palo alto to redwood shores as a 1L summer associate sans GPS and glancing every few seconds at a mapquest printout, feeling like a country mouse constantly being swallowed by the skyscrapers my first year in new york … or that feeling of starting a new job.

listening to the MTM theme song makes me smile.

who knew – it does fit, after all

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even after seven going on eight years in new york, i’m still shocked to feel the seasons change. sure, i’m aware that new york has four very distinct seasons (well, three and a half since much of spring is muscled out by the unrelenting winters). the first signs of fall, though (such as the much less overwhelming smell of trash on the streets), still come as a surprise. i’m always sad to see summer go. parting with my flip flops, without fail, reminds me of leaving california.

well, on this first day of fall (or what felt like the first day of fall), as i was strolling along 17th street, a shop called pippin appeared, harry potter-like, out of nowhere. no, it wasn’t one of those “pop up shops.” its “appearing out of nowhere-ness” was attributable more to my never having seen it before even though i’d walked down that stretch of 17th countless times.

now, i’m not one for jewelry. i admire it on others, but like long hair, don’t know what to do with it if it’s mine. but with a name like pippin, i couldn’t not go in. despite a batty lady dressed in some turn of the century outfit eyeing me like a hawk (well, maybe more pigeon than hawk like), i stayed to look at what the shop held (other than her). the actual vintage pieces (i didn’t count her among them) were charming.

as i scanned the brightly colored rings, i recognized one. i had seen it (not one like it, but that exact one) in a dream months ago. it had been one of those dreams where i had slipped in and out of sleep – and so i remembered the ring vividly, as if i had actually seen it outside of my dream. and here it was – nestled among other rings in a shop run by a batty lady on 17th street.

i hardly remembered most of my dreams or gave them another thought. this one though, had stuck with me. i’d had that dream after i’d seen someone who i hadn’t seen in six months (the longest we’d gone without seeing each other). in my dream, when he tried to lift my hand to slip on the ring, as much as i’d wanted to, my hand (my entire arm, in fact), refused to budge. it stayed frozen. and he gave up. and put the ring back into its case and into his drawer. no words were exchanged. i remembered the ring vividly though – a twisted, curving gold band with a pearl embedded in the middle.

flash forward to pippin on 17th. i didn’t know whether to be happy, suspicious, or check my sanity. i hesitated. then with a “oh, what the hell,” i plucked the ring from its display case and tried it on. okay, now i was suspicious. it fit. it didn’t fall off. the other rings in this shop had been too large for my korean fingers. okay, now i was really suspicious. it was supposed to fall off. i shook my hand, waving it around. the ring stayed on. the batty lady had had enough by this point. she swooped down from her perch – did i need help?

looking at this ring stay put on my finger (and looking comfortably at home there), i couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened had i been able to have more faith that we’d fit; if i had chosen differently; if i’d been able to say yes (in life, not just in my dream). but hey, it’s not every first day of fall that something you’d seen in a dream decides to pop up in front of you, albeit in the presence of a batty lady instead of the guy who had been a part of not just your dream, but your life.

why thank you, fortune cookie

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i have this thing for fortune cookies. i love cracking them open and finding a little message inside – as cliche as the message may be (i can’t believe i just admitted that).

i find them endlessly amusing (someone recently told me he found *me* “endlessly amusing” – and that made me smile. but that’s another story).

if i find one *super* amusing, i’ll go as far as taping it to some random thing i own. if someone asks me why it’s there, i can tell them i have no idea how it got there.

others have not found them as amusing. a previous S.O., for one. poor guy. as if the things that came out of my own mouth weren’t enough, he had foreboding fortune cookie forecasts to deal with as well.

i read aloud one such fortune cookie forecast to him after triumphantly cracking it open: “trust him. but keep your eyes open.” wide-eyed, i read it aloud to him. he stopped eating (well, for about thirty seconds – maybe forty?). it was one of the very few times i had seen him lose his appetite (albeit briefly). go fortune cookie! woot!

those thirty to forty seconds were enough for him to whisk the fortune cookie message out of my hand to verify its legitimacy, crumple it up and toss it across the room as offensive nonsense.

those thirty to forty seconds weren’t enough for me to laugh and roll around cackling (that took much more time). i was, at that point at least, able to get a smile out of him.

how apt that this most recent message (pictured above) fell out of a fortune cookie as i approach getting (yet) another year older, but don’t feel any older – though i know i should.