My mom runs fast for a 65-year-old. Shes small—5 1）ft even—weighing in at just over 100 2）lbs. Her compact frame slays in the juniors section of American department stores. I see her 3）sprinting toward me as I stand on the corner of Austins busiest intersection， on its busiest fortnight—the two weeks it plays host to 4）South by Southwest， the annual multimedia conference. Its just after 11 P.M. and traffic is an absolute nightmare. My moms always been sporty but since she stopped dyeing her hair she looks her age. As she gets closer， I worry that her 5）brittle skeleton is going to crumple atop the 6）hood of a 7）swerving 8）SUV. Being picked up by my parents is an experience I thought Id grown out of entirely. After all， I am 33 years old， live in New York and am here on business. But they live just an hour outside of town， and I pulled the trigger on hotels late enough that Im staying with them. Theyve been stuck in traffic for two hours coming to get me.
I was on the phone with my dad， both of us barking over the 9）imperious GPS voice—him in a road rage and me in a full-body eyeroll—when my mom bolted from the car to run ahead， figuring Id be easier to 10）peg on foot. Im watching her beam and wave big， while running hard and yelling my full name in English， just like that： first name； last name. My parents both do this as though its for my benefit. Like， calling a child by their full government name is supercasual. Like， its not a dead giveaway as the weirdest， most 11）ESL 12）affectation in the world. Im waiting with a 24-year-old colleague that I hired straight from college who idolizes me and Im worried that my mom will hurt herself and that people will see.
I love my mother an abnormal amount， even when she forces me to call distant relatives， dialing the phone and pressing it into my cheek while my eyes get hot and watery. She pulls rank all the time and once judo-flipped me on my back in a grocery store to remind me where things stood. She is my favorite and it makes me crazy. You can tell that she was popular in school， but I am a fundamentally more popular person. I care more and Im great at rules. Ive known it since the first grade.
When I was small I thought I was cooler than my mom because of how foreign she is. Shes really foreign. Youd think it would kill her to get store-bought snacks， shes that foreign. She grew up in a Korea filled with Koreans， married a Korean and then moved to Hong Kong in her mid-30s. I was 11 months and my brother was two years. This was back when Hong Kong was a British colony， which meant we were living in Asia with heaps of Australians and bronzed Europeans who dated Filipino women. In any case， I speak four languages and am a ruthless assimilation ninja.
My mother， on the other hand， speaks English poorly with a 13）screwy， 14）poncy Korean British accent， as if she learned it from watching a 1960s 15）MerchantIvory movie. Shes also ridiculously formal， deeply private and not a joiner. She transitions poorly. The move to Hong Kong with two 16）wee kids and an absentee partner was rough. My father had elected to set up a shipping company. He was out of the country for eight months of the year， and sometime around my tenth birthday I discovered that he spoke conversational Russian for reasons that remain 17）murky. All this is to say that he wasnt around a lot.
School was awful. Lunch sucked. My mom would pack the dumbest garbage. She once 18）smeared bits of raw garlic left over from making 19）kimchi onto white sandwich bread， thinking thats how the garlic bread advertised at Pizza Hut was born. I waited until she got off work that night and yelled at her with 20）rank breath. Id eaten most of the seemingly innocent square， elated that a sandwich had turned up at all in a lunch box that usually contained punishment food that sometimes had eyes.
One lunch， I was dragging myself around the playground when I saw my mom standing by the fence， waving big and calling my name. I wanted so badly to ignore her. She was supposed to be at work， so I was suspicious. I began to back away so she started shouting loud enough to be heard over the playground 21）din. I 22）shuffled towards her with every intention to roundhousebludgeon her with my plastered arm. She held out a paper box. It was a McDonalds happy meal： a cheeseburger one， which was my favorite. The offering was so out of character that I considered it a bribe. I asked her what was going on. She mentioned something about how she wanted me to have a lunch that I liked.
I then did what any normal kid would do and yelled and yelled about how embarrassing it was to have her at school with me during lunch of all times. She presented me with a sack of cheeseburgers that I could give out to my friends. I refused the damp bag and screeched about how it was so cheap that she didnt 23）spring for bright red boxes with toys for them as well. I made her take the burgers back with her. If I were an actress and had to think of something sad to make me cry in a scene， I would think about this moment.
I think about my mom all the time and cant stand it. When she rings during a meal I get 24）indigestion if I dont call her back immediately. I dont go home for birthdays or holidays， and on the occasions I do visit， I express my affection in strange ways. I wait for her to fall asleep， peer over her body and imagine what itd be like if she died. I just stand there， hot silent tears coursing down my face.
Were not a demonstrative family， but I love my mom and its a secret. I love her so much it kills me， and Id sooner die than tell her. I kinda want her to know though. Maybe someone could tell her for me； someone who isnt my dad， because that would be weird.