“Home” becomes a different person in the morning, noon, and night. In the morning they’re familiar and pleasant. I remember my mother’s daily routine: wake me up, make breakfast, eat, and watch TV until she has to go to work. My dad is the same, except he is loud, mouth wide and vibrating; his voice is smooth, his Korean tweaked to a joyful, high pitch. I’m tired, and not yet hungry. However, my eyes are faster than my stomach. They graze the steaming rice and side dishes of pickled cabbages and egg rolls. By noon, there is no one left, only the leftovers of a rushed meal as I head to school. I’m a latchkey kid, someone who keeps herself entertained. The house is hollow but I find myself not lonely, but bored. There is nothing that needs to get done except to procrastinate on homework—so I enjoy wasting time eating Oreos and browsing through YouTube videos. Even if the hours are meaningless, sunlight fans over glossy wooden floors and I lie there bathed in its warmth.
When night arrives, my parents are back from work, exhausted and sometimes angry. “Home” becomes uncertain. There is an atmosphere that reeks of contempt. The 10-year age gap between them shows. My father morphs into something unstable. His voice now tremors and overflows with wrath, a rich grape liquid foaming at the sides of his mouth. My mother is her usual self, even when she is crying and wounded from his words. She is the opposite of my dad. She is firm and never wavers in her conviction, and always fights back. She’s young but wiser than my father’s belief of her stupid foolishness that supposedly comes hand in hand with youth. I realize that I want to run away from “home”.
Every morning, the cycle continues as usual: eating breakfast and waking up. My dad showers the living room with merriment; he’s playful and child-like. Physically, my mom seems older than before, she’s aging, and yet she remains joyful, constant. I wonder how “home” could be so ever-changing, yet strong. From night until morning, “home” renews itself, redeems itself. On certain fearful nights it seems impossible that morning will come. But it does. And every ragged breath the night before steadies, every angry slur vanishes, and every urge to leave this house inside me atrophies. I can’t say home is like that dark night. Or that it is a sunlit morning and a lazy afternoon. “Home” is a state of being that constantly sways my expectations. It’s finding myself drifting along with past decisions, and hopeful for better ones in the future.
I wish that I had been more courageous. To break against the current, and settle unswayed, only trembling in the ripples of a self-defined conviction.
My wall of defense lay in photographs of my father’s past. They reminded me of what I wanted to become. I cannot forget them, the faces of my dad’s family, the people who he identified with as his home. Their black and white pictures are stern and rigid and honest; their lives reflective of hardships I could not imagine.
I used to wish every day could be like my dad’s pictures. They didn’t smile because they didn’t have to.
And yet, I am grateful for the home I’ve grown up in. Where I was pampered, cherished, and inevitably disillusioned. Home has had many faces. But it’s only had good intentions. And even if the walls cave in, crumbling, family is always fluid. It evolves. It’s buried deep in the cavities of the bones of all of our relationships: my brother, my mother, my father, and me.
Janet Paik is a sophomore Illustration major at SVA. She started writing seriously after coming to SVA, inspired by an awesome poet and a close friend.