For Logan. I’ve only just met you and already I love you.
She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.
Of course, when we get to Aunt Carrie and Uncle Victor’s, none of the other cousins are wearing hanboks, and Kitty practically turns purple with the effort of not yelling at Daddy. Margot and I give him some side-eye too. It’s not particularly comfortable to sit around in a hanbok all day. But then Grandma gives me an approving smile, which makes up for it.
As we take off our shoes and coats at the front door, I whisper to Kitty, “Maybe the adults will give us more money for dressing up.”
“You girls look so cute,” Aunt Carrie said as she hugs us. “Haven refused to wear hers!”
Haven rolls her eyes at her mom. “I love your haircut,” she says to Margot. Haven and I are only a few months apart, but she thinks she’s so much older than me. She’s always trying to get in with Margot.
We get the bowing out of the way first. In Korean culture, you bow to your elders on New Year’s Day and wish them luck in the new year, and in return they give you money. The order goes oldest to youngest, so as the oldest adult, Grandma sits down on the couch first, and Aunt Carrie and Uncle Victor bow first, then Daddy, all the way down the line to Kitty, who is youngest. When it’s Daddy’s turn to sit on the couch and receive his bows, there’s an empty couch cushion next to him as there has been every New Year’s Day since Mommy died. It gives me an achy feeling in my chest to see him sitting there alone, smiling gamely, handing out ten-dollar bills. Grandma catches my eye pointedly and I know she’s thinking the same thing. When it’s my turn to bow, I kneel, hands folded in front of my forehead, and I vow that I will not see Daddy alone on that couch again next year.
We get ten dollars from Aunt Carrie and Uncle Victor, ten from Daddy, ten from Aunt Min and Uncle Sam, who aren’t our real aunt and uncle but second cousins (or is it cousins once removed? They’re Mommy’s cousins, anyway), and twenty from Grandma! We didn’t get more for wearing hanboks, but all in all a good take. Last year the aunts and uncles were only doing five apiece.
Next we do rice cake soup for good luck. Aunt Carrie also made black-eyed pea cakes and insists we try at least one, though no one wants to. The twins, Harry and Leon—our third cousins? Cousins twice removed?—refuse to eat the soup or the black-eyed pea cakes and are eating chicken nuggets in the TV room. There isn’t enough room at the dining table, so Kitty and I eat on stools at the kitchen island. We can hear everyone laughing from over here.
As I begin to eat my soup, I make a wish. Please, please let things work out with me and Peter.
“Why do I get a smaller bowl of soup than everyone else?” Kitty whispers to me.
“Because you’re the littlest.”