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The Saddest Persimmon

by Soyoung Early

My mom has always hated everything about persimmons. Growing up, I never understood why until the day she told me the story of her family.

It started when she was still in the womb. Her mom was happy then. Her husband would always bring home a bag of persimmons after work. Even though they ran a fruit orchard in northern Korea, they had to buy persimmons from the market, because persimmons could only grow in the south. He would always peel and slice them for her while asking how her day had been.

However, one night, he peeled the persimmons and ate them all without a word. Soon after, two large men in suits barged in the door and dragged him away. It was the last time she saw him alive.

It happened in the middle of the civil war during the 1950s in Korea. At that time, political executions were common. My grandfather was an anti-communist politician in the northernmost region of Korea, so it was only a matter of time before the communists would come for him. My grandmother held a miserable funeral alone with their unborn daughter, my mom, in her womb. This changed everything for my family; All the sweetness had gone with him, and only bitterness remained.

A year passed, and my grandmother now had four children, including my eight-month-old mom. As the war dragged on, she decided to flee to the south. However, her children were too young to all travel hundreds of miles on foot. She promised that she would come back as soon as she could. She took her oldest daughter by the hand and carried her baby on her back. It was the last time she saw the rest of her children.

Before she could return, the Korean War ended with her other children trapped in the north. The south, where the persimmons grew, became South Korea, and my grandmother became a missionary. She left for a remote mountain village for missionary work, helping those injured and orphaned by the war.

She could not bring her babies to rough places for her work, so she asked her aunt to take care of her two daughters instead. When my mom was old enough to notice that she had a mom and that her mom chose not to be with her, she started crying day and night. She could not understand how her mom could take care of so many strangers, but not her own daughter. My mom grew up without her mom and resented her.

She visited her mom only once, as a teenager, to ask why her mom left her. She thought, “What was the logical explanation for abandoning your two-year-old baby? Aren’t mothers supposed to take care of their babies?”

She could have asked thousands of questions, but she didn’t. When she saw her mom’s eyes water, she could not bring herself to ask. Not long after that visit, her mom left the sweet taste of persimmons behind for Heaven.