By Owen Park

March 29, 2021

Staggering through the front door, the soft touch of my bed fills my mind. Six straight hours of classes had turned my brain into soup, threatening to drip out of my ears if my blankets didn’t cover them first. My mom’s cheery voice jolts me out of my stupor, asking me how my day went. Instinctively, my eyes snap downwards, and my pace quickens as she calls my name. Rushing into my room, I slam the door behind me and sigh as I throw off my jacket and flip my laptop open. I hear a knock at my door and see my mom standing there. “How was your day?” she asks. “Okay,” I mumble. “Did you say hi to Grandma and Grandpa?” she asks. For a moment, the only noise in the room is the NFL’s Week 14 Highlights on YouTube. I drag myself to the living room, where my grandparents are sitting on the couch watching a K-Drama on their iPad. Sappy piano music blasts through the air as a sickly-sweet voice croons about some long-lost love. “An-yong-ha-sae-yo!”

 Ah, Sae-wung-a! How was your day?”My Grandmother only looks halfway up from the iPad while my Grandfather stares transfixed at the screen. Before I can scamper back to my room, I come face to face with my mom. Ever since the pandemic started, we all agreed to do our work at the dining table. “But I’m not doing any work just yet!” 

“Well I don’t want the laptop in your room, so please sit at the table ok?” Grumbling, I plunk myself across from my dad, who glances up from the mound of papers he’s been grading since last week. He smirks when I tell him about how my French teacher forgot to give us a quiz today, and he quickly resumes slashing the paper in front of him with red ink. The K-Drama worms its way through my headphones, harmonizing with the voices of my mom and my grandma as they bicker about dinner. How my dad was able to keep his concentration, I have no idea. 

Heads bowed, I recited a prayer for dinner. “So Owen, why don’t you tell Grandma and Grandpa about your day?” my mom says. I rush through my day in the least possible number of words I can manage before picking through my seafood pajun– creating a mountain of squid on the side of my plate. My mom translates what I said into Korean and they all laugh even though I have no idea what they said. For a moment, a smile creeps across my face. The tension in the air unravels and the gears start to spin again: my mom discusses her most recent job interview, my dad answers questions she might have while my grandparents sit and study both of them with a caring gaze. I’ve seen this before and yet it feels new to me. The dread I felt coming home subsides and I start to wonder what tomorrow will bring, feeling neither pure excitement or anger but instead a calm to keep being in the moment with people I call “family”.