April 2, 2007


Every Spring is a renewal of life for me especially now that I'm in my sixth decade . Just as the earth renews itself with beautiful flowers and foilage, I, too, strive for a new beginning.

The Buddhist cycle of life is made up of 12 years, each represented by an animal . I was born in the year of the monkey. When you reach age 60, you are considered to have completed the zodiacal cycle. In Korea it is called hwan-gap and is an especially big celebration with huge banquets and many family and friends bearing gifts .

Hwan-gap is not very popular among my generation because they don't like attention drawn to their age, so the custom is not as popular as it once was. We gave my mother-in-law a huge 60th birthday party that went on for several days. She asked me to sing a Korean song to entertain her friends and she was smiling from ear-to-ear when I added a little dance to it. Next to the Irish, the Koreans love of singing, drinking and dancing is legendary. They've even been called " The Irish of the Orient ! " We Southerners aren't slackers in that category either.

When Korean women reach age 60 they are allowed certain freedoms they didn't have before. I was shocked to see my mother-in-law smoking a cigarette and drinking beer, something frowned on for younger ones. She was also pampered by her sons and liked to wear the new fur coat and diamond ring they gave her when she gathered with her friends.

I used to hate hearing about the "good old days " from my Dad but the older I get, the more I realize what he meant because I too grow nostalgic for that era when we had a kinder and gentler way of life. " What's your hurry, pull up a chair and stay awhile " was a constant refrain from a neighbor with a glass of cool iced tea on a hot day. And we did. Our neighbors were like our family. When one was sick we'd visit and bring them food. When one died we'd be with them for days, cooking meals and attending to their grief.

I am eager to throw off the weary bleak cloak of winter. Hurry Spring !

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