i dedicate this short story to peter yoon and kang min kim, who convinced me to write a short story while we were standing in the kumc parking lot. i am just about to leave church right now and i’m ready to release it!
Her knees buckled when the test came back positive. Why? Why now? After so many years of trying and failing, of false positives and prolonged medical treatment, why and how is it that I am pregnant?
Carol and her husband had long ago forfeited in their minds the experience of natural childbirth; instead, they happily adopted 3 children – two girls from Thailand and a boy from Mongolia. Being the avid Disney fan(atic), Carol was thrilled that she finally had an Ariel and a Jasmine to call her own. The boy? They gave him the name Joshua because of its rich biblical heritage, but at the age of 4, Joshie walked into the living room and formally announced that he was henceforth to be referred to as Luke Skywalker. Somehow, the name stuck, abbreviated to Luke but nonetheless it caught on and he was known as Luke Joshua Taylor.
While it was always their dream to serve in an overseas mission field, God saw it fit to keep the ambitious couple grounded with a full-time career of raising three children who were a total of 15 months apart and all highly gifted with ADHD. Oh yeah, and their side job was to teach English as a second language to international students. Carol always saw herself as an evangelist who would spread the Gospel, not teach classes entitled TOEFL 4-Week Intensive Prep to seemingly spoiled, rich upper crust teenagers who saw America as their personal playground. She still isn’t sure of how it happened, but one day she looked at her classroom full of rich and bratty Asian internationals and saw them, really saw them, for who they were – kids who were simply products of their elite upbringing. Beneath the exterior of their flashy cars and designer handbags, they were filled with insecurity and uncertainty as to how the future looked. Eventually, Carol and her husband shared the Good News with many of their students and through their ministry (done after class hours which made for longer work days) several key students were led to Christ. They were key not because of their money and background but because of who they would eventually become in their homelands.
Some of Carol’s former ESL students returned to their homeland and rose quickly among the ranks of leaders and influencers in their society. In fact, the current chancellor of Yonsei University, Dr. Young Kim, can trace his spiritual roots back to the informal office talks that Carol offered to him and the other Korean students. While Dr. Kim is probably the most famous of Carol’s former students, his fame was also heightened thanks to somebody’s cell-phone video recording of him giving a graduation speech at his American alma mater, UCLA. Standing in front of over 15, 000 students and parents, Dr. Kim stressed the importance of education by repeating the word “important.” The only problem was, due to his inability to roll his R’s (something that, besides the greatness of Jesus Christ, Carol always found herself stressing to Young) it sounded like he was saying “impotent.” We must never underestimate the impotence of U.S./Korean Relations…..you are the future leaders of the global community and that is why you are all.…so….IMPOTENT!!! Dr. Kim attributed the raucous laughter and wooting and cheering as simply an acknowledgement that he had developed the all-important street cred among the younger audience. He beamed with pride because he was book smart AND hip enough to have urbandictionary.com as one of his bookmarks.
Carol recalled the long nights spent in prayer with her disciples that she formed at the ESL class. They knew of their teachers’ desire to conceive and so their prayers were fervent and consistent. That Carol was seen as the Spiritual Mother of so many of these loyal students is no overstatement. They would have run through brick walls for her if it would mean their beloved teacher would finally have the seed of life formed within her. Amazingly, it was with these students that Carol and her husband let their guards down and wept bitterly as they travailed in prayer for conception – they wouldn’t dare show half as much emotion at their home church, where they were regarded as pillars of the faith community. Carol had learned much of authentic faith and the practice of fervent prayer through the passionate faith of her beloved students. The bond formed between student and teacher during these ESL sessions was no small one; repeatedly, they called upon, in fact even begged, Carol and her husband to ask them for anything. When Ariel had to have surgery to remove a mysterious mass in her esophagus, Drs. Patel and Xue, resident oncologists at M.D. Anderson – the pre-eminent cancer center in the world – flew the Taylor family into Houston and, on their dime, housed them in an apartment near the hospital so that Ariel could remain under their watchful eye. Pulling a few strings does not quite do justice to the lengths to which Carol’s former pupils went.
How will I break the news to Ray? In fact, Carol was still unsure of how to take the news herself. Only four months ago, they had sent Luke and Jasmine off to college and now that the home was so quiet, she was ready to do things that all old fogies do: get their hands on an RV and travel, buy matching aloha shirts and take an introductory class in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She was unsure of how to pop the surprise. Then, it hit her. I could hold a reunion! Phone calls were quickly made to the three kids and because of their ability to multi-task (aka text message AND IM simultaneously while talking on the phone with mom) Jasmine and Luke had both gotten word before Carol got off the phone with her eldest. Dude, mom, we are soooo there. We’ll bake a cake, hide Luke inside and have him explode out of it as Dad’s walking into the room while we all shout, “we’re having a baby!!!!” Thankfully, Carol was rich in common sense and politely offered to store that nugget in her files somewhere.
Oh! I need to call the ESL crew! The first person she called? Ring Ring….. 여보세요? Young, it’s me. I was wondering if you could make a few phone calls to the ESL crew and possibly get a reunion together at my home by next week.
For you? anything!!! After all, next to my wife and family you and Ray are the most IMPOTENT persons in my life!!! But why? Why a reunion now and why so soon?
Carol couldn’t help but chuckle. If you only knew, Young, if you only knew.