Home Short Story Wild chrysanthemum light purple love – A Short Story from Korea

Wild chrysanthemum light purple love – A Short Story from Korea

Wild chrysanthemum light purple love – A Short Story from Korea
I spent the entire summer falling in love with Park Gye-hyeong’s romance novels, and every month, I grew up remembering the laughter of the wild chrysanthemums from that day.

By Bak Myeungsun

It was a gloomy morning on the fall picnic day of my first year of middle school. I felt sick since morning. Preparing kimbap just for me… I can’t believe that the main character today is me. The special treatment I receive as a middle school student is just inconvenient. I was excited and happy during the spring picnic, but today I feel drowsy and droopy. My body and mind are sagging for no reason; everything feels bothersome, and I don’t want to say anything.

It seemed like my mother found the look on her eldest daughter’s face unusual. Since I, who am usually a good eater, did not come near the kimbap maker and had no intention of eating breakfast, my mother deliberately cut a large piece of kimbap from the end and gave it to me. I didn’t want to put it in my mouth and chew it while looking at the clearly visible ingredients of the kimbap, including the fragrant smell of sesame oil, the scent of the sea from the wet green dried seaweed, the salty taste of pickled radish, the blanched spinach, and the fried egg with the yolk and white intact.

I gave a piece of kimbap to my younger brother, who was staring at me while sucking his finger, and then I skipped breakfast. Even on picnic days, the attire is the school uniform: spring and autumn uniforms. The usual outfit of a middle school girl in the ’70s consisted of a long-sleeved white blouse and a dark-colored floral skirt. I was wearing black stockings and dark blue sneakers. It’s surprising how unimpressed I am when I look at the disposable wooden lunch box wrapped in newspaper. This is the first time that the kimbap lunch box, which cannot be seen except during sports days and picnics, has felt cumbersome.


When I was in elementary school, picnics were much more enjoyable than holidays simply because I could eat gimbap, eggs, and drink cider. As the anticipation for picnic food faded, a unique aspect of fun in talent shows arose. Then, after I became a senior, it didn’t matter where I went on a field trip. What was more important was the game plan I made with my friends that day and what clothes I wore. I was always a central member of the game board. Whenever a situation arose, I was unconditionally promoted to the head of the entertainment team. At that time, I was a well-spoken, funny kid, and it was a brilliant period in my life when I was full of happiness. The curtain rose with the host’s opening remarks and a chorus, and the show ended with a dance by me and all the performers. I even took the initiative to organize the entertainment and suggest that we meet together and relax all night long. But that day, I had to spend the day as if I could see no one and hear no sound. The picnic spot was a hill near Moshiol Temple, about 4 km away from school. I had been there a few times when I was in elementary school, so I just walked without any interest. Each class walked in a line, but little by little, they deviated from the line. I broke away from the crowd of people laughing and chatting and ended up walking alone with no one around. At first, it was just annoying, so I kept walking slower. However, my homeroom teacher started to worry because I was different from usual.

“Where does your body hurt?”

I found it difficult to answer, so I lowered my head.

“Your yellow face looks weak. Are you okay?”

My walking steps seemed to become slower and slower. As I struggled to walk, I fell into a fantasy of walking alone on an empty mountain with no one in front of me or behind me. The noisy scenery that felt like a classroom or a market just a moment ago had disappeared, and I found myself looking around involuntarily at the wonder of the silence of the empty mountain.

Suddenly, clusters of flowers blooming sparsely on the low mountain began to come into view. The flowers’ slender petals were light purple in color. The moment I lowered my head to take a closer look, I was surprised to see that the whole mountain was overflowing with wildflowers, like comrades who had been hiding during a game of tag and suddenly appeared from all over. Unlike the bursts of laughter or giggling, the language of the purple and white flowers touched me so comfortably that it felt awkward, as it was as unfamiliar as the feeling of sadness.

All I remember about the picnic that day is the sight of the flower feast.

Despite my friends’ voices of disappointment and the teacher’s expression of wanting me to carry out my duties as the leader of the entertainment group, I was completely indifferent. I was stuck in a corner like a sick person. The time of solitude I felt for the first time since I was born was long and boring. I was glad that the talent show went on without any problems even without me, but it was also bittersweet. My bare face, claiming to be lonely, would still be colorless.

korean-chrysanthemum-l_2020-11-11-202834Still, the way home was rather enjoyable as I was able to spend some time alone. For the first time, I realized that I could enjoy the joy of encountering flowers by walking alone. The loneliness was even sweet due to the excitement of seeing the purple flowers that filled the entire mountain. If you look closely, you can see that each purple flower varies in shade, from purple mixed with white to dark purple with a hint of white. None were the same. I learned that just as all human faces are different, flowers of the same type also have unique appearances. At that time, I experienced for the first time that solitude could be a joy, and I learned how to feel at ease even when I was apart from the crowd, just as I was able to acknowledge that the crowd was doing well without me.

As soon as the short-haired girl gets home, she casually takes off her school uniform and changes into comfortable clothes. There was a trace of unfamiliarity in her, along with a momentary feeling of alienation, which startled her.

“What is this?” she wondered aloud.

It didn’t take her long to figure out that the purple and red marks on her underwear were due to menarche. She had heard enough stories from friends who had already started. Still, ‘Is this it?’ Her heart pounded.

Even though she waited, it was not something she could pass by without notice. They say it hurts a lot when you first get your period, but it was even weirder because she didn’t feel it at all. After covering up her momentary confusion, she put on the cotton sanitary pad she had prepared in advance, wrapped it in other clothes, and forced herself to do a lot of laundry. As she put her laundry in a rubber basket and turned on the tap water, she felt grateful for the small space that she could barely fit into.

Our house didn’t have a well, so we used the well next door, but when preparing meals, we had to fetch water from a bucket. When I washed and rinsed barley, vegetables, or did laundry, I took it directly to the house next door or used a communal laundry facility with large spring water. Eventually, water pipes were installed in every house. The house was so small that there wasn’t even a yard the size of a baby’s butt, so the end of the old-fashioned kitchen was connected to the outside ditch, and a water tap was installed using the end of the triangle. It became quite easy to use, so I was able to do laundry or wash dishes while standing. Since the house was built in a covered area, if the sink was made flat, water from the ditch might flow back, so the sink was made by blocking the corners of the triangle, stacking bricks, and doing cement work. It’s an old-fashioned kitchen, but what a blessing it is to have the tap on high and have a little space to stand and do laundry.

But alas! Didn’t my mother squeeze into that narrow space and stand next to me? I pretended to be calm, but my heart was pounding as I hurriedly did the laundry in my own silence, just wanting to get rid of the traces as quickly as possible. But since when did Mom really know?

“What is this? You already?” she asked.

“No, I was later than my friends….”

I wanted to hide it, but I hated that my mother didn’t pretend not to know. As I looked at her with resentment, her expression was shining brightly. Moreover, her smile even contained her pride.

“Ah, this is neither a sin nor a shame.”

Korea-Park-1Because of my mother’s smile, I was able to interpret my menarche positively and free myself from vague feelings of discomfort and anxiety. As I nodded my head and realized that this was the essence of the confusion that I had been unable to understand all day, I felt incredibly at ease. That’s how my menarche began. My mother’s smile, in full bloom, resonated in my heart against the backdrop of the light purple shadows of wild chrysanthemums filling the field. Even as time passed, that expression would still come back to me every time I had my period.

That day, I heard ‘Myeong-sun…’ mentioned in the stories my parents shared. I heard. Next to the room where the fluorescent light was split in half, I fell asleep while listening to my father’s hearty snores. After menarche, I spent the entire summer falling in love with Park Gye-hyeong’s romance novels, and every month, I grew up remembering the laughter of the wild chrysanthemums from that day. Afterwards, it was about time to learn that flowers called wild chrysanthemums, which belong to the Asteraceae family and are also known as small chrysanthemums, such as mountain chrysanthemum, mugwort, gujeolcho, beolgaemilchwi, Geumbulcho, and mugwort, are collectively called wild chrysanthemums.


Bak Myeungsun Korea Sindh CourierMs. Bak Myeungsun, a literary critic, was born in Yeongi, Chungcheongnam-do. She worked as a Korean language teacher at a middle school in South Chungcheong Province for over 30 years. She holds a doctorate in literature and has lectured on Korean language education and modern novels at Kongju University and Soonchunhyang University. Currently, she serves as an editorial member of Writer’s Maru and Poetry and Culture. She has published prose collections such as Water Flows on the Father’s Tree and Goodbye, Mr. Gaetteok, as well as criticism collections including Sorrow, Power and Language of Mourning, Power of Revival. Additionally, she has written a film criticism titled Movies are Travel.

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