By Eun Joo Angela Ryo
I never knew that moving could be so difficult. So stressful. So painful. So…hollow. I never really left Chicago since I had immigrated there at age 9. I went to a state university that was only three hours away and came back home upon graduation to attend a nearby seminary, got married, had children, and bought a house and settled in the suburb of Chicago until a few months ago, when my husband landed a job near Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor? Since my husband started a nation-wide search for a new job, I was hoping and praying to move somewhere out West. If we were going to have an epic move of our lives with our pre-teen children, I insisted moving to somewhere warm where my increasingly aching Midwest bones could have a second chance at life. I had even told (threatened!) my husband just a few months back that if he ever landed a job in another brutally-cold Midwest city, such as Detroit, I simply won’t go. Period. But guess what? That’s exactly what happened.
We packed all we had accumulated for about fifteen years of our life together into several boxes. We cleaned out the kitchen and the bathroom the best we could. I scrubbed the stove as if my life depended on it. We threw out bag after bag of garbage. And on the morning of our move, I woke up earlier than everyone else and drove to the neighborhood where I grew up — a 15-minute drive from our place. I wanted to remember. I wanted to look back. I wanted to see where I had been so I could see more clearly where I was going. I wanted some kind of closure. When we had first immigrated to Chicago, we had moved into a small townhouse we couldn’t afford in a mostly Jewish neighborhood. It was intimidating at first, seeing white faces all the time, but we quickly adjusted. I spent many lonely days in that house. I cried there. I prayed there. I got my heart broken there. I met God there. For some reason, the alley where I had practiced riding my bike seemed tighter than I had remembered it. The park where my sisters and I used to play basketball seemed a lot smaller than I had thought.
As I looked back on my childhood, salty tears rolled into my mouth. Then, suddenly, Lot’s wife, who turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at burning Sodom and Gomorrah, came into my mind. I finally knew why she turned into a pillar of salt. I finally understood. She did nothing wrong. She simply mourned for her loss. She wanted to remember what she was leaving behind so she could have closure, so she could look forward. She turned into a pillar of salt from crying so much and looking back at everything she was leaving behind — the memories, the people, her house where she raised her children, one place she came to call “home,” set ablaze by fire and brimstone raining down from the sky…can you blame her? Can anyone blame her? I certainly couldn’t on that morning of my move. I felt like my feet were glued to the ground. And slowly, my tears of loss and grief — of memories of childhood and nostalgia — were turning me into a solid pillar of salt.
Eun Joo Angela Ryo immigrated to America from Korea when she was nine. Having graduated with an MDiv from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, she currently works as a full-time certified ESL teacher for undocumented unaccompanied minors at a non-profit organization under the auspices of the Office of Refuge and Resettlement. Angela has completed the pastoral ordination process in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is currently seeking her first call for ordination.