I’ve written about my great grandmother, who was a bit of a child bride. As often it was with arranged marriages, their marriage was… shall I say, the typical marriage of a rich man? Perhaps it’s because the choice was taken away from him, or perhaps he was just a rich man of his time.
My great grandmother did have three children by her husband, including the last child, a boy, who’d died. But my great grandfather was never content with the marriage. I’m told he was rich, tall, handsome, and an incredible singer. Obviously, there would be tons of women following him? And in those days, it was a common practice to have a concubine or two. So that’s what he did. He spent a lot of time with his second wife/concubine and had children with her. Of course, my grandmother knew all about it as she sometimes fetched him home from various concubines’ houses.
Then what happens when there are no sons by the first wife? You adopt the sons of the other wife to be the sons of the first wife. And that’s what happened. Essentially, these sons sort of became the sons of my great grandmother, on paper, of course. And well, that’s where inheritance (if there had been any left after the war) would have gone as well.
And both my grandmother and my mother’s generation all knew of this as they were well acquainted with who my mother called her “uncles”. I suppose in modern times this type of practice would be possibly unthinkable? Boys at any cost? But that was quite common in the olden times. So common that an exorbitant amount of money was spent in bringing back these uncles from the North when the border was nearly closed.
In the end, they were the inheritors of the family legacy, whatever was left of it. Thankfully, they were nice people and exceptionally smart, taking after my great grandfather. I vaguely remember meeting one of them and I always wondered why I had great uncles when my great grandmother didn’t have any sons.
Despite all her brilliance, my grandmother initially had two daughters. Not having a son was of course a woman’s issue in those days. The science now shows it is really a man that is crucial to determination of sex, but in those days, people just assumed it was woman’s fault if she could not have a son. When my grandmother was about to have her third child, she was called to her husband’s household to have the child there. Everyone had wanted a son and thought the third child must be a son and therefore should be properly birthed at the family house. Although my grandparents lived in the capital, my grandmother traveled to my grandfather’s rural family holding.
Unfortunately, the third child also ended up being a daughter, my mother to be exact. Having birthed another daughter, my grandmother was not exactly treated well. Normally after birth, if it was the birth of a son I suppose, women are given seaweed soup (helps with blood loss, etc.) and taken care of. None of that happened for my grandmother. She was essentially ignored at my grandfather’s household out in the middle of nowhere. He was not there obviously since he was still studying in the capital. I can just imagine what my grandmother had felt. especially after growing up in a rich household with more freedom than other women and having studied medicine abroad.
Thankfully, my great grandmother came to the rescue. My great grandmother (everyone called her 진진 할머니) bought a very expensive dried seaweed, a package that was about half her body size, and other food items. Then she literally hired a motorcycle man out of nowhere to motorcycle her way into the mountain top household. Entering her daughter’s husband’s household, she took over the kitchen, made the seaweed soup and proceeded to feed her daughter. Normally this would be unthinkable. Usually the mother of the married daughter should act humble so that her daughter does not get mistreated. My great grandmother, although she is the most womanly and motherly person, defied such custom. Needless to say, no one dared oppose her as she stayed with her daughter for a while to take care of her after the childbirth.
Go great grandmother! Maybe I take after both of these great ladies…one can only hope.
My great grandmother was a child bride. That is not to say that she married an older man and had to be an actual bride like it is sometimes done in certain countries. It just meant that my great great grandfather found her when she was about ten and brought her into his household and designated her as the bride for his son. It was a custom that was sometimes practiced in the olden days. There were older brides (woman 10-15 years older than the man) who married child husbands and there were child brides who came into the household at an early age, but the actual marriage did not occur until the child husband or child bride were much older.
Having literally married into a family at a young age, my grandmother was probably not from a very prosperous household. But she would not have been brought into such a rich family if she had not been exceptionally bright and if my great great grandfather had not thought she would bring luck and prosperity to the household. Although she was loved by great great grandfather, her life was definitely not easy. She was in a strange household with no family to support her. She had to work very hard and help out with everything, cooking, making food, whatever household chores that were needed. I heard that at times she worked so hard that she’d get spontaneous nose bleeds. Yet she survived and eventually married my great grandfather.
She did bring much luck to the household. The family prospered and everyone came to love her. Unfortunately, her husband (my great grandfather) was not so enamored. I don’t think he hated his wife. It was just that she had not exactly been his choice. He probably resented that he had not been given any choice by his father. Of course, that was the way things were in those days, but I think something of the resentment toward his father made my great grandfather not love his wife so much. More to come on what such feelings lead to…