First-World Problems: The Forbidden Fruit

My third column for KoreAm is up!  This one is about two of my favorite subjects, Costco and my mother.

Costco is one of my mother’s favorite places in the world. As a child of the Korean War, scarcity has always carried psychological weight for her, and nothing buoys that heaviness like watching a forklift move a heaping pallet of fruit. I can still remember the first time I took her to the Costco warehouse in Ocean, New Jersey, where she was living at the time.

“America,” she’d said, pointing at the colors of the signage outside the building. It was true: COSTCO in red, WAREHOUSE in blue, the letters outlined in white.

And it was America on the inside, too, a muscular exhibition of capitalism. There was so much of everything—mounds of sweatshirts, pillars of pistachio nuts—and goods offered in such enormous sizes. My mother walked up to a display that looked like a fortress constructed of olive oil. Not only was each bottle a gallon in size, they were tied together in twos.

“I do need olive oil,” she said.

“It’ll take you five years to use that up!” I said.

She heaved the glistening duo into her cart.

“Yes, but you never know.”

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