Mama Lee Gets Her Learner’s Permit

I’m proud of my mom. She’s a prime example of you’re never too old to learn new things. (Note: I’m not saying that she’s old—she’s always reminding me that she’s old. In fact, I know a lot of folks who would still consider her a spring chicken.)

Yesterday I got my first email from her, and it had both English and Korean on it. Email—what’s the big deal? you might say. For her it was a big deal. 

Mama Lee had been fighting this Internet-thing for too long. Although she learned how to use a computer back in the early 1990s for a part-time data entry job she did for “working experience,” she never used it after she quit the job a couple of years later. I think she’d always associated computers with hard, stressful work, and never thought to consider the lighter, more fun side.

For her, it was probably like using the microwave for the first time—worrying that it might explode or break if she pressed the wrong buttons. In fact, she told me that she was worried about crashing my dad’s computer. So I said to her that she’d be doing him a favor by breaking it and giving him an excuse to get a new one. (His computer is, after all, older than four years which is practically a lifetime.)

Mom’s been taking computer lessons these last few months. When she first told me, I said, “Computer lessons? I could show you a few things in an afternoon—for free. Dad could also.” But I think it was a matter of pride for her. At least when she’s paying someone else, she doesn’t have to worry about losing face. After all, she’s paying to learn, which gives her added motivation to work harder. Also, she wants to learn things correctly—as if there was a correct way to learn.

She also cracked me up on her accounts of how painfully tough it was to use the computer: Her neck and shoulders hurt from all the tension. It’s hard to see the keys on the keyboard or what’s on the monitor. And learning to type in Korean and English is no walk in the park either. But I know deep inside, she’s thrilled. It’ll only be a matter of time before she’ll know more than my dad and she’ll be showing him a few things.

Before the class, her knowledge of the Internet was limited to knowing that she could watch Korean dramas on it, and that HB makes a living from it. Now, she’s well on her way to learn that she can take advantage of online-only sales at Neiman Marcus, find out about what’s happening on her favorite Korean dramas, perhaps book her own flight to see my brother in Seattle, or look up her old school friends. Heck! She might even decide to start a Korean mothers’ matchmaking service—ummasknowbest.com—or even, dare we say it, her own blog.

In fact, I’d be thrilled if she came upon this post and commented on it.

But first I need to remind her of the finer points—like what not to use for passwords; that she should never open emails/download attachments from people/names that she doesn’t recognize; that credit card companies/banks won’t be asking for her personal info via email; and that none of us would ask her to wire emergency funds via email (we’d call her collect first).

Yipes! Now I think I have a sense of what a parent must feel when their child gets his/her learner’s permit.

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