MS. REBECCA SHEIR
And now for the final story in our month-long series of interviews from the StoryCorps Booth in Arlington, Va. Gene Noh and his wife Christina had their first child, Gabrielle, 15 months ago. Seven months after she was born Gene had to leave for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Air Force. Gene just returned home and he and Christina recently sat down to talk about the challenges of caring for a baby when a parent is away.
MS. RAPHAELLA BENNIN
You just recently--about three weeks ago--returned from serving in Afghanistan. When you left Gabby was about seven months old and now she's about 15 months old. And I just wonder how you think that has impacted your experience as a parent?
MAJ. GENE NOH
In terms of being a parent, I think it was a challenge 'cause now she's gotten to that point where she can talk. And she's so dependent on you and so you're her comfort zone. And I wasn't and I was a stranger that was reintroduced into her life. I mean that first week where she would just run to you, if I tried to hold her she would cry. It was really challenging, you know, and confirmed, you know, that desire I had when I was overseas where, you know, I don't want to be away, you know.
MAJ. GENE NOH
It's really hard, but at the same time, I'm thankful that, you know, she's so young she won't remember me being gone at this point in our lives, but I don't know. I'm very thankful that you took care of her so well while I was gone. I know it's not easy.
MS. CHRISTINA NOH
But, I mean, now that it's been about three weeks, it definitely seems like she's taken to you. I catch her napping on you every day, basically, at this point. So that's fun for me to see, you know. I mean, while you were gone we tried to show her pictures and video clips, if I had them, of you and I would always say Apa, because, you know, Apa is Korean for daddy. And I'd always say, Apa, this is Apa, you know, this is the guy, so that when you came home there would be less of a bumpy transition, hopefully.
And I thought I was like so awesome because she started saying Apa and I really was like fixated on this whole having Apa be her first word thing. So I didn't teach her any other words this whole time. I just taught her Apa. And she was saying it and she was pointing to your picture. And she'd always be like, Apa, Apa. And then we were preparing for your arrival again. And there were these pictures of other people in other people's houses and she would just point to pictures of other people and say Apa, Apa. And I realized what I had done was teach her that pictures were Apa when really it's you.
I guess maybe you can backtrack a little bit and talk about what it was like while I was gone, being a mother, you know, a single mother for the first time, you know, geographically separated.
You know, honestly, it was difficult in the sense that I missed you and I knew you were missing some parts of her growing up, you know, like just silly things, like crawling, you know, and pulling herself up and that sort of thing. But I think about it, as own mom was a single mom, an immigrant when she had three of us. And I just think about how lucky I was that, you know, it was choice for me to be able to stay home with her and have this grand adventure with her while you were gone. And it was challenging, of course, at times, but that is like small potatoes, you know, when I think about the struggles that other people have and that my own mom had, you know.
It was not super easy, but at the same time we had so many great moments that I just wish you had been able to be a part of, you know.
But, I don't know. So it's been great and I want to thank you and tell you I love you.
Yeah, I want to thank you and tell you I love you and your love is so strong.
That was Gene and Christina Noh at the StoryCorps Booth, in Arlington, Va. StoryCorps is the oral history project that gives Americans the chance to record, share and preserve the stories of their lives. And if you'd like to hear previous interviews in our StoryCorps series, you can find them at metroconnection.org.
After the break we give up the ghost or take it to task anyway, on our monthly feature, The Location.
MS. KIM BENDER
It was the one room that has ever given me a little bit of pause in a sense..
Okay. Now, she confesses.
It's coming your way on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.
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