Monday, July 27, 2009

Three Sisters - Part One

I thought it would be appropriate to post the letters in their original form with all their misspellings, run-ons, and initial translations.

Three Sisters : 1st Letter to Sister 경옥

April 22, 2004


Hello! I love you and miss you very much. I want to let you know that we received your e-mail last week. Jessica, the girl you talked to on the phone last week, helped us to read your letter/ e-mail. I would not have believed it if someone would have come to me and told me a month ago we would be talking and writing letters to one another now. It must have been time for us to find each other. When we found eldest sister, 경숙, she said that mom & dad must have led us to each other. I believe this is true. To find each other only within two months apart is amazing and incredible.

When we were together at your house, my husband and I could not understand everything said but I hope you know how much the time we spent together meant to us. I hope you know how much I appreciate all that you did for us. And how wonderful it felt to laugh and cry together as a family. When we first arrived at your house and we ran up your street hand in hand I imagined how we would run together as children! I wanted that moment to last forever.

Please let our brothers know that they were always on my mind and I always missed them. Please tell them that I remember how they worked in the sewing factory and how after work we would be together. Please tell them I remember chasing butterflies in the flowering fields while they looked after me. I remember how they would sit there on the rocks and smoke cigarettes while grabbing dragonflies. I also remember walking around in the markets with you and both brothers. I remember these memories as happy times. We would walk around, stop to eat noodle dishes and watch puppet shows. I remember cleaning clothes with elder sister and preparing dumplings for soup. I remember how I hated to swallow powder medicine and powder milk. I remember how mad oldest sister would get if we did not get home in time for dinner. Kyung Ok, I remember always waiting for you and being so attached to you. Once, I learn more Korean I would like to personally share with you all my memories of our family.

Please tell Kyung Sook that I love her very much! When she dropped me off at the adoption agency, I did not realize that I would never see her again. From the agency, I went to live with my foster parents. I have always remembered them fondly. When I lived with them, I remember being well cared for in their home. During that time, they were taking care of other children as well. I believe they were adopted much sooner than I because new children seemed to come and go. I could be wrong since some of my memories are blurred.

One time, after we had finished eating a watermelon, my foster mother cleaned the seeds and helped me to plant them in her garden. She told me that when they grow in her garden she would think of me. I also remember fetching drinks for my foster father when he was working and helping the women clean the vegetables for cooking. I remember playing make believe with the neighborhood boys and sitting on the steps of the temple to watch the monks pray.

When I had to go to America, my foster mother took me to the market and bought me a barrette to remember her by. The day my foster mother had to drop us off at the airport, I remember walking and carrying other little ones in my arms and crying because I knew I was leaving again. She told me not to cry and for me to be a big girl for the little ones. I tried to be strong but I could not stop crying. I was so afraid and I knew something big was happening. I understood I was going far away but did not realize I would be living halfway across the world. I loved her and my foster father and did not want to be separated once again. That was the second most important day I would never forget.

Growing up, I never remembered if I cried when 경숙dropped me off at the adoption agency. I always felt guilty that maybe she did not know how much I would miss her. I thought if she saw me cry she would know that I cared about her very much. I did not want her to think I was mad at her or resented her. It is true though, at first, when I was adopted I did resent her for letting me go because I thought my brothers wanted me and could care for me. The day 경숙 dropped me off at the adoption agency would be the most important day I would never forget.

It is the day I kept going back to in my mind when I was a child. I kept questioning why and wondering if I was not good enough to stay with them. My adopted parents told me that we were poor and she could not take care of us all or that she wanted a better life for us but in my heart I wondered if it was something I did to be sent away. As I got older I did not resent but only hoped she knew how much I cared for her and wished for us to be together. I would like her to know that I remember her as if she was my mother.

I hope I will learn about our family history and that she will help me to understand and piece together our past. Please tell her that now that I am an adult I realize how many difficult decisions she had to make and that I feel she is a very strong and beautiful person.

Please tell 경숙 that many times after I was adopted I would pack my bags and wait for her to pick me up. When she never came I began to understand that I was far away and that this was now my new home. But I continued to look for her whenever we would go out. I would look for her in the shopping malls, restaurants and on the streets. When I was first adopted, there were not many Asians Koreans around our neighborhood so whenever I saw an Asian person I would get very excited and hoped I had found her. I tried to get close to them to see if they had her scars on their arm and neck. I told people that if I find someone who had these scars I would know that I had found my sister. I would also know that I had found her if they knew of my scar. Some people here found this humorous but when I was young I took this very seriously.

For the first year I was adopted, I did not speak any English. It was hard to blend in with my new surroundings. There were many conflicts at home and we needed time to adjust. With time, things got better and I was happy in my new home and with my new family. I never forgot about our family and each time I would look in the mirror or look at family photos I would remember that I have two families. I always hoped that one day I would be able to find you.

It is difficult to describe the pain and the guilt I felt over the years and all the questions I had and have. I feel that a lot of my past destructive behaviors were because of my sense of displacement. Over the years, I have always taken interest in life stories of displaced individuals because I too was a displaced individual without a true home. I mean I have my family here and my home here too but had lost my roots my blood. When I was a teenager, I would write many poems and stories about our father and my memories of our childhood. This outlet helped me to understand and express my feelings and questions I had about my past. Maybe, one day I can share this with you and our family.

In your letter, you said that you were always left behind but I remember also being left behind. I remember telling someone to always remember me and we would meet again. I thought it was a baby but after reading your letter I now know that this person was you! I hope one day with the help of everyone our memories will be complete again. Since I was adopted, I tried to keep my memories vivid but with time they became faded and blurred together. I could see images but could not see the faces. I always felt guilty that I could not hold onto your faces. I wondered all these years what you looked like and how you lived. I imaged you were adopted by a rich Korean family who took good care of you. I hoped that one day you would learn English and look for me.

*********It means a lot that you and our older sister and brothers did not give up on us. It is nice to know that our love for each other survived all our hardship and separation. I will always wear our sister ring to remember our past, present and future together.

**********경옥, please tell everyone once again that I am very happy and grateful we have found one another. I fear that we will lose touch or some how lose each other again. I do not want to lose you all again and hope that this will be wonderful beginning in our lives. Please write often and tell the others to write and tell me how they are. Please share this letter with everyone. Please tell them I love them very much. Tell them I have never forgotten about them and that they have always been a big part of my heart and my thoughts. I love you. I hope to hear from you soon.


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