Monday, August 31, 2009
The small leafy plant that sat in the corner of the room seemed to perk up immediately as the rays from the sun came filtering in from the small window that sat perfectly in the middle of the white wall. With it came an intense heat that warmed the floor almost to the point that made it unbearable to sit. The room was bright with shimmers of light that streamed down over our heads and onto the ornaments that sat on top of the little wooden dresser. The mother of pearl that was carved so intricately into the face of the dresser sparkled and danced as if to lift its little petals off the dresser and into the light.
We were all mesmerized by the presence of the late afternoon light and had almost tuned out the chatter and confusion of our daily routine. Our foster mother walked up to the window and peeked out into the yard. She turned to look at us very excited; she smiled and said, “Father is here! He made it back early. Bali Bali!! Hurry! Quickly now! Let’s clean up and set the table. Go get the babies. Please, get our Beads for prayer. Children, all gather now.” We all ran around laughing and bumping into each other to quickly clean the little room and to call all the younger ones into the house to greet our foster father. I was very much excited and smiled very big to show my foster mother how happy I was. Amazingly, we all managed to gather around the round wooden table before he arrived at the door.
The paper panel door to the room slid open with a huge voice that greeted us as our foster father entered the room. We all smiled and greeted him anxiously as he walked over to the table carrying in his arms a little black plastic bag. He sat down and opened the bag; taking out a large can of sliced peaches. He looked very pleased from his day trip into town. Foster mother walked over to the table and eased herself down to kneel down and to sit on her legs. She passed around the beads to all the children that sat around this circle. We lowered our heads and they began to chant a prayer.
I tried not to look up but I peered across the table to see everyone praying. As my eyes circled the room, I watched some of the children praying with tears and others, like my foster mother’s daughter, sitting, and holding her husband’s hand and her baby with the other. I tried to mirror the other children who seemed to know the words and who also had tears that ran down their small faces. I could not shed even one tear. I kept thinking about the canned peaches and how I wanted to eat them. I tried to quietly yawn to let out a small tear but nothing came forth. I felt my eyes become a bit moist and hoped that everyone could see my tears as I tried to look as if I was praying. I sat with my head down low and waited for the prayer to end.
The silence broke with loud cheering and big smiles that could be felt all around the room. Our foster father laughed as he made sure everyone at the table got their piece of the sliced peaches. I quickly reached over to take my plate from his hands and placed it in front of me. A huge grin spread across my face as I sat and stared down at my little peach slice. I did not want to eat it right away. It is not because I could not have more but knew how special they were.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
An Article from: The New York Times
August 26, 2009, 1:00 pm
Terminating an Adoption
By Lisa Belkin
Regular Motherlode readers have already met Anita Tedaldi, who blogs at ovolina.com. She has written a few guest posts about being a military spouse. But she has never before written anything like this.
A few months ago, when another guest blogger wrote about secondary infertility, many of the comments were along the lines of “why don’t you just adopt?” and some of the responses were in the vein of “adoption is not always that easy.” In the middle of that I heard from Anita, who asked to share the story of D., her adopted son (she has used her real name here, but changed his), whom she raised for 18 months before she relinquished him to another family last year, when he was about two-and-a-half years old.
The termination of an adoption is a fraught topic, raising questions of love and loyalty and the definition of parenting. Anita’s tale will make some of you angry, but she hopes it will trigger a deeper understanding of how fragile and fierce the bonds of adoption can be.
My Adopted Son
By Anita Tedaldi
The first time I considered giving up D. I was lying alone in my oversized bed. It was about midnight, my children were asleep and my husband was deployed. I was so taken aback by my thoughts that I bolted upright, ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. It was dark, but I could see my silhouette in the mirror and I stared to see if I was looking at a demon instead of D.’s mother.
I ran to D.’s room, afraid that he was already gone. But he was there, lying on his Thomas the Train sheets, sucking his thumb and breathing evenly. I caressed his cheek with two fingers and he exhaled. “I love you little man,” I whispered, and kissed his forehead, swallowing down the knot in my throat. I went back to my room and sobbed into my pillow.
D. was my adopted son. He’s a little boy from South America who came to our home several months before that frightening night. He arrived through Miami International Airport on a Monday afternoon, and I was so anxious that on my six-hour drive to pick him up, I dug my nails into the steering wheel for the duration of the trip, leaving marks I can still see today. I couldn’t contain my excitement. After waiting many long months, I’d finally hold and kiss my son.
I had wanted to adopt for a long time, even before I met my husband or had my five biological daughters. I’ve always wanted a large family, like the one I grew up with in Italy, and I love the chaos and liveliness of many kids.
I did lots of research on adoption, including attachment problems and other complications that older adopted children can have. I spoke to my therapist and went through a thorough screening process with social workers to figure out if I, and my family, could be a good match for a child who needed a home. We were approved, and began the long wait for a referral. When they told us about D., I was ecstatic and convinced that I’d be able to parent this little boy the same way I had done with my biological daughters.
When he arrived in the U.S., our pediatrician diagnosed our son with some expected health issues and developmental delays. His age was not certain — he had been found by the side of a road — but the doctor estimated he was a little younger than one year. D. lacked strength in his legs and had a completely flat head, from lying in a crib so many hours a day. The first few weeks at home, people often asked me if he had experienced a brain injury. D. also suffered from coprophagia, or eating one’s own feces, which my pediatrician assured me the majority of children outgrow by the age of four. Most mornings, when I went to pick him up from his crib, I’d find him with poop smeared on his face and bedding.
But the physical or developmental issues weren’t the real problem. Five or six months after his arrival, I knew that D. wasn’t attaching. We had expected his indifference toward my husband, who was deployed for most of this time, but our son should have been closer to his sisters and especially to me, his primary caretaker.
His social worker, his pediatrician and his neurologist all told me that he had come a long way, and that attachment issues were to be expected with adoption. But D.’s attachment problems were only half the story. I also knew that I had issues bonding with him. I was attentive, and I provided D. with a good home, but I wasn’t connecting with him on the visceral level I experienced with my biological daughters. And while it was easy, and reassuring, to talk to all these experts about D.’s issues, it was terrifying to look at my own. I had never once considered the possibility that I’d view an adopted child differently than my biological children. The realization that I didn’t feel for D. the same way I felt for my own flesh and blood shook the foundations of who I thought I was.
I sought help and did some attachment therapy, which consisted of exercises to strengthen our relationship, mostly games because of D.’s age. He fell in my arms many times throughout the day, we sang songs, read books, repeated words while we made eye contact. We built castles and block towers and went to a mommy and me class.
Still, I struggled. One day (I’m still not exactly sure what was different about that particular day) I was on the phone with Jennifer, our social worker, who merely asked “what’s up” when I blurted out that I couldn’t parent D., that things were too hard.
As soon as I said these words out loud, a flood of emotions washed over me, and I sobbed, clutching the phone with both hands. Jennifer didn’t say anything, she waited patiently, and when I had nothing left, she asked me to start from the beginning. We talked about my family; about the problems my husband and I were having with D. and, as a result, with each other; about the girls and their partial indifference toward D.; and about some of my son’s specific challenges.
For the next several weeks Jennifer and I spoke daily. She mostly listened and told me to focus on D.’s future and well being above everything else. Eventually I told her that I’d look at profiles of potential families, but stressed that I wasn’t committed yet, just considering options.
My thoughts and emotions were disjointed and came in waves. One moment I was determined to keep D. because I loved him. An instant later, I realized that I wasn’t the parent I know I could be, and that I should place D. with a better family, with a better mother.
As I wrestled with these demons, things remained very tense in my home; whenever my husband was stateside we fought incessantly. I felt I was swimming upstream until one early morning Jennifer called, and told me that she had found a great family for D. They had seen his pictures, learned about his situation, and fallen in love with him. The mom, Samantha, was a psychologist, and the family had adopted another boy with similar issues just a couple of years before.
I spoke to Samantha and her husband a few times on the phone and right off the bat I felt comfortable with them. During one of our conversations we decided that she’d come down to meet D. by herself, to ease the transition.
This meant that the decision was final. D. would leave my home.
While waiting for Samantha to arrive, Jennifer helped me to talk to my kids, to family members, even strangers, but most importantly she held my hand when it came to speaking with my son. I explained to him that he’d be joining his new family and that we loved him very much — that he had done nothing wrong. I don’t know how much he understood because of his young age and because he never reacted to my words.
For my first meeting with D.’s new mom, I was a wreck. I dressed D. in one of his cutest outfits, white polo shirt and blue khaki pants, strapped him in the car seat and took off to meet Samantha at a nearby McDonald’s.
The car ride was short, but each time I approached a traffic light, grief assailed me, and I turned around, determined to head back home and keep D.
The five-minute trip turned to a 30-minute journey, and when I finally made it to the McDonald’s parking lot I was frazzled. My hands were shaking, my mouth was dry, and my eyes were red. Samantha recognized us as soon as we got out of the car and rushed over. Her eyes lit up the moment she approached D., and she lowered herself to his height to hug him.
Over the next few days Samantha and D. got to know each other, and then it was time for him to leave with her. That morning, I awkwardly let her into the house and willed time to stop. With my hands shaking, I handed her D.’s bag and some of his favorite toys. My daughters were watching SpongeBob and said goodbye to their brother almost nonchalantly, as if he was just going out for a bit and would soon be back.
I opened the front door of my home in slow motion. It felt heavy and my feet stayed glued to the ground. Samantha told me she’d give me a few minutes alone with D. and quickly walked to her car. I kneeled down and pulled D. close to me, desperately wanting to impress an indelible memory of my son on me, and me on him, inhaling his scent, feeling his soft skin and touching his coarse hair. In our last moments together, I stared into his eyes and told him that I loved him and that I had tried to do my best.
His new mom would love him so, so much; my little man would be OK.
He didn’t cry, he stared back at me, then looked to Samantha and asked for more juice. I was too overwhelmed to utter another word, but Samantha squeezed my hand and reassured me that D. would know I had loved him and that I had done a good job.
The next few weeks I felt a mix of emotions, desperation, relief, sadness, guilt, shame, and acceptance. After a couple of months at Samantha’s home, I learned that D. was doing well and adjusting to his new life. He was struggling with some issues, but I know that Samantha and her husband are the best parents D. could possibly have. They went to great lengths to legally adopt him, to welcome him into their home and provide him with the best care he can receive. The fact that he also has a sibling who has dealt with similar issues has made the transition easier. Samantha told me that D. can’t get enough of his brother or his dad’s attention.
My husband had originally asked me not to write about D., because I’d only open myself up to criticism. But I wrote this essay because D. taught me a lot about myself and about parenting and because I hope that by sharing this experience others can feel less alone in their failures. D. deflated my ego by showing me my limitations. Because of my little man, I have more compassion for the mistakes we make as parents, and I’m far less willing to point my finger at others’ difficulties.
I’m still processing this experience and I think I always will.
I don’t have anything left from D.’s time with us. Samantha didn’t want D.’s clothes, I think she preferred to make a fresh start, so I donated everything to the Salvation Army. We don’t have D.’s pictures around because my husband thought it’d be too difficult, but in my wallet, I carry a small close-up photo of D.’s face, which I took after his first haircut at a barber shop. When I think about him, I take it out and look into his big dark eyes as a deep endless sadness fills my heart.
Thank you little D. for all that you’ve been to me, to us. Despite my failures, I loved you the best way I could, and I’ll never forget you.
I found this article in The Third Mom Blog this Morning. I have read it over a few times and it makes me wonder how this has effected everyone involved on all sides..especially little D.
When I was first adopted, my Mother had told me that if things did not work out in my new home I was able to go back to Korea but we would have to really try to make it work and know that to return to Korea was the BEST decision. I don't remember if those were her exact phrases but I believe that is how I took her proposal.
And there were many time in my early years that I wanted to go home, usually when there was a fight, argument, or discontentment from our 'barriers'. My Mother would tell me that the letters I had received from the Head of Eastern Child Welfare Society every holiday was to let me know that they did not forget about me. During the rough times, I wanted to write to Dr. Kim (President) and let him know how I felt and that I was ready to go home. I cannot remember how my Mother handled my requests but know that she somehow reassured me things would get better here and eventually I kept these letters to remember that one day I may go home to Korea.
Aside from these initial hard times, after the first couple years, my Family no longer really discussed my past nor encouraged any related subject matter regarding my past, family, and Korea. And in some regard, I no longer really showed signs that I cared to discuss or needed to go back to my family or anybody else. In the early childhood years that followed, I 'blended' into my family and tried to do the same in school. I am not saying that 'events' or 'things' did not come up throughout my early years that brought my thoughts back to those feelings of 'displacement' or ' 'identity' issues. But it was in those first couple of years that seemed to have hit 'us' all very hard. It was in many ways difficult to adjust..not just for me but for everyone in my new family.
So, I am reading this article and wondering how I feel about this. I wanted to jot a comment under it in the Third mom blog but feel compelled to write more than a comment...maybe perhaps, a point of view from Little D. I know Little D cannot do this but then perhaps from another adoptee's view of her own experience in the first stages after adoption.
I do not believe my Parents had any idea what kind of background I had except the one from my Adoption papers. They did not know that I was going to be a little fireball with a mouth that could really fire back..in Korean and later in English. They did not prepare themselves to discover the amount of issues that would follow concerning my sense of displacement, identity, and attachment issues. It took some hard fights, harsh words, and tears for us to come through the initial post adoption stage.
I want to share that I did not accept my Father here for some time as well. In part, because I felt I had a Father that I did not want to let go of nor forget. And I was not afraid to express this to him when I was upset. I know this must have hurt him but at the time I did not look at it in his perspective, after all, I was only 7 years old. And my anger, when I felt it, was my only defense from the pain I felt and the frustration that came from the culture shock, having to re-attach once again, and feelings of rejection.
And even through these hard times, the one I accepted immediately into my heart, was my Mother. Perhaps, because I did not have a Mother growing up and needed one or because she was the one that I felt closest to as soon as I had landed in the States. She was the one that we all went to for all situations that occurred in our house. And since she was a stay home Mother, and I had skipped the first year of school, we were together always. Therefor, I attached myself quickly to her.
I think of the 'what ifs''. What if my parents gave up on us and felt it was too difficult and realized that the dynamics of raising a 'trans-racial' adoptee was more difficult than they ever imagined. What if, they saw how difficult this impacted not only me but the whole family in the initial post adoption and relinquished me back to Korea.
I have to say that I played with these thoughts many times. I wished many moments that this was exactly what they should have done over the years. Especially during my first post adoption year and later in my Teens. For my Parents, I cannot truly speak for them and do not agree on all their methods of how they raised me but am happy that they did not give up on me and us. I do not like to use 'grateful' for many reasons which I may go into later but am truly happy that I am here.
That is not to say that I do not have longings and desires that seem to float up and dissipate into my dreams. Nor does it negate any of the hard times that follow personally in my life. I think of how my life would be if they had sent me back to Korea. How it would effect my sense of belonging and attachment. My feelings of displacement. And my need to know the meaning of 'HOME'. I do not know these answers of course, but I ask myself, would I be here with my family I love, with the Reunions we have made, and the Journey that I have made thus far. Would I be writing to you here...and would I have accepted myself and my life as I do now.
Something for me to think about. Something for other perspective Adopting Parents to think over and for us all to understand and to respect that which follows.
As we walk, my mind is revisiting to what seems to be our last family gathering but I cannot see the faces of my sister, KyungOk, and of my brothers. I see my eldest sister taking me over to a small brick wall. She bends down and smiles at me. She places her hands on my arms and begins to tell me what will soon become my destiny. I do not look at her. I see past my sister to focus on the red bricks and the round black grapes that hung down on their vines. The grapes are lying down, hanging ripe and full. My sister continues to tell me our family history. I do not know why she is telling me this. I see her smiling but I could see she is upset.
I watch as children in the yard run pass the brick wall as they grab the grapes that hung down low. My sister takes her hands and presses them strongly on my arms and tells me to listen and to pay attention. I look up at her and then look away at the grapes again. She begins to talk to me about our parents, our sister, and brothers. I hear her explain how I can not go to live with my brothers. I am told that she has not been able to reach them. She then holds me close and tells me how wonderful America is and where it is. She explains how the people live and what I must do. I do not understand her but shake my head to please her. She smiles and tells me that no one must know; at least at the party.
My mind returns as I am taken down this hallway again. As we walk, we pass a bin full of stuff toys. I smile as I see a Bert and Ernie Doll lying on top of the overstuffed basket. I can hear people sitting in the waiting room talking about many things. Their voices came and faded away as I was taken back and forth by the social workers. Then, I hear her voice, my sister is talking to someone, and I try to hear as I am led away. I hear their voices and hear the names of my brothers.
The voices tell the story that my Brothers answered her call and agreed to have me back into their lives. They are ready to take me into their home and care for me. My sister is afraid that they will not carry out her wishes like the other times that I had been in their care. They tell her that they are ready for me and that she should not let me go. But my sister does not believe them and does not answer their last call. She decides what she must do and brings me to this place that would become our last impression and our farewell. I remember feeling angry that day. I cannot tell others later on in my life if we had cried together on our last day we saw each other.
After some time living with my Foster Parents I am sent overseas to live with my American Family. Here, once I arrive, I tell my translator, Sunny, how I had come to arrive to the States. I tell my story of my Foster Parents, the Agency, and my sisters and brothers. I tell her about that day at the agency and how I heard my brothers wanted to take care of me.
For the years that followed, I dreamed of my wonderful brothers. I revisited the memories of my brother, KyungJin, the most. It seemed all my memories of him were filled with happy times and playful moments. I remembered him with kind and gentle manner. He seemed quiet but protective of his younger sisters. My memories of my oldest brother, KyungSun, carried images of mischief and influence that pressured my other brother to follow his footsteps. Then, my mind takes me back to the time my two oldest siblings fought and how KyungJin would always go away with my oldest brother following him in and out of our lives. I think back to the big fight that I later determined to be the cause of the separation between our siblings.
Some people would say that my young mind had distorted my past into what I wanted to believe, remember, and perhaps, they are right. Growing up, I wondered how this young mind could hold onto so many memories and stories that were told whether it was from my sisters, brothers, or my foster parents. What I do know is that these memories were all I had of my past and I did not want them to fade away. So, in the first couple years after I had arrived to the States, I recalled them every night before I would fall asleep. I would even tell other children stories of my family until I realized they had no clue to what I was explaining to them. It had dawned on me later that I had been raised very differently in Korea and even my early memories of playtime were a world apart. In time, I stopped talking about my Korean family with them.
I am told that perhaps I wanted to believe I had heard this story of my Brothers wanting to take care of me. And to this day, I still do not know how this story followed after my departure. If these thoughts were only dreams, I wondered over the years, how my life would have played out if I had remained in Korea with my Brothers. What would our lives be like? Growing up, I had many endings to these thoughts and images. I played with the endless possibilities of how they would have raised me, and ultimately, I questioned if they would have placed me in Foster care or adoption later on in my life.
I pondered these thoughts and told myself that I would still be living in Korea even if I was taken in by other Foster families. I ask myself, if I would be happier knowing I never left my roots and my native tongue.
So, I am back in 1980. My mother kisses me on my head and tucks the blanket tightly under my bed. I close my eyes, and dream of my brothers that lives across this great sea. I tell them of my life here and my wishes for them to hear. I remember my sister’s story but I do not know what is real. I lie on my bed and I see my brothers. I hope they will hear me. I hope they will come for me. I hope until I fall asleep.
Monday, August 24, 2009
My First Letter from my Little Brother Monday, August 24, 2009 10:28 am
M*** sent you a message.--------------------Subject: lucky day
hello dear sister
yes it's me !!!!!!i'm very happy that u find me a few months ago i got a letter that told me that my family was searching me that was a great surprise there was only one problem my contact person was my nephew the son of my oldest sister i think and he can't write english because i got an email from him in korean now i had luck because i met a few years ago a korean girl here in holland and still have contact with her on msn and she could translate it so i heard that i have a sister in the usa but they lost contact with u i'm very glad that u found me now u hear more from me very soon i have one important question am i twins??????????????????????????????????
big kiss en hugs from me
**** I felt I needed to share this letter with everyone to give HOPE and encouragement in the search for their Families much like the letters I had posted earlier of my Sisters. I had refrained from posting the other letters from them since these hold it's purpose. How incredible this Journey has been!!!!
Sending my Thanks To GOAL and KSS for locating my Little Brother who was adopted to The Netherlands!
I emailed GOAL this letter below on August 16,2009. To receive two emails last night stating that they had located my little Brother! They also were able to talk to my family in Korea and give me their current contact information. I would like to share these correspondences with you. And to tell again how amazing these Organizations and Agency has been to find him and to be so quick to reply back to my email! How amazing...I just wrote about my Twin Brothers, of how times has changed with Agencies and Records of then and now (Agencies seeming more proactive and sensitive to the needs of Adoptees and their AP's) to then only days later, receive this help. I am waiting to hear back from my Brother. My mind is filled with so many thoughts. I am just so happy to have found him! And for him to have found me! Please do not let the feelings discouragement or insecurities hold you back from initiating your search!
To email@example.com , Date Sunday, August 16, 2009 11:45 pm
First, thank you for reading this email. I recently became aware of your organization through blogging on the Internet. I am trying to locate my youngest brother, Yoo, Kyung Lee or Yoo, Kyung Ill (유경이 or 유경일). They were twin brothers that I did not know I had until I had reunited with my siblings in 2004 in Korea. You see, I was adopted to the States around 1979 through The Eastern Adoption agency in Seoul. My eldest sister had placed me for adoption sometime after my parents had passed away. My twin brothers were born around 1976 and were placed through either Holt or Eastern Welfare Agency. I do not know this piece of information because my sister cannot tell me exactly how and where they went. But I do know that they were taken to an agency as infants. While they were there, one had passed away due to being too weak. The one that had survived went to an agency in The Netherlands. From there, he was adopted by a family.
I am new to how this works. Don't get me wrong, growing up I have tried to contact Eastern Welfare Agency to find my family but could not communicate in Korean. I did not have the family support to find them. It wasn't until our honeymoon that my husband and I found my siblings. It all happened within three days with the help of our tour guide. It was truly a miracle/fate because we went with a one single lead that led us to find everyone but my brother that I never knew I had. My family in Korea told me that they were researching to find him but I had no contact from them in two years. This is a loss I feared would happen and am trying to see how I can find my family in Korea again as well as my brother in The Netherlands.
I have recently created a blog to tell my story and to connect with other adoptees. There I have some photos of my siblings in Korea and myself as well. I don't know if that would help but it is there if you need to look at it. The address is : http://homeiswithin.blogspot.com
I am very grateful if you and your organization can help me find my brother. If I am contacting the wrong person, please redirect me to the correct contact. Thank you. ***(KyungMee)
From 한국사회봉사회-Korea Social Service.Inc.
Dear Ms. *********,
I am K***** of Korea Social Service where your brother, YOO Kyung Il's adoption to the Netherlands was done back in 1975. And last week we were forwarded your email from GOA'L with a request to find your brother in the Netherlands as well as your Korean family.
Upon your request, we contacted your oldest sister, YOO Kyung Sook, who was very happy to hear about you. In fact, your Korean family asked us for some information about Kyung Il in the Netherlands a couple years ago and last year we got a response from him for his Korean family. Since he has written his contact information in his letter, we think he has been in contact with them so far. For your interest, we would like to share his email address******.
When we called your sister, she said she has lost contact with you since about 2 years ago. And she was very eager to be in touch with you again asking us to give you her email address, ****** and her cell phone number, *********. Actually the email address is her nephew. But since they live very close to each other, she can get the email from him easily.
We hope you will be in contact with your Korean family as well as your brother in the Netherlands.
Korea Social Service, Inc.
Monday, August 24, 2009 12:32 am
From G**** from GOAL
Congratulations on the good news!!! I replied to your mail some days ago but just received it today as returned undelivered. After receiving your mail I had forwarded it to KSS as all adoption to the Netherlands is done through KSS. Your information about your brother being adopted the Netherlands was a big clue.
Please come and visit us if you come to Korea. I really would like to meet you after these mails. Just for your information, we translate letters and we have volunteers for when you are in Korea and need an interpreter.
Congratulations once again :)
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I was not an infant at the time of my adoption. That is known for it clearly states this on the adoption forms. It tells me that I was born in 1973 and that by 1979, I was handed over to the adoption agency by my eldest sister to be placed for overseas adoption. From there, I take with me, my childhood and my memories. I begin my journey from one side of the world to fly above the clouds to land under a new sun. Upon my arrival, I must learn to talk and walk again on this new earth.
For the years that follow, I learn to eat, play like other children, and learn how I should behave. It is all foreign to me but time only allows you to continue your journey forward. And as a child who is learning to do everything all over again, my mind starts anew and I feel myself vanishing from within. As time goes by, my tears are replaced with new memories and a new life that I grow to accept and embrace.
But no matter how much I embraced my new life, thoughts of my Identity and existence is never too far behind. I could not escape them. Questions regarding my life prior to my arrival always seemed to fall upon me, even at a young age. A few simple words of wonder would rain upon me, drenching me as if to weigh me down, to fall onto the earth, to see that my roots have been cut.
To tell you my story, I have to travel back through these roads...back to my elementary years, only a short period after my adoption. During those times, many people would gather around me with all their curiosity and wonder. Mothers, Fathers, and peers stare onto me, taking notes on my appearances, my verbal skills, and my ability to recall my childhood.
I speak to them recounting my past, my life that was foreign even to me. They ask, “How far back can you remember? How old were you when adopted? When were you born?” I think back to that other life and tell them my memories and the stories of my family. I often received a reaction that was of disbelief. People would want to know but later declare that I was much too young to remember. After all, I was only Six years old when I had come to live in the States. They discredit my life. They would erase the few memories that held together my existence and my spirit by negating my truth.
No! I tell them. I would stand there and correct everyone around me and reply, "I was seven when I left Korea." Seeing my defiance, my mother at times turned to the papers and state I was born in 1973. I feel she is unsure herself but I accept her answer. I begin to believe and accept the Identity that was written and given to my family.
I do not believe it was a conscious decision, but perhaps, one that needed to take place so I could merge into this new world. People do not give the young the credit of understanding the world that surrounds them. Of how they interpret their world and how they desire to make sense of it. For me, I wanted to have this beginning like other children. I wanted to see pictures of myself of when I was born. To see a timeline, the pathways that show us our beginnings, and that of our past.
As years came and passed, I quickly adapted to my new life. I laughed and played mirroring the other children I met. I ignored the subtle differences of our toys, games, and language that we shared as children. I learned quickly to fight back any racial name calling in school and the bullying that came with it. Everything would fall into place until a new year would start again and a teacher would ask, "Where is your family tree with photos? Please tell everyone a little about yourself. Are you not adopted? What was your name? What country was is it, again? Please tell the class when you came to live with your Family. How old were you?"
Here I am back in that uncertain place again. I realize that I am different but more importantly I no longer know my origins. I tell them my story of adoption and how my family had lived. I tell them my age in Korea and my age here. They look at me as if I am crazy. I decide to skip the part about my age for the following year. I tell my class I do not remember much of when I was young. I tell them briefly of what might have happened to my family in Korea. I explain that I was Six when I was placed for adoption.
My story and explanations of my past did not change much over the years. It was guided by the same motivation that was born very early in my childhood. As I moved forward, traveling new roads that my adolescence would bring me, I learned to talk about my past and welcomed the questions that came from it. I spoke of my childhood in Korea whether I felt it was of dreams or of reality. I came to believe, in all these years, no matter how centered I felt, I was still lost. It is a concept that bewildered not just others but myself. How could one’s Identity be intact no matter how much self esteem one has, if you do not have a true beginning?
So, I am drawn to those doubtless astrological signs. I tell myself, I would learn everything I need to know about 1973 to see if the signs all match my personality and traits. I even find myself in my early twenties visiting regularly to have my hands read or my aura seen to tell of my past and my future. I find it fun and intriguing.
To not know your true astrological sign, your birth sign, or the date you were conceived takes you to the outer limits of your very own existence. My memories recall my siblings calling me by one age to later being told of another. I think to myself throughout my life, that perhaps, in the process of bridging languages in my earlier childhood I had confused and scrambled my thoughts to piece them together with misguided memory. But, then I remember. It is all there. I remember what my Mother had told me. My adoption papers, my Birth records, state that I was born on August 20th, 1973. And written by it, it states “Presumptive”.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Rendered into English Quatrains by Edward FitzGerald
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on:nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
My first impressions that confirmed this fact was the TVs, all the furniture, cars and toys. My sister's story of America was true. Once I arrived to the States, I realized that I was going to live in a big house much like the one of my First Foster Mother..even bigger. One thing I did after I had moved into my new Home was to get down on my knees and show that I could be a good cleaner and helper. I got down on my knees and pretended to wash. My mother was taken by this and quickly illustrated to me that I did not have to clean. They gave me toys and showed me how to play with them. Then, I remember, seeing a lady visit to clean their house. In my mind, this confirmed everything I was told.
Well, that is how I interpreted it when I was young and only 7 years of age. These impressions were more of an understanding attaching itself to what was already placed in my thoughts. I think about this and realize that my very first impressions of this concept came much earlier without any previously set notion from anyone. I realize that aside from my sister's talks and my impressions thereafter, I had witnessed things that I would never forget and perhaps, would influence my life.
One memory, that had always haunted me and had played out in my dreams was the image of seeing old men in their tattered clothing and bags, spread out in a line, stretched across the walls of the underpasses in Seoul. In my dreams, I can see their faces and expressions. I feel their sorrow, pain, and regrets. Sometimes, in different variations of my dreams, I see the Fathers holding onto their families, holding them so close not realizing that they are suffocating, that they are slowly dying of hunger and weakness. The other is the one from the previous post about the kind man that gave me his sesame candy.
I know that witnessing these images did not enlighten me during my childhood. But the images did speak to me when I was there. It had impacted my life, my thoughts, and how I would think about the effects of poverty on the individual, family, and community further down my life.
It is interesting to note that no matter how tough it was for my family (even facing homelessness and displacement ourselves), I never compared it with the images of the old men. As a child, I used my imagination to escape the signs of personal hardship while the images of the homeless were left aside to later be found and defined as Poverty.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The ride felt forever to me. It was hot and over crowded. I sat there on the very edge of my seat anticipating for our stop to arrive. I looked out and around the bus catching the faces and expressions of the people around me. Some smiled back and I looked away as quickly as possible. I repeated this as if a game until boredom came back around again. Not knowing what to do next, I decided to look back out the window . My stomach began to rumble so I glanced up to see if she had noticed. I hunched back down into my seat frowning to show my impatience.
It was then, across from me, one seat up, I saw a man sitting alone and staring right at me. At first, I was scared but found myself staring back at him. He was an older man. He could be my harabulgi (할아버지). He looked at me with tired eyes, grey hair, and torn clothes. He sat there, leaning into the aisle with his elbows resting on his legs. I looked past him to see all his bags that sat next to him bulging out from the clothes and papers he had in them. My eyes went from the bags to his hands. In his hands, he held a sweet sesame candy still wrapped in it's foil.
He sat there twisting the ends of the foil with his fingers acknowledging the fact that I was fixed on his candy. I stared into the sesame candy, studying it, knowing how good and sweet it would be in my very own tummy. My eyes followed it up and down as he moved his hands as if to tease me. I did not smile at him. I rather stared at him very intently as if I was telling him with my eyes that I clearly wanted his candy. He lifted his head slightly and smiled even though he did not receive one in return. He took the sesame candy into one hand and lifted his arm as if to put it away into his pocket, but then, to my surprise, he leaned over and handed me the candy. A smile appeared across my face as I grabbed the candy from his hand. He smiled again and turned to look out his window. Feeling so happy, I held the sesame candy in my hands and stared at the seeds that was held together by it's taffy. I placed it under my nose to smell the sweet flavor. I took the candy and pressed it between my fingers to feel the bumps from the sesames. Feeling very pleased, I quickly opened the wrapper to eat it.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
But I was impatient. I needed to hear the answers to my questions in fear that I may never hear them. I leaned over to Louie, our Tour Guide, and asked him to translate. He advises me that it was too soon and improper to ask such personal questions. I thought about what he had said but requested only moments later to at least ask why I was adopted. I would wait to hear her story that followed after our separation but I could not wait any longer for that one question I had lived with for so long. Once he spoke to her, she paused then looked at me. A thousand thoughts rushed through my mind as if to win her answer. My heart was ready. I looked at her and smiled. Giving her the look that reassured her that her little sister, KyungMee, was strong and able to hear her words.
Louie turns to us and begins her story. He tells us that we were all very happy even when times had seemed at it's worst. She explains to him that we were comfortable for the most part and that she had to work very hard to raise all of us. Back then, she was maybe only 20 years old. But times did become rough not just for us but for many in Korea. It was the late '70s and there was no work. She tells him, she tried to keep us together but did not know how. That she was young and afraid. She had to make very grown up decisions and did what she thought was best at the time.
My heart sank. My thoughts were matched with an answer. An answer that was most likely to win. An answer that tells me to feel grateful. My eyes fill up with tears and I try to hold back from crying, to remain composed. I tell myself, I am ready to forgive her - I had already forgiven her. Then, she tells Louie to explain what had happened and of her guilt. Louie, shares with us that soon after she had placed us for adoption, things got better. That we only were 'very poor' for that short period prior to the adoption. My sister now cries. I cry too. I forgive her. I understand her guilt. How heavy it must have been all those years. I wonder how our past, her guilt, and her dreams had played into her life. I would wait longer to hear her history.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
My twin brothers. Much like my past, they come to me with no concrete definite answers but only more questions. While we were in Korea in 2004, I tell my sister, KyungSook, how I had always felt responsible for my Mother's death. How I carried this guilt for so many years. My sister speaks to our translator and he tells us that my Mother did not pass away after I was born..or at least not right away. She had died a few years later after she gave birth to twin boys. When they were born, I was at least three or four years old. After giving birth, my Mother's blood pressure had dropped and she later died of low blood pressure.
My sister explains that after my Mother passed away, she and my Father tried to care for all of us. The responsibility was overwhelming for my Father and my sister. KyungSook, continues to explain that she suddenly had to care for four boys and two little sisters. She had to cook for the family and work. They realized quickly that the best and only thing to do was to place my brothers up for adoption. They were given over to the care of the adoption agency around 1975-76. The names given to them were Yoo, KyungLee and Yoo, KyungIll (유경이 and 유경일). My sister tells the translator that they were given names one and two.. since they were twins.
Our brothers came into our lives and then were taken away before we had the chance to know them. I could not believe I was hearing this story of my twin brothers. My emotions soared up with joy and then must have fallen into every word to understand the fate of our little brothers. Soon after they had arrived at the agency, one of the twins became weak and passed away while he was still in the agency's care. I learned that the other twin baby brother was sent to The Netherlands and was adopted by a family there.
After thirty years of believing that I was the youngest of five children, I discovered that I was an older sister to twin brothers. My sister explains to me that I was the youngest to them since my twin brothers were put up for adoption when infants. I felt very guilty that I had forgotten them. That I never knew of them. I also had a sense of relief that rushed over me. I did not cause my Mother's death. I would like to say the guilt I had carried for so long instantly disappeared but it did not - only relieved and troubled. Troubled and sadden to find out we had a baby brother that had passed and a little brother living somewhere in The Netherlands. He is no longer so little now..maybe around mid-thirties? In a single visit, in one conversation, my past was rewritten. We all take in my sisters' story as we face each other, understanding what we must do. We decided to find him but we do not know where to start. My brother, KyungJin, tells us that they will try to contact some agencies. And here is where we left off.
Prior to my adoption, I did not need to know these questions. I was in my homeland with my family. Even in the worst of times, I was able to escape, as many children do, whether it was running off to play in some field or drifting off into my imagination. Perhaps, if I had never been adopted, I would have grown and eventually come to question the events and decisions of my family members. And perhaps, I would learn guilt. But this guilt would be very different from the one I have carried all my life. It is not to say that it would be painless but the weight of such guilt would not carry me to the deep ends of two worlds. Eventually, I would be able to confront my guilt and perhaps, just perhaps, be able to talk to my sisters and brothers and learn the truth before the young mind grows older and the seeds to her darkest fears are rooted firmly in the heart and her memories.
As early as I can remember, maybe about one year after I had lived here in the States, in my adopted home, people began asking me many questions regarding my memories of my past. I believe this was at least one year post adoption, since it took about that long to be able to speak English. When family or strangers came to me, I was, I think , rather frank about telling 'my story'.
In some way, I recall, telling it quickly like it was no big deal, and then running off to play. When asked, I would tell them, " I don't remember my mother. She died after having me. My father, he died because my mother died. Then, there was a big fight. My sister went to live with a lady, my brothers went away, and I lived with my oldest sister. I lived with her until she got married. She had a baby. I cared for this baby and told him to always remember me when I was gone. My sister wanted to start her life with her family and told me to be good and that if I was good, worked hard, and be a good daughter, my new family would take good care for me. She told me how everyone was rich in 'America'. That I would be with a rich family and be happy.
This was my usual quick, 'let me tell you my story'. My mother asked at times as well, and she recalls hearing many stories but also remembers thinking and wondering what kind of 'history' I might of had prior to adoption. But ,eventually, I stopped telling my story and tried to 'blend' into my new 'world'. I do not believe it was a conscious decision (at least not totally) but it just happened. In my early elementary years, I quickly adapted and realized I was not going anywhere and that I was now part of this new family that I had come to accept and love. And, in some respect, maybe, I needed to be loved by them more. More than ordinarily possible...I needed my security. I needed to know...this was my home.
Home. Inside myself, divided by two worlds. One that was fading away, drifting out of reach. The other, I felt, could never quite embrace me. And, in this divide, I carried the guilt. I tried to understand why and how everything came to be. Every body's questions were now my own. I retraced my memories and revisited them often as the years went by. No matter how I looked into my past or what my parents or others would tell me, it always came down to one conclusion. If my Mother had not died, we would all be together. I grew up believing, knowing that she had died due to complications of giving birth. I knew I was the youngest of five and therefor, I was the cause of her death. How do I know this is true...my mother even verified the data. It was all there in the adoption papers. I was the youngest of five.
I rationalize this repeatedly in my head as I grew up. People reassured me of how hard it must have been for everyone in Korea. That we must have fell into some very hard times. I told myself that I was a baby and that I could not cause anything that terrible to happen. I was a child who knew and believed those words that throughout my life had reassured me. But I found myself there again and again, in the divide. Needing to know the answers. Playing out all my thoughts and endless possibilities. Wondering, if I was never born, then my mother would have never died, and my father would be alive. My family would be still together. What if she was very sick but did not die? Would we all be still together, living together, and healing together. Even if times were hard, would our unity make a difference? I felt terrible every time I went searching for the answers. Searching for her. And perhaps, this is why I never tried to remember her name, her face, and the memories of my mother and me. It was a guilt I did not want to be responsible for and over time, it was easier to accept the 'rational' answers to my mother's death and to what had led to my arrival.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008
Can Korea Protect Its Historical Sites?
By Jennifer Veale/Seoul
Lee Song Gun, a historian and researcher at the National Institute of Korean History, was reduced to tears when she first heard that the city's beloved Namdaemun Gate had burned to rubble on Monday. "It is our pride and joy, so I feel ashamed that this happened," she says. "We should have protected it more."
Korea's No.1 National Treasure, a colorful two-tiered wooden pagoda atop a stone base in the heart of the nation's capital, was reportedly set ablaze by a disgruntled elderly former fortune teller, Chae Jong Gi, who told the authorities who arrested him late Monday that the government had short-changed him in a land compensation deal.
The incident has sparked a furor among average citizens, politicians and historical conservationists, who are demanding to know why the 610-year-old landmark was inadequately safeguarded, especially in light of the fact Korea has already lost more than 90 percent of its traditional non-religious architectural sites over the last century. "There's so little left, it is just heartrending," says Peter Bartholomew, president of the Korea branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and an expert on medieval Korean architecture.
It appears Chae was able to enter the premises of the ancient gate fairly easily. According to police, the 70-year-old climbed over a wall and used a ladder to enter the pavilion Sunday night, and set the blaze using three bottles of paint thinner just before 9 pm. Like many of Korea's historical buildings, the ancient gate was guarded only until the early evening. At night, a security camera was in place to keep out intruders, although homeless people have often huddled in around the structure. But the gate didn't have smoke detectors, or a sprinkler system to combat a fire in the event that one broke out.
Various government bodies are now squabbling over who is responsible for what is widely perceived as a botched firefighting job. Some local media reports are saying firefighters left the ancient gate early on, mistakenly believing the fire was under control. Other reports claimed the firefighters had focused their hoses on the structure's roof — which is all but waterproof — while the fire took hold below. The firefighters say they were told by the Cultural Heritage Administration, a body charged with the care of the nation's national treasures, to temper their aggression in fighting the fire, in order to make sure Seoul's oldest wooden structure was left intact. The administration is refuting this claim, saying it instructed firefighters to do whatever was necessary to get the fire under control. On Tuesday, the head of the Cultural heritage Administration, Yoo Hong Joon, tendered his resignation, saying he would "take responsibility" for the blaze.
Experts are baffled over why authorities failed to protect the historic building, given Korea's wooden and other historical landmarks have been easy targets for disgruntled citizens in recent years. Chae, the suspected arsonist, was convicted in 2006 for setting fire to Seoul's Changgyeong Palace, a world heritage site, but received an 18-month suspended sentence. Another historical landmark, an 18th-century command post at Suwon City's Hwasong Fortress, was also set ablaze in 2006. "There is nothing more flammable than traditional Asian buildings," says Bartholomew.
Critics of Seoul's lackadaisical approach to conservation point out that Japan, another country with many historical wooden structures, has numerous measures in place to protect its national treasures, including sophisticated sprinkler systems. But money is an issue: Korea's preservation efforts are underfunded and "not enough attended to," says David Mason, a professor of Korean Tourism at Kyung Hee University. And low overall rates of vandalism in Korea could contribute to a sense of complacency over protecting its cultural sites. "Teenagers aren't brought up to see vandalism as cool form of self expression," Mason says, "and adults would never damage their ancestors' legacy without cause."
Having failed to save it, Seoul is planning to restore the monument as quickly as possible: an official at the Cultural Heritage Administration told media it would take about three years and $21 million to rebuild the gate. President-elect Lee Myung Bak has proposed that citizens kick in money for the construction. But until the Namdaemun Gate is rebuilt, its blackened pedestal will remain a reminder of the fragility of Korea's architectural legacy — and a litmus test of just how serious the 5,000-year-old culture is about preserving its remaining historical landmarks.
Streets of Seoul
We had to do this. At least give it a try. I shook my head looking at my husband, telling him how crazy it was...a goose chase that I told myself I would never do. My hands pressed against the cool glass window as I peered past the rain drops that steadily hit the other side. My eyes fixed onto the traffic weaving in and out of the circular intersection. My mind slipped away from the conversation that took place up in the front seats of our Tour Guides van. My thoughts raced along side these cars to study their faces but they were moving too fast. They followed a steady stream of lights that signaled the roads that led them to their destinations .
Bridges, underpasses, subways, and brightly lit buildings lined up the streets. People talking on cell phones, carrying bags of laundry, food, or holding hands, were dashing from block to block. Who were they? What were their stories. Could they be her? Could they be my family? Impossible! Yet, I had to believe. What were the chances of finding a phone number in my Birth file and yet, Louie our Tour Guide, managed to find it in the mix of all those forms that created my past. I looked at the people, the buildings, and the cars. I watched for any signs that remained from my childhood.
We drove tracing unlimited possibilities and many streets that I could not recall. Louie repeated the question again, " ..was this building tall? What kind of flags hung on this building...how many?" I shook my head and closed my eyes to visualize the building, the cars, and the roads that led us to her. I saw myself in my first taxi ride. It was a yellow taxi. My eldest sister was sitting in the front. I was in the back. I could see myself looking out the window watching the buildings pass by as the driver drove to our destination. Then, it came to me. It is an image that repeated itself throughout my life and in my dreams. I tell him, " This building was tall? It was white..no grey? It had Flags from all over the world? There was a circular drive that went around the building. I know if I saw it, I would recognize it. I think it was an important building." He continued to drive but nothing familiar passed.
As we headed towards a new tourist site, I noticed the flags waving from the corner of my eyes! "Wait! There! That building...please stop." There, sitting in the middle of tall towering buildings that circled it, was the one from my dreams. Louie tells me that this was a very special building. That it has been there for many years. I tell my husband how this must be a dream. Anything is possible. As we stare up at the building, I tell Louie my story.
Our Last Goodbyes
The magnificent building sat waving it's flags with pride. My eyes did not leave the flags as we drove around the circle. The ride seemed long but my mind focused on the flags we had just passed. The taxi stopped, my sister paid the driver, and we stepped off to see in front of us a very tall house with many beautiful flowers. We followed the pathway that led us to it's great big door. Once inside, my eyes focused on the many plants that sat in small and large ceramic bowls that seemed to invite you into their first room. It was my first time seeing a house with more than one floor. The rooms seemed endless, filled with decorative seats and tables of every size. Decorations and mirrors hung upon the walls. Long drapes sloped against the large windows that looked out into a garden. I was very excited. The lady at the house smiled and told me to look around and to take a tour. My sister gave me a look as I ran off into the other rooms. I felt very giddy inside and imagined what it would be like to live there. I opened another door and saw a large porcelain bowl sitting inside. What was that? I knew it was something very rich people had in their homes. How lucky. Instead of running out to an outhouse or using their little porcelain bowl at night, they were able to use their big white porcelain seat that sat in it's very own room. As I left and shut the door to the the porcelain seat, my sister approached, leaving the lady behind in the adjacent room.
My sister took my hands and looked into my eyes and said these words to me, " KyungMee. I will be back. You must help your new Mother. Be a good little KyungMee. Listen to her. Be good and study hard. I will come back for you soon." I began to cry. My sister turned and walked out through the big front doors. The tears ran down my face blurring my vision. I could no longer see my sister.
From here, my memories jump. It leaps forward to only recollect a longing to go home. It holds pieces to a story that tells me I fulfilled my promise. I worked hard, helped to clean her clothes, helped her with the household chores, and assisted her to cook her meals. And in the end, I am happy, my sister returns to take me home.
Farewell, Awni KyungOk
It is years later, once we have reunited with my surviving siblings that I learn my sister, KyungOk, held onto a very special memory. She tells me in a letter that she remembers going to a rich person's home and all three of us sisters cried together. She tells me, that I give to her a ring and tell her to wear it. I tell her to remember me when we are apart. She tells me in her letter that day was the last time we ever saw each other again. She tells me that she revisited that day many times, wondering if her sister, KyungMee, was older than her, and thought how her sister, KyungMee, cared for her so much to give her that special ring.
She grew up not knowing why she had to live with her Foster Parent. She grew up wondering where we were and what we looked like. She forgot our faces, our ages, and her past. She soon thought her eldest sister must have died. She wondered where her brothers had gone. She wondered where her sister, KyungMee, lived. She carried in her, these questions, and her longing to find her siblings.
It is here, at this juncture, where our eldest sister, KyungSook, puts the pieces together. She explains to us that I had first gone to live with my First Foster Mother. But being so young, I could not keep up with all the chores alone. My First Foster Mother needed someone who could do everything without much assistance since she was not well. She had no one there to help her and needed someone to be there for her until her son had returned from the military.
My stay with her did not last long. My eldest sister returned as she promised, bringing with her my sister, KyungOk. Here, we meet to only say goodbye. This is now my sister's journey. From here, it is her memory. I forget ever leaving her behind. I forget our farewell. I forget the ring I had given to her. I do not remember our last hug together, all three of us..together.
In the end, she disappeared from my visions without explanations or endings. Only a few warm memories stayed attached throughout my life. Little did I know that my ending with First Foster Mother was the beginning to her new life.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Well, I wasn't sure if I should be writing tonight being that my mind isn't quite where I would like it to be..but I miss writing here. This is where I feel I can talk about my family that seems so far away. Don't get me wrong, I can easily pick up the phone and call but our distance, our inability to communicate and our many years of separation keeps me apart. I believe this is true for them as well. Also, you may have noticed, but I have been going back and adding to the previous posts as corrections or to make them into longer pieces.
So I write...
I have waited sitting here for some time now. All I know is that I have watched the children come out and play and return back into their classrooms. I am hungry and admit tired from the waiting.
I walked back to the swing set and sat down on the old wooden seat. Grasping the dust between my toes, I kicked the dirt and watched it whirl around my sandals. I leaned forward, held on tightly,and watched the world upside down. I smiled and imagined the children walking head down and bumping into one another like little colorful marbles scrambling out into different directions to find their own special dwellings. As I sat there staring into the field, my imagination broke to the sound of the alarm that rung throughout the school yard. The voice from the speaker had led the children back into their classrooms.
I was alone again. Nothing to entertain me as I waited there for her. I quickly jumped off the seat and leaped onto the cement walk that created a border around the school yard. I stood there high on top of the little wall to look ahead at the rectangular cement building that stood in the middle of this yard. The playground was quiet now. The echoeing voices of laughter disappeared behind the sound of heavy wooden doors closing in response to the voice that came over the speakers.
I began to walk stepping one foot after the other as I balanced myself on the wall, thinking of all the fun we will have and how she would tell me stories of what she had learned that day. I hoped we would practice my Hangul, my name and our Flag. I repeated my steps as I watched the widows of the classroom become larger and larger. I jumped off with one big bounce, dusted off my legs, and stepped up onto the long corridor. All I could see was rows and rows of shoes that lined up along side of the walls, disappearing down into the long hallway. I took a deep breath and began walking down, counting the doors that led to my sister.
I could hardly see into the classroom. The little window sat very high on top the door. I counted the shoes, once, twice and then again. I had already spotted my sister's shoes sitting their neatly in a row but I counted again. I could hear their voices again, some laughter, and then quiet. I sat back down to lean against the wall and to stare out into the boxed in yard. It was hot and the dirt field seemed to reflect back to the sun a golden haze as the dust whirled into little cyclones that danced across the school yard.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I turned to the few memories of my sister, KyungOk, during those early years in America. No terrible questions, anger, resentment, loss, or pain hid inside this space. It only kept a few treasured pieces of images that brought me back to her. My mind was clever. Once in it's grasp, it did not let go. For it knew that if the thoughts escaped, there would be no tracing them. A nameless file that held my happiness and covered me with it's warmth. My only wish was to know her name. To be able to call out her name when I needed her the most.
Many nights before my mother would turn off the lights, I sat on my bed writing down in Hangul all their names, words I knew, and my favorite Korean foods. Then, the void rushes forth and everything turns to dark. I cannot remember her name. I cannot see her face. It frustrates me. I know I have to keep trying and keep writing my Hangul so it would come back to me. I sit there writing until my mother walks in and tells me to sleep. She smiles at my Hangul and tucks me in. She kisses me and turns away. I close my eyes and dream of her. It is here, where I no longer need to be sullen over my nameless sister. I am connected to her. She who is living with strangers like myself. Thinking the same thoughts. Wondering when we would go home.