The year is 1979 and my sister is leading me down the corridor of the adoption agency. I have already told her that I did not want to go but I follow her understanding that I would be leaving for a place called America. As I leave her, I promise her that I will make her happy. We come to a room with many people inside waiting with their smiling faces and books in their hands. There, I sit with strangers and later taken to more rooms for others to look at me, take notes, and ask questions.
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.
5 years ago