Sunday, August 26, 2007

In the beginning ...


Close to forty years ago, my parents, after a painful still birth, decided to place their hearts in my hands. [I will always refer to my adoptive parents as “my parents”.]

At six months old, I was left at the Chong Yang Ri police station on May 24, 1968. No name, no information. I became the Holt Adoption Program’s #5596. I was given a name, Sook Hyun Kim, and a birthdate, November 15, 1967. In the first images of me, I appear frightened. But by nine months, when my parents received their highly anticipated letter, my photographs revealed a chubby, happy girl.

For obvious reasons, I remember very little of that time. All I know is from photographs and my mother’s recollections. I spent my first birthday away from my parents, but my foster parents were kind enough to send photographs of me on that traditionally special day in Korea. I wore the full traditional dress. And I appeared to be walking, this fact hurt my mother deeply. “I wanted to be there for that milestone,” she once told me. When I was eventually brought to Tennessee to meet my mother’s family for the first time, my grandmother ran over and grabbed me out of my mother’s arms, saying, “Give me that thang!” From that moment on, I was theirs and they mine.

I became quite the novelty in the small east Tennessee town of Newport. At that time, there were no Asians in Newport as far as my family knew. I was just one of them. On occasions, people would stop my mother to chat about the little “China doll” that sat in her shopping cart. One woman asked in a whisper, “Will you tell her she’s adopted?” My mother replied calmly, “Oh, she has only to look in the mirror! But yes, she knows she was chosen.”

9 comments:

KM said...

As the mother of five, two of whom we adopted from Guatemala. I am looking forward to reading your blog and learning and growing from it. Thanks so much for writing about your experiences!

Hirally said...

I am also becoming the mother of an Asian beautiful little girl...we are traveling in less than two weeks to Thailand to get her and I was thrilled by the article in the HOLT Magazine put togheter from excerpts from your blog I had to come and visit-

I am Puerto Rican moved to Oregon about 7.5years ago when I married my very white Michigan husband. We now have a natural (as you say) boy almost 3 and will be extending our family with a Thai little girl.

If you don't mind I would like to correspond with you regarding your "triple" heritage up bringing.

Hirally

Mothermade said...

Hi Hirally,

What would you like to know about growing up both Puerto Rican and Asian?

Tom said...

Read your article in Holt's magazine recently so I looked up your blog. I love your story.

We have two Korean grandsons (6 & 3) who have become so much a part of our lives. The oldest is beginning to show interest in his heritage as it relates to food (his parents take him to Korean restaurants frequently).

As far as feelings are concerned, we love each other in a way I could not have imagined. Keep writing your stories...it adds to our confidence as we help these boys grow and mature.

Hirally said...

Gosh - just finished reading your posts and you talk about things that haven't crossed my mind and others that in fact have - first off is amazing that your parents instilled in you such a pride to be both Anglo & Puerto Rican and it seemed they also worked hard on what the knew of Korean traditions...but your write about not being interested (maybe I missread) but now really want to learn more and I understand that once you become a mother things that you didn't think pay close attention to matter - especially for ethnically mixed families - check boxes what do I tell my son to do - mark Caucasian or Hispanic or nothing (no body should box him into any stereotype) - what do I teach my daughter who ethnically is fully Thai but raised in a mixed environment..

But to my concerns and there are many - but one at a time - how would you suggest we keep her interest in learning about her ethnic culture while still immersing in ours? (because she will speak spanish and eat rice/beans and pasteles and hopefully keep her last name - I was impress by that from you - I have to tell people all the time why or correct them when they call me by my DH name).

Thank you for your reply
Hirally

Mothermade said...

Everyone is different. But yes, I did reject my ethnicity when I was younger. I think I partly did it because I grew up in a very rural area without other Asians with whom to relate. Now that I am in a very ethnically diverse community, I have become more curious about my heritage. My children's curiosity has also rubbed off on me.

I have always loved Korean food! Kimchi is my favorite! As a matter of fact, when my husband and I lived in Rwanda, I discovered the cabbage needed and perfected making Kimchi. Keep taking those children to Korean restaurants. The food can transcend a person.

Those darn boxes! Aren't we all American? What does it matter the color of our skin or the customs of our household? We all have feelings and opinions that are uniquely our own. I usually opt out of ticking any box, or ticking the "prefer not to answer," in other words, "please don't generalize me."

Thanks for your comments.

Mothermade said...

Oh, don't forget to give them citron tea! It has a wonderful calming effect and has no caffeine.

Susan said...

As the mother of an adopted Chinese daughter (age 7 now), i enjoyed reading your article in Holt. I think it's great that you are blogging about your experiences and feelings, and will enjoy staying tuned to read more. Thanks for your insights.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful blog! I really enjoyed reading about your life and thoughts on being adopted.

Carla