13 December 2013

Well, #theyasked …

Last winter, my sister, hooked me on yet another social medium … Twitter. I blamed her youth (six years my junior).

Truth be told, Twitter has opened my eyes, and allowed me to speak more freely about issues of race, gender and adoption. I’ve discovered role models of color, strong women and fellow adoptees. Refreshing … like that ice-cold Coke on a hot Tennessee summer’s day.

This week, I stumbled across Kat Chow (@katchow) and her #theyasked thread. It began with an NPR Code Switch article from May.

Around the same time as this article, many of my friends sent me this YouTube video, via both private messages and emails.

All of these things have come rushing back this week. Two separate people queried in sensitive ways. Change is happening, and that’s refreshing! The question most commonly asked of me this week was, “I detect a Southern accent … ”

To which, I replied, “You do, indeed!  I’m from Appalachia, the Tennessee side.” Then, there is the usual discomfort in their faces, like they are trying to figure it all out. I understand their confusion, but continue as I normally do, acting oblivious to the true question that is lurking behind their smiles.

Call me narcissistic, but I enjoy watching this quizzical look. You see, I have lived this uncomfortable moment for 46 years … always wondering who I am and “where I am from,” questioning my language, my legal name and the face that looks back at me. All these fabulous things meld into the person I am today … the anomaly that confuses and causes uncomfortable moments.

It certainly makes for interesting conversation. The addition of my husband’s English background causes even more confusion as I use words like “toilet” for bathroom, “holiday” for vacation, and all the rude “b” British terms.

This British connection caused me to hide the YouTube video, sensitive to my in-laws and my own children, but now, I realize that such things spark the race conversation. What is even more interesting are all the comments people feel so beholden to make.

01 December 2013

The Mothers Without Children

The human interest story, as Martin Sixsmith explains, is about “the weak-minded and ignorant.” The feeble do not deserve the mind of a newsman. However, if you read my blog, you enjoy the human interest story. We all do, and Martin Sixsmith becomes magnetized by the story of Philomena Lee.

We gravitate to the human interest story because it validates our own lives as living, breathing people who feel. We feel love, loss, pain, anger and sorrow.

Going into the Sundance Theater today, I anticipated the emotions. A movie about adoption? Stop right there. I know about adoption all too well … right? I’ve lived it.

This story’s viewpoint floored me. I felt shellshocked as I left the building. In my last post, I reviewed Closure, another adoption film and was touched by the mothers. I began to wonder before seeing Closure and Philomena about my own story … about my first six months.

In my fantasy birth story, which I have based on my own experience from my children’s birth stories, I am conceived around Valentine’s Day (though I doubt Korea celebrated Valentine’s Day in 1967), and I am born two weeks early, around noon.

My mother would have cuddled me and immediately started breastfeeding me. She would love me those six months, but being an impoverished woman, she would be struck with the hard reality that she could not feed me breastmilk exclusively after six months. She would have another mouth to feed without the means to do so. I am also a girl, not a desirable boy.

So, on a spring morning, May 24, 1968, she wraps me up and leaves me at the Chong Yang Ri police station. I imagine she waits at a side shop, her watchful eye focused on her precious bundle. As someone takes me inside the station, tears stream down her face. She walks quickly, then breaks into a run. She hopes to be taken far away from the hurt and pain of letting go.

She wonders about her little girl, just as Philomena says, “I’ve thought of him every day.” I imagine the heavy load of losing a child. I imagine the anger and frustration of feeling hopeless. I imagine the grief in not knowing the fate of your child.

I have lived my life believing that I would never find my birth family unless they came looking for me, but what I have seen in Philomena and in Closure, is the rarity of being able to know the truth. The hurdles and road blocks put up by unscrupulous abbeys and adoption agencies. If families searched, would they find their child? Only if they have the means to do so, and that is rare.

Martin Sixsmith spoke of the “weak-minded and ignorant.” I argue that they are neither, but rather, forced to accept the reality of poverty and powerlessness. It saddens me to think of the mothers without children who long to be mothers again.

It is my turn to take a step, my turn to ask the questions, my turn to weave that loose thread.