Category Archives: Holt Adoption

The Road Taken

The film, Adopted, was loaned to me to start me on a journey …

The problem is, I don’t want the angry journey portrayed in this movie through the adult adoptee, Jennifer. I am not her, nor do I feel as she does. I have never felt abandoned.

I identify more with her adoptive mother who says, “I think I probably remember a lot more details about picking Jenny up from the airport than I do about giving birth to Eric.”

Yet in search of her “core validation,” this young woman continues to lash out at her parents through snide comments and hurtful rejection. She forces a journey on her parents that they have made and are ending. Both her mother and father are dying of cancer.

I understand her recollections of racism outside of the home; I lived through those same racial jokes (see examples in this post). Unlike her, I experienced these moments with my family. When children chanted racial insults, my mother rushed up and confronted them. She faced their hurtful words as they shouted, “Come get us you big, fat hippopotamus!”

From day one, we all were a part of the journey. My mother was my best friend. I shared all the hurt with her. We talked through it. The adoptee, Jennifer, did not share, and now all the pent-up 9-year-old anger has surfaced in a thirty-something young woman.

She talks of “being authentic and real,” but I pose that your reality is what you make of it. I pose that individuals are different. While every adoption story does not end like Jennifer’s or mine, there are varying degrees of acceptance, abandonment and unconditional love.

The adoption story isn’t just about the well-being of the adoptee, as Jennifer would like us to believe. If it is, in fact, as Jennifer wishes, a journey they all take together, there should be some sensitivity for the adoptive parent.

Recently I have spoken of starting an adoptee’s journey, but more precisely, it is just a new chapter in my life … one of sharing parallel experiences, laughing at similarities (like all the vacuuming and couponing), and learning new stories.

I appreciate the different stories, but my life is full of wonderful things.

My daughter recently summed it up, saying, “If you weren’t adopted, I wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be with Daddy.”

I am content with the road I have taken.

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Growing beyond 44.

A part of me is waking. It says, “I’m Asian. I’m Puerto Rican. … Wait!  Who am I?”

One wake-up call happened in a local coffee shop. I had arranged to meet a woman named Amy.  We shared a passion for our district’s schools.  As I arrived, I noticed an Asian woman rush by me and into the cafe. A part of me said, “You forgot to tell Amy that you’re Asian, and not a Latina.” As I entered the shop, the Asian woman looked pointedly at me.  I said cautiously, “Are you Amy?”

“I am!” she said, “You must be Rosita!”

Then, jokingly, I explained, “I meant to tell you I was Korean.  I’m adopted, thus the name and face.”

“Funny, I’m Korean and adopted as well!” she said. I had finally found a person who had lived a similar life to my own. She had grown up in an isolated community in northern Wisconsin. We chatted more about our families and our kids’ schools. In the end, I learned that she had adopted her two boys from Korea and also was the president of the local organization, Families Through Korean Adoption, Madison (http://www.ftkamadison.org). She also invited me and my family to their next ChuSeok celebration.

I had no idea what ChuSeok meant, but Amy’s sincere invitation sparked a wanting in me. This weekend, I will experience my first ChuSeok at 44. I’m excited and apprehensive all at once.

My second waking began today when my friend, Jen, sent me a personal message over Facebook about this film:

I have watched the trailer, as well as read a few reviews. Again, a part of me wants desperately to see it, but another part of me is fearful. It may bring up questions from my formative years. Am I ready to face old fears? Can I relive the awkwardness and confusion of my teen years?

My friend, Jen, has her own set of questions as she begins her journey. She adopted her daughter from China a few years back. Her daughter experiences the wonderful things I did as a child who was well-loved. She will also have so much more support than I did in the 70s and 80s. Today, there are blogs, Facebook groups and local groups supporting and educating families of adoptees.

Even more intriguing, a movie gives us a spectacular look into the lives of adopted teens, something I longed for in the 80s, as I flipped through the pages of my Holt International magazines. I remember looking at all the adoptees and thinking, “I wish I could meet them and share my hopes and my fears so I won’t feel so alone.”

This week, I have so many wonderful reminders that I am not alone. I can share and experience with others who have benefited, and yet been confused about a background that separated us from our race.

I’ve finally grown up.

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.”