Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Beneath the Surface

When someone asks me about adoption or what it's been like to have been born in South Korea and adopted at 6 months of age most of the time I'll respond by saying that I feel blessed to have had a biological mother who was willing to relinquish me in the hopes that someone else could provide me with a better life. Of course, having been abandoned in a hospital after birth (that in and of itself is unique because many adoptees from the 1970s and earlier have no formal record of their actual birth date) I don't know how much or little of this is true, but it's what I choose to believe. What I do know is that after visiting South Korea on a "Motherland" tour with Holt International -- the organization I was adopted through -- I have an even greater appreciation for the opportunities I've been afforded because I was placed in the United States. Sometimes a well-meaning person will ask me if I've ever wanted to find my "real parents". My real parents make their home in York, Maine and I'd have no problem finding them if I wanted to -- my biological parents, however, 99.9% of the time I have little to no desire to actively seek out my biological parents.

99.9% of the time. It's the 00.1% that I rarely discuss because it is kept under lock and key buried deep down. It has the potential to open me up to a world full of hurt that emotionally I know I am not in a position to handle at this point in time. In that 0.1% is a longing for some kind of a connection - ANY kind of connection; which explains why, in 2000 when I received the news that Holt Korea was unable to locate my foster mother for me to meet during my time there, I dissolved into a heap on the floor of the kitchen. Nobody enjoys rejection - but an active search for a biological connection has the potential to lead to just that but in a way that is so much more personal and deep than anything I can imagine.

Arrival to JFK and becoming a family.
I wrote that in 2009, just about a year after someone I know  sat down with me and reviewed my adoption records. I was mostly curious because a majority of documents within my record are in Korean. She reviewed each page carefully and then summarized, as best she could, what she was reading. Until she came to one page and she fell silent. She flipped back and forth between that and a couple of others and then, looking me directly in the eyes, she told me she thought there was information about my biological roots through my family tree. I was born in Seoul in a hospital so there is a definite record of the date and time of my birth. This document referenced a location that is entirely different.

I've sat with this information over the last four, almost five, years - not entirely sure what to do with it, if to do anything at all. I once said that it's like a stone that sits just below the surface in a shallow pool of waterl. Sometimes the water is as smooth as glass and remains undisturbed. Other times the wind roughs up the surface so it's hard to see what lies below. I can look at it, can reach my fingers down and touch it and move it around, but where I haven't chosen to pick it up, it's remained there. 

The Other Half and I have talked here and there about my making a trip to Korea. My first, and so far only, visit there was with a group of adoptees and our parents as part of a "Motherland" tour offered by the agency I was adopted through. It was an intense two weeks and I will forever be grateful for the experience, especially the opportunity to visit locations that were significant to me and me alone. But now, with The Oldest having just turned 8 and The Munchkin about to turn 3 I want to know more about the place where I came from. - the food, the people, the culture. 

I've wondered if the person who helped me review my records - and has also been my source of all food things Korean when I've needed ingredients to make one of the few Korean dishes I know how to make - would be willing to make that journey with me. I feel tied to her, I'm sure in part because she's helped me navigate something so intensely personal and private. In my heart I knew the answer to my question, but to be polite I asked. She told me that she was so glad that I did - that she's been wanting to speak with me to say that she would be willing to help me in any way that she could but that she also didn't want to impose and trusted I would ask when I was ready. And so begins a new journey for me. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with the information - mostly I want to learn and to be immersed so I can tell my girls what Korea means to me. I guess if the journey takes me elsewhere with her it will be an added bonus.

So that's what I thought about today as my time on the treadmill added up to a few miles and then later as I made my way into the pool to give my legs a bit of a break and allow myself to be surrounded by the element that always brings me some peace and clarity. I know I don't need to make any decisions today or even tomorrow or next month - building upon what I wrote a few weeks back, maybe this is my true leap of faith.

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