Dear Adoption, I’m Nearly 60 Yet Still The 5 Year Old Version of Myself
I will turn 60 next year and still the tears fall from my noticeable Asian eyes when I think of the 5 year old me…the little Korean Black girl. The 5 year old me who cried herself to sleep every night wanting so badly to be with her Omma again. The 5 year old me who still remembers the tears her Omma shed the morning of our last day together. The 5 year old me who held onto her little sister tightly on a dirt road where we were abandoned; noticing the nuns at a distance going in and out of a convent and shanties on the other side, not understanding what was happening.
I was adopted along with my sister who was 2 and I was 5, we were adopted by a Black military family who were stationed in Japan where we lived for the next 3 years. When I first laid eyes on my adoptive mother I thought I looked like her for we were the same brown so I thought I belonged. But when we moved to California I was reminded I was different, and of course by the taunting of kids who pulled their eyes to mock mine etc. People were curious as to why I looked different from my parents but I was instructed by my mother to answer “ask my mother” which translated to me that being adopted was a dark secret or something to be ashamed of. We neverspoke about my life prior to adoption in our household.
I grew up in a strict Apostolic Pentecostal home with both parents as preachers. I grew up “being Black” and that was my experience and point of reference. I was uncomfortable when I saw Asian people; I would not look at them as I felt they saw me as dirty. I was ashamed of my Korean heritage and desperately wanted to fit in. It has only been in recent years I reacquainted myself with Korean food and I absolutely love kimchi!!! And it wasn’t until way into my adult life that I started to share my memories of Korea for it was to painful to share without the tears.
I was fortunate enough to go on The Mosaic Hapa Tour to Korea in 2014. It ended my love hate relationship with Korea. To stand on the land and breathe the air of the country that birthed me and possibly hold my Omma’s soul in her crevices, how could I hate the country that rejected me still…no I cannot. I hope to go back and visit the countryside and speak to my Omma and let her know, I knew she loved me and that I loved her and have thought of her all my life.
Now at almost 60 I love and am proud of my Korean heritage, I used to sayI am Black and then evolved to Black and Korean and now I proudly say I am Korean and Black. I am not ashamed of who I am or my adoption story. If I had written this letter as a younger me I’m sure it would have more of an underlying tone of resentment or anger. I am still trying to piece my history together; not with the intent to find my Omma but to validate my memories. I cherish my memories of Korea and I would be happy just to have a few pictures, especially of my Omma for as hard as I try, I cannot see her face clearly in my mind. I was told recently “just look in the mirror and you will see your Omma”.
My journey as an Adoptee hasn’t been the best but it is mine and I embrace the bad and the good and I will always cherish and protect the memoriesof the 5 year old me because that is all I have, just memories no pictures.