Today I’m a little homesick. I miss my kids, my one true family. We’re a little strange. I haven’t even spoken on the phone to them the whole time I’ve been here, but that’s not something that’s ever been necessary with us. We know we’re in each other’s thoughts. And when we’re together, we don’t have to do anything special or even talk much: just being present is enough. There is no obligation, no negative history. Only love. It is enough for me.
My stay in Korea has been…incredibly difficult. From the moment I got off the plane and the bus driver screamed at me in Korean for something to do with loading my luggage, because he didn’t understand that I didn’t understand Korean and thought I was being rude…It’s been an exceptional and incredibly draining nine months.
But still I want to love Korea.
This weekend I go to eat Thanksgiving with many other dispossessed ethnic Koreans of the adoption diaspora. We’ll eat turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. All of us here, trying to love Korea. All of us here, separated from our families, many of us estranged from our adoptive families. Do I go there because I love to hang out with adoptees? No. I only know one or two of them and don’t care to know more. In America, some gather together just to acclimate themselves to seeing other Asian faces and get to know them as real people. It starts as fear-of-Asians phobia therapy and then evolves into a sanctuary. But here, that’s not necessary, as there are Asian faces in spades. No. I don’t have to speak to even one of them. It just comforts me to see so many gathered in one place who KNOW. That’s all I need. Not community, because I’m too traumatized by something so claustrophobic and distrusting of people in general; not even solidarity, because not all adoptees agree or are in the same place in this journey. No. I go for the adoption awareness.
This month is adoption awareness month. It is a time when those promoting adoption gather their collective voices to extol its virtues, increase its numbers, and lobby for its ease.
But to me, adoption awareness is the knowing of what it feels like to be adopted. It is that unspoken thing we all share, whether we are “happy” adoptees or “angry” adoptees, we who have returned are not here for naught. That thing we share, is a loss nobody should ever know, that those who were not abandoned or relinquished will never know, but that binds us, like it or not, (for me mostly not) together.
Over three decades ago, America was riveted to their television sets watching the dramatization of Alex Haley’s Roots. It was not just an exploration of where he came from, but also how he came to be here. And to my wonder, it seemed as if the entire nation finally learned to respect African American brotherhood, and to understand that being displaced against one’s will should rightly unite them on the deepest level.
However, in this adoption awareness month, there is no popular respect for our “pilgrimages,” because we appear ungrateful for our displacement against our will. We reject the notion that our loss should be something we should also be grateful about. We are united on this deepest level. That is why we’re all here. My silence during adoptee functions just goes hand in hand with this understanding. I don’t have to speak to the other returnee adoptees to know that I love them and they me. We just know. That’s enough for me.
And so in silence I will gather with my fellow returnee adoptees. I go there for the ritual of thanksgiving, the pale substitute for the Korean Cheusok thanksgiving that venerates our first families, and their families, and their families before their families. I go there for a small taste of the only ritual feast I’ve ever known, the feast of my adoptive family’s culture, in commemoration of the voluntary displacement of their ancestors. I go here to say, “please pass the stuffing” and know others will understand what “pass” means and what “stuffing” is. I go for the saving grace of cranberry sauce. I go there to give thanks. For the little comforts we have.
And I will thank my mother for the Stove top stuffing, the Durkees freeze-dried onion green been casserole, and the Cool Whip covered Eagles’ brand pumpkin pie. And I will still wish I had never been adopted.