Lying in a huge bed, alone, in Vancouver BC (more on that later), I’ve just remembered something.
After tucking me in at night, my mother would say “Sleep in peace” in Korean. My white, raised in Yakima, Washington, directly-descended-from-those-hapless-souls-on-the-Mayflower mother.
I can’t remember ever not knowing about my adoption. In the same way people recall hearing a mother recount the 42 hours of labor she endured to bring this now healthy and charmingly entitled child into the world, so do I remember begging my mother to tell me the story of my adoption.
It had all the great elements: drama, yearning, coincidence, desire, tears, secrets. I grew up with it tucked neatly into a drawer, and I would unfurl it for others to gaze at. They would always ask the same questions. Do you ever want to find your real parents? Do you feel Korean? Couldn’t your parents have kids of their own?
Written, these questions seem hard-edged, unfeeling. Sometimes, they weren’t asked with large amounts of sensitivity. But the curiosity is always the same. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing people’s eyes unfocus as they try to imagine life as someone else’s child. They blink and smile quizzically. Wow, they usually say. Wow.
Amazement is a safe response since it can encompass so much. But the fact of the matter is – no matter how solid the archaeology of my adoption may seem, it is, in truth, only the thinnest layer of history. The story I tell is the one I was told, the one my parents were told. But it may have little to do with the actual truth.
In Korea, if an adoptee pursues his or her biological parents, a television appearance may be in order. There are entire programs devoted to showcasing the adoptees, the camera trained carefully in close-up, the adoptee’s information running beneath her face.
I imagine it’s difficult to know what to do with one’s expression. Do you allow yourself to look hopeful? friendly? good-humored? I’ve seen a few of these programs, and the adoptees’ expressions are usually careful. Held in a stoic mask of possibility. I don’t remember ever seeing anyone smile. I’m such a goofball, part of me would ache to mug, I’m sure. But I doubt that’s appropriate.
As you grow older, the chances of finding biological family grow less and less. I’ve found myself considering, for the first time, starting a search. All my feelings are mixed. Maybe I’m motivated more by the questions than by an actual desire to know the truth. I’m a big proponent of you’ll never know unless you try, but I’ve also discovered a fondness for contentment with a present truth.
It’s an intensely personal decision, and I’m hesitant to write about it publicly. But this blog is supposed to be a bulldozer to that kind of reticence. The John Deere of writing exercises.
So, we’ll see.