my take on being adopted
Originally written in June…
This past Sunday was Father’s Day. I didn’t spend it celebrating it. At. All.
I suppose I technically have a father…my adoptive father. But as far as I’m concerned and my brothers are concerned, he’s dead to us and can rot in hell. That may seem exceptionally harsh. But it’s really not. That’s all I’m gonna say about him. He doesn’t deserve the space on my blog or in my mind.
But Sunday, it was a little sad as I thought about how I don’t celebrate Father’s Day in any way. Not with my father. Not with a significant other’s father (like I did last year). Not with the father of my (non-existing) children.
I think it might have been last week, but I was reading a book and there was a line in the book that described someone as being “lily white”. The term “lily white” triggered in my mind my adoption. At first I thought it was a Lily White Adoption Agency that my parents used, but with the help of Google, found out it “Lily White” instead referenced the orphanage I spent the first 13 months of my life at…the White Lily Orphanage in Daegu, Korea. The adoption agency was Holt.
I spent some time online researching the White Lily Orphanage. I found out that it has been closed as an orphanage since 1991. It now serves as a daycare for poor families.
Upon first seeing pictures of the orphanage, I don’t know what came over me, but overwhelming emotions bubbled over and I started to cry. I have no memories of being there. Not one hint of a memory. But seeing the building and the outside…I don’t know. I don’t know why I was crying. I wasn’t sad. Maybe it was because a part of me thought that I should remember and I don’t. Maybe I was crying in relief that I was adopted and didn’t spend my childhood there. It is likely that it was just buried feelings of loss, abandonment, fear, anger.
A lot of the blogs that I came across that mentioned White Lily were written by adoptees who returned to Korea to visit the orphanage and maybe find out about where they came from. I’ve often been asked if I would ever seek out my biological parents. My answer is no. I’ve never really had an overwhelming urge to find them. Am I curious? Sure. But not enough to possibly turn my life upside down.
At some point in my life, I’d like to visit Korea. I’m not sure I’ll make it down to Daegu, but would like to see the country. It’s not so much that my interest in Korea lies in that I want to seek out my heritage. To be perfectly honest, I have more of a connection with the Italian and English/Irish/German heritages I was raised with. The part of me that wants to go to Korea is the part of me that wants to explore the world. Korea as a country on the other side of the world fascinates me more than Korea, the country where I was born. This could be the most dysfunctional and ‘wrong’ thing to admit to, but it is what it is. My identity is a result of how and where I learned to live life, not where my life started.
I know a lot of adopted people struggle with identifying with ‘their’ people, especially when they were raised by a family of a different race and/or culture. I was raised by a white family. Both of my older brothers were adopted, but they are white and were adopted domestically as newborns/infants. They have much less of a struggle with their cultural identities.
When we lived in Colorado, nearly everyone was white. Like 98% of the population of the town I lived in. It might be different now, but in the late 70’s/early 80’s, the town was nearly all white, all Christian.
Obviously, I knew I looked different from all the other kids, but I don’t remember being treated any differently. I may have been only one of two Asian kids in the whole school (the other, Mikey, was adopted by a white family as well), but we fit in seamlessly. If anything, I was teased more because of my last name (the end part sharing the same phonetic sound as a tasty sandwich cookie). My childhood experience was essentially that of your typical middle-class white kid.
When we moved back to New York in 1986, we moved to an affluent neighborhood north of NYC. According to the most recent Census, the town is 86% white, with 7% Asian. Not a big Asian population, but enough that I became friends with the other Asian, and mostly Korean, girls. I don’t feel like I was drawn to them because they were Asian. They were actually great, fun girls. But being friends with them and spending time with their families (they weren’t adopted and their families mostly adhered to traditional Korean values) gave me a peek into Korean life, albeit an Americanized version.
I’m very forthcoming about my adoption. Growing up, it was always just a fact. There were no hushed whispers behind our backs. There were no surprise revelations when we were ten. It was a strange moment for me this past weekend at a friend’s daughter’s birthday party. One of our other friends brought their adopted daughter, whom they got the day she was born. It was an arranged adoption and they were at the hospital when she was born. Their daughter is tall for her age (just turning 2) and when one partygoer inquired which parent she took after for her height, the mother paused for a moment and then said “she’s actually adopted.” It wasn’t as if my friend was hiding the fact about the adoption, but the pause in her answer kind of put me at well, pause. I don’t know if anyone else would have caught it. It wasn’t blatant. But perhaps because I am adopted, I am more attuned to all things and talk adoption and noticed it. Who knows? I don’t doubt that this little girl will be told from the get-go that she was adopted. Her parents are the straightest, no-nonsense people on this planet. I couldn’t even imagine them trying to hide her adoption from her. But there was that split second when I wondered why she paused. I’m sure I am reading way into it and the pause was likely due to her bending down to pick her up.
Being currently sans (human) children and 37, I am acutely aware of the ticking going on in my lady parts. What has always put my mind at ease about the possibility of not being able to bear my own children is the notion that I can adopt. However, I am also acutely aware of my limitations in that arena (lack of partner, lack of funds).
I hope that even if I have my own biological children that I will have the privilege to adopt one day. Adoption has always been a part of my life – from explaining my last name to my ongoing issues with attachment to seeing friends/family adopt. And I am a fierce proponent of adoption (you don’t want to get me started in a conversation in which someone will make an ignorant statement against adoption – trust me, people do in front of me).
And my advocacy for adoption is not limited to humans… go to your local shelter and ADOPT A PET!!!!