Find out how Jiro got his start in modeling at Hanako and Jiro in Japan! The link is below.
Find out how Jiro got his start in modeling at Hanako and Jiro in Japan! The link is below.
Korean. I’m Korean. Did she speak Korean? Anyoung haseyo? A shake of the head. “I’m sorry. I don’t speak Korean, either.”
Sometimes, she couldn’t help but say, “sad, I know. Pathetic, really,” depending on how insecure she felt about it at the moment. (READ the rest of the chapter at my website.
It’s tempting to unearth information about my childhood with the emotional density of a reporter while leaving the finer points in the dark– easy even, to look at the facts coolly, as though none of it pertains to me.
Every tidbit of information from Sister Theresa is like candy: it packs a sweet or sour punch in the beginning and gives me a rush, but when the initial feelings subside, I wonder if anything in me has changed.
I scrutinize the wounds I’ve worn around for more than two decades to see if any of them are growing faint in the light of my birth dad’s words of love and regret. So far, I don’t think any of the knowledge has made me feel less abandoned, more known, more rooted. But maybe it’s too soon to tell.
When you grow-up in the shadow of parents whose physical traits are not manifested in your own features, you dream about how eye-opening and how wonderful it would be if you only knew what your birth parents were like. As a kid, it was really the only thing I cared about. I guess I thought that if I knew who I resembled, I’d have a better sense of who I was, or where I was going.
I saw photos of my birth dad before Christmas. Sister Theresa asked him to send one and he sent four—each of them taken at significant moments in his life. I laughed when I read her short email because sometimes the English translation is so formal or the spacing is off. “Wow, he looks really nice in the photos! Praise the Lord!”
I feel surprisingly triumphant when I recognize nothing of myself in his features. I see my brother’s face, his frame, my sister’s frown, her nose. I’ve waited so long to see this face, to study it for clues to my past and to my future but I see nothing there to point in any direction and I am glad. I don’t understand it, but it fills me with relief that I can’t identify with the stranger in the photos.
It’s weird to get life-altering information via email.
You read a message that says your birth father wants to meet you in January and you can’t quite believe it because this is the same manner in which you receive coupons to stores you no longer frequent and Twitter notifications for people you don’t know and bills for your water and gas and health insurance.
But there it is anyway. The familiar Korean characters in your inbox signaling another email from Sister Theresa.
You don’t have time to weight the letter in your hands, give yourself a moment to collect your thoughts or squirrel the envelope away for a more private time or place to open. You were only trying to check a map on your phone but what you get slapped with is an email that says, “Dearest Hana, your birth father just called me a few minutes ago! Merciful Lord heard our prayers!”
And the words slam into your eyes like a light that’s too bright.
The skeptic in me, the one who knows that nothing is ever wholly good, that even gifts come tainted, thinks, well, that was a quick turnaround! Didn’t I get an email earlier this week that implies my birth dad wants nothing to do with me? And now he’s calling Sister Theresa back? And he’s crying about how sorry he is for everything. What is this? Some sort of Hallmark special?
I read my birth dad’s words embraced by quotation marks, no more real than the rest of it, lines from a script crafted for maximum emotional punch. I turn them over and over again in my mind, wondering what sad stories must lie in wait behind these vague revelations, squeezing each sentence for more information.
“He said he loves you all.” And the world as I know it crumbles.
An open letter to my birth parents…
Dear Mom and Dad,
My name is Hana Mee Ra and I was adopted along with my younger sister *** and my brother *** in September of 1986. We are so blessed to have been adopted together into the same American family.
As we grew-up, our feelings about trying to find you evolved. When we were kids, our adoptive parents asked us how we felt about looking for you someday. They said our answers were simultaneous and vehement. I said “no,” *** said, “maybe,” and ***’s answer was a passionate, “yes.” Our response to the question about trying to find you is now singular.
My siblings and I love our family and have never wanted for anything physically but there is a deep longing in us to understand something about you and the lives of the three children who were at one time, yours. Why did you think adoption was the only answer? What does your life look like now? How would you describe your character and your skills? Do we look like you? Did we inherit any of your mannerisms? Do we have any other brothers and sisters? Do you think of us at all?
It’s strange to think that as I am writing this, I am just a few years older than you were when you gave us up for adoption.
You may not want to revive this period of your life and we would understand- but we hope that you feel differently. Please know that we hold no bitterness toward you as we begin this process and are trying to keep our expectations low, but it’s difficult not to be optimistic.
We have enclosed a few photos of ourselves. One of them may be the way you remember us. We hope that this letter finds you.
Read more at http://www.hanahawley.com
“I really want to give you any good news but it is not easy.”
I will my eyes to travel so I may read the rest of the message but they are buoys, pressed down but bobbing up despite my efforts.
He knows about me.
He doesn’t want to meet me.
No one knows what happened to him.
Fear is pushing me around in circles and I don’t want to stop and see what this “not easy” news could be.
“Babe? Read it.” My husband’s voice is quiet and a little worried. He’s driving and I’m scrolling through the emails I might have missed since the last time I checked. The initial hope I’d felt at seeing the familiar Korean characters in my inbox is squelched by Sister Theresa’s opening line. I really want to give you any good news but it is not easy.
I plunge ahead like someone who’s paid a lot of money to jump out of an airplane with a parachute. I’m committed. The nonchalance I think I feel is betrayed by the quiver in my voice, the tears in my eyes as I continue to read.
“Actually, I am sure that your father lives in ********, Korea…I saw his photos. I have tried to contact him so many times. I gave my number to him through his close friend. I heard that your birthfather had already heard about you and your siblings from his acquaintance who lives in the US.”
I saw his photos.
I have tried to contact him so many times.
I heard your birthfather already heard about you and your siblings…
And the response my heart beats out is this: He knows about you and your siblings but he doesn’t want anything to do with you. Maybe if you were more beautiful he’d want to meet you. Maybe if you were more successful he’d want you in his life.
I’m filled with sadness as I face the lie I’ve told myself for all these years: As soon as your dad knows you’re ready to find him, he’ll be found. He’ll fly you to Korea and he’ll explain everything.
Because the truth is, I know where he is and he knows where I am, but he wants to stay lost.
See more at http://www.hanahawley.com
I’ve never looked around the supper table and wondered why I didn’t resemble my parents. I never had another sibling tell me that I was “adopted” with a snicker and cruel tilt of the lip. I’ve always known I was a choice my parents made.
People are usually amazed when they realize that I was just a couple of months shy of my seventh birthday when I came to America from South Korea. I was so “old” to have been adopted. Didn’t being older make it rougher for me to adjust? Make it more difficult to assimilate into a comprehensively strange new world? Didn’t my parents have a more challenging time raising me? One would think I’d have more emotional baggage than a baby orphaned at birth. A blank canvas would be easier to embrace than one with seven years-worth of impressions from another world; impressions which might be better off erased.
I see now that I had the advantage of understanding that my circumstances were improving when I was finally adopted, while being young enough to unreservedly shut-up the memories which may have interfered with my ability to fit-in with my new family, in my new country. My subconscious stepped-in and pushed me toward survival and because of this, I’ve never intentionally walked through my life as a victim of tragic circumstance.
But time can change a perspective, plant different desires. I’m older now and standing at the threshold of my past, asking my seven year-old self to let me in, to give me a glimpse of what it is that I do not know.
The closer I become to my best self, the more I realize how important those lost years are to my continued growth as a human being. I can acknowledge now that there are deep wounds rooted in that initial act of abandonment by my birth parents that have caused fractures in the apparently smooth surface of my life. I want to understand the damage it’s done so I don’t inadvertently wound the relationships I care about or pass those same hurts onto my future children.
So I’m writing the story I’ve always told myself I’d write in the hope of understanding my story better and engaging with people like me who’ve never quite felt like they’ve belonged anywhere despite their best efforts and their beautiful lives.