I have a real estate agent who sold our apartment and helped us buy a new one. Since knowing her, she helped me pack, found people to stage our place, helped me find a plumber who came the same day as called and even bought and picked up the wood to redo a portion of our floor. She is no ordinary agent. She happens to be Korean and invited me to a Korean Mother’s Group in the local area. She is quite the networker and one who has the real pulse on all things Korean around here. 19 mothers and almost 40 children, every single one this agent knew – she either sold, bought or helped renovate their homes. I was encouraged to come with the assurance that the whole thing was not in Korean and that good food will be served! I sold the afternoon to my boys with the food. They could not understand what the big deal was. Furthermore, why only Korean mothers? They reminded me that I was Korean and I reminded them, that “technically, I am but inside sometimes I feel like I am not.” For my kids, being Korean American is a state of being, like being a boy. Point. Blank. Period. Trips me up though, I’ve got to admit.
Nowhere does it trip me more than when I am in a room full of Korean mothers and children. For the first hour, I seriously wondered if I should leave. All that English was spoken in the first sentence as an introduction, but then it disappeared. I ended up talking to a 7th grader who was so kind to make small talk with me. The whole “respect your elders” thing is pretty genius in the Asian community. You are always assured someone to speak to, they can’t walk away!
The rest of the mothers were all in the kitchen cooking and talking and catching up. The newbies fell right in as language will unify immediately. The kids were all served first and I have to include the amazing grace the hostess handled such an enormous group in her home. I know Korean women are used to having to serve on a dime, but this was incredible. Of course the food was great – bibimbap and kimchee abound. It was delicious.
Then we all went around and introduced ourselves. These women were all very accomplished and embarrassingly so. There were teachers, musicians, artists, hairdressers, entrepreneurs, financial people, doctors. I am convinced that to be a Korean American you must have had two careers before the age of 40. Even the moms who have chosen to parent full time came to the country having had a full career first. I had decided to just introduce myself with my Korean last name and say nothing of my adoption status. But then, we were asked to tell when we came to the US and what brought us here. Crap. I have to say that I am adopted. My heart beat a little faster. I am never sure how this will be received. Truthfully, the defiant part of me wants to be bold and put it out there like a badge of honor. It feels a little rebellious to stir the pot to an uncomfortable heat. I wanted to see the faces of these women to see if they would look upon with me shame, guilt or sadness. But this day, I wanted to be one of them, a Korean mother with her kids and just be. I wanted to see if I could pass. Then the woman just before me changed things up. She spoke in English and talked about being born here, growing up in a place where she was the only Korean person and how happy to be invited to this gathering. Well that did it, I was next.
I was acutely aware that it was hard to hear some of the women. The children were all around us playing and some of the mothers were having separate conversations, so there was a palpable din in the room. But you say “I am adopted” and well, one could hear a pin drop in the room. I got the requisite “oooh” and “ahhhh” and then got the surprise of my life. Our hostess was adopting from Korea and her child is due home in months. By the time the afternoon ended, I was approached by two mothers who want to adopt a Korean child and three others who had siblings who have adopted a child from Korea. Could it be? That nearly 20% of the room were personally touched by adoption? There was so much joy and wonder about adoption, no shame or sadness. Of course there were the usual and customary questions, but there was no pity, just welcome.
So, I have been schooled again and invited to speak to the group on the current situation of adoption in Korea and the orphanages there. True to form, most of the women were devout Christians and they were keen to learn if there was something they could do for Korea. I will do it, if only to change perceptions and do something for the kids in orphanges in Korea. Perhaps this may be the next generation of adoption that I have been seeking all along.