In adoption, the notion of fantasy plays a big part of our lives. We can fantasize about our birthfamilies, our identities, being adopted to another family, why we are adopted, why we weren’t kept…in other words, we could seriously live in an alternate universe where our lives could be one big supposition. Talking with people of other cultures though gives me a window to those other worlds and I am left feeling more grounded in my reality knowing that everyone has to overcome similiar fantasies.
There have been at least a dozen new Korean families that have moved into my school district. This is significant in a district that hails all of 120 or less kids per graduating class. In getting to know the mothers of these families, I have gained entrance into their lives and the many challenges they have overcome. I know there really is no homogeneity among any group of people, but I have been struck by how unique each of these women are. The typical immgration story is rare. Many of them are here to escape, alter their sense of family and gain emotional currency in a way they never could in Korea. I am beginning to wonder if those K-dramas are fantasy at all, but narratives of real life. Breakfast with a couple of these women and I hear stories of love, pain, perseverence, loss, mothers, stepmothers, mothers in law, abandonment, family redefined. My eyes well up as I relate to their deep sense of loss and feelings of wonder about how they managed to survive such pain. I am struck by how easily they relate to me and they wonder how they could be so open with a total stranger. I could chalk it up to it being an occupational hazard or my inquisitive nature. But really I think my adoption status allows them the freedom to express their own senses. My adoption story and the way I tell it seems to help give them permission to say outloud that which typically stays tightly inside their heart. Is it their desire to bring me in or my wish to belong to them? I look like them and can relate to the cultural component of their lives. I have the etiquette of someone who is comfortable with Korean people as a whole but the American mannerisms that welcomes more frankness.
It leaves me thinking about South Korea, a land that is the size of one US state and holds such disparaties of experiences. These mothers and I are left wondering in amazement that so much gets accomplished in such a small country and yet emotionally remains so stuck that its people suffer so much. Perhaps it is precisely because of such hardship that brings so much tenacity.
I found this quote from the bible that I scribbled down on a post it. “Suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope” – Romans 5:3-4. I am not a person of deep religious faith, but it seems to fit here.