Today is Airplane Day.
Thirty-two years ago I was put on a plane bound for John F. Kennedy International Airport with nine other Korean children. Eight of us were born in 1984, from October to December. One girl was born in October 1972. Our flight’s 막내 [“maknae” — the youngest person in a group] was born in January 1985, which means that she would have been considered a Rat like the rest of us — and I really do mean the rest of us. Coincidentally, all ten of us were born in the Year of the Rat. 1972 is a Water Rat year and 1984 is a Wood Rat year. Had we grown up in the culture we were born into, we nine could’ve called each other 친구 [“chingu” — same age friends] and we might’ve called Miss 1972 언니 [“eonni” — a term that means “older sister” and is used by younger females to address an older female they are close with; also romanized as “unnie”] or 누나 [“nuna” — a term that means “older sister” and is used by younger males to address an older female they are close with; also romanized as “noona”]. I’m going to put a list of the names of my fellow passengers here on the off chance some of them are out there in the void:
- Choi Myung Wha
- Kim Jeong Soon
- Lee Ja Won
- Kim Yoo Mee
- Yoon Mee Sook
- Choi Seong Jin
- Kim Min Seong
- Lee Seong Joon
- Kim Yeong Ae
I came with an instruction manual like every other imported good.
I also came with a letter stating:
Re: (84C-3093) SHIN, KONG JOO —ALBORA—
The above mentioned case is the birth mother was unavailable at the time of intake. We received this child from the Head of Clinic after the natural mother disappeared from her recovery room. Therefore, no one has any information about the birth mother and we have no possible way to locate the mother. Thank you.
This is the first Airplane Day I’ve experienced since the rift between me and my parents became utterly insurmountable. This time last year I was still soldiering through, still trying to go along to get along, still choking on retorts whenever various events from my past were inevitably brought up in “casual conversation” — events that painted me as the villain to my own tragedies. There’s probably some truth to that, but there’re at least three lies for every truth when my parents tell a story. Maybe it’s cowardice on my part that lets me write publicly about them when I have not spoken with them since I sent them a text message on July 31st, 2016 asking them to leave when they arrived uninvited at my door at 10:15 p.m.
Here is an excerpt from something I wrote that day:
I have not been answering my parents’ phone calls or text messages recently as a matter of self preservation, so tonight they showed up at our apartment uninvited and spent the past fifteen to twenty minutes banging on my front door [which was not locked; thankfully they did not try to open it out of curiosity; I am still not sure what I would have done in that case, but things probably would have become physically violent] and yelling and calling out to me. At some point my mother began theatrically weeping and wailing. “Don’t you feel like what you’re doing is evil?” they asked. “Don’t you feel that turning against your parents is evil? You can’t possibly feel good about yourself after what you’re doing. You can’t possibly feel good at all. You can’t possibly feel good as a daughter or a person.” My door is not soundproof; it was easy to hear them talking to each other and to my dog — “go get Mommy, Kennedy; go get Mommy and tell her to open the door; Kennedy, where’s Mommy?” — and I am going to refrain from posting the things I heard because I am ashamed and hurt and infuriated by them and because I don’t want anybody else to have to house this vitriol.
When I was younger, I never thought I would ever in a million years want to meet or even know about my birth mother. Today, though, just for a little while, I admitted to myself that I do. That not knowing sometimes hurts. I still don’t know for sure whether excommunicating my adoptive parents was the right thing to do. I know that my depression and anxiety are my things and not necessarily linked to them, but I also know that life without them is easier. I know that I feel healthier.
I’m not good at burning bridges. The fire hurts my eyes, burns my fingers. Everything I am is equipped for putting them out instead of starting them.
Anyway, enough of that. Airplane Day is always a bittersweet day, but I’m going to end this post on a sweet note. What’s important to me is connecting with my culture and connecting with people who share it and can teach me about it. On June 5th, 2016 I received my Ancestry Composition Report from 23andme.com and was able to confirm my Korean blood; on June 13th, 2016 I connected with a second cousin through the same website whose parents were born and raised in Busan. I have joined Facebook groups for Korean-American adoptees and have joined the Portland Korean Language Meetup Group. I haven’t been brave enough to make real life contact yet, but I hope I will gain more confidence soon. ^^;;
I’m also keeping up with KEDIM, even though by the time I publish or upload anything it’s a day late. As long as I stay motivated, it’s okay. Right? ㅠㅅㅠ