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November 30, 2008

My Trip to Korea

5 On Sat, December 7th 2008, I will board a late night flight to Korea. I am traveling alone and this will be the furthest distance I have ever gone by myself since 1973. It’s hard to believe I made the journey from Korea to Minnesota 36 years ago, as a 5 month old baby. Back then, the adoptive parents didn’t go to the birth country to retrieve the child, as is fashionable now. Back then, they waited at the airport and a nice person came off of the plane and handed them a little foreign baby of their very own to take home and keep. Even though I was carried by a chaperone, I was alone then too.

That was the time in my life when I feel more than ever, I must have had two mothers: neither of whom really knew me, but both who yearned for me. One letting go, the other taking hold all the while, a small human being, at the center of it all. Thirty-six years later, I am still in the middle.

On Nov 10th, I was informed that I was chosen to be a participant in the Overseas Koreans Foundation’s “First Trip Home” program. This entitled me to an all expense paid trip to Korea and full assistance in searching for my birth family.  The 44 international participants were informed that the social workers in Korea would open our cases for us and research our files so that reunions with birth family would be arranged by the time we got there.

As an adoptee, I have always been aware of my alleged story. My adoption file says this:

“The child was found by a passerby on 9/2/72 around 6:40am on the streets of Yongsan station, Yongsangu, Seoul city; and brought to C.B.H. (“City Baby Hospital”) through Yonsan police station.”

This is the history of my life before adoption. This is all I have. I have always felt at peace with the “not knowing” because I felt I had no choice. This was the hand I was dealt and I have always made the best of it. I was raised in a loving (albeit, typically dysfunctional) American home, have never wanted for anything and I’ve created a career and life of passion and joy. I also have an amazing daughter now who is the only blood relative I have ever known. She is precious to me and after she was born, I only wished I had more information about my past to give to her.

On November 26th, I received an email from the social worker whom opened my case in Korea and the email shocked me. She informed me that they had located my birth father and that he wanted to meet with me during the trip to Korea. I was flooded with emotions I didn’t know resided in me and I wept uncontrollably for joy. It was a real dream come true and this trip to Korea took on a whole new meaning. I called my best friend to share the news and then another friend, also a Korean adoptee, because the urge to connect with someone who understood my emotions was undeniable.

Then, the unthinkable happened. 81 minutes later, while still on the phone with my adoptee friend, another email came in from the social worker. It was an apology for accidentally sending me an email intended for a different participant. It was a mistake and turns out the investigation into my case had yielded nothing. If I wanted, I could visit the hospital where I was received and held for 6 days before being taken to an orphanage and then to a foster family. It was the most devastating moment of my life. I read the emails over and over, wondering if maybe she had made a mistake a second time and that the initial email really was meant for me. That the man she spoke of was MY father who wanted to meet me – not someone else.

A couple days have passed now and I am feeling a little better, but the incident created a new a world of sorrow for me. It made me realize how much I really do want to know and how painful it is to me that I probably never will know. I leave on my trip in only eight days and I have had to make a mental shift in what this trip will mean for me. While other participants are reunited with their birth family members, I do not want to feel jealousy or anger. I want to feel joy for them, but it will be hard. This trip will have to be a journey of self-exploration and acceptance. Perhaps even, closure.

I could take on the attitude of never giving up hope and continuing to search. But I’m not sure this is what is meant for me. Especially during this season of Thanksgiving, I feel it is more useful to let go of what I can’t control and show gratitude for what I have been given. Somewhere, in this world, are the woman and man who gave me life. As a biological mother now, myself, I know one could never forget and never stop longing. As deep as my pain runs, I know the woman who gave birth to me has suffered a greater loss and the hole in her heart would envelop and devour the one in mine. I am grateful for her struggle and her courage and I will honor her by being the best mother I can be for my own daughter. Her granddaughter.

2008 has been the most difficult year of my life: a bitter and ugly break up, financial difficulty in becoming a single mom and a slow economy negatively affecting my career.  Now this. Just when I feel like my heart might not be able to take another hit, I somehow manage to pick myself up and take another step forward. I am one tough mother.

Amy Anderson is a comedian/actress/writer and single mom based in Los Angeles. You can view her official website and tour schedule at www.AmyAnderson.net. This is an original L.A. Moms Blog post.



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