We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.
–Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon
I am grateful that my parents supported my decision to search for my birthmother back in 2012. Mom even flew all the way to Korea so that she could meet her with me. This was especially meaningful for me because Mom never travels without Dad, let alone to another country where she doesn’t speak the language.
Many people have asked me how Mom feels about me going to spend a month with my birthmother in Korea. I think that of all people, she has been the most supportive of my journey.
Mom had the pleasure (and often times, extremely trying) job of raising me. Being the youngest of five children, I learned very early how a flutter of my eyelashes or a well-timed cry could send my parents running. My favorite thing to say when I didn’t get what I wanted was, “I’m going back to Korea.” I was a little hellion.
After throwing an epic tantrum in the supermarket, I boldly announced, “I’m going back to Korea!” to which Mom calmly replied, “I’m going to miss you a lot, but I’ll help you pack your bags.”
That was the last time that I said that.
My mother raised me into the woman that I am today. She saw me take my first steps and subsequent first tumble, taught me how to share, how to say “please” and “thank you,” and which color tags give the best discounts at Goodwill. She taught me how to be gracious, patient, kind, and forgiving.
She has had to say “goodbye” to me more often than she prefers, such as the day that I left for college, when I moved to China and then to Boston, and again, when I left for this trip.
But she always knew that she would be able to say “hello” to me again.
When my birthmother took me to the adoption agency when I was a baby, the last thing that she could say to me was “goodbye” with no hope of the next “hello.”
My journey to connect with my birthmother has never meant that I love my American mother any less. It is a testament to the strength of my relationship with my mother. It is because she is my mother that she can understand the pain of losing me. She has been more supportive than I deserve, and for that, I am grateful.
Thank you, Mom, for being so wonderfully supportive and sympathetic for me during this journey. Thank you for your reassurance when I was frustrated and discouraged. I appreciate you, I love you, and I miss you.
I would like to share the letter that my birthmother wrote to me back in 2012 after she received my letter. This letter was translated by the adoption agency:
Dear my daughter, SooHee,
How much I longed to hear from you, and how much I have been missing you all these years.
I just want to thank you that you have grown up well and healthy.
When I first heard the news about you, I could not believe my ears.
I am not sure if I even deserve to refer myself any ‘mom’ to you.
I give my deepest gratitude to your adoptive parents.
I was the 2nd child in 5 siblings of my family. It is a long story how I got married, and how I had to choose an option of adoption for your future. Currently I live in Seoul with my mother (your grandmother), and I work as special needs education helper at a local middle school.
You seem to be so active and confident in the picture, and I am just so thankful. I wish I were there for you as you were growing up. I am so sorry. I saved your photo in my cell phone, and I look at more than 20 times a day.
I cried almost every day after you were sent to Holt. There was a time when I wanted to bring you back, but by then, it was not allowed since it could hurt you more than help you. I regretted so much. I cannot find words to describe how sorry I am to you.
I hope that we will be able to meet soon. My daughter!
I really want to meet you.
Your birthmom, Kim Jung Sook in Seoul
I will always remember my time in Korea with my birthmother and family. Despite the language barrier, I could feel their love in the warmth of their smiles and gentleness of their touch. While my time in Korea is over for now, I know that this is just the beginning of a beautiful relationship with my birthmother, my friend, Kim Jung Sook.