Thursday, June 14, 2012

Starting Again with Frankie

I promised myself I'd revive this blog for Frankie's second birthday, June 12. He's downstairs right now playing with grandma.

He's home. He's from Korea, not Ethiopia. We made it, we did it, we came out the other side. And I learned some big things along the way. His grief is a shock, though I expected it. But how can you  witness a two year old crying piteously, sobbing, for Omma, the foster mother he knows as his mother, in whose family he was home from the time he was ... I'm actually unsure. A few months old?

I'd like to blog about our trip to Korea. It humbled me, it changed my life in so many unexpected ways. Frankie has changed it, already, too, or course. In the way every child makes you slow down, see what's real and what's beautiful.

For now, I'm going to write about this image from our trip. At the welfare center where we met his foster mother and our social worker for the second time during that trip, and his abba (foster father) and foster brother (a 20something hipster with dyed orange hair, an 80s blazer, pegged gray jeans and jazz oxfords who I got a kick out of and fell in love with a little bit) for the first time, we spent about an hour and a half with SeongJoon (Frankie) and the gang.

The social worker was official, harried, and spoke little English. She blatantly had had a full day and was looking forward to its end. Dan and I were shy and freaked out and already dreading the moment of parting; same with the foster family.

We had thought we'd take a cab back to our hotel upon receiving Frankie. But the social worker told us they'd called the agency car for our parting, that it was held up in traffic, and that we'd be leaving at 4:30. The clock ticked closer to that time. We played in a nearby park. Frankie refused to look at us. The foster family wandered to a pavilion while we stood back to give them privacy. We stood idly not looking at each other, not knowing what to do with our hands. A few elderly Korean women rushed in to tell Frankie how cute he was, not understanding our situation, making us all tear up.

We played back in the play room at the agency. The clock ticking closer. The foster father stayed outside, I'm guessing not to show us his tears. Frankie warmed up a little, letting us toss a ball to him and drive him around in his car (and demonstrate his Rockford stops, as Dan dubbed them), which made us sad: did he know the clock was ticking closer to 4:30? Did he know what was coming? The foster mother drew back to give us privacy, something we didn't want. We'd have him for the rest of his childhood. She would be going home without him.

Finally the social worker cracked open the door and ushered us out. We walked down the stairs quietly. The social worker kept urgently beckoning us to the door. I think we needed to beat or at least swarm into Seoul rush hour traffic.

At the door, we stood one last time, gathering the many bags of toys and clothes ("these are his favorites; he needs this blanket to sleep" the social worker translated) and food ("this is his dinner made for him last night") passed to us by the foster family. Then we hugged goodbye. And then I heard loud, huge sobbing filling the hallway, filling it up to the second story, the third story where our friends met on the trip stood, having drifted down to say goodbye. Who was crying so wildly? A voice I finally recognized as my own, and a deep almost keening sobbing I realized was the foster mother. A woman whose name, Dan later pointed out, we don't even know. But there we stood, wrapped around each other, in each others' arms, with SeongJoon between us.

Then the social worker gently pulled us apart, guided us to the van, shoved in SeongJoon quick and shut the door. And then we were inside, with the driver asking us: Is this your first?

First what?

I don't mean to make out the social worker like the bad guy. I'm sure it's a thankless job.

That was the saddest part. It's been up and down before and since, much like life.


  1. Congratulations on doing it all with such sensitivity.

  2. So touching, Jean. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Welcome back to blogging! Looking forward to hearing about life as you know it now.

  4. Oh Jean. It's awful isn't it? The rushing you out the door, into the van...The tears. So many tears all around. I'm glad you're blogging--your voice is needed.