Friday, July 27, 2012

Adoption Politics

This may sound crazy, or may not, depending I suppose upon whether or not you’re a part of the “adoption community,” but I continue to worry that we’re raising a child who may one day resent us for adopting him.

I know that sounds controversial. I know that any kid, bio or not, can choose to leave home and make not-so-frequent visits back. I know that, broadly and perhaps sexistly speaking, males don’t tend to call home a few times a week or head out with their parents to community garage sale day or whatnot and I certainly don’t hope for or expect that kind of relationship with my boys when they’re adults.

But international Korean adoption has been going on since the 1950s and many of those adoptees are now adults and have something to say on the matter of their own adoption. Really they’re the first few generations of international adoptees in the United States to grow to adulthood and to get their own voices and communities. And with the Internet that community is getting a hearing. And many are angry. And rightfully so.

To frame this very, very broadly and to lump all these voices together, they speak as “a people” if you will who, in many cases, were raised to think of themselves as white. And they’re not white of course. They’re Asian and Korean. But how to fit in to that culture when you have no relatives from the culture and don’t speak the language and don’t have stories about emigration in your family (other than your own emigration) and can’t speak to people who really know much about the culture. Framed like that, Korean culture camp ain’t much.

So it ain’t much: a dash of Korean culture camp, a smattering of classes at the Korean Heritage Center, and a good part of hanging out with other adoptive families and with Korean families (although the latter can smack of tokenism to me, let us befriend you to help Frankie feel more at home). And speaking openly about his adoption and going back to Korea as often as we can while he’s young and visiting and staying in touch with his foster family. Encouraging him to search for his birth family. That’s about all we have on this end. And it does feel flat, like a big-ole Minnesota hot dish—bland and creamy—instead of kimchi: spicy and salty.

The politics behind what I’m writing about is pretty huge and I’m feeling kinda flat today. But this has been on my mind as a topic to blog about for awhile.

I couldn’t bear it if an adult Alvin and Frankie (this week his nickname is Frankus) sneered secretly to each other or to friends about how hick their parents are, living in the Midwest and listening to music like bluegrass and Led Zeppelin (among a zillion others) and decorating all shabby ch*t .. But ya gotta differentiate from your parents at some point to grow up. I get it. Frankie, you’re going to have to build identity in strong and variant ways. I’m thinking of you already.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fleeting (Thank God?)

 I feel bad (badly?) because I waited so long for SeongJoon, before I even knew it was him, geez, before he was even born to his sad, sad, probably everlastingly tearful parents—before they had this tragedy enter their lives that would end so happily for me…

Anyway. I feel bad that I waited and hoped and checked the Internet 50 million times each day and worried myself into a stress illness and now I’m savoring my probably 20 minutes alone before I again hear: ma? ma? From Frankie’s room (he’s napping) and Mommy, just 20 minutes on the iPad. I promise. I promise. I million times promise, from Alvin (now bowling with grandma).

I’m drinking champagne given to us at SeongJoon’s homecoming (so it’s really his) out of an Archie glass and reading short stories and now typing this. When he wakes up we’ll go to Target for fake meat and pool chlorine and probably mascara. I always end up buying mascara lately with names like Falsies, names whose promise I cannot resist.

I waited and waited and waited for this trip to Target. For someone to call me ma and mommy (the latter kind of happened without waiting, but then I realized how wonderful it was and wanted it to happen more and more and again and again and always. Only it can’t happen always. Even if we had 54 children, eventually they would leave to lead their own lives. And if they didn’t that’d be kind of sad and pathetic for them and for me. Because I’d be the mom of a son who’d never left home.)

And I love these small moments. I totally do. I bought some kind of thing at Hobby Lobby that you roll onto your wall, a quote done in calligraphy, and I’m going to roll it onto this pure-white wall and stick an empty frame over it: Life Consists of Short Little Moments. Hmm, the editor in me thinks it should have been: Life is Short Moments, or something. Regardless, I’m not the Hobby Lobby type. I’m putting it up there to remind myself. Because pretty soon I’m going to be a retired person (one hopes I get there and have the money) puttering around and sitting on my front porch reading The Year We Left Home like I did today (only maybe it’ll be Maeve Binchy or something) and I’ll be doing it not to savor the aloneness, but to fill the day. And then I’ll garden. And make cookies. And try to coax my sons to call.

Or maybe I’ll have a funny laugh-and–banter-and-get-each-other relationship like the story I always plan to write about the 50 year old gay man taking care of his elderly mother. About moving back home to feed her lines and to set her up for the punch lines she knows he’ll deliver, so she kind of feeds him too to get toward that, back and forth like baby birds. But then he washes her or helps her into bed and that’s not so funny at all. Awkward. But that’s filial love. And his boyfriend at home understands.

Probably Alvin won’t be doing that. And probably thank God. I’ll get a home healthcare worker in. But maybe he can go with me to my doctor’s appointments. Help me set them up, too, because even now I have to push myself to dial, knowing I’ll wait on hold a full hour only to make an appointment that I’ll immediately realize upon hanging up conflicts with a picnic we’d planned for two years or something. Back to the hold music.

Why am I so morbid today? There’s only ten minutes left of naptime now, I calculate. I should clean the refrigerator or something. Instead I’m going to loaf around on some style blogs. And phone my beloved grandmother to joke around.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

All Right Already: On the Word "Mom"

If I continue to write this blog, it means I’m a mother. I mean, let’s face it, this is, or will be, a mommy blog just like 50 million other mommy blogs. The fact it’s about adoption and hopefully anything else that wangles its way from my brain doesn’t make it any different than if I were to update 12 times a day about what my cute kids are doing now.

Problem is, I’m not a mother. Or at least that’s not the way I self identify, to use a pretty PC word. I hadn’t intended to become a mother. I was going to write for newspapers and for myself; become a careerist, before I realized that’s a crock of beans and that going to the office, even if it’s to track down and interview friends of a recently murdered woman, is still going to the office. Still about as fulfilling as….going to the office, day in, day out.

I wanted to be single and wacky and hang in New York with my single and wacky friends and drink cups of espresso in the Italian mom-run joint up the street and look at the cute Brooklyn boys and hear them verbally jousting with one another with their sweet voices and twangy accents. And I did, until I got sick of checking out the latest places and hanging in bars I felt too old for and percolating by myself all weekend in my Brooklyn apartment because I was too lazy to travel the 12 minutes “into the city” for the next big thing, which increasingly felt like the last big thing.

Boring story short, on my 34 birthday, after I’d dragged everyone to the Red Lobster in Rego Park ( don’t judge) and sat up late talking at a place nearby, out of my mouth sprang these verboten words: I just want a small backyard, a strip of grass to sit on in a lawn chair and nurse a beer and read all day. Such a simple thing, but it wasn’t to be found in New York. Certainly the quiet and peace attendant to that dream couldn’t be found by me. If I could I could afford a strip of grass, my neighbors on all sides could look down on me as I drank and read. As it was, I was squeezing myself onto a bit of fire escape to read and calling it my back forty.

The morning after my birthday I woke up not with a hangover, but with an epiphany. I wanted to be part of a family. But it likely was already too late.

To cut this off again, by some miracle it wasn’t too late. And being part of a family was even better than I thought it would be. I’d resisted so long, but now I’ve arrived.

But, having come to the profession so late, after trying on a million hats, and after loving it so much, I still think of myself as a mother…and then as more than a mother.

I guess I’m just going to admit you can be married and kid-having and still wacky and still crack jokes and drink beer in the backyard and read 1950s teenybopper romances while listening to cranked up Chad Mitchell Trio on an old tape made for you back in high school. Unfortunately, this all has to be done during Frankie’s nap time and Alvin’s short-lived self-entertainment hour.

But it still gets done. I’m still here. Mother and music lover and all.