Archive for February 24th, 2011

Building 63

24 Feb

When I was young I set myself up to be the emotional punching bag so my brother wouldn’t have to deal with it. I put myself into harm’s way for him because I had sworn from the time I was four that I would protect him no matter what. I took the blame for a lot of things that wasn’t my fault. I was the one that yelled at my parents for equal rights in the house. I was the one that attracted my mom’s attention at the end of her bad day. She yelled at me and I let her do so because I knew if it wasn’t me, then it would be my brother and I couldn’t let her do that. Because though I didn’t remember, I had promised Appa and myself that I would do that.

But by now my brother was grown and teaching in Korea. He was doing well for himself, and we exchanged gifts and had our own way of communicating, which sometimes drove my mom nuts. Seeing him again was like clicking and he avoided my mom the best he could. Their relationship has never been that great to begin with, but my mom was in deep denial.

So today was the day we were without him. We’d gone to GOA’L and that did not make my mom happy. What had changed was that now I had training to let my brother grow up now that he was an adult and to protect himself and that I was to no longer shield him and take my mom’s crap. This was a work in progress because my mom was used to being able to control the situation and me, now I was in a position to know more than her.

Ajumma dropped us off at the building 63. I brought a camera with me, but I really needed to go to the bathroom. I went to the bathroom and went up the elevator, but I realized that I forgot my camera in the bathroom, so I went back down to get it. I could see the flash of a frown from my mom as I had forgotten. I expected my Mom to get upset at me, but then she didn’t look me in the eyes and said, Go get it. I felt a storm building up. I did not flinch and was responsible.

I ran into the bathroom and in Korean I said, “camera” which is just “camera” in konglish… and then the lady said, “What did you lose?”

I said, “My Camera was here…”

She said, “Ahh Camera.” Then after her help, I got it.

I had to buy another ticket to go back up the tower, and when I showed it to the lady at the gate, she said roughly, “You can’t go up, only one per day.”

So I went to look for my cellphone. I found I forgot it in the car, so I breathed, calmed down and looked for someone to help. To the ajussi at the desk I said in English, “Help.” I ended up explaining in Korean later, but my intuition said that he needed English first. I think it was some part of me telling me that for my parents, he’d have to speak English. Preparing him was good. So I had him call my parents and I calmly told them I couldn’t go back up and that I would wait for them. I requested one picture from my Dad that I knew was wanted… and waited.

I think I was flinching by then. I knew it was coming–my mom was about to throw a tantrum. They came down and I explained the situation. My mom was not liking it one bit. I could feel my mom becoming upset at me losing the first ticket to go up the tower. But her anger was swallowed again. I felt it again.

They, being in a foreign country and frustrated wanted the 9,000 won back. That’s less than 9 bucks… maybe something like 8.50 (at the time of the purchase). I told them that it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t that much, but they didn’t listen to me.

They were used to ignoring me unless I was there to emotionally punch around. But this time I was not going to let it slide.

My Mom was getting frustrated at the attendant for not speaking English. Her voice was rising So I gently elbowed her since she was not listening to me at all (I had said to my Dad four times, cellphone.). That’s NOT how you get your money back in Korea. In Korea, you have to stay calm to get your money back. It was clear that the ticket agent was not at fault.So I gently elbowed my mom to stop because she was going to take out all of the Day’s frustration on that ticket agent who cannot speak English. I could see the ticket agent flinching already so I intervened. My mom flipped out, this time at me. She overreacted. “Do not hit me.” in the “I am such a victim voice”

I took her crap because the person she really was mad at was me. How dare I take her to an adoption advocacy group? How dare I lose a camera? How dare I shield my fellow country person and take her side against my own mother. My own mother because she did not want to share me with anyone else–not a country full of people, not with Appa, and she wanted to claim me.

She screamed, “Don’t hit me.” And then she started to belittle me in the hall right there in front of everyone. So I met her eyes and started to back her down, trying to gain control of what I had learned in therapy.

Then she started to go off… I yelled back at her, “Don’t victimize me.” but my Dad intervened. I thought that he was going to actually help, like he had done a little in the past, but he made things so much worse. He said to me, “You do not hit your mother.” I felt hurt and betrayed that he’d seen the whole thing and he immediately put the whole blame on my head. That everything that my mom was feeling was my fault. Her insecurities, her fears, everything was my fault–down to the ticket. But I calmed myself down, trying hard not to cry harder at the feeling of loss and betrayal. The thought lingered in my head, “Why did they want to really adopt?” But I swallowed that too.

I finally asked for a cellphone from one of them–I don’t remember which and started to dial the number, but my hands shook so much that I couldn’t type in the number right. My eyes were blurring so hard at being blamed and yelled at for such a thing. But at the same time, I really didn’t think that the person behind the counter deserved the crap my mom wanted to dish out to her based on some stupid stress relief–I’d worked in customer service and I knew how sucky that was.

I finally got in touch with the person I was calmly looking for and asked if they still wanted help. When my mom, the instigator said no, (because she was sulking) I said in Korean that we were done. Then explained that it was OK to pick us up.

I could see in my mom’s eyes, “Don’t you dare become one of them.” And when I said that I was operating in Korean culture everything hit the fan. My Mom and Dad started to tag team me for everything. They started yelling at me in turns like I was the enemy.

My Dad would take over and tell me that I was wrong. So I firmed my mouth and said, “Then tell her that she’s wrong too–tell her that she has no right to ostracize someone over Nine bucks. Tell her that she overreacted.”

But he couldn’t stop telling me how wrong I was and then got two inches into my face and started yelling at me. I was fed up. I had always counted on him a little to be an ally and try to patch things, but I realized in that moment that no matter how hard I tried that he would always side with her–he wasn’t trying to understand what I did or didn’t do. He would not tell her that she was wrong. I was dehumanized, which was only compounded by years of trying to fight for my humanity as an adoptee. My belief in him died. He started to talk for her, but I could feel him venting his frustration on me.

Then my mom got two inches from my face and started talking down to me. So I said, “I will leave if you are going to treat me this way.”

She got even more upset. “You’re going to leave?” I said, “Yes.” Then my dad intervened again. I told him, this is between me and her not you and me. My mom got more upset. Her speaker had been silenced. I let her talk after she calmed down.

She presented the problem twice, but no solution. I forced her to make a solution. But I couldn’t believe her, because the walls around her were so thick and many at that moment it was scary. My dad when he was talking to me was further away. I’d tried to engage him before in front of my mom, but for the first time ever, he did not engage. His eyes did not light up. Pride did not show up. You have no idea how scary that is. Before he did not care. His true self would shine through, but not this time.

I tried to go into denial about the event and forget it, but it lingered long after the trip because it made me realize their true feelings towards the country, my adoption and me. I felt like I was only there for their emotional release of all the bad things they experienced. And whatever feelings they had towards my brother leaving the US, Korea, adoption, their infertility, or stress of the time and place, they were so used to taking out all their crap on me and my brother.

This event broke my heart because by this time I couldn’t undo any Koreanness they thought was a threat or undo any of the relationships I’d built. I couldn’t fix it and I was heartbroken that they could not accept Korea for the other half of who I was. It was building on the list of forbiddens, but I wasn’t allowing it to sit there. I was sick of being silent around issues that formed why I was with them in America. I couldn’t stand it anymore.

Comments Off

Posted in Adoption Politics, Search and Korea Trip


A Doll

24 Feb

My face like a doll. A doll bought and sold to the first vendor they could find. A doll, a delight for a while. A doll thrown in the corner.

“That doll is stupid.”

Convenience fairs on how many times she will brush my hair. If I am not perfect I am stupid. I am worthless. My clothes have to be ironed to perfection. My demeanor so that I am prim and proper.

Grade me to perfection. Love me, please, or my paint will run in my tears. But I’ve been forgotten.

Rage hits like tomorrow won’t come. Screams. “How could you do that to me” for things not my fault. Large rage for small things. Hole in knees. That’s not proper. Dirt on clothes. Shoes on floor. Lost sock. The doll, perhaps, does not know its place.

“Appologize to me

A doll, I cannot speak. There is no use in speaking. Her yells drown out mine.

“Dolly–I will punish you.”

Forgotten. Thrown in the corner. I can’t see anything but the floral wallpaper of her room. The shadow of my body casts against the wall.


“See! I have one too. Mine is better than yours.”

She loves me. She is talking about me to others. She loves me.

Thrown in the corner.

“I hate you. My friend has one with brown hair! Why can’t you have brown hair?”

If I cry, my face will crack. I am worthless chipped. Forgotten again.

She’s brushing my hair and repainting my face. She loves me. I need her. She’s washing my clothes. I’m sure she loves me. New shoes.

“I’m letting Sally borrow you. You better behave. Tell her how wonderful I am. Don’t look bad or get dirty because that’ll make me look bad.”

She gives me to Sally. Sally brushes my hair every day. Sally invites me for tea with her other dolls. Sally hugs me. She pats me on the head. I want to cry. I can’t cry. I want to cry. Sally lets me cry.

“I won’t tell.”

She repaints my face as tears slip down my porcelain cheek.


“You were terrible. You forgot to mention how wonderful I am. You were supposed to praise me.”

Corner. I can now make out that the leaves on the wallpaper were once green. Faded now. My make up is fading too. I am glad. I miss Sally.

Comments Off

Posted in Parenting, Parents, Poetry

This blog is protected by Dave\'s Spam Karma 2: 22 Spams eaten and counting...