Archive for the ‘Childhood’ Category


05 Feb

2001: A Space Odyssey (on a movie screen), Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, Everything You Want to Know about Sex, all of Mel Brooks, all of Monty Python, Life of Brian, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Annie Hall, Sleepers, and many others were films my parents subjected my brother and me to as part of our “culturing.” It started with my parents saying something like, “You have to see this to understand American culture.” And then without question we’d watch it.

Some of the stuff we knew we were too young to watch and instead of my parents objecting, we’d object, “Why are you making us watch this? Isn’t this too old for us?” They’d laugh and say it was good for us. My brother would sigh in those moments.

Then we got to our teens, and my brother would get a look in his eyes like he didn’t want to watch it anymore. I’d sit there with a determined analytical face to watch the entire thing. Some of the films I didn’t understand, and I would sit them out anyway. My brother would sit there as long as he could stand and then slink away. He didn’t watch all of African Queen.

This was the pattern we’d take with bad movies. I’d sit them to the bitter end to try to learn something, and he’d slink away or fall asleep. One of the worst movies we watched and he wanted to see was when we were on a car trip. The plot was circular where the hero didn’t really have to do all the things that he did with a hovercraft driving over ice. My brother fell asleep before the gratuitous sex scene that I saw coming three miles away. He never remembered the movie after that, but it was so bad for me and since he made me pay for half, I made him remember it again. He still shakes his head silently.

My parents were so into culturing that they had us memorize all of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They played it on every car trip. The sound of the doors opening and sighing would be so expected for me I could cue it up. We started to remember lines they forgot.

During “Everything you need to Know about Sex,” they said things that I wanted to purge from my head. Things about marijuana and other things that I won’t go into detail about, not because of their embarrassment, but mine–which they would delight over with a joke. It may be mean, but I’m not giving them the satisfaction.

The culmination of this was every time I said I understood something in a film, my Dad would laugh and then say sternly, “Then the culturing worked.” My mom would always be delightfully happy every time I would say it as it was a purposeful process that we had to go through like sitting through a required class in college you hated. Somehow there was an uneasy comfort to this.

There were moments where I got my sweet revenge by saying that they had to watch this or read this to understand current events. And not everything I gave them they liked. There were also moments where I’d give them Korean culture bits. So all in all it was a fair exchange.

I say this because there are those moments in between that have nothing to do with adoption. Through the noise of asking about birth parents and adoption, and tying all three identities through adoption, there are moments where adoption isn’t on my mind. So past the drama that people ask for, “Where are your real parents?” “Do you want to go back?” “Do you want to find them?” “What do you think of X in the adoption process?” there are moments where that never really matters. It melts away. I wish people would ask more about that in relation to my adoption. “What were the good moments you had with your adoptive parents?” “What are the good things you remember about your birth parents?” “When did you not feel like you were adopted?” “When did it not matter that you were adopted?” Because those moments define me too. Those moments are part of me as well. And I’m sure they are also parts of other adoptees too. Being an adoptee is not all thunder lightening and tears. Sometimes it’s a bit of culturing too.

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Posted in Childhood, Parents


Pick Me Up Please

05 Feb

My Mom works late. I wondered as a child if that was because she wanted to avoid us. It didn’t matter though, because she would work at home. By the time I was eight, I was lucky to get an hour with her at all.

My Dad works at home. He is a computer programmer. He was the one I saw when I got home. He was the one I ran to for comfort.

Both of them were guilty of doing things that never made sense to me. For example, when I was in fifth grade, they had me take the metro bus home because my Dad was away and my Mom didn’t want to pick me up. I had an after school program. The way she acted, she hated picking us up or even dealing with us. She refused to pick me up and since school was far, she had me take the bus.

I remember trying to figure out how the bus worked. I didn’t know how to make the bus stop. They never rode the bus with me. I had dreams for years after about not being able to get off the bus or overshooting my stop and not being able to get back. I was scared, but as usual, I was trying to feel stronger than I was. When I asked they said, “You’ll figure it out.”

My Dad always picked me up from the after school activity. He always went to the events with me. He supported me and gave me verbal support. He helped me with the design of the car I had to do for the after school project. My Mom was never there. The thing I remember her doing the most was sitting at her desk and reading. And then when she wasn’t doing that she was playing Tetris. I admit I still have bitterness at this.

My Mom outright refused to pick me up. She did the same to my brother. It took five minutes to pick us up and then take us home if we wanted it, but she always refused, pushing the responsibility on my Dad. I remember having to go to the bathroom really badly because the school bathrooms were locked and closed after school, when I was in Fifth grade in the dark, and riding on the metro bus, scared. By then, I knew I couldn’t ask her for favors in the back of my mind, but I sill couldn’t accept it.

Seventh grade, I did soccer–I admittedly sucked at it. I wasn’t that good. I liked it despite being horrible at it. I would over think the direction that the ball had to go. When one plays sports, one is supposed to have an empty mind. However, I didn’t.

My Mom later said she never went to the practices because I was terrible at soccer. My Dad went to a few games that were local and even went to pick me up from games. He picked me up from practice. Even if he was late, he was there.

I didn’t notice in Seventh grade or Eighth grade that my mom was never there for me. She always said work was more important. That’s where she put her responsibility.

It was in High School when my Dad had to work and travel that I began to notice how bad it was. My Dad was chronically late to pick me up. The coach would apologize and say he had to leave because my Dad was so leave. I had to swallow my embarrassment and tell the coach it was OK. In the car I would complain and say shouldn’t you be on time?

My Dad got better about it. My Mom was much worse. I remember once having a paper due the next day and her picking me up at 10:00 pm when it was dark, no one was at the school and I was sitting alone, in the dark and cold. Fall was coming. I could hear crickets. It was so bad sometimes people would see me and ask if I was OK.

I swallowed my embarrassment even more at having a parent not pick me up when I requested it. It was less than five minutes from my school to her work. She would complain to me.

She would say, “Why can’t you take the bus?”
I would say, “The buses stop running after that late. Can’t you just pick me up? It ends the same day, the schedule is on the calendar. You can see when the games are and when the practices are.”
“Why can’t you walk home?”
It was dark in the fall. I was 16 years old. Walking in the dark was not safe.

She would admonish me for not being willing to do it when my brother did. The difference between me and my brother though was that he gave up on her when he was little. He was five when he gave up on my mother saying, “I don’t like her.”
He decided to become independent and not rely on them. But I fruitlessly hoped that they would turn around. I wanted to be proven right for once.

I fought with her. She buried herself in her work while we fought, ignoring me. She never understood. She did it once or twice just because I fought with her. But I always felt hurt by her lack of understanding.

I stopped going to the orthodontist because of a similar incident where she refused to drop me off and show me where the office was. She left my dad to do it and said it was in “walking distance” which was 2 miles in the dark. I got there after they closed. I told her about it, and she ignored my complaint saying I should make another appointment. My Dad wasn’t around. I stopped going.

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Posted in Childhood, Parents


I’m beaten up to happiness

05 Feb

I’m beaten up to happiness
What are you going to do because
I don’t smile at you
I won’t, I should
I could, but I don’t
Do I even have the right
to dislike you even a little
Or are you going to make it all go away
with a quick solution
swallow a pill and make it all OK
The drugs will take it all away
But without the faith
in the madness
I find peace in chaos and the sadness
feed the children the drugs
even if you say it’s wrong
After all what is one more
year, month, week, day, hour, minute, second
when you can quickly make it all go away
spend no time with them at all
make excuses of work and taxes
and make them fall in love with a lighted box
typing, watching
like little drones that don’t know better
and to cure that
for surely that’s not healthy
feed them something more, like a quick fix
to make them smile as they once did,
when time really mattered

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Posted in Childhood, Parenting, Poetry


Me and Writing

19 Feb

I’ve always been making up fiction since I was little. It’s how I put myself to sleep when my parents stopped reading us bedtime stories. I used to make stories about the rodents in the wall I saw. I always saw a momma rodent with a baby rodent on its back. I made a society about them too.

I also made a story about a community of devils and angels from watching a Warner Brothers cartoon. But I couldn’t write yet, so I didn’t really explain it well. It was a complex society.

Story-making gave me a haven from the everyday because my everyday was filled with teasing and putting me down. Stories gave me a sense of power that I don’t think anyone else understood.

I really went into my imagination when there were negative things happening outside of me. It was a way for me to express myself.

Originally I wanted to be an actress, but it was because I really loved stories. And I liked the added attention. When I found no actresses on TV that looked like me, I thought I could become one, but my Mom put me down every time I said I wanted to become one saying they can’t eat, they starve to death and so on. She dashed my dreams of becoming an actress and I lost confidence as I found myself less and less pretty, I didn’t get the larger parts in the plays and I was always shuffled to back stage duties at our local theater. I was in one TV commercial and one play where I had a major part, but that was it. I still like plays and wish I could see more with more interesting storylines. New ones–the ones off of Broadway.

When I discovered that the world didn’t really accept Asians as actors, being the count at the time was two Asian actors, I became fascinated with how stories work–which was my real love in the first place. I really discovered it when I read L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon. It was a book I had bought after loving Anne of Green Gables. Here was a character who was like being adopted that loved to write. And for the first time in my life I really, really understood everything that the character said. I understood her anger and frustration and I understood all the parts about being a writer. And that’s when I realized in one of those no-duh moments that I was one.

I began writing longer works after that point even though I’d always been playing with stories since I was little. I tried writing novels, but couldn’t grasp how a novel actually works. Then I started expanding out. I started reading other authors. Anne McCaffrey and so on.

Since I always had a fascination with behind the scenes stuff as a kid, I began to also read all author notes with more interest than the actual novels. I wanted to know who these people were that wrote the novels. Why did they write them as such, and what went into their fiction. This probably was the start of being at odds with literature teachers. (Besides the fact that they wouldn’t teach anything outside of the US and Europe). I started correlating these facts the more I read. I read tons of Fantasy and Science Fiction seeing how hard it all was.

I tried writing every genre I could get access to and also started drawing the characters from my stories. Even though I was put down by my Mom for being a writer, by her sayng, “You can’t get money from being a writer.” “How are you going to live?” “You can’t get this published–look at all the mistakes.” and then asking me for more stories which she also managed to put down. I still went on. I worked around her. I did it because I read Emily of New Moon who had an Aunt that forbid her from writing anything.

The more I read about author’s lives, the more I was convinced that it was for me and at the same time, it was something that though hard, was really rewarding. People died for their writing, people had passion and saw things no one else saw. And I knew I saw them too. I did everything to “catch up” with other writers. I had Writer’s Digest, I think for three years. I worked hard to get my writing up to par. My first story had plot problems. The one that I finished with an end to it. I didn’t try to publish it.

The other stories I felt weren’t good enough and failed. I kept writing until my bedroom was filled with spiral notebooks. I wrote and I read and kept doing so from the time I was 13 to now.

I was forced to submit something at 17, but honestly, I thought it really shouldn’t be submitted, but I needed the grade.

It was only when I was 19 that I felt I finally had found something publishable. That one was rejected until there was no place to submit it to.

I did that again with another story and this one got written comments. I will keep trying to publish my fiction. For me, writing is a release, a way to breathe and express myself. Because people don’t know what I look like, I am judged solely on what I present them–my own talent. This is validation I don’t get in my every day. It’s the kind of validation I love and I seek.

This is also the kind of validation I will never get as a Korean adoptee.

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Posted in Childhood


My Parent’s Gifts

19 Feb

My parents gave up giving us real presents after we turned into teenagers. They said that they didn’t know what we wanted. Despite my interests pretty much staying the same–as in I always liked writing and drawing, they were at a loss as to what to get us.

They started asking what we would like for presents. They probably did this because my Mom started to agree it was easier after our grandparents started giving us checks. The excitement of unwrapping presents fell away and my Mom stopped really celebrating Hannukah.

For my birthday I asked for a camera. I thought it would be cool to get a camera. One with an automatic zoom to replace the older camera that no longer worked that my Mom had given to me when I was young.

They agreed to get a camera. This was shortly before we went to New York City to visit my Aunt who lived there. They got the present, granted, late, but they still got it. My Mom asked if I was bringing my camera. I said yes–because I always brought my camera before.

I learned later that she didn’t bring hers. She blamed me when I didn’t want other people taking pictures with the camera. I didn’t see it as my fault for her not bringing her camera. Apparently, they had bought the camera, with the idea that they could use it too. I was pissed off. I was also a teenager.

In my eyes, it was a present that they gave me as a present, as such I could do with it as I wished. After we got back my parents and I got into a fight. I still remember my mom sitting on the brown rocking chair with her stiff posture and crossed legs. She would glance over at my Dad for support. He wouldn’t say anything, but support her.

My Mom argued that it was a “family” camera. It was a present to me. How was it a family camera? Since she bought it with her money, they should be able to use it too.

We finally agreed I would buy the film which was a forced compromise between my Dad and me.

That was the first time I noticed she used the word, “We.”

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Posted in Childhood, Parents


Hard Day

19 Feb

I am a pretty good cook. I can make almost anything after the third try. My rate of success is usually 99%. Sometimes, however, I utterly fail at a dish.

I am the kind of cook that makes things from what’s on hand. I like making complex things too.

This was a week my dad wasn’t home. I had decided to make dinner. My parents complained that I didn’t put in enough green vegetables. I thought this was ridiculous. Dinner is not the only meal on can have vegetables, and they had put it all out on me that they weren’t getting enough.

So I decided to make fresh spinach pasta. I started at noon and thought I was being nice. The green pasta in the stores don’t have any actual added nutrition. I started at noon, thinking I was being nice. I unfroze the spinach, but didn’t understand that one should chop or puree the spinach before putting it into the pasta. I also made spaghetti sauce from scratch.

My brother got home and was hungry. So I was making the spinach pasta, but it was too wet and wasn’t cutting in the machine.

My mom got home, cranky over something that had happened at work. She didn’t help us.

My brother and I finished but very late. I think my brother knew that my mom was getting upset. However, I was focused on making the food. I’d been on my feet for nine hours without a break. I hadn’t eaten yet and I was tired.

I physically couldn’t clean the kitchen. My feet hurt.

My mom yelled at me that I couldn’t eat dinner until the kitchen was clean. I was resentful. I had gone to the trouble of making a square meal and spent my free time–some nine hours to do it and she still yelled at me.

I told her how long it had taken to make, how I was tired. She ignored me and started to complain about things that had nothing to do with me. Her lab, her work, how all of the world was out to get her, and yelled at me about these things. They had nothing to do with me, but she still yelled at me about them.

She said that I should be the only person to clean the kitchen. I argued that Michael had made some of the mess too. I wanted to split the labor in cleaning the kitchen. She continued to ignore what I was trying to say. She ignored everything I said to insist on her position.

She argued that I should be the only one to do it because I did nothing all day. This made me even more mad. I yelled at her that I had started dinner early and that it wasn’t easy. I told her that I made a mistake and miscalculated time. She could not let it go.

My brother disappeared after that with his dinner into his bedroom. I don’t think my Mom noticed.

She wouldn’t accept anything I said. She saw it in black and white. She wouldn’t take any compromises I offered her. She did a back-handed complement. She yelled at me that she understand and appreciate what I had done. But she wasn’t going to do the cleaning because she had a hard day at work.

The argument ended with her cleaning part of the kitchen with a “you owe me” look on her face. I didn’t get to eat until eleven o’clock. My pasta sauce never tasted so bland.

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Posted in Childhood, Parents


Subconscious and Me

19 Feb

I’ve been having cognitive dreams since I was five years old.

The first dream I remember that was cognitive was of a vampire. He was as big as the front hall. He looked like Dracula of the 80′s–white face and fangs with angled eyebrows.

He had put my family on barbecue skewers and was planning to roast them one by one.

I was so frightened that I woke up crying. My mom heard me and then gave me water to drink. Through my tears I told her the dream. She said, “It’s not real.”

She went back to bed and I went back to sleep.

The dream resumed where it left off. I decided to defeat the vampire by telling where it left off. I decided to defeat the vampire by telling it jokes. I also tickled him. The dream stopped.

Ever since then I’ve kept rough track of my dreams. I realized after reading Freud that some of it was what I experienced and some of it from my subconscious.

My subconscious likes using “symbols” and is fond of using people as symbols of various emotions.

Over time my dreams have become more and more cognitive. As I write more fiction they also have become mini-stories with a more cohesive storyline.

I like dreaming because I can often fly, have magical powers, be important, meet celebrities, see alternative lives, break through dimensions, solve problems, be an actress, and ultimately look inside of myself in ways I never could before.

It helps me to be in tune with myself, my worries, fears and aspirations.

When I ignore my subconscious, it’s always messy.

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Posted in Childhood


Thirteenth Birthday

19 Feb

When I was thirteen a bunch of friends got together and gave me birthday presents. I don’t remember 100% what all of the gifts were, but since my own parents had quit giving me actual gifts with thought about who I was (since I was a teenager and a teenager is hard to buy for. Which, to me, is still a load of crap. I was a teenager who wrote, drew, did crafts, and had multiple hobbies but after I was a teenager, it didn’t matter. I had to buy my own presents.) So it was kind of shocking for anyone to actually not tell me that they were buying something and then buying something. I’m not sure if I could put a good analogy to it…

Anyhow, one of my friends at the time gave me bath material. I admit I kept that for years, even after she left for Florida. (I found out she’s now married with kids.) She also gave me a pink scrubber with a loofa scrubber surface on one side. I have a strange thing with presents where I feel I should not use them, and for me, it took years for me to use the pink salts that came with it. And I never used the pink scrubber. To me, it was a precious present from a friend that I no longer had around, so it was an important present to keep. Within that pink scrubber were memories of being friends with her, and maybe that warm and fuzzy feeling of someone who actually took time to think up a present for me, didn’t ask me, and gave it to me. I didn’t know why I held such affection, but I hid it in the depths of my closet to not use it.

So imagine my feelings when I come home and find out that the present I’d been preserving for 10+ odd years was being used by my parents. I told them it was a gift and they should not use it. I hid it again. And imagine my anger at finding it in the bathroom again after I’d carefully hidden it. See… they really didn’t respect the meaning of a present and what that present meant to me. Somehow this is just telling of our relationship with each other. I tell them something belongs to me, is sacred to me, and they view me as a child and do whatever they want if it serves their self-interest. i.e. take my present that I’ve been preserving for 10 years as a connection to a friendship I don’t want to break and then step all over those feelings because they don’t understand the importance or emotions that go into gifts.

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Posted in Childhood, Parents

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