My parents always joked that I looked like Edward Scissorhands when I stepped off the plane. There was a representative from Holt Adoption agency with me, and I can only assume my facial expression reflected how I was feeling about the long travel. But, I was also a bit malnourished, by American standards, and probably confused by what was going on. I know some people have recollections of when they were two, but I don't really remember any of this. Luckily, I have video evidence, and can fully agree of my resemblance to the sharp-handed gentleman, sans the leather.
I was adopted from Taegu, South Korea by Bob and Karen Izykowski, two middle class Jersey kids in their late thirties. They owned a house, cats and a dog (maybe other animals as well, can't quite recall). They had also adopted my sister, Emmy, from South Korea. She was 359 days older than me, but the more important part [that's always stuck with me] is that she was adopted when she was six months old, and I was when I was two. Hence, the history mystery. And, up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea what those first two years consisted of.
Recently, I was applying for my position as a Museum Preparator for the SFO Museum. As you can imagine with any position in an airport, the guidelines and screening process were strict and drawn out. I went to the security office to get fingerprinted with my birth certificate in hand, only to be asked to show proof of citizenship. I explained that I fell under The Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Their response? Prove it.
"The new law, Public Law 106-395, amends the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to permit foreign-born children—including adopted children —to acquire citizenship automatically if they meet certain requirements. It becomes effective on February 27, 2001."
I fell just under those requirements, but how was I to prove it? It turns out that I needed a proof of citizenship form. And through a long spiral of convoluted events, I found out that the form would cost $1,190 and could take six months to a year. Gross. I will also add, that form cost half that in December of last year.
The best thing that came out of this, though, was my call to Holt Adoption services. I knew they had handled my adoption, but I truly did not know how much they could tell me or how much they could help. Well, I spoke with a woman whose job is basically damage control- Helping those adoptees figure out what files they had available, how to obtain them and where they go from here. Not only was she amazingly helpful, but pleasant and totally understanding. I received emails from her and also from a woman named Sunday Silver, the Director of Post Adoption Services, but also has the best name of anyone I've ever met. SUNDAY SILVER. Amazing.
What I finally obtained was a copy of my adoption file. My parents had copies of some of these things, and I truly thought I've seen all of it. I naively let it sit in my inbox for weeks, as I didn't actually even realize they had sent me an electronic version of it. When I opened it, I realized it contained some information I never knew. Here's some excerpts I find particularly interesting. If you'll indulge me a bit, we'll start from the beginning:
And then there's this. The reason:
Clearly written on an official document. "Neither of them had ability in bringing up this baby, so they could not but give up their parental rights toward this baby in a hope that this baby would be adopted into a better adoptive family in behalf of the baby's sound future."
I know this is a little vague and probably seems somewhat generic, but this is the most information that I've gotten as to why. When you're adopted, and have no memory of your former life, and no idea why you are where you are, having these tidbits of information slowly begin to put things in perspective. The pieces of the puzzle that have been lost were actually just hiding.
You may or may not be wondering how this affects what I think about my parents here. It really doesn't change anything. That would be ridiculous. In fact, it just strengthens and reinforces where they stand on the spectrum of amazing human beings- to find two children from different backgrounds and give them a life they otherwise would not have had. My mother told me when she adopted us, while we were still young, people would ask her if she would love us like her own. Her reply? "They ARE my own."
Where does this new information leave me? Well, growing up in primarily white neighborhoods in New Jersey/ Northeast Pennsylvania made it quite easy to push aside any interest in pursuing additional knowledge of my heritage and background. But, receiving this knowledge now, at this point in my life, seems serendipitous. Being around much more diverse culture, hearing different languages and now knowing other Koreans (who have moved here only within the past decade), has completely affected my openness to learning more about myself.
I guess the next logical step would be to travel to where it all began- South Korea.