An excerpt from Holt adoptee Kim Fenneman’s recently published collection of stories, Corn-fed with Rice on the Side.
Going back to where it all started
I could hardly believe I was going back to Seoul. My first trip back since I flew to the States in September 1975. Obviously, I don’t remember anything from my first trip to the States and I hadn’t really ever studied the history or background of my birth place or country before. My curiosity hadn’t been piqued strongly enough growing up and that’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. I was going back to where I was born, but I didn’t know anything about it. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel or how I would really feel once I got there. All I really knew was that I was going. I had planned on doing some research before I left on my trip, but I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped. I did, however, have my parents bring all of my adoption papers to me before I left so I could read through them all again. I had read through them many times before growing up, but this time I was looking to see if I had missed anything and looking at the things I might have forgotten over the years. It was a huge stack of papers from all of their initial inquiry documents and acceptance letters to when I would be arriving.
Before I left on my trip, my parents and I had gone out to dinner. We sat outside at a restaurant patio and talked about my upcoming trip and how I was feeling. We talked about my adoption and how I had been raised and it became a profound moment for me in all of the discussions I have ever had with my parents about being adopted. We were all very candid with one another. I had told my mom that my manager, who was also Asian, had encouraged me to bring along little gifts for all my local hosts in each country I was visiting, while traveling on business for two weeks to several Asian countries. He also had suggested I buy something for my birth mother if I had the opportunity to meet her. I told him that I highly doubted that would happen during this trip and that I would be going to the adoption agency to see what kind of information they had on me, but that’s as far ahead as I was looking or maybe hoped to look at the time.
I really didn’t have any expectations of looking or even finding my birth mother. I’ve always said that I’d be completely satisfied with just a picture of her. But when I told my mom about the suggestion of a gift for my birth mother she reacted more strongly in opposition than I had expected. My mom had always been supportive of me in trying to find my birth parents if I had ever wanted to, but I think hearing it out loud and the possibility of it actually coming true hit her to the core. Her initially reaction was “No!” and I think it even surprised her a bit that she would have such a strong reaction, but as we discussed the very low odds of me ever meeting my birth mother and the fact it would be a nice gesture if it ever did occur, my mom understood and took a step back to assess her reaction.
We also talked about how I never really felt different or like an outcast growing up because I was Asian or adopted or because I was the only Asian or minority in our community. I was accepted. And those are powerful words for anyone, but especially for a child. It can make such a difference in one’s life. If I hadn’t been accepted my view and outlook on life and on being adopted might be totally different today. And something my parents had never really said before to me rang out like the toll bells ringing the truth loudly and clearly for the first time, “We raised you like any other normal American child. We didn’t raise you as an Asian child.”
Even though I am Asian American, that’s not what defines me. It may be a label or one type of classification, but it’s not who I am. We are who we are at the core — not by our looks, our ethnicities, our religion — but by our souls, our true authentic selves. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime to become our true authentic self, but it’s there. It’s always there within each of us… kind of like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I was raised no differently than anyone else around me. I felt normal. I was normal. I am normal, as normal as you can get.
Kim Fenneman | Frisco, Texas
For more information about the author and to purchase a copy of Corn-fed with Rice on the Side, go to www.kimfenneman.com.
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