Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lie #2: My name is Josie....

Her parents were somewhat of a mystery to her. She sensed what knowledge she had of them were only simple tales heard at family get gatherings, but not the detailed stories she desired. She knew that had to be special people to have sent for a lonely orphaned infant from across the sea. But who they were, she spent years trying to understand. 

Residing in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, her father worked at the local college and her mother, a former special education teacher, now spent her days a a life coach to her three young children. Devote Christians, God came first in the home, with discipline a close second.

There was always enough to go around financially, but nothing was wasted and frivolous purchases were few and far between. Whether this was because of basic necessity or a by-product of having grown up at the end of the depression, it is not known. The structure of the somewhat ridged household brought both the good and the bad that that entailed and she would not understand the importance of growing up in such an environment until much later in life.

What she did know from the beginning was that she grew up in a  loving home. Everything she had ever seen on television reminded her of that one true fact.Nothing that she had ever watched on Oprah ever made her question it. Of course,a loving household often meant restrictions and unfair expectations, in her opinion, but there was never yelling or even raised voices in her recollections of her formative years.

If anything,it was the lack of communication that was the one downfall of her childhood. Her father, a quiet computer professor; before the Microsoft boom, before the generation, was a man who spoke few words, but thought deeply with a mathematical mind that was confusing to her. Growing up, the youngest son of eleven siblings, she imagined that it must have been difficult to be heard in a home filled with so many voices and assumed that this is why he internalized his voice and remained content in his silent reflections.  

On the other side, her mother was optimistic and talkative, always one to share in the conversations with the other mother's that often gathered together. Yet, the daughter sensed that there was something behind her mother's cheerful disposition. It would be as an adult that she would question her mother's lack of gumption when it came to serious matters. It was as if her mother felt uneasy speaking her mind in case it would upset or differ from the general concessions. It would be years later that she would begin to understand the environment that her mother had grownup in and why her mother, underneath the positive attitude, remained tethered to a childhood where positive words and actions were often used to cover up the secrets of chaos and addiction. 

She often wondered what brought her parents together, but knew that as parents, they were a good team. A balance that brought secure consistency to her life,no matter how stifling that felt at times.

She grew up in a green house with a red brick porch and a white glass front door. The front hall had a wood floor and a wood staircase on the left wall that led upstairs to the bedrooms and pink,later green and purple bathroom. There was a coat closet in the hallway that after a pot-pie incident became a cave to run away to and an old fashion metal steam heater that would become a drop-off spot to dry wet mittens and hats throughout the dreary months, this being most of them in the rain soaked town. There were four bedrooms upstairs. Three of them would be used by her throughout the years. Sometimes shared with her younger sister, sometimes as a solo escape from the world she lived in. 

She doesn't recollect the house every being cluttered,with the exception of her bedroom. She doesn't remember seeing her mother do a daily clean as she would find herself doing years later with her own family, but such mundane things surely didn't warrant a space in her memory. It was particular tangible memories she did have of this residence where she spent so many years. The heavy green curtains in the living room, that would be memorialized behind her passport photo for all eternity. the big red fake leather chair that she could squeak her toes across as she sat and watched Sesame Street. The piano that she would listen to her father play church hymns on and where she would later sit upon the glossy black piano bench and cry when she didn't want to practice for her weekly lessons.

There was a fireplace that was only used for Christmas parties when she was told to stay upstairs, but she would sometimes sneak out of her room and sit at the top of the stairway and listen to the hushed voices and see the flicker of the flames reflected off the glass French doors that closed off the living room from the hallway. 

There was one party she was invited to, a honored guest,  when she was only nine months old. Two days before Christmas on her arrival into the country of freedom and promise. It was at this party that her not only her life changed, but also her name as she was introduced around as Josie, her newly given name; named in honor of her new proud mother. 

For years I hid the fact that Josie is not my true name. Not that I am particularly fond of my birth name, nor could I even say it correctly until a sweet old Korean man at the local grocery store taught me phonetically how to pronounce it. For as far as I am concerned, and since I have no recollection of life before my "American birth", my name is Josie. Recently however, my mother mailed me the contents of my adoption files and there I was, a tiny eleven pound version of myself, a stranger in a 37 year old torn and faded manila envelope wearing a homemade name plate across my chest, Yun Sun Jung. 

I get teary thinking of my own children and the special attention I made in the choice of their given names. How can I so easily forget my own, condemn my own? Who lovingly choose out this name for me? I will never know. In fact, for all I know, this was given to me by a worker at the orphanage as part of their daily paperwork. So I don't feel bad at my lack of ownership, that is not why the tears form slowly for me. It is because while I know I  was not conceived or born the conventional way by my mother, it is this woman that chose me, loved me  and  named me even  before I arrived that snowy winter day into her loving arms.

1 comment:

  1. i may be the pic gal, but you, you are the one full of words! though my pictures speak, yes, but you are amazing with your writing! when do we get to hear some of the naughty stuff? :P LOL