Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bicultural Adoption, like Disney World, is Magical

Please welcome Peggy Gilbey McMackin, creator and author of Spiced Peach Blog, a food blog along the spice road of food and friendship.
Today she shares with us how a return trip to Disney World with her grandson can bring the memories back. A story of adopting two daughters from Korea. A story involving not only paperwork and building anticipation, but also the trials and triumphs that motherhood involves. 

Thanks Peggy for sharing this great post!

It’s the natural order of things, the rite of passage to the next generation I suppose, wishing a very magical time to my eldest daughter, and her son, my grandson, as they headed off for vacation to Disney World.

Rapidly lifting the hatchback I tugged out one of the brightly colored suitcases with rolling wheels and a black lift up handle dropping it on the cement curb next to the no parking sign. It’s the J-Dudes 8th birthday. Swiping the moisture collecting in my eyes, I watched with great love and pride as the sliding glass door opened, my dark haired, almond eyed, magnificently statured daughter hastened her son toward the ticket counter, the two of them, they do look identical.

The drop- off area provided no luxury to linger but for one momentary second before accelerating away I closed my eyes. Remembering the tender moment my precious little baby was introduced to me twenty-five years ago.

It was a blurry ride back, swiping away more of the collecting moisture with the arm of my sweater until the tears began streaming uncontrollably. Ten fingers and ten toes, very good health. The woman sitting on the other side of the desk shared that the name Sook Kyung meant ‘Clear Shine.’

It seemed like just yesterday the dark haired, almond eyed, little girl walked through the same sliding glass door as it opened, with mommy and daddy off to the magical place of Disney World, just weeks before her new baby sister, would also arrive on the airplane from Korea.

The wait had felt like eternity. There had been interviews, home inspections, references written by family and friends, fingerprinting, and security clearances. Meetings. Checks were written. Books were read, all of the things one needed to understand about internationally adopted children, despite arriving as infants. Freshly painted walls surrounded the readied simple bright white crib with matching furniture pieces, soft blankets, and coordinated bumper pads. And the best coach and baby clothing that money could buy.

Following the formalities, the manila folder was opened, the envelope passed across the table. Heart pounding faster and faster, I lifted out the photo, it was magical. A shiny gloss photo of the most beautiful baby in the world, my baby, our baby. In the real story the love does not begin the day your baby flies from another part of the world and is placed in your arms for the very first time, true love begins the moment that single photo is placed into your hand. Heart filled with such indescribable love and joy you want to jump for joy as high as you can, shout it out and share it with the whole world, I know, I frequently did, even to complete strangers. I’m a Mommy!

Getting adjusted to a time zone from another part of the world is one of the first challenges to newly adopted parents shooting out of bed like a cannon at the slightest sound of discomfort the very first week that new little infant joins the family. Day is night and night is day. A very minutia detail to the roles of an adoptive mother in a bicultural family in the years to come. A new culture already embraced, and along the road it would deepen and flourish too, but it would never replace the same silly photos most all parents click.

The same calling is motherhood, just in a different way. Baby bottles, formula, milk, changing diapers, tending fevers, sickness to be nursed, runny noses, juice boxes, cuts, spills, doctors’ appointments and immunizations, smiles, first words, first steps, a soft, damp cloth across the lips to a sour face of displeasure at the first taste of smushed baby peas from the glass jar, and the delight of the tongue to the soft sweet peaches. Discussions encountered with other mothers on how uniquely special your child is, as they too shared the wonder of their own child upon the close of the door on the first days of nursery school, then kindergarten, then grade school, recitals, music, cultural dance and language lessons, middle school, high school, activities, sports, family vacations, and, Disney World.

Just like everyone else, there is the ingrained belief that your child is superior in all ways, the first picture ingrained it, this is your cub, and you are the tiger. But unlike Jungle Book, your child will never wander as its own breed, she is your own, and there will be nothing, no path, no obstacle, that you will not take to insure that everything you have within your being will insure the care of that cub.

Childhood is so fleeting, play times and some sleepless nights, through teething, daily routines, school years, and countless special moments and activities, laughter and tears, so many years, and then, one day, as if just yesterday, it simply ends. Your child walks through the sliding glass doors of the airport to the ticket counter then taking her own child to Disney World. What endures is love. It is not about blood, nor is it about adoption, it is not about if your child looks like you or not, it is about love, it is about family, a bond of eternity. And then when further blessed, all they say is true, surpassing anything ever dreamed, you become a grandmother.

Life is not perfect like Disney World, but being a mother, and the privilege of being an adoptive bicultural mother is, magical. It is not like what they show you on glamorous magazines, or among popularized movie stars. It is about the bond of love and commitment, a mother and a child, and life, together forever. And later, the privilege of being a grandmother, and for me, a family welcoming of our later expanded bicultural statues to multicultural, as the J-Dude, is half Vietnamese.

As I close this post, just as I began, sharing Sooky, and the J-Dudes trip to Disney World, wiping the tears recalling a lifetime of memories at their vacation departure, I anticipate wiping more tears of the next fleeting moment from another childhood, that of my youngest daughter. I now prepare to attend Alex’s final Division 1 athletic banquet at the university where she played field hockey this past four years, and will on the following week receive her degree in Communications. A lifetime of practices, and games, and weekend travels, hard work, cheering and encouragement, just as if it were yesterday, then it was College Senior Day, our family, all together, joined in yet another crossroad, that of accomplishment and rite of passage, these all among the fleeting moments of childhood.

Today, the same for most all mothers, as her children move forward in their own journey of life the flooding of tears eternally continues with love and pride. As generations transition there is even a period of confusion, pain, a sort of intensity in a sense of loss for those loving moments and memories past that all began with one single picture, and three years later, one more photograph. Indescribable love and joy where you want to jump for joy as high as you can, shout it out and share it with the whole world, no matter how you came to it, the most special privilege in the world, is being a mother.

The note to my daughter for her high school yearbook surrounded a few life snippets from Disney it went like this: Dear Alexandra, If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme… you may find a you there that you never knew was yours… All it takes is faith and trust…Reach for the Sky…Always let your conscience be your guide…When you wish upon a star your dreams come true! The love, the smiles, the pains, the tears of joy, and sorrow, the beauty all through the years, these all indescribable depths experienced in Motherhood through bicultural adoption. Love, family, eternal bond, all of it, just like Disney World, is magical.


I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Farin Vazquez for inviting me to share this post with you today, providing a perspective of experience on adoption, and in my own particular case, bicultural adoption or, as it was referred to many years ago as international adoption. While I hope this post will provide insight to any who might be considering this option in their own lives, I hope it will also provide a general understanding on the depth. As my youngest daughter who arrived from Korea at a little over three months of age graduates from college in two weeks, Farin has caught me in a bit of an emotional place in life, and for this opportunity to take time and reflect that it may in some way touch your life, or someone else’s, I am truly and deeply grateful. Thank you Farin.

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