I was 3 months old when I came off the plane in BWI Airport from Korea into the arms of my mother and father. For so long, I was told to be happy that I didn't own any devastating infancy memories of abandonment or abuse. But the fact of the matter is, I don't own any memories at all. Well, that's not completely true.
They say that a newborn's first years are the most understated and underrated years of life. There are parenting books that say just because they are newborns or babies doesn't mean that what you do as a parent or caretaker won't mean anything and it doesn't mean that babies won't have memories, too. I wasn't sure how much of this I believed until my memories started rushing in. And in the strangest and most memorable times.
It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school that I got my first "memory" of the Homeland and of my birthparents. I was really sick and to this day, it was never really diagnosed fully what I had experienced (although after going to six different medical specialists I had six different diagnoses: IBD, some rare form of IBD, small intestine inflammation, etc.). Regardless, I was in the worst pain that I had ever been in in my life. By the middle of 10th grade, I had to be removed from school and placed in a hospital. At my time of arrival, I weighed in at 75 lbs. because my body couldn't hold any of the food that I put in it and I was constantly nauseated by my own stomach acid. They placed me on IVs and then stuck me in a hospital bed. During my stay, my close Korean friend came to visit me, and sat down at my bedside. I remember just being completely out of it as he tried to talk to me. But then, all of a sudden, I felt his hand touch my cheek, and I heard the soft sound of his voice as he began to sing "San Toki".
But even though the small conscious part of me recognized that it was him who was singing, for some reason, I heard a woman's instead. A softer voice, and then the touch of a cooler, softer hand, and I closed my eyes and just clung to this feeling. It was this warm feeling that rushed over me, as if the warmth were someone trying to guide me into memory, as if to say "You've been here before. You know it this place."
A week later, I was completely healthy and returned home. I told my friend all about it, and was so excited and yet overwhelmed by how much this one instance had stuck with me, and had left me with this bittersweet happiness.
He said, "Eun-jung ee, don't you know? That was your hangukae uhma singing to you. You can remember now."
From then on, memories of her seep through me. And I think about her and him on a regular basis. What do they look like? Are they proud of me? Do they know I am not angry at them? Do they know that I am not sad at how things turned out? Do they know that I want to be a part of their lives? Do they want to be a part of mine?