A few months ago, around Christmas time, I got to witness something very special; Mike’s Korean mom and his American mom met for the first time in Korea.
Mike is lucky in that he has the closest thing to an open adoption that I’ve ever heard of when it comes to Korean adoptees. His Korean mom (Dong-hee) got regular updates through translated letters that his American mom (Mary) sent every so often via his Korean foster grandmother. Dong-hee even got our wedding pictures!
Although Mary never knew for sure if Dong-hee was getting the letters, it turned out that they were her life-line and helped her cope with her grief, Mary sympathized with the heartache that Mike’s mom must have felt in giving him up and said that her greatest wish was to “share” him, which is why she wrote the letters. Finally, these women would be able to meet.
It’s funny because, we had it all planned, and it was supposed to be this big dramatic moment. In reality, it was a very normal low-key kind of thing.
After a long train ride (four hours) from Seoul to Pohang, Mary and I went outside the train station to get some fresh air. We heard that Dong-hee was about 10 minutes away so we figured we had time to stretch our legs before going back inside to prepare to meet with everyone. As we were stretching our legs I heard my name called out in an accented bell-like voice. “An-duh-re-ah”. I turned to my right and there was Dong-hee walking up to me. Since Mary was closer to her the women shook hands and then hugged. It was THE moment and I felt so unprepared!! Where was my camera? OMG.
Anyway, we had a good laugh, took some photos and headed to the restaurant to eat and get to know each other.
The first meeting: Mike’s moms, Mike, and Korean aunt
At the restaurant: Mike, grandma, Korean mom, and aunt
Lunch was a seafood-style Korean table, with dish after dish of raw and cooked fish, abalone, vegetables and all other kinds of culinary delights filling the entire length of the low table.
My favorite dish of the night: raw abalone dipped dipped in sesame oil
The first meeting went so well that we did not realize our allotted three hours for the private room were up and we were essentially politely kicked out to make room for the next patrons.
Later, Dong-hee and Mary were so cute together! They seemed to have a strong connection. They frequently clasped hands and smiled at each other. There was just a palpable love and respect there. The next few days they swapped stories about raising Mike through our friend and translator extraordinaire, Eunju. Actually, our friends Eunju and Josh really helped us a lot with translating, booking the train tickets, and just being an amazing support for us the entire time Mary was here. You two are awesome! Thank you.
Second meeting: Mike, sister, niece, and the Moms
At one of our later meetings, Dong-hee brought out a clear plastic file where she had kept all the letters and pictures that Mary sent over the years. She mentioned over and over how much she appreciated and looked forward to them. We had a good laugh looking through Mike’s old photos from when he first came to the U.S. He was such a cutie!
We also paid a visit to Mike’s foster grandmother, without whom the connection between the moms would not have been possible. That day, Dong-hee took us around the town where she raised Mike as a young child; it’s where she currently lives and raised her other children. Showing us her workplace, Mike’s old preschool and the rest of the town, she seemed to be reliving some of her grief and loss by not having him a part of her daily life. It seems she held back a lot of tears that day.
A week later when the moms said their tearful goodbyes to each other, promises were made for Dong-hee to visit Mary in the U.S. I really hope they can meet again.
You can see full photo album here.