My son is quickly approaching 7. This time in his life brings strong emotions for me. I was just shy of 7 when I arrived at Kennedy Airport from Seoul, Korea. Snippets - scenes, sensations, smells.
We were in Seoul, bustling, noisy, smelly - back in 1966. My mom held my hand so tight it hurt. Dressed in silk and wool, her hair up, clack-clacking in her spike heels, looking every bit the spoiled daughter of a rich family. She didn't know this would hurt her, that this would make her wait 2 years to get a Visa, the officer waiting for a big envelope of cash to cross his desk. This Visa would let her join her husband in the U.S. and be a family again after 5? 6 years apart. Time after time, she wore her custom-made clothes, trying to make a good impression, when all it did was confirm to the bastard that it would be worth the wait.
Clack-clack-clack. Trying to keep up with her so my hand wouldn't hurt more than it already did. Those were the days that when you got lost, you were lost. For good. You got sent to an orphanage and then some white people might adopt you, if you were "lucky." (Remember Toby Dawson?) No TV. No phones. Maybe a radio. How would you find anyone? My mom held me tight. So tight I can still feel the ache.
We'd get home from these trips downtown. My mom would lock herself in a room and cry. Not soft whimpers, but the wretched, anguished cry of a helpless woman used to getting her way. The day she delivered the bribe, she got the stamps in our passports. She stopped crying and started packing. We were gone in less than a month.
When we arrived in the U.S., she would have other reasons to cry.