N. A. Granger
I flew to Chicago alone to pick up our second child, a Korean adoption. All I knew of her was from a postage stamp-sized photograph of her tiny round face surrounded by a bowl of black hair. And her Korean name, Kim Hyung Ju. I had asked someone who spoke Korean what that meant, and he replied, “Wise Jewel.”
I had managed to stay calm during the flight from Raleigh-Durham, but when I was met by an old friend at the airport to spend the time between my arrival and Hyung Ju’s, nervousness and excitement started to mount. The feelings left me unable to eat much of the lunch my friend bought me to celebrate.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“You’d think I’d have this down by now,” I replied, pushing my food around on my plate. “I just wish Gene were here.” My husband had decided to stay at home with our three-year-old son, thinking it would be easier for our daughter to transition to one person at a time. She had lived with her birth parents for two months before being placed with foster parents by the adoption agency in Seoul. After having her for four months, this couple had wanted to keep her. When I learned that, I could only imagine their pain when she was taken away.
Along with eleven other infant adoptees, she’d been cared for by another other couple during the flight from Seoul to Seattle, and yet another from Seattle to Chicago. I knew my daughter was old enough to be confused and frightened by the constantly changing faces.
Other parents gathered at the arrival gate to meet their new children, but first the passengers had to leave the plane. Finally, just the cluster of us remained, many whispering excitedly. When my name was called, I walked down the jetway to the plane and entered coach class.
“Mrs. Granger? This is your daughter.” A young woman motioned to one of the babies in the first row.
There she was! Her foster parents had dressed her in a traditional Korean dress with little rubber shoes and her hair was pulled into a tuft on the top of her head. She was adorable.
I gathered her up and took her back to the gate, where I held her on my lap and talked to her. She looked in my eyes… and started screaming.
I held her and rocked her, but the screaming continued. I changed her clothes into ones I had brought, soft and comfortable. She screamed. I changed her diaper. More screaming. I offered her a bottle. She took a sip, rejected it and continued screaming. I walked her around and around in the stroller I’d brought and then went to the gate for the flight back to Raleigh. With her still crying at the top of her lungs, we boarded our flight.
Once we were seated, I held her in my lap facing me. “Cameron (the name we had chosen for her),” I said in a soft voice, “you need to quiet down now. I’m your mother, your only mother. You’re home.”
She suddenly stopped crying. She put her little hands on either side of my face and looked deeply into my eyes for a long moment. There was something there, a moment of recognition, an acceptance. She leaned into my chest and closed her eyes.
We’d made the connection.