These pages belong to a children’s book that I found neatly tucked away in the antique cedar chest that sits at the foot of my bed. The chest still carries the fragrance of my Mamaw and stores a collection of newspaper clippings and photos. These remnants tell my father’s story, beginning at the time he landed in the states in 1955. I love that this excerpt reveals where I am in the season of parenting with my almost teenager.
This Mother’s Day morning, I savored a delicious breakfast as the awakening Texas sun poured radiance on the patio of my favorite restaurant. The boys ran carefree in the field alongside family-filled tables, and they meandered through the nearby outdoor maze comprised of low lying holly bushes and a well-worn dirt path. A gentle breeze paired with the background music of singing birdsong made the morning almost restful and completely delightful.
Soulful worship and a truth-filled sermon followed, and then we came home.
After gathering all the stray jackets and backpacks and Bible verse cards from the truck floorboard, I dropped all the stuff at the backdoor bench seat and headed toward my bedroom, where I looked in the mirror, probably a little too long. It was there that I started thinking about and feeling way too deep what it means to be a mother today. How did I get here? Why did I choose this? What does it mean that I am celebrated today?
In these moments, I only have capacity to think through the first question: How did I get here?
It is because the women in my past made choices to sacrifice. In hurt and love and uncertainty, they deliberately chose to move forward and birth hurt and love and uncertainty.
In 1953, my father was born in war-torn South Korea at the end of the Korean War. I will never know my paternal grandparents or exactly how long my father was in the orphanage before he was last-minute chosen as one of the fifty-nine children that left a poor and ravaged South Korea in 1955 for America. But I do know that his mother chose to carry him to term and chose to hope that, against all odds, somehow he might have a better chance of making it “out there” than with her. She gave him a chance, and by God’s great design, my father boarded a plane with five other mixed-race adoptees headed for DFW airport.
Upon arrival to the U.S., his adoptive family welcomed him to Paris, TX, at the tender age of 2 1/2 years old. Within months of being lovingly welcomed by his parents, Edwin and Wilma White, Edwin suffered a heart attack on Christmas morning, leaving behind his wife and newly adopted son. His mother, my grandmother, raised him with a tenacity and fierce love that surely was required of any single mother in the sixties. She returned to school to become a librarian and sacrificed everything to give him a chance, and by God’s great design, my father prepared for the next series of events that would forever change his life.
Nine years after my father’s adoption, his mother died almost instantly when he was twelve in a tragic car-collision in Albany, TX, on the way to Easter lunch. He survived and he was thereafter adopted and raised by his aunt and uncle who loved him like their own. His aunt was his third mother, in a sense. And again, she gave him everything that was in her power to bestow so that he might have a chance, and by God’s great design, years later my father met my mother.
And that is why I am here. In writing this sliver of my story, I’ve started processing and appreciating why this day is worth celebrating.
Today is less about the mother I am or I am failing to be or the image I’m portraying or the imperfections I see in the mirror when I stare into the glass a little too long.
Today is about recognizing the women in my familial past, some whom I will never know or touch or, in all honesty, even be able to apprehend.
Today is about choosing to grateful for them, fully acknowledging that I will never understand the sacrifices that those women had to make so that I could be here today.