learning about my adoption

My mom and half sisters, Linda (L) and Lynn (R)

I peeked out of our office window to see who was at the door. UPS. My eyes settled in on a large brown box sitting next to the delivery man’s feet. Then I remembered. My sister had shipped a package from Louisiana with more stuff from home, including my mom’s diaries. Looking at the box, I noticed that the tape had come unglued around the edges leaving wide gaping holes. The UPS guy was concerned about possible damage to the contents and asked that I take a look inside. I hurried back into the house, and after grabbing a pair of scissors, knelt beside the box and began cutting away at the tape. Styrofoam peanuts began flying out as I reached inside. I lifted up one particularly large article bound tightly with bubble wrap and tape and heard the sound of clinking glass. After suggesting that I call UPS for an inspection of the damaged goods, the UPS guy zipped off. I dragged the heavy box inside and began tearing it open. By the looks of all the stuff inside, I wondered where I’d have room to put it all. There were large picture frames containing more of my dad’s military awards and a shoebox full of pictures, mom’s diaries, yearbooks, diplomas. One of the greatest finds was a small scrapbook evidently made by my dad’s mom, whom I don’t remember meeting. She had saved several newspaper clippings of stories about my dad from their hometown, as well as his early flight training graduation program and invitation to a grand graduation ball. I could tell that dad’s mom was very proud of him. I took out the broken item and, through the bubble wrap, saw that it was a certificate given to my dad in honor of his military retirement. The signatures of several officers were visible at the bottom in various shades of blue and black ink. Dad had served honorably as Director of the Personnel Actions Division for many years after an aneurysm in 1963 had physically disqualified him from ever flying again.

I dug in the box to find my mom’s diaries and was anxious to start reading. My sister found three, although I knew that there were more. They were all in pretty good shape and readable. The first one I perused through was dated 1943 – 1946, the years during World War II. Her entries were very brief, mostly just a few sentences, but there were a few longer ones. I discovered that my mom married her first husband, Jim Bell, on July 23, 1943 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Everett Brines, Jim’s aunt and uncle. She was only eighteen years old. It appeared that she and Jim quarreled a lot, and one entry described a near split after Jim read a letter she received from another gentlemen. It was hard for me to imagine my mom at such a young age. My brother, Larry, recently told me that Jim, his dad, had an awful temper, and it made me wonder as I read mom’s diary what this man, my mom’s first husband, was like. Mom wrote about Jim flying often and being gone from home; obviously he was in the Army Air Corp. They listened to the radio and went to see shows together frequently. On May 8, 1944, she had her first son, my half-brother Larry. I skimmed through the rest of the diary anxious to see if one of the others covered the 60’s, the year my parents adopted me. I found one dated January 1, 1962 – December 31, 1966. Mom skipped around from year to year, which made it difficult to follow sometimes. I went right to 1966 looking for clues about my adoption. The first hint of my parents wanting to adopt occurred on January 21, 1966:

“Janie and I went to Machoriato to the Souls Episcopalian Church and Father Stough to talk about the baby. Not too much help but certainly believe he’ll help…”

I’m not sure where Machoriato is, but I did a Google search on the church mom referred to and found an All Souls Anglican Church and Mission on the Internet. From what I could tell, it fit the description of the church mom talked about in her diary. I sent an email hoping to find out and no more than half an hour later, received an email from Fr. Larry Kirchner stating that indeed it was the same church, and there was a Fr. Stough during that time period.

The next entry referring to “the baby” is dated February 1, 1966:

“Janie came up very early – Father Stough called that he had a little 3 yr. old boy, then it turned out to be a girl for me to see. Janie almost hit a kid on Kadena AFB.”

So glad they didn’t actually hit the kid. Janie is my godmother. I remember vividly one of her visits to us in Louisiana. She painted my fingernails and sewed a new dress for me, and I fell in love with her. I cried the day she had to leave. She and her husband, Nelson, once visited me when I lived in Orlando, Florida in the early 1990’s. I lost touch with Janie after that and am not sure if she’s still living. Janie was my mom’s confidante at Kadena and a dearly loved friend.

On February 3, 1966, Father Stough called mom about the baby, and they set a date the following Monday to meet with a little girl. Here’s the entry from Monday, February 7, 1966:

“We go to see the little girl. Went to Naha to see her – she was beautiful – absolutely as pretty a child as I ever saw in my life. We were so disappointed that the Grandma didn’t want to give her up. Janie and Nelson brought me home.”

I can only imagine the disappointment mom felt after that. I’m now starting to wonder where my dad was as Mom and Janie were off visiting orphanages. Probably at work. The next entry to mention any news of adoption doesn’t occur until 2 months later on April 28th. Mom heard about an Okinawan girl expecting a baby. Then on May 21st she makes the first mention of adopting from Taiwan:

“Rains so heavy. Heard about getting a baby in Taiwan…”

A month later, she wrote a letter about “getting a baby from Taiwan” followed soon after by another letter to Taiwan with power of attorney, so she and Dad could become legal guardians of a minor. I found the receipt for payment dated December 20, 1966 from the Dept. of State – United States of America. For the next month, they didn’t hear anything back from Taiwan. Finally on August 8th, word came back:

“…Got letter from Mr. Forbes in Taipei, Taiwan…”

For the next three months, my parents waited. Mom wrote on November 25th, 1966:

“…Maybe we’ll go to Taiwan soon…”

Around December 5th, things started to roll. I’ve tried piecing together the information I found, but it’s a bit confusing. It appears that they didn’t wait for or receive a referral for a child like adoptive parents do today, but could travel to Taiwan anytime they wanted to. How did they know which orphanage to go to, or did they visit several? I found 2 long lists of the names of orphanages mostly in the Taipei area with all of my adoption stuff and wonder if my mom visited all of those orphanages?

“Decided to go to Taiwan next week if possible…”

On Monday, December 12th, mom found out that they’d leave on the following Thursday for Taiwan, and the next day received some information on adoption in Taiwan. The big day arrived and Mom’s entry on December 15, 1966 said:

“Left Kadena AFB for Taipei, Taiwan. Went to Family Planning. Saw Chaling. Had interview with Mrs. Kan. Chaling was brought to us. Such a beautiful baby. Faulkenburgs with us. Went out to see and meet Miss Radley and Susie.”

On my adoption contract, “Chaling” is actually spelled out Hsiao-ling. I imagine that someone probably wrote out how to pronounce the name phonetically for my parents to remember and the translation stuck, which is how I ended up with Chaling as my middle name. On Friday, December 16th, my parents started the paperwork:

“Started the paperwork for Marijane Chaling Buck – raining. Finished at the Court House by 5 pm. Then we all went out to eat. Took the baby to 7th D. Adventist Hosp. She checked out OK.”

I found the original receipts from the Taiwan Sanitarium and Hospital mixed in with all the paperwork for my adoption. I wondered if the 7th Day Adventist Hospital and Taiwan Sanitarium were somehow connected? Sure enough, after another Google search, I found a web page for the Taiwan Adventist Hospital. It’s one of over 600 healthcare institutions operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a worldwide mission system. The Hospital was relocated from Shanghai to Taipei in 1949. It was later re-established as the Taiwan Sanitorium Hospital by the founder. Afterwards, due to the hospital’s growth, it was renamed the Taiwan Sanitarium and Hospital. In 1971, it was again renamed the Taiwan Adventist Hospital after more community services were added. My visit there cost my parents $559.00 for vaccinations, meds, consultation, and the doctor’s visit.

Saturday, December 17th and Sunday were filled with getting all the necessary paperwork together and a little shopping. Mom wrote,

“Run – run – trying to get things done. Everything closes at noon in Taiwan. Took train to Yan Shui to St. Benedicts’. Beautiful. Enjoyed meeting the sisters.”

“Spent a little time shopping. Then stayed out at the Hosp. Visited with Susie. She’s a darling.”

Who were the sisters at St. Benedict’s? Was St. Benedict’s another orphanage, and who was Susie? I wonder if St. Benedict’s still exists? Hmmm….In the next entry dated Monday, December 19th, it looked like all the paperwork had finally been completed. Mom wrote:

“Wendy and Alice Lee run all day – got our papers finished. Baby vaccinated. Spent all day running with Esther and Susie to find baby clothes. Not too much luck. The Faulkenburgs left.”

“Shopped a bit. Met Col. Richmond – helped us get on S/A plane. Arrived at Kadena at 2 AM. Baby very good. Mickey and Barney here – Lee and Dan got up to see baby. Girls very pleased.”

Who are all the people my mom mentioned? I have no idea who Alice Lee was, or Col. Richmond, Mickey, Barney, Lee or Dan. So many unanswered questions! The girls were my two half sisters, Lynn and Linda, one from my mom’s previous marriage and one from my dad’s previous marriage. They were both teenagers in high school when my parents adopted me. I guess I’ll probably never know who the others were.

After getting the “new baby settled in,” the 4252nd wing gave mom a baby shower. She wrote, “I got everything for Marijane. It was so nice.” Mom saved all of the baby shower cards from that day. They were all carefully placed with my adoption papers, and I was amazed that she had kept them buried all this time. One of mom’s last entries for that year was:

“Our baby girl is with us. So precious. Went to the “Little Club” for Xmas Dinner. Marijane very good. Girls had a good Xmas. A very happy day for all.”

I wonder how I adjusted to my new family? I’m sure that English was foreign to my ears at the time of my adoption. Did I attach quickly to my adoptive parents? I’m not sure that I’ll ever find out.

4 thoughts on “learning about my adoption

  1. Beth Fisher

    Wow, is all I can say again. The universe is opening before you. As you seek you are finding. What an amazing experience! It is so much fun being beside you as your puzzle pieces fall into your possession and we watch the picture come into shape. You are writing wonderfully Marijane!

    Like

    Reply

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