The Invisible Red Thread made me laugh, made me cry, made me more attuned to the disturbing fact that orphaned and abandoned children in this world are far too numerous. On Saturday, June 1st, we screened the film documentary at an event called Honoring One’s Cultural Roots. Twenty-two people attended, including adoptive parents and their adopted children. There were seven adoptees, three were adults.
The documentary was filmed in 2010 by directors Maureen Marovitch and Dr. Changfu Chang and follows two adopted adolescent girls from China who live on opposite sides of the planet. We accompany 15-year old Vivian, who lives with her family in Toronto, Canada, as she and her adoptive father, Hubert, travel back to China to meet Shumin. Shumin, 14 years old at the time of filming, was adopted within China by the Zhu family due to the One Child Policy. Unfortunately, Vivian’s adoptive mother was unable to travel to China with her and her father due to a sudden illness.
The film was about an hour long. I laughed when Shumin introduced Vivian to shopping outdoor market style where many interesting and live foods were being sold, including frogs, snakes, and all kinds of seafood. We watched Vivian squirm as she walked with Shumin up and down the aisles of the market holding her nose. On the flip side, Vivian took Shumin and her family to the city, which Shumin had never visited before. Shumin used a fork and ate toast and jelly for the first time. Watching Shumin’s facial expressions as Vivian showed her how a toaster worked was priceless. Vivian pondered what life would have been like for her in China had she not been adopted.
We also met Shumin’s birth parents, as well as another birth mother who was searching for the daughter she gave away in hopes that Vivian might be her daughter. This adoptive mother was obviously feeling so many emotions as the filmmakers documented her story. Vivian was not her daughter. Without fail, whenever I see the pain a birth parent feels due to the relinquishment of his/her child, I’m deeply saddened.
After the film, therapist, Stephanie Withrow, facilitated a discussion with those who were able to stay. One of the highlights of the discussion was how international adoption has evolved since it first became “popular” in the U.S. after the Korean War. One parent pointed out that because much has been learned about international/transracial adoption over the years, adoptive parents are more informed and educated about the challenges of raising an internationally and transracially adopted child. It’s possible that adoptees today may even experience fewer problems with identity and race because adoptive parents are more sensitive to these issues, facilitate an open dialogue with their adopted children, and seek opportunities to help their child develop a healthy sense of identity. I think more research is needed to demonstrate how changes in international adoption over the past few decades may affect adoptees and their families compared to previous decades. Finally, Dalena Watson prepared some information on homeland tour agencies for families interested in perhaps planning a trip one day to their adopted child’s birth country.
As a final note, I wanted to again thank all those who came out and spent the afternoon with us. It was a pleasure to meet all of you and your families. Your thoughts and comments are invaluable, and we hope to continue hosting community adoption events that you’ll be interested in attending.