Category Archives: Adoptive Family

ivory

RecitalMrs. Guinn placed the clunky brown headphones snuggly over my head, the giant earpieces squeezed my temples. A long, coiled cord reached across the way to a stereo where she now stood, ready to drop the needle. I had no idea what I was in store for. Mrs. Guinn had never offered to play music for me at any of my other piano lessons. Mandi, my friend next door, and I took weekly lessons at Mrs. Guinn’s house. I loved going to Mrs. Guinn’s for my piano lessons and looked forward to them every week. She lived in a quiet neighborhood in Shady Grove and was probably 30-something in age. She was married to an officer in the Air Force and had a pretty face and gentle demeanor. She reminded me of Toni Tennille of Captain and Tenille. The front living room where Mrs. Guinn taught held an upright piano on one wall and an organ against another, a large window overlooked the street. Her house was always meticulously clean and inviting. “I have something I want you to listen to today,” she said as she guided me into the family room. The headphones felt heavy against my ears as she adjusted them. I sat silently and settled into Mrs. Guinn’s plush black couch, waiting for the music to begin playing.

“Da-da-da-DUM.” “Da-da-da-DUM!” Those first four minor pitches of Beethoven’s all too famous Fifth Symphony bellowed in my ears. The music escalated, and I became completely enraptured, magically swept away. With every pulse of the bass, my heart quickened. I was only 9-years old at the time, and yet that was such a defining moment in my life. The rest of the world fell away in those brief eight minutes or so of that first movement. I was an extremely shy, introverted kid, but at my lesson the following week, I mustered the courage to ask Mrs. Guinn if I could listen to that recording again. Of course, she obliged. Little did Mrs. Guinn know how much that recording influenced me musically. One of the other things I enjoyed while taking lessons from Mrs. Guin was the monthly gatherings she held at her home where all her students performed for each other. The best part was when she performed for us on her organ. I loved watching her feet fly across the pedals.

Mrs. Guinn was a member of the National Federation of Music and entered me into my first music festival where students performed and were adjudicated. I received a superior + and was selected to perform in the Honors Recital with many other students. Kabelevsky’s, The Clown, Op. 39, No. 2, was my first performance piece ever. As I climbed the stairs the night of the recital towards the concert grand piano, it felt as though I were having an out of body experience. Somehow, I got through my piece without any fumbles and took my bow to the applause of the audience. I would perform in many other recitals, each one causing more anxiety than the last. It was something I continuously struggled with.

Mrs. Guinn moved within a year or two. I was deeply saddened when she told me her husband had received a military transfer to Texas, as I had become quite attached to her. I eventually studied with Mr. Robert Buckner during my high school years. Mr. Buckner lived in Shreveport and was quite a character. He had a piano studio behind his house, and a dachsund named Angie. I began every lesson with major and/or minor scales as a warm-up, or Hanon exercises. I felt comfortable with his teaching style and sense of humor. I decided to major in music and attended Centenary College of Louisiana where I studied piano performance, primarily because it meant I didn’t have to take a single math class. I was beyond horrible in math or anything that had to do with numbers. Initially, I felt terribly inadequate compared to my peers who seemed to have much better training musically than I did. I struggled with ear training and theory, but loved composition and piano literature. I studied with Constance Knox Carroll and absolutely adored her. She was an inspiring teacher and incredible pianist. I’m sure, however, that I was one of her least favorite students, as I was not very disciplined and did not practice as I should have, especially during my senior year. I got distracted with theatre and dance and remember her scolding me at one particular lesson for my lack of practice. She had every right to because my senior recital loomed ahead, and I hadn’t memorized all of my pieces. She remarked that it seemed like I liked theatre and dance better, and she was right. What did I know at that age? Not a whole lot. I sat there silently, not knowing what to say.

I wasn’t exactly lazy, but discipline was not my strong suit. Practicing was such an isolating endeavor, and yet in those days, I didn’t always mind it. I typically hit the practice room for four hours a day, sometimes six on the rare occasion that I was super inspired. There were times when it was such a rewarding experience to sit at the keyboard and just play without anyone listening. Those were the times when I performed the best. But in front of an audience, I lost all sense of composure. Performance anxiety plagued me. I could not control my hands; they became leaden, nor the adrenaline racing through me, and memory slips haunted me. On one occasion, several students were to perform with the Shreveport Symphony in a special recital. I was going to perform the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A, K414. I can’t describe how exhilarating it was to perform with an orchestra, with other musicians. It was like flying, but without the motion sickness. Unfortunately, performance anxiety got the best of me, and my memory lapsed somewhere during the development. The orchestra continued to play as if nothing happened while I sat frozen. Eventually, I wove my way back in, but the damage had been done. I barely made it through the cadenza.

After graduating college, I taught piano for a brief time at St. Mark’s Episcopal in Shreveport and another Christian school before moving to Florida. I didn’t touch a keyboard for nearly 20 years after that. One day, my mom asked if I wanted my baby grand piano, the one they bought me when I first started taking piano lessons. Of course I did, and a couple of months later, my baby grand arrived to our tiny condo in California. It took up an entire room. I started teaching piano thereafter at a Christian elementary school in Mission Viejo, CA, and eventually taught privately on and off until 2013. My piano skills were more than a little rusty, and I lamented the loss. I attempted to take piano lessons a couple of different times, but just didn’t have the time to commit to practicing with family responsibilities and work. I stopped teaching altogether in 2013 when I went back to school to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work.

I’ve now had my baby grand since 1999. It has moved with us many different times in the last several years. It’s sitting in our family room in need of a little TLC – or a lot actually. Every once in awhile, I sit down to play,  but most of my time is spent at work these days. Recently, I felt moved to find Mrs. Guinn and searched for her via Google. Amazingly, I found her, and she wrote back to me immediately. She continues to teach, perform at churches, and accompany choirs in Nebraska. Although she only vaguely remembered me, she said that she looked up old recital programs and located one dated May 23, 1976, that I performed in. She said I played a Schaum arrangement of Yankee Doodle as a solo and again in a trio performance with Mandi, my friend, and another student named Kelly Scott. I was so happy to hear from Mrs. Guinn and that she continues to teach and play.

I feel truly blessed to have been trained in piano for so many years. I wish that I’d held onto it, but I think there was a part of me that felt incredibly inadequate as a pianist, so I shut it out of my life for a spell. When I studied to become a board-certified music therapist in 2006, that passion for music came back to life. And now, I long for my piano to be more than just a pretty conversation piece in my living room. One of these days, and hopefully not too long from now, I will get back to playing, perhaps a little at a time. It’s hard to play as I compare my skills now to those days when I was playing everyday for long hours. People tend to tell me, “you should just play for yourself.” Well, it’s easier said than done. Nevertheless, music is truly part of my fabric. I can’t think of anything more powerful and transformative than music.

So, for your listening pleasure, here is one of my favorite pianists, Murrah Perahia, at the keyboard performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K. 414. To Mrs. Carroll, who inspired me to be a better pianist:

 

Book Release Date

CoverBeyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity is now live! If you have not yet purchased your copy, don’t delay. Signed copies can be purchased right here on my website.  Just click on Shop to order. Ebook and hardcover editions are also available via AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Indiebound.org. Unfortunately, I am unable to ship internationally; however, those copies can be ordered through Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. To learn more about the book and to read an excerpt, click here. Thank you for supporting Beyond Two Worlds!

 

Pre-Order Your Book

CoverHello out there! I’m very happy to announce that you can now pre-order your copy of my new book, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity. Please spread the word and encourage your friends and family to purchase their book on the Beyond Two Worlds website. Just click on the “Shop” tab above, which will direct you to PayPal. All books purchased through my website will be signed and autographed.

About the Book:

What if your life story wasn’t what you thought? Experience a true story about two worlds and a woman’s search for truth, forgiveness, and love.

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Marijane was adopted by an American military family at four months old. She grew up in a middle class neighborhood where hers was the only Asian face amongst a majority of white.

Raised to believe she was Vietnamese and Japanese, she never doubted what her adoptive parents told her, until one day, she found her lost adoption papers. This discovery unloosed secrets that had been buried for decades, causing her to question her own identity and origins. With brave determination, Marijane set out on a journey to reconstruct her past and resurrect a birth heritage that had long been forsaken. Her journey took her halfway across the world to eventually reunite with her birth family.

Beyond Two Worlds is a poignant telling of one woman’s quest for identity and belonging despite insurmountable odds, and will be of help to those seeking connection to their original families.

Coming Summer 2017!

Read an excerpt from the book here.

missing link

The day of my mother’s funeral just over 3 years ago was a day that changed my life. It was a day of saying good-bye, and yet it was also a day of new beginnings. On that day, I recovered a link to my past that had been missing for 41 years of my life. I had an inkling that such a link existed, but no hope or clue as to how to find it. It sat in a box in my parent’s attic preserved for many years until the day my sister dragged it out and presented it to me. This link has led me on a journey to try and find any living members of my birth family in Taiwan.

My mom hid these documents carefully from the time she and my dad brought me home from the orphanage in Taiwan. It moved with us each time we moved due to my dad’s military career in the Air Force. Sometimes I wonder if she ever wanted to give me my adoption contract and all the other things she saved. She never spoke of them. Around 1999, mom started to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and the last 10 years of her life were hell. I’m sure that she didn’t even remember that the adoption papers existed upstairs in the dank, dusty old attic. I find it surreptitious that while she was living, she didn’t tell me about those papers. However, the day of her funeral when we went back to the house and I opened up that box, it was as though she were saying, “Here, I want you to have these things now. They belong to you. I want you to know about your past, about your birth family.” Really, I imagined her saying those very things to me and believe she willed me to find that box. 

When I thought that I’d lost my adoption contract last week, I was heartbroken. We moved at the beginning of the year, and in all the frenzy, I guess I lost track of that box. I had no idea it was missing. After waiting 41 years to find something so important, was I to lose it now? I looked through the boxes in our garage to no avail. I looked through the boxes in my husband’s closet, but didn’t find anything. Luckily, my husband went through the boxes in his office one more time, and sure enough, the box was there! I couldn’t believe that I’d overlooked it, but was ecstatic.

You see, two weeks ago, I received an email from an old contact, Tien, who has been helping me search for my birth family in Taiwan for almost a year now. Her message came out of the blue, as I’ve tried contacting her for several months with no response. I was surprised, yet really happy to hear from her. She told me that she hadn’t forgotten about me and that she’d found one of my birth sisters in Taiwan through the Registration Office in Taipei while on visit there. She also told me that my birth parents had passed away long ago. The officials would not give Tien the name or address of the woman who could be my sister because she was not related. Tien therefore sent me a link to an agency in Taiwan that provides reunion services for adoptees and their birth families. I completed the reunion service request form and sent them a copy of my adoption contract, but apparently there was a page missing, the most important one. It became necessary for me to find the original contract because the missing document, the “household document” was most needed to begin the search. Thankfully, having found the original papers, I was able to scan and email what I believed to be the correct page.  I’ve never been so grateful for advanced technology!

So now, it’s time once again to wait. Wait and see if the person Tien discovered is really one of my birth sisters. I wish that I could fly to Taiwan and do all of this in person. It would just be so much easier. If it is my birth sister, I hope she’ll want to meet me. In that case, I’ll be on a flight to Taiwan somehow, someway. I know that if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. I just have to wait, the hardest part of all.

cross-cultural adoption

As I consider how things have progressed regarding my adoption search, I realize that for over half of my life I believed that I was of a certain race, but have come to discover that I am of another. I have felt all kinds of things as a result including surprise, confusion, frustration, and bewilderment all at once. Growing up as an Asian-American adoptee was often like stumbling through a maze blind-folded. I’m pretty sure that we all ask, “who am I?” at some point in our lives. For international and transracial adoptees, it is even more complicated as adoptees attempt to navigate two cultures and manage feeling “othered” by peers and sometimes family members. My parents told me at a young age, I don’t remember when, that I was part Vietnamese and part Japanese. I wish that I could recall when they told me; nevertheless, I had no reason to doubt them. With the discovery of my original adoption contract, however, which was buried in a box in my parent’s attic, I learned something entirely different. Prior to having my papers properly translated, a Taiwanese adoption social worker, who was guiding me through the process of my adoption search, led me to believe that my birthparents were Taiwanese. It made sense because I was born in Taiwan. Later, through the translation, I learned that both my birthparents were from Guangxi, China, an exact province notated in the document. It is difficult to argue with hard evidence, so naturally I now assume that I am Chinese. Imagine my surprise each time I learned some new fact about my culture of origin. Unfortunately, neither of my adoptive parents are alive to explain all of the discrepancies.

I say all of this because I have come to a conviction about transracial adoption. Those who plan to adopt a child or children from another country must be educated in how to help their child develop an appropriate sense of cultural and racial identity, which shapes an overall sense of self. It is not enough for a parent to just love their child or preach colorblindness. I am proof of that. My parents loved me without a doubt and provided for me physically and materially as any good and loving parent should. But, what they were not prepared for was coping with issues of color, race, ethnicity, racism, and discrimination. They were not prepared to address the social and emotional needs of a daughter who looked different, not only from them, but from everyone else around her. This was doubly compounded by the fact that we lived in the deep South where prejudice and racism continue to exist. I am sure that they also never confronted whatever prejudices, or beliefs they personally held themselves. When my parents adopted me, I was automatically acculturated into a white society, shut off from my birth culture. My parents did not know how that would impact me growing up. Because the adoption took place in Taiwan, they did not have the opportunity to be made aware of the importance of educating themselves properly to address such issues as the development of ethnic and racial identity, or racial discrimination. They did not talk about my birth heritage nor encourage me to investigate, but rather minimized my race and ethnicity due to this lack of awareness. The closest I came in contact with any Asian culture while growing up was eating out at the local Chinese food restaurant.

I think about how things could have been different had my parents been more prepared for issues of race and identity. Would I have been more willing to embrace my ethnicity? For many years, I downplayed it and tried to fit into the “whiteness” all around me never quite feeling like I was good enough or fit into the social norm. It deeply affected my sense of self and led me to do things that I might not have done had I possessed a stronger sense of self. Would there have been less tension and strife in my family, especially during my teen years?

I strongly believe that those who intend to adopt children from abroad must be made aware of the unique challenges that surround raising a child of another culture, especially if the adoption originates in the U.S. Adoptive parents must consider the challenges that will confront their child regarding ethnicity and race, and considerations should be made regarding how to impart coping skills and how to facilitate open discussions with their child to address issues such as racial discrimination, racial teasing, and microaggressions. It is the adoptive parents’ responsibility to also ensure that their child is given opportunities to learn about his/her birth culture beginning at an early age. Otherwise, an injustice is imposed on the children of transracial adoption whether they are aware of it or not. I don’t fault my parents for what they did not know. I do hope to share from my own experiences what I’ve learned about cross-cultural adoption with others and hope that it can make a difference.

my adoptive mother

This Easter’s Eve, I spent the afternoon baking and dying Easter eggs with my daughter. I rummaged through my mom’s old recipe box and found the one for her pecan monkey bread, one of my favorites. My daughter, who loves to bake, volunteered to help me out. Mom typically made this coffee cake on the mornings of special occasions like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter. We always looked forward to the holidays.

My mom was a registered nurse by profession, a wife, mother and grandmother. She worked full-time as the director of nurses at a skilled nursing facility and came home exhausted most evenings. No matter how tired she was from work, she always managed to get a home-cooked meal on the table, unless we decided to go out to Pancho’s or another local eatery. She was a fabulous cook and loved to sew as well as crochet. I remember that mom also wrote regularly in her diary. She would get a new one each year.

Mom married my dad on October 6, 1962 in Omaha, Nebraska where dad was stationed at Offut Air Force Base. On February 25, 1963, just 4 short months after their wedding, my dad suffered a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage which nearly took his life. Mom accompanied dad via air evacuation on a T-29 military aircraft to San Antonio, TX, I’m assuming to a more specialized military hospital, where he underwent surgery. I can only imagine how frantic she must have been. In the bottom of my dad’s dresser drawer, I found an original Western Union telegram that was wired to his mother in California from Offutt AFB. This is what it said:

1963 FEB 26 PM 7 01

I WISH TO OFFICIALLY INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON MAJOR WENDELL R BUCK, 37033A, WAS PLACED ON THE SERIOUSLY ILL LIST AT THE 865 USAF HOSPITAL, OFFUTT, AFB, NEBRASKA, AT 1200 HOURS ON 26 FEBRUARY 1963, AS A RESULT OF A CEREBRAL HEMORRHAGE. HIS RECOVERY IS QUESTIONABLE. HE IS BEING EVACUATED BY AIRCRAFT TO THE USAF HOSPITAL LACKLAND AFB, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, IMMEDIATELY. THE ATTENDING PHYSICAN RECOMMENDS YOUR IMMEDIATE PRESENCE AT HIS BEDSIDE. IN THE EVENT YOU ARE UNABLE TO VISIT HIM AT LACKLAND AFB, THE HOSPITAL COMMANDER WILL FURNISH YOU A REPORT ON HIS CONDITION EVERY FIVE DAYS, UNLESS A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE OCCURS IN WHICH CASE THEY WILL ADVISE YOU IMMEDIATELY. PLEASE ACCEPT MY SINCERE SYMPATHY IN THIS TIME OF ANXIETY=

ELKINS READ JR COLONEL USAF COMMANDER==

After reading the telegram, I thought what a miracle it was that Dad survived. Mom wrote in one of the diaries I found:

“Wendy operated on. Subarachnoid brain hemorrhage. God spared his life. Thank you dear Lord.”

Dad outside house at Kadena AFB

After the aneurysm, dad spent several long months in rehabilitation. I remember dad telling me that he had to learn to walk all over again. The aneurysm left him partially paralyzed on one side and caused extreme headaches. He told me that the sound of mom’s pantyhose as she walked into his hospital room was intolerable. Dad eventually regained his strength and was able to resume work, although paralysis permanently weakened his left side. I believe that this unfortunate event was a turning point in his life. At the height of Dad’s military career, he was discharged from ever flying a plane again due to “physical disability.” It must have been a crushing blow for him. He was then assigned to a new position as Personnel Director until his retirement in 1972.

Mom didn’t write about dad’s recovery in her diary. Maybe it was all just too much to write about. Two months after the aneurysm, she began practical nursing training. She graduated in April 1964 from the Omaha Public School, Vocational Education Dept. in Practical Nursing and went on to successfully pass her state boards. Mom went back to school much later to become a registered nurse (RN), around August 1972. By that time, she was 47 years old and had a full-time career in nursing. I remember mom taking me to class with her a couple of times at Louisiana State University. She probably couldn’t find a babysitter.

 

For the next 2 years, mom struggled through nursing school and late nights studying while juggling a demanding job and taking care of the family. I don’t know how she did it. The funny thing is, I don’t ever recall seeing her study, but according to her diaries, she often studied for biology, anatomy, chemistry and psychology after my niece and I were in bed. She spoke of the biology labs nearly killing her and failing a few tests. She was so disappointed in herself when she failed a test. She finally graduated from Northwestern University in August 1974. I will always remember mom wearing her white nursing uniform, white stockings and shoes, and nursing cap.

Now that I’m a mom, I empathize with the stress mom felt as a nurse and raising two little ones at an age when some folks were already grandparents. Every evening after work, she and my dad relaxed with a couple of martinis before dinner. Dad used to put an olive speared with one of those little plastic cocktail picks at the bottom of their drinks. When we were little, my niece and I tried to sneak up and steal the olives right out of their glasses when they weren’t looking.

Mom didn’t ever seem to rest, not even during the holidays. She’d get up early and cook nearly all day. Christmas was always my favorite.  At the end of the day, I’m sure mom was completely exhausted.

I’m definitely not half the cook my mom was. This is the first time I’ve attempted to make her monkey bread recipe. I’ve included the recipe here in case you’re interested. We’re looking forward to eating a slice 🙂

Festival Coffee Cake

First put 3/4 cups nuts into greased bundt pan. Mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Melt 1 stick butter and 1/2 cup liquid brown sugar or 1 cup packed brown sugar. Boil for 1 minute. Cut 3 cans of biscuits into quarters, roll in sugar and cinnamon and place evenly on top of nuts. Pour butter and brown sugar on top. Any cinnamon and sugar left over, sprinkle on top of biscuits. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Let set for 10-15 minutes after removal from oven. Turn upside down on plate. Enjoy! (Note: May need to extend oven time to ensure center of cake is baked through)

a mystery letter

Bits of styrofoam clung to my hands and arms as I dug down to the bottom of the box. What did my sister send? I lifted out a manilla folder which had settled among dozens of scattered pictures and styrofoam peanuts. In the folder lay a letter yellowed from age. I recognized the embellished handwriting immediately as that of my mom’s. Curiosity set in as I wondered who Dr. Woo was, the obvious recipient.

The letter was left undated and appeared to be a draft from all of the crossed out words. Apparently, Mom had written the letter as a followup to a conversation she’d previously had with Dr. Woo. After reading through the first paragraph, I soon realized that this letter described my parents’ initial visit to the Family Planning Association of China, the orphanage where I was adopted. I could not read the rest of the letter fast enough. This is what it said:

Dr. Woo –

Following our conversation adopted Chinese daughter’s visa physical, and our conversation as to what was where we obtained her, and the cash price we paid, I will attempt to explain the procedure and all the obstacles that confront an American who adopts a child from the Family Planning Association of China.

We arrived in Taipei at 10 AM – went directly to Family Planning. We were allowed to go immediately to the 4th floor to a huge room with open windows and no heat where we walked from crate to crate and from basket to basket looking at tiny babies. I chose two from the 26 that were adoptable that day.

At 4 o’ clock that evening we were ushered into a large office and were introduced to Mrs. Tze-Kuan Shee Kan. She stated she had just returned from a fundraising drive in the United States, and had acquired $30,000 to start building a new orphanage for her children. She stated that $250 was the minimum fee, which was $150 for prior care of the child (medical, food and lodging) and $100 was for the cost of all the paper work required to bring the po baby to Okinawa. This was to be pd. in American cash.

By 6 o’ clock – the necessary papers were signed and she asked if I had picked out a baby. I told her about the 2 I had chosen and which one they brought down was all right with us. In a few moments they brought our baby to us, a beautiful three month old, 7 lbs., 7 oz., and very listless baby girl. I could not stand to think she would stay another moment under their roof. I asked permission…

I couldn’t believe there wasn’t more to the letter! I went back to the box and rummaged around trying to find a second page but found nothing. Where was the rest of the letter? I was so intrigued and disappointed that there wasn’t more. I telephoned my sister back in Louisiana to ask if she knew about the letter and had any idea where the missing part might be. She knew nothing. I had to just accept the fact that the other half was gone.

I had so many questions. Did I go home with my parents that afternoon? What did Mom ask permission for? What were some of the “obstacles” mom mentioned in adopting from the Family Planning Association? Was Mom petitioning for Dr. Woo’s assistance and did he help in any way? From the description Mom gave in the letter, I envisioned the orphanage to be in poor condition with barely enough for all of the babies and children there due to little funding. That I was only 7 lbs and 7 oz. at the age of 3 months was proof enough. I went back to read one of mom’s diaries dated the same year I was born. There was nothing said about Dr. Woo, only how they brought me home to Okinawa.

I went back to the folder and found another clue about my adoption: a medical examination form signed by Dr. Woo. I pieced together that my parents needed to get a visa for me, and he must have given the exam required. The form is dated January, 31, 1968 and was officially stamped in San Francisco on June 28, 1968, six months later. I found some other information showing that one year previous, my parents had filed for a petition for visa in Okinawa, which was officially approved on July 7, 1967. The entire process to get an actual visa took over a year from start to finish. Eventually we moved to the states around 1968 or 1969. I’m pretty sure that my parents were in a hurry to get out of Okinawa in case my birthfamily changed their mind about the adoption. My dad was transferred from Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa to Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts.

The letter will probably always be a mystery, but it did give me some insight into the orphanage where I was adopted. Just yesterday, as I was out sweeping the driveway, our neighbor and his son, Alex, came outside. Alex and his sister-in-law had come over to help interpret my adoption contract just a week ago. We exchanged hellos and Alex’s father proceeded to ask me if I was Chinese. Three months ago, my response would have been no, but then I’ve learned so much since then. I launched into a brief explanation of my adoption and my current attempt to find my birthfamily in China. He told me that he’d be traveling to China soon and that his brother currently works for the government there. He offered to help do whatever he could in China to find out about my birthfamily with the help of his brother. Alex suggested that I give his father the address of my birthparents listed on the adoption contract. His father will be staying in Ghuangzhou which is very close to the province where my birthparents lived at the time of my adoption. I was touched that he wanted to help.

I’ll continue to try to piece together the mystery of my adoption from what I now have in my possession. I hope that my neighbor can bring back some kind of information about my birthfamily from China, but I’m not holding my breath. Only time will tell.

learning about my adoption

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.