After several childless years and numerous invasive tests, I was finally going to get a new nephew! (I mean, the tests were on my sister, the process invaded the whole family). He was three when he came to America from Korea via Holt International. His new, deeply Christian, deeply Catholic mom navigated through the labyrinth of questions, several rounds of them, designed to weed out (from the faith-based organization) adoptions that would award children to heathens, homosexuals and whores. Their literature didn’t say it, it was easy to read between the lines.
Once we had a date, there was an agonizing six-month period, where we had his picture hung on all our refrigerators and little else to do but wait and pray. We might have been heathens but we weren’t superstitious! During this time, I cross stitched a pillow with his Korean name on it, shaped like a boy doll. I also bought a giant, colorful picture book about where adopted babies come from, geared for a very young child. My new nephew would never receive these controversial gifts. The book I understood, but the doll would be a sensitive point for a long time.
Part of what went on during the half-year wait for his arrival was that I decided to learn Korean. I wanted to be the favorite Aunt, and thought this leg-up on communication would seal the deal. The cassette tape I had to learn with had the phrase “I am your Aunt.” It didn’t matter that I took 6 years of French and could only ask “where is the bathroom?” Foreign languages were not my thing, but I was going to tell this baby I was his Aunt! I listened to the tape faithfully, daily, but never learned or retained another phrase.
When the phone call came, there was little time to make the final arrangements. There was a baby shower and a lot of speculation regarding the dietary requirements of Asian three-year olds. Another sore point: I didn’t get to go to the airport. Of course I realize now that they didn’t want an overwhelming throng there, but I was sad to miss, not my nephews’ arrival so much as my sister’s reaction to it. You don’t get many opportunities in your life to see someone get the thing they want most.
I couldn’t go see him the day he arrived (overwhelming throng avoidance, again) but the next day I went. There was a big home-made banner (before the age of store-bought storks) the size of their house. Despite having studied his picture for so long, he was about a zillion times bigger than I expected!. He had one of those annoying flute things where you pull the wand out as you blow. My sister took it away from him, and put it out of reach on the refrigerator. He let out a yell to have it back, but not before he glimpsed at his own picture and smiled.
He was a happy little three year old, a good little kid. The only time I remember him crying is when I would ask him, (in increasingly louder tones, so he could understand me), “Ahhh joo mo nee?”