When I think about the holidays, one of my most-treasured traditions growing up was watching “White Christmas” every year with my mom. Bing Crosby’s baby blue eyes and bass-baritone voice warm my heart on even the coldest of winter days. But there was always one part of the movie that would make me feel strangely sad– watching Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen’s performance of the duet, Sisters.
I loved the song and would sing along to both parts. (Which was actually fitting, since Rosemary Clooney was Vera-Ellen’s singing voice dub for it). What made me feel sad was not having a sister. Someone who looked like me and could sing and dance in perfect harmony. (I loved my little brother, but he was definitely not a performer and looked nothing like me). The sadness became more palpable in 2008 when I learned from my adoption agency in Korea that I actually did have two biological sisters, but they couldn’t put me in contact with them.
In September of 2013, my life changed thanks to the compassion of a social worker from the adoption agency. Although it was against the rules for her to reach out to my biological sisters without having first made contact with my birth mother and received her permission, she sent a telegraph to my second elder sister. Within a matter of days, the social worker collected letters and pictures from my birth family to send me, and I began planning my trip to Korea for our reunion.
Reading the letters from my two sisters and birth mother were all incredibly touching and overwhelming. But something about the second sister Kyeong-hee’s email hit me the hardest. It may have been the striking resemblance between us that I saw in the pictures (especially when she was younger, before she had the popular double eyelid surgery), or her promise to love and care for me like any other older sister would.
Dear Kyeong-seon, who I want to meet very very much,
I am so glad to finally find you….I am extremely thankful that you have grown up so well and healthy, and your existence itself is a huge joy to our family.
I’m not sure what words I should say to you first, but the important thing is that from the moment we learned of your existence we have always been missing you!
Kyeong-seon, I am your second elder sister. Mother always told me with a sad face that you looked like me the most.
I learned that I had not only a younger brother but also a younger sister when I was in my early 20s. After that I always had a longing for you and gained a habit of looking twice at people who looked like me, because they might be you.
The story about our family is long and we have went through heart-breaking times, but now both of your sisters have married and made families, and our little brother is in his last year of university so we live without too much troubles.
We wanted to find you very much so we made inquiries with Holt Children’s Services but it was difficult because this was after our father passed away. I am extremely happy that our paths have crossed once again like this, even though it is late. It must be a present from our father in heaven.
Our mother is still working hard, and our older sister and I both work as nurses. We each work diligently at our jobs and often gather during the weekend if there is nothing special.
I have much to say, but you might also be surprised at this sudden chain of events so I’ll just quickly write a few words that are urgent.
I give thanks to everyone who has helped us find each other and especially to you, Kyeong-seon, for finding us. Let’s spend the time given to us from now on happily together.
I wish to see you very much and I wonder about you a lot.
My thoughts grow; I wonder if you felt any resentment towards us, whether I could have been able to protect you if I had been older.
From now on, Kyeong-seon, my little sister, I’ll love you and care for you without lack, just like any other older sister!
I am thankful that now, my longing for you is a pleasurable one, everyday.
Take care always and stay healthy. I’ll write again soon!
We spent a week together that following Thanksgiving, and she honored her promise to care for me as any other sister would. Despite our language barrier, we found that words were not always necessary.
When she held my hand during car rides, I thought how strange it was that her hands seemed so familiar. I knew we had similar facial features, but even our hands looked alike! We spoke to each other in one or two word phrases, but always knew exactly what the other meant. My eldest sister, Kyeong-mi, did not speak any English and had to work for the majority of my visit. I loved the time we spent together, but I didn’t have the same time to bond with her as I did with Kyeong-hee.
I felt so loved and connected to Kyeong-hee, and it broke my heart to say goodbye. She wanted to wait with me at the airport, but I insisted that they leave– I knew I couldn’t hold back the flood of tears, and didn’t want her to witness it. As soon as I returned home, Kyeong-hee and I started planning her visit to Texas the next year. The plans were put on hold with the Ebola scare in Dallas last holiday season, but now she’ll be here with her daughter and husband in just one week!
I’m wrapping up the last of my photoshoots this weekend so I can prepare for their arrival next Thursday (and brush up on my Korean skills). They’ll be staying for ten days, and I want to cherish every second with them. In case I don’t have time to post again until they leave, I’m wishing everyone the happiest of holidays — whether it’s with the family you were born into, adopted by, or made yourself! Holiday hugs to you all! XOXO.