Tuesday, January 25, 2011


My mom likes puzzles. The intricate ones with a thousand pieces or more. On any given day during my childhood, you could walk into our living room and there would be a puzzle in progress on a card table. She always started with the border because those pieces, with the flat side, were easiest to identify. Next, she would group the like colors and patterns together and make little piles around the perimeter of the border. During the elementary school years, I remember sitting with her and trying to fit in one or two pieces of a section she was working on. My favorite was a puzzle of a flower garden that could have been a postcard from Butchart Gardens. We had piles of green, yellow, pink, purple; bits of images that became sculptures and walkways.
As I grew into junior high and high school, puzzles were shelved, by now, the cardboard corners of the boxes wearing down, the seams splitting and the pieces spilling over, mixing up with other broken boxes. Just before I left home, my mom decided she would donate the puzzles to Goodwill and wanted to put the puzzles together one last time, to make sure all the pieces were accounted for.
We gathered the box with the garden picture and started to frame the border and sort the pieces. I noticed a larger piece right away. It was not to scale and appeared to belong to a picture of a puppy. Whenever I consider the piece of me that is a Trans-Racial Korean Adoptee, I think of that puzzle piece; carved from a different image, displaced, spilled over from a broken and flawed space into a foreign surrounding where there would always be this noticing of not belonging.
I obviously did not belong as a Korean child in an all white Mormon community. When I felt different, was confronted with the name-calling and racial attacks, and needed to talk to someone about how I was feeling-my parents would dismiss it and say that it didn't matter because I belonged to them. I remember times I would be so angry (think teen years) at them for making me into something I wasn't. Their response was to explain to me that I could have had a much worse life-living as an orphan.
I'm old enough now to understand that my parents did the best they could or knew how. I am also very grateful for now-this time in my life. I recognize I would not have THIS now if I had not experienced THAT past. I hope I'm not communicating regret or coming across as selfish; it's just that for all of my life, this piece of me, I've piled into different areas around the perimeter of who I am, because it hasn't quite fit and I have tried to accept that this piece doesn't matter. Over time, and the moving around of this piece-when I started my own family and the doctors asked for a medical history; when Amberle and Mckenna were born and I thought they had my nose or my eyes and I began to wonder about someone out there who had this nose and these eyes before me; when the girls had assignments in school to do projects about their heritage; when an American (white) friend adopting a Chinese baby asked me for advice-I realize, I need this piece. It does matter and most importantly, it is part of my story.


  1. Really great post and story. Thanks for sharing this with us. I love puzzles! We are always busy with a new one. At the moment it's a steam locomotive one, 1500 pieces.

  2. Great post, I think our ability to except ourselves for what we are and what we aren't is one of the hardest things we do.