My sister and I were orphans in South Korea. We were adopted together by my parents. Originally, the adoption agency only wanted my parents to take my sister, because I was born with a heart defect. Why would an American couple want a flawed baby, when there were so many healthy children available? My parents fought and fought to adopt the two of us together. Finally, they were successful.
We arrived in the U.S. in February. My sister had just turned three, and I was fifteen months. We were malnourished, had scabies, eczema, and all other kinds of medical issues. They all cleared up, save for the bum heart. The doctors wanted to wait until I was forty pounds before they operated on it, but I was such a scrawny kid that my mother feared I would never reach that weight. So when I was four, they scheduled the surgery. The doctors patched up a hole in the septum, and repaired a faulty valve. The surgery left a scar on my chest, making me a member of the “zipper club.” Some of my earliest memories are from my days in the hospital. My parents had the support of all their friends and family during that time.
Which brings me to these cookies. One of my mother’s friends silk screened a shirt for me. It had a picture of a smiley-faced heart with a little bandage on it. It was one of a kind. It was my favorite when I was little. That shirt made me feel special. My mom saved it for me, along with the clothes I wore when I arrived from South Korea. The below picture is the only one I could find of me wearing the shirt. I was post-surgery, still in the hospital. You can see the bandage from the suture peeking out. My son is just a bit older than I was in that picture. He’s modeling the shirt in the picture on the right. He calls it the “old heart shirt that you wore when you were little.”
Every time I look at this shirt, I remember what an active childhood I had, full of running around outside, climbing trees, playing tag with the neighbors. All these things that I would not have been able to do had I not had that heart surgery. Had I not been chosen by parents who wouldn’t give up their fight to adopt a child that no one wanted.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I share with you the love that enabled me to live. My heart has been broken many times since, but it always emerged mended and strong.