“Welcome into the world, our Little Shining Star; this is your name and our present to you, our dear little friend.”
She got her name from her father and her uncle just after she was born. Her brown eyes stared at Mummy for the first time, a mother she would not keep for very long. Mother died one afternoon, not a year later, with the baby girl beside her in bed. The oldest sister heard the baby crying and came running, shouting “Mother! Mother!” over and over. “The baby is crying for food!” Then she saw their mother lying there, dead, and she picked her little sister up, her tears falling to the ground. She ran out into the garden, shouting “Appa! Appa! Umma is dead!”
The father lost his wife that day, four small children lost their mother; a tragedy so great, no-one ever believes it will happen to them. With the aid of an uncle they arranged a funeral ceremony. But it was winter, and because of the frost in the soil, the actual funeral had to wait until spring.
I was that little bundle. I came into the world in spring, early in the morning in a little house in the countryside, in the land of the morning calm. It was a modest and simple house, seen with Western eyes, but a good home. I was the last of six children; our brother, the oldest, died when he was only twelve years old. Our first sister also died very young, maybe five. So when I came there were four sisters. We were poor, and there was little to eat. Our mother was very sick after six childbirths, starvation and various illnesses. Our father worked hard, trying his best to provide for us, but with the farm going badly from lack of rain that year, there was only so much he could manage.
He loved our mother, and he loved us, but when mother died he was left alone with the responsibility of four children, and struggling to make ends meet, desperate. He tried to make money by gambling, but he lost, and turned to drinking.
He realized he had to do something, and made a painful decision; one morning he brought my three sisters and me along on what was to be the journey of my life. The time had come when we had to go different ways for a while; since my father could not support all of us, I was to be placed in a children’s home to be taken care of until he was able to do so himself. That road was like an invisible path of tears. All of my sisters said goodbye and cried, my father was in tears when he whispered to me one last time, “I love you, my little shiny star”, like a faint, mild breeze into my ear, “I will come back for you one day, when life is better”.
My Korean name means shiny star. Little did my father know that we would never, ever meet again. Shortly after I was put up for adoption, by the children’s home, without his knowledge. From this point on my story was that of a dandelion child, like a small seed on the wind, set for destination unknown, a journey where happiness too often was drowned out among despair and sadness.