Real Mom

By Mee-ok

December 7, 2020

Real Mom

Until I decided to come to Korea, I hadn’t realized how special my mother was—how selfless, how enlightened. Most adoptive parents of her generation can’t understand that searching for our origins isn’t a direct affront to them. In truth, it has nothing to do with them at all.

Even with a childhood head injury and an inoperable brain tumor leaving her in a confused simplicity, there was something deeper my mother had always understood, something she never had to be taught, a goodness I was only just now coming to know. 

Throughout my life, for as long as I had been her child, my mother had never expressed anything but admiration and sorrow for the faceless woman who birthed me, then surrendered me, wrapped in a blanket white as a flag. She always knew that I was her child, that the haunt of blood could never silence the bond of fate. That while I do not have her eyes, I carry their sadness; and with another nation’s mouth, I laugh her great laugh. We know the same songs by heart. We finish each other’s sentences. We’ve kept each other’s secrets since I was old enough to tell lies.

I have spent these past weeks in Korea thanking her as I search for the woman who gave me life, knowing that the woman I have always called my mother has been hoping, more than anyone, that I will find her.


Mee-ok is an award-winning essayist, poet, and memoirist. Her writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in the LA Times, Boston Globe, Cincinnati Review, American Journal of Poetry, Pangyrus, Korean Quarterly, Michael Pollan’s anthology for Medium, and elsewhere. She is also featured in [Un]Well on Netflix. More at


Photo by J W courtesy of Unsplash

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