A bit of background.
Where to begin. How come I’m here at Birmingham airport with very little, about to fly to Hong Kong, and leave behind all that I love, my little not ‘long lost family’, my dearest friends, little cat, the sea and sky of St Ives, and the green and late late roses of Clopton.
The story began so long ago, before the contacting Long Lost Family, before the idea that somebody great was searching for my roots, before the flight I booked one Sunday afternoon, before, before…..
The story began in 1959 I guess. When my widowed Mother, So Kam Lai was leaving post Communist Mao China, along with thousands of others, that included her three children, a son and two daughters, my half brother and sisters. She was a refugee and heading to the shack slum hillside camps of Hong Kong. i don’t know how or where she met my Father, also fleeing. He had a wife, and children too, they weren’t with him, my other half siblings, how many and what sex I don’t know. They followed on later with their Mother. But by this time I had been conceivedand was just about to be born when Wong Tin, that’s my Father, when his little family arrived. What transpired, only they must know. But my Mother and Father separated and my mother took up, whatever that means, with another man Tang Kam Wah and had me in a hut, in hang shui. October 20th 1960. I have a strong sense she loved me, wanted to keep me, breast fed me and must have been heartbroken when on 31st December 1960, put me into Po Leung Kuk orphanage (still going strong as an institution in Hong Kong) at 10 weeks old. At this point I think she still believed she would get me out again, but when she was hospitalised with kidney problems, Hong Kong Social Services, recommended, forced, who knows, requested that she should put me up for adoption. She couldn’t apparently manage to look after a new baby and her 3 older children.
How do I know all of this. After years of searching, (my adoption, never talked about with my adopted family, and my adoptive Mother (an adoptee herself), threw all my records away. Though I have strong memories of discovering a box and reading through some of the records, and telling people I had been born in a hut. Somehow I realised or was told that the records would still be held by the council who organised my adoption. And despite a big fire, I was lucky, my records survived, one day, I can’t remember when, in my early 40s?, I was given a huge file which contained a birth certificate, my Mother’s statement, detailed records from the orphanage. Details of the arguments between Hong Kong Social Services and all the agencies involved that went on over years when my parents could not adopt me because my Mother had not cited them as specific adopters on her consent. And British Law demanded that Hong Kong Social services go back and find her to ask for her specific consent. This in itself is a story. I was finally made of ward of court, or a guardian was appointed for me, who consented to my adoption, after Hong Kong Social Services said (lied?) that they had failed to locate my Mother.
I never wrote this before. All this stuff. But I have Talked about it . Tried to make sense of it, explain my luck. So much luck, in being relinquished with a story, rather than abandoned in a stair well, with no name or birth certificate. Out of the blue when I was in my forties, I think, I discovered that 100 of us, yes 100 were brought over as part of a British Gvernment project in the 1960s. International year of the refugee. Lots of refugees from Hong Kong brought to UK on BOAC, with Dr Bernardo’s or NCH acting as intermediary. And of those 100, i think 3 of us were relinquished, had a past and a story, something to go on, something that might help tie us back to our past, in our future, should we so wish.
And I think i always wished it. Wanted to see faces that echoed back to me, whispered to me “you belong to me, to here,to us. You are one of us.”
- And now I see the echoing and the life affirming looks. Now I see this, in my own dear children, in my little part Chinese granddaughter Phoebe. I have 3 people who share my genes. Amazing.
- And there’s part f me that thinks 3, that’s enough. I revel in the knowingness of this trio. But I want to find out for them and for me, I want to find out more, and I want to tread on the soil of the place, of the hut where I was born. And though I know it’s unlikely I will find my Mother, I would like to see an image of her. A photograph. Or hear a story from someone who knew her.
So I’ve started. I’ve come from St Ives in Cornwall, with a biggish suitcase of stuff, that I’ve whittled down to the bare minimum. Life is better with less stuff. Less is definitely more with regards to stuff, but not with regards to family? I drove myself. No mean feat for a girl who has done pirouettes on the M5 and lived to tell the tale.
And then I’ve come from Stratford upon Avon to here. To this strange and quite eerily deserted Birmingham airport. A massive shopping centre, and full of Buy me, Buy me. I don’t want to buy anything. I’m travelling ninja light. Me and my phone, and my keyboard. Me and my hopes and my dreams. I can see Victoria’s Secret shop and Boots, and Costa, and Wetherspoons, and Home of the Whopper. Giraffe. People, all on a journey to somewhere.
There’s Christmas Lights, and neon, red and green. I’m breathing it all in deeply. Ready and very happy to leave all of this behind. Content, quietly excited, quietly questioning my sanity. Ready, ready, for the next part of my journey.