When I was asked to write my impressions after attending my first reunion in February 2015 I was hesitant not because I did not want to but rather it was because I did not know how to express my feelings in word form. After 5 decades of showing no emotions out in the open, this was going to be a challenge for me.
Walking in the room filled with other adoptees was a dream that came true for me. No words were needed. I felt like a ton of bricks was lifted from my shoulders. I had a sense of belonging. I could be myself. No need to try and “fit in” to the group. Instead of a minority I was in the majority. While the whole weekend was packed full of different activities I most enjoyed the circle sharing and the informal social gatherings afterward.
The circle sharing was very moving for me. For the first time, I heard similarities to some parts of my adopted life. Finally, I thought to myself, someone else that understands and has experienced the life that I had growing up. While I may not have had the words to describe it others knew exactly what I was trying to say and filled in the blanks for me. It was reassuring and fun to be able to finish the other person’s sentences with nods and “YES”…I went through the same thing!”
The informal social gatherings were the best. Being in a relaxing environment with no agenda except to have fun and get to know one another better was a bonus. Sharing stories, laughing and taking photos like the paparazzi made for great memories.
Muriel Tonge Tribute memories:
I met Muriel Tonge, then 91, when I began my journey 1.5 years ago. Muriel Tonge was the supervising nurse at St. Christopher’s baby home where I was. It was an amazing find for me. After joining the HKAN via KimR in late 2014 and “meeting” some of the adoptees during my first Skype call, I excitedly got in touch with Kim to share my surprise.
We had 13 adoptees, representing 4 different orphanages (Po Leung Kuk, Shatin, St. Christopher’s and Fanling Babies Home) of Hong Kong, that traveled in from all over the US to meet Muriel and her daughters, Leslie and Elizabeth, in late February 2015.
Muriel is an inspiration in my life. Her zest for life and sense of humor is very contagious. I describe Muriel as a dynamic woman who dared to stand alone for her beliefs when it came to her babies. “Re-gifted” babies was her preferred way of describing our orphan period because she strongly believed that “abandoned” represented rejection or getting rid of which was not the case in her eyes. My feelings are still very raw so I’m not able to eloquently express them in words to this day.
Muriel felt like a celebrity with all the adoptees acting like the paparazzi taking photos and videos of her throughout the weekend. An informal social was held afterwards to celebrate Muriel’s upcoming 93rd birthday. Muriel loved the photo book that I had made as the group’s gift to her. The photo book consisted of each adoptee’s past and present photos with their special message to her. Reciprocally, Muriel and her daughters are in awe of us….knowing that we all made something of ourselves regardless of the circumstances in our childhoods is a remarkable accomplishment.
While it started as a Tribute to Muriel Tonge, I see it also as a Tribute to ourselves. Indeed, In the Circle of Life we are ALL Connected! Muriel borrowed a quote by Art professor Alma Adams that summed up what she believes to be true for all of us: “Where you start out in life doesn’t have to determine where you end up or how far you can go.”
Hi Meaghan, Although we have not yet met its fabulous that we now have this group where we can all fit in without any questions and can identify how we have felt over the years. I remember one of the first meetings organised by BAAF who conducted the British Chinese Adoptee Study (BCAS) there was 68 of us all one room. It was just awesome! We all looked so different, honestly! Anyway I look forward to meeting you in Hong Kong in November. PS Great write up, wished I had been there.