The House with the Mezzanine

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What is your earliest childhood memory? Why are certain experiences easily remembered and others not? Do my memories impact me later into adulthood? Lately, I’ve been thinking about what my life was like in Korea. Understandably, I don’t have any conscious memories of Korea because I was an infant when I lived there. However, I still wonder how will I feel when I first walk into the streets of Seoul? Will I be able to recognize any of the sights, smells or sounds of my birth place? What, if anything will I be able to remember?

Like any new parent, I am excited about creating memories with my son. Similar to a baby book, my adoption agency suggests creating a Life Book in order to help fill in the gaps of my son’s past, specifically his life before me. My son is 14 months old and I wonder if he has already started to collect memories of his life. When he asks, “What was my life like in Korea?” How do I begin to help him sort through yet another loss?

A few years ago, I was introduced to a brilliant 20th century Russian artist, Oleg Vassiliev. Most of his paintings explore the idea of how memories get assimilated into our mind’s consciousness. What I like about his work is that he invites the viewer to analyze the past from a different perspective. During the time when he created The House with the Mezzanine series, he said, “The light of the past fades away if you approach it carelessly and look at it directly. It is very hard to touch the past without destroying at least something in it. Chasing the past is similar to chasing a ghost. But chasing the past is not merely the hunter’s passionate pursuit of his ever-vanishing game; to a greater extent it is a search for foundations and an attempt to turn back to the home you left long ago.”

Maybe I’m starting to understand that as an adoptee, there is perpetual loss. But inside that loss there’s a space where past and present intersect; a place where I  begin again.

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