a mystery letter

Bits of styrofoam clung to my hands and arms as I dug down to the bottom of the box. What did my sister send? I lifted out a manilla folder which had settled among dozens of scattered pictures and styrofoam peanuts. In the folder lay a letter yellowed from age. I recognized the embellished handwriting immediately as that of my mom’s. Curiosity set in as I wondered who Dr. Woo was, the obvious recipient.

letter to dr. wooThe letter was left undated and appeared to be a draft from all of the crossed out words. Apparently, Mom had written the letter as a followup to a conversation she’d previously had with Dr. Woo. After reading through the first paragraph, I soon realized that this letter described my parents’ initial visit to the Family Planning Association of China, the orphanage where I was adopted. I could not read the rest of the letter fast enough. This is what it said:

Dr. Woo –

Following our conversation adopted Chinese daughter’s visa physical, and our conversation as to what was where we obtained her, and the cash price we paid, I will attempt to explain the procedure and all the obstacles that confront an American who adopts a child from the Family Planning Association of China.

We arrived in Taipei at 10 AM – went directly to Family Planning. We were allowed to go immediately to the 4th floor to a huge room with open windows and no heat where we walked from crate to crate and from basket to basket looking at tiny babies. I chose two from the 26 that were adoptable that day.

At 4 o’ clock that evening we were ushered into a large office and were introduced to Mrs. Tze-Kuan Shee Kan. She stated she had just returned from a fundraising drive in the United States, and had acquired $30,000 to start building a new orphanage for her children. She stated that $250 was the minimum fee, which was $150 for prior care of the child (medical, food and lodging) and $100 was for the cost of all the paper work required to bring the po baby to Okinawa. This was to be pd. in American cash.

By 6 o’ clock – the necessary papers were signed and she asked if I had picked out a baby. I told her about the 2 I had chosen and which one they brought down was all right with us. In a few moments they brought our baby to us, a beautiful three month old, 7 lbs., 7 oz., and very listless baby girl. I could not stand to think she would stay another moment under their roof. I asked permission…

I couldn’t believe there wasn’t more to the letter! I went back to the box and rummaged around trying to find a second page but found nothing. Where was the rest of the letter? I was so intrigued and disappointed that there wasn’t more. I telephoned my sister back in Louisiana to ask if she knew about the letter and had any idea where the missing part might be. She knew nothing. I had to just accept the fact that the other half was gone.

I had so many questions. Did I go home with my parents that afternoon? What did Mom ask permission for? What were some of the “obstacles” mom mentioned in adopting from the Family Planning Association? Was Mom petitioning for Dr. Woo’s assistance and did he help in any way? From the description Mom gave in the letter, I envisioned the orphanage to be in poor condition with barely enough for all of the babies and children there due to little funding. That I was only 7 lbs and 7 oz. at the age of 3 months was proof enough. I went back to read one of mom’s diaries dated the same year I was born. There was nothing said about Dr. Woo, only how they brought me home to Okinawa.

I went back to the folder and found another clue about my adoption: a medical examination form signed by Dr. Woo. I pieced together that my parents needed to get a visa for me, and he must have given the exam required. The form is dated January, 31, 1968 and was officially stamped in San Francisco on June 28, 1968, six months later. I found some other information showing that one year previous, my parents had filed for a petition for visa in Okinawa, which was officially approved on July 7, 1967. The entire process to get an actual visa took over a year from start to finish. Eventually we moved to the states around 1968 or 1969. I’m pretty sure that my parents were in a hurry to get out of Okinawa in case my birthfamily changed their mind about the adoption. My dad was transferred from Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa to Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts.

The letter will probably always be a mystery, but it did give me some insight into the orphanage where I was adopted. Just yesterday, as I was out sweeping the driveway, our neighbor and his son, Alex, came outside. Alex and his sister-in-law had come over to help interpret my adoption contract just a week ago. We exchanged hellos and Alex’s father proceeded to ask me if I was Chinese. Three months ago, my response would have been no, but then I’ve learned so much since then. I launched into a brief explanation of my adoption and my current attempt to find my birthfamily in China. He told me that he’d be traveling to China soon and that his brother currently works for the government there. He offered to help do whatever he could in China to find out about my birthfamily with the help of his brother. Alex suggested that I give his father the address of my birthparents listed on the adoption contract. His father will be staying in Ghuangzhou which is very close to the province where my birthparents lived at the time of my adoption. I was touched that he wanted to help.

I’ll continue to try to piece together the mystery of my adoption from what I now have in my possession. I hope that my neighbor can bring back some kind of information about my birthfamily from China, but I’m not holding my breath. Only time will tell.

8 thoughts on “a mystery letter

  1. Beth Fisher

    I am glad you decided to go private and protect your writing. I do believe that those of us following your journey are very likely reading your book as you are writing it. It is a fasinating story.

    I hadn’t thought of that white missile on the base in years. It is gone now. Another relic of time past brought back to life by one remembering and triggering that remembering in another.

    The letter was amazing! What at awesome gift you were given! And like any great story the universe is helping to write, we have a hook for next entry. What will your neighbor discover???


  2. Carole Ann Kaplan

    If you have any questions about blog privacy PLEASE talk to Beth or Monica. They have all the answers.

    I, on the other hand, have all the questions about blogging. xo

    It is of utmost importance that you protect your writing. I can’t emphasize that enough. Ask Beth and Monica for help.


  3. Carole Ann

    Randy agreed you need to limit who views your blog online. Were you able to do that with Beth’s help? Your memoir is a jewel we must protect until you are ready to publish.

    Did you add the last blog after I asked for more emotionality in your writing? Regardless, you were “right on” with what I asked for in your most recent post, the post regarding your personal relationships as they are impacted by your quest.

    I continue to compliment your ability to tell a story. And did I say I am honored and gratified to share the journey with you. xo



    1. jazzygirl29

      Wasn’t sure if you were referring to this blog, or the one I wrote most recently. I had already written my most recent one, “In the wee hours…” when I saw your comment here, so we were on the same page I think! I was wondering, if I I limit who views my blog, would some of my other friends who are not members of MWAM still be able to view it? I have a couple who are also following it now. I was also considering copyrighting it, but may be too premature.

      I’m very honored that you are sharing my journey with me and for all of your wonderful comments and input!


  4. Carole Ann Kaplan

    Lori, I think you are right about the “makings of a book.” Now, you have a following.

    This last post was as “real” as any you wrote before especially so since you had the letter your mother penned to the doctor. Although, you don’t have all of it, you do have something to hold on to as you continue your journey. I am amazed with the synchronicity of your neighbor going on a trip to China so close to your birth parent’s home. Do you realize the great power in this collision of your story with your neighbor’s journey?

    As you are writing start to journal on your emotions in more detail giving the reader a view into your personal experience of this journey, more of how you are feeling. If I am not clear, let me know and I will be clearer.


    1. jazzygirl29

      Thanks Carole. I will put your suggestion into use as I continue to write.

      Yes, I’m stunned and ecstatic at the same time that our neighbor is traveling to China at just this time! I can hardly wait to see what news he might bring back on his return. Patience!


  5. Lori

    Fantastic story – you are lucky to come across so much history. I also enjoy hearing from someone else who spent happy times growing up in Bossier, playing outside all day, uncomplicated, safe, tons of neighborhood kids.
    I think you have the makings of a book here!


    1. jazzygirl29

      Thank you, Lori and thanks for reading my blog! I do wish that things could be more like they were growing up as a kid for my own daughter. Things sure have gotten more complicated through the years.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.