Our Travel Home
As we left LAX, the traffic was heavy. We finally stopped for supper in Thousand Oaks about 8-9 PM. We decided that since the boys had never eaten American food, and the restaurant didn’t have oriental food, we would order a burger for each of them and a glass of milk— I ordered the same.
For the next hour it was like there were two little mirrors sitting opposite me. I would pick up the burger, then they would. I would take a small bite, then they would. I would pick up the glass of milk and then they would. I would set the milk down, then they would. Every move I made they imitated me. ❤️
As we sat there, we could look over the interstate, and the boys were confused (they didn’t tell us until months later). But they couldn’t figure out why there were red lights all in a row and then white lights in a row. They didn’t realize that the interstate had two lanes going in opposite directions.
Our Hotel Stay
So we stop in Santa Barbara for the night at about 11:30 PM. The boys were getting tired—and so were mom and dad. Check in went smoothly, but we couldn’t understand why they looked so frightened. We didn’t know until a few months later when they could speak English, that they had been told that if they misbehaved, we would immediately send them back to Korea.
So at the hotel, guess who is running the front desk? A Korean woman. She began speaking to them in Korean, asking them “what they were doing with us? They didn’t belong to us.” The boys were scared that we were returning them to Korea, and this was the exchange site!
My wife and I slept fitfully, and I am not sure the boys slept at all!! 😨😨
Our Lunch Stop
We ate breakfast and began traveling by 8 AM. At noon we stopped at a restaurant halfway between LA and SF. We go into the restaurant, and guess who are waitress is? A Korean woman, again! She was more bold than the one the night before. She totally ignored my wife and me.
She began speaking directly to the boys in harsh tone: “Why are you with them? They are not your parents!” The older boy, Ille, was sitting to my left. As soon as the woman began her “interrogation” he pushed closer to me and grabbed my leg just above my knee and squeezed in fear— it hurt my leg—it was that intense of a squeeze. But that was what he needed, a safe reassuring presence with him.
I finally interrupted her and told her we wanted menus so we could order!
Yeah, this was the joyful reunion that we as a family were looking forward to!??!
Home at Last!
About 4 hours later we pulled into the Navy housing unit. We went up stairs to our 3 bedroom apartment. The boys followed us in and saw how we were moving, like we knew this place. Within 5 minutes they began running to every room, excitedly chattering about everything they saw. They couldn’t wait to see the next room, and off they would scurry!
It was as if they knew—this was home. Even now writing about this 40 years later I am still choking up with tears about these memories. Yes, they were home. We were all home! A new life for them, a new life for us.
More adventures to follow….