My name is Pauline, but once, for a short time, it was something else. It was Shinobu.

The year of my birth was 1947 post World War II,  Japan. Month unknown, day unknown. Like many mixed children born after the war, I was either the culmination of a fleeting love affair between my Japanese mother and  American “G.I.” father or simply a fleeting affair. Some children were lucky and stayed with their birth parents through marriage, but most  were not so lucky.

 

Most were discarded, abandoned, and I don’t even want to think about what happened to others. The very lucky ones, like me, were found and placed in an orphanage.

I’m a romantic. I’d like to think, I was born around the time when cherry blossom trees started to bloom in Ueno Park, a place well visited by the Japanese to view the trees in Taito Ward, Tokyo, because that’s where I was abandoned. I was placed on the ground, perhaps wrapped in a baby kimono, to be found not too shortly after “she” left me there. I cannot imagine what my birth mother may have been feeling, after my birth father was sent home by the Navy.

 

I’d like to think it wasn’t her choice. It was a decision made to protect me, give me hope, and maybe a future since I didn’t resemble a Japanese child. And to the proud people of Japan who felt blood line was more important and honorable than having a green eyed, red haired child around.

 

I realize there were scarcity in food, housing, and I’m sure medical help wasn’t readily available back then. I don’t hold any grudge against my maternal family, whoever that may be. No, I still do not know who my mother is/was.

 

But she did save me.

 

She gave me a better future, much better than most.

The day I was abandoned, an American man, working for the Armed Forces found me. That wonderful man, became my adoptive father a few years later. He picked me up, looked around, and saw no one coming to take me away from him, carried me to the nearest Buddhist temple, and relinquished me to the care of the Monks there. However, he made sure I was cared for and visited me as often as possible. He later decided I would be better off in a Foster home so he made arrangements to move me into one. Meanwhile, the Taito Ward Family Court became involved, and had a hearing on my behalf. I was given a name, Shinobu (means – one who endures hardships) Ikemoto and a birthday of September 5, 1947, which was the date of the hearing. I also received an address of the park, Tokyo Imperial Park, Ueno Onshi Koen and a Japanese citizenship. I suppose I am one of the lucky ones.

 

I lived.

Not too long after, Midori, a Japanese woman, came into the picture as my adoptive mother. Yes, she adopted me first so that Roger could adopt me as well. First thing first for them though. They needed to get married but getting a permission from his C.O. took years. The Armed Forces at that time did not feel Japanese women were, well, not up to the standards of their “view” and the permission was denied until a new C.O. took over and in 1955, permission was granted, they got married at the American Embassy in Tokyo and I was legally adopted.

To make things a little more interesting, they did not tell me I was adopted. I learned about my adoption accidentally after Roger passed away in 1960 and I came to live with his brother and wife in 1963 in the USA. My Uncle, Aunt and I were sitting at a table at supper, when I asked them who I looked like more--a reasonable question by a fifteen year old--they looked at one another,  reached for my hand, and said these words, “Darling, didn’t you know you were adopted?” 

 

My world came tumbling down all around me, implosion, explosion, couldn’t breathe. Then, rationalization came. It wasn't true. My parent's lied to my father's family because it was the war time, they didn’t want them to know they had me before they were married. I get it. And my life was Okay again. Temporarily.

 

Temporarily until Midori’s passing.

 

Now it’s 2001 and genealogy had become my hobby. I wanted to know all about my “father” and his roots. Compiled information from family, internet and library. Then when DNA tests became affordable, I took one to see where and what percentage I was of Scottish, Irish and Japanese. It was very interesting so I offered to first cousin to take one as well to compare.

A few weeks later, his results came back. It wasn't a lie. I am not who I was told. I am not Roger’s child. My “cousin” and I did not have any match. None. Zero. We were not even distant cousins. Needless to say, I was broken hearted. And it took a long time to recover from this betrayal. My father’s family gave me unconditional love. Adopted? So what? You’re family. And I feel the same about them. Always will. 

Then an unexpected news – received an e-mail from one of the DNA site stating that there is a match with someone else. A first cousin. Then another first cousin, then a jack pot, a close family. Who turned out to be my half-sister. I found my paternal family!

After this discovery, I decided to have my mother's cousin in Japan take the test as well. Now I am warning you, be prepared to learn the worst. And I was prepared. Or so I thought.

 

Midori was not my biological mother, either. 

 

By this time, I compare myself to the cherry blossom trees when they start losing the petals, once a beautiful clusters of blossoms adorning trees, but now it seems to be shedding tears of petals. I was shedding petals.

Like my given name, I have endured. I am a survivor. I have started taking in all the clues, the photos, the stories and my memories of my childhood growing up in Japan and have come to a conclusion.

 

I will find her.

But then what will I say if I do….?

My name is Pauline, but once, for a short time, it was something else. It was Shinobu.

​©2018 by Ana Johns all rights reserved.​  author photo credit ©caseyandhercamera

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