Maritza Ruiz-Kim

Artist, San Francisco Bay Area

The Family We Have

We told the boys we will be adopting a baby sister.

This is what I know about family so far:

I come from a very large Mexican family. My mom had about 8 siblings (it’s hard to count exactly, with some cousins of hers that were raised with her, and a full brother that was raised by his step-mom after my grandmother died in childbirth.) My mom was 20 at that time, the oldest still in the house, and the closest to having to do something with all the kids that were still growing up under her. I have all my cousins, around 20 of them, and I love them so much, but I hardly ever see them now since I am the only one to have moved away from Southern California (not counting my Aunt Vicki & Uncle Joe out in Texas, and my cousins Angie & Micheal and their families.) But that leaves around 18 still in So Cal. I miss them. With the same Abuelita & Abuelito, with all our shared holidays and hangouts, we just were. Family. And they have so much to do with who I am, and how I view myself.

I grew up with one brother 3 years older than me, and he is in San Diego with his partner. I have always loved Celo, and he’s always been there for me, the quintessential brother who yells at you for parking in Golden Gate Park in the pitch night. (You as in Me. Because I did that.) He is a total guy, with his construction roofing business and his big trucks that need a ladder to climb into them.

My sister Tar is 19 years younger than me. I wish I could see her all the time, I miss out on so much. She lives with my dad and her mom in the greater San Diego area, as do all my siblings. She is just now 15 years old. She rides horses and has dreams and is smart and strong. I don’t get to see my dad all that often either, and I love him, too, despite things.

I married GK 10 and a half years ago, and he is the best, really exactly who I wanted in a husband. I read some things I wrote when I was 15 years old. What was (is) my ideal in my mate. Amazingly, GK is all those and more.

And then I have the Korean family I married into. Once they decided to love me, I became the daughter they never had, and we were a family. And as I have met GK’s extended family over the years, they have become my family, too, and even the ones they marry, they are my family.

Then there is the family that we choose. I have best friends I have collected throughout the years, and some are just soul mates. To this day, we think of each other at key times, even if we haven’t spoken in ages. I have new best friends that come into my life, and I am just thanking God that I have them to be there for me. Halmone & Haraboji just light up around the boys. (fyi- I probably don’t spell their Korean grandma/grandpa names in the typical way since I am taking a cue from Spanish. It works for me.) The feeling is mutual. The boys are crazy about them! Enn tells his friends that they should come with him to visit his Halmone because she has soooo much candy. And she keeps it all in her purse, he tells his friends. (It’s true.) They live less than 2 miles away. I am so lucky that our jobs brought us back to GK’s hometown and that we have stayed here even though careers have changed. We have our differences and certainly have had our hard times, but really, there is lots of love coming from them to us. I hope they know how much we love them, too. There are a myriad of ways in which she goes Korean Mom on me, but I’m not writing about that today. Today-  I am talking about the love that’s there, because I am so glad about that.

I am thinking a lot about family these days, and what that means.

Then of course there is my mom. Abuelita to my boys, she is essential to their happiness. Three years ago, she came here to live with us. She left our hometown of 20 years, the place I grew up, the Mojave High Desert. She lives in her own place on our property, a little jewel of a home that she’s made in a very small space. I am so lucky to have her so close like this. I worry about her because she has something like fibromyalgia (as well as maybe that, too) and many aches that go along with that. I share so much with my mom, and I am just so glad we share day to day life again, since I moved out of the house once when I was 15, and then finally when I was 17. I spent half my life half a state away.

I am Mexican.

And I am part Korean now, too.

And tomorrow we start our first adoption class, and what comes later? How multicultural will we become? I am pulled in three directions already. Because I am American, too. American even before anything else. And what does that mean? It’s definition continues to be defined not just by myself, but by politics, culture, my neighborhood….

I haven’t posted much lately for many reasons. One of them is held in a large nutshell here. On many levels, I am defining family for my life. I have had family come & family go, and I am left to figure out what to do with that. I don’t have a literary way to sum up what I am experiencing every day right now. But, I felt I had to write down pieces of my family story so I can keep defining it as I go.

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