Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Susanne Antonetta's "Make Me a Mother"

Susanne Antonetta is the author of the memoirs A Mind Apart and A Body Toxic, a New York Times Notable Book, as well as the poetry collections Bardo, Petitioner, Glass, and The Lives of the Saints. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The New Republic, Best American Essays, and other publications.

Here Antonetta dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, Make Me a Mother: A Memoir:
Make Me a Mother is the story of my adoption of, and life with, my son Jin, who came to me from South Korea. Always funny, though sometimes just a little harrowing (hello, age thirteen! It inaugurated a period of a year and a half that Jin’s father and I still refer to as the Dark Ages), my book takes readers from Jin’s arrival at a few months of age to our trip back to Korea to visit the dozens of cribs of babies—and too few exhausted caretakers--at the orphanage where he once lived.

We first met our Jin at the South Satellite of SeaTac Airport in Seattle, “meeting cute” with our baby under the harsh lights outside of Customs. I was so nervous I raced through the airport security gate, all but tackled by the guards. My husband Bruce and I learned to stay up strolling him through our house all night, and later, how to connect with our son’s Korean culture. We joined a Korean church where we had barely a word in common with much of the congregation, but which we attended for years and with great love on all sides. There we had the signal joy of celebrating Thanksgiving with a feast of Korean meats and vegetables—bulgogi, kimchee, rice in nori—followed by a flock of roasted American-style turkeys.

In the end, through learning to be a mother I learned to be a daughter—to forgive and care for my own aging parents, to overcome my history as a high school dropout and drug user to become a mother. I learned how, time and time again, all families have to learn to adopt one another.

Casting? My tall, dimpled and adorable son is the easy choice. He’s a dead ringer for a Korean actor named Song Joong-Ki. I can’t really tell you much about Song Joong-Ki as an actor, but I can say confidently his face is plastered on random items all over Korea--I tote a little package of shaving cream with Song Joong-Ki’s face on it in my purse, sometimes pranking my friends by telling them Jin has turned model. When we last visited Korea, Song had begun his mandatory period of military service for his country, and teenage girls all over the country sobbed into their handkerchiefs. (Some of those teenage girls took to following my cute boy around, giggling behind their hands.)

My husband, the sweet, smart guy who rescued me from security at the airport and has been rescuing me ever since, is sardonic in that soft-spoken funny way so endearing in men from the South (he’s from Macon, Georgia). I’m going for Chris Cooper to play him.

As for me, I’m a big-haired Jersey girl who loves food, wine, and spoiling my guys, as long as they don’t expect me to. I grow my own produce and love to make things, but I also swear like a long-haul trucker with four blown-out tires. I’d say I channel a mix of Martha Stewart and Edie Falco as she appeared in The Sopranos.
Visit Susanne Antonetta's website.

--Marshal Zeringue