Click here to read Part I of the Birth Sibling series.
I will never forget the first time I met my younger brother 남동생 Hyun-bae. He had only found out about my existence 48 hours prior and flown home to Korea from China to meet me. I drove to 인천 Incheon Airport with 아빠 Appa to meet his flight and pick him up. Although we had never met before, we recognized each other immediately when he came out of the gate. He shouted, “누나 Noona (sister)!” and ran up + threw his arms around me and it was all over. Life hasn’t been the same since.
Hyun-bae was a surprise. That is, I knew before I visited Holt that I had an older brother. But I did not learn about a younger brother until the agency called me to say that they had located my birth family and they wanted to meet me the very next day. (More on that HERE.) I was stunned to find out I had another sibling. A younger sibling! I had all my life been the baby of the family. My Casey siblings are 10-20 years older than me. How could I suddenly be a “big sister”? I didn’t know how!
My fears dissipated immediately when I hugged Hyun-bae at 인천 Incheon. It was the strangest experience. I suddenly just loved this brother I had never met before. I instantly became fiercely protective of him and dared anyone to try to hurt him, lest they have to mess with me. I simply just became 누나 Noona. It was like magic.
On Hyun-bae’s part, my existence was a lifelong dream realized. He had always longed for a big sister. I will forever wonder if he just instinctively knew somehow. Knew I was somewhere out in the world waiting to become his 누나 Noona. He used to always ask 엄마 Omma why she didn’t give him a big sister, completely oblivious to the pain the question caused her. She didn’t feel she could tell him that he, in fact, did have a big sister. She must have known that he would have stopped at nothing to find me and make contact.
I will forever wonder if he just somehow instinctively knew I was somewhere out in the world waiting to become his 누나.
Hyun-bae and I have been best friends since that first day in October 2010. We never stopped texting and Skyping and Face-timing after that initial weekend. He even took a leave of absence from college to move to the States for about a year to study English and spend time with me and the Casey family. My mom + dad jokingly ask if we’re sure we are not twins because our mannerisms and personalities are so much alike. He contacts me every chance he gets when he has a break from his military service. We are inseparable.
One of my favorite memories with Hyun-bae was on a shopping trip to 이마트 E-Mart with 엄마 Omma. He has a fierce interest in American culture, especially food, and we were going to try to bake some American treats together. We were buying all of the essentials and were looking at the utensil aisle for a mixing spoon. 엄마 Omma and Hyun-bae were talking at one end of the aisle while I browsed near the other end. 엄마 Omma called me over and told me to pick which spoon best suited our baking experiment. I perused the giant aisle and jokingly picked up the biggest spoon I have ever seen. I could not imagine a single use for a spoon of that enormity – it’s creation must have been some kind of prank. I said, “어때? How about this?” and 엄마 Omma and Hyun-bae both died laughing. I thought, “That was kind of funny, but not that funny,” as they were gasping for air. 엄마 Omma caught her breath and said, “That’s the same one Hyun-bae picked when I told him to choose a spoon!” 진짜?! Of all the options. It’s scary to share a brain with someone!
Another memory, less happy, but so normal, involved a sibling fight. Hyun-bae and I love each other but we get on each other’s nerves just like a normal brother and sister. The last time we were in Korea, we were on a tight schedule and Hyun-bae, as always, was running late. The whole family was waiting on him in the car, when he finally brought up the caboose and we were on our way. I asked him to hand me the card that I’d asked him 100 times to bring before we left the house. He gasped, “오모! Oh no!” He had forgotten it. It ticked me off so much and I started yelling at him in Korean. “You dummy! I reminded you a million times to bring it with you! What were you doing in there the whole time? How could you forget?” As this was happening, we were on either side of the back seat of the car with 엄마 Omma sitting in between us and 아빠 Appa + Lee in the front seat. 아빠 Appa was telling us to be quiet and 엄마 Omma was swatting us on the back of our heads and yelling at us to be good and stop arguing or else she was going to kill us.
No, things aren’t always perfect between me and my brother. We annoy each other. We grate on the other’s nerves. But we also realize the amazing gift we have been given: to establish this special relationship now in our twenties. I get to be 누나 Noona and he gets to be the obnoxious little brother. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
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