Katie Goldsmith, 19: ‘It was always normal to me having an Asian sister'

‘Clare is from South Korea. My parents adopted her when she was six months old’

Katie Goldsmith: “At my age people are beginning to find themselves. They’re done with the fitting-in stage. At college you see that different is good.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Katie Goldsmith: “At my age people are beginning to find themselves. They’re done with the fitting-in stage. At college you see that different is good.” Photograph: Alan Betson

 

This article is part of The Irish Times Generations project. Since April 2014, people ranging in age from 12 to 102 have shared their views on Irish life, past and present, with reporter Rosita Boland. Read all those published so far at irishtimes.com/generations

Katie Goldsmith lives in Drogheda, Co Louth

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia. My mam, Anna, trained as a nurse in Dublin and then went to Texas to work, where she met my dad, Wynn. They had only met six weeks when she had to come back to Ireland.

They wrote letters to each other when she came home. Then he proposed to her over the phone. She agreed, but only if he came over to meet her family. So he came over to Ireland and met her whole family, and they got married in Dublin in 1980.

After that they moved to Atlanta. They had challenges having a family. It wasn’t happening for them. They decided to adopt. My sister, Clare, is from South Korea. They adopted her when she was six months old, in 1987.

My mum was five months pregnant with me, in 1996, when she realised she was pregnant.

I remember that Atlanta was very muggy and hot, especially in the summer. We came to Ireland twice that I can remember before we moved back here. My mam would always remind me that I was Irish as well as American. My mam always wanted to come back, and my dad wanted to retire here.

My dad passed away when I was six. There was a tear in his heart, and he went for surgery, and he died in surgery. I remember he died on a school day, because when I woke up in the morning it was very bright, and I was wondering why my mam hadn’t woken me up for school. I went down to the kitchen, and she was crying there with her best friend.

My mam decided to stay in America until Clare had finished school, which is what they had decided originally. When we moved back here I was nine. Clare stayed behind. She came back and forth a bit, but she didn’t live here.

I distinctly remember my first day at the new school. I was in fourth class, and I walked to school, which nobody did in America. The hardest things to get used to were wearing a uniform and going to a single-sex school. I also had to learn Irish, because you’re only exempt when you are 11. I ended up doing honours Irish for Leaving Cert.

It was always normal to me having an Asian sister, but when I moved here people were, ‘Your sister is Asian. That’s crazy.’

I wouldn’t be a hardened Catholic. But I’d like to think that when we die there is something. I’d like to think my dad is in a better place. Not heaven as such, just a better place.

I’ve learned as a teenager that if you’re going to be nice to someone they’ll be nice to you. You have to present yourself well. I’m probably a bit more sensible now than I was when I was 10. I know how to think before I speak now, whereas I don’t know if I did back then, at 10.

At my age people are beginning to find themselves. They’re done with the fitting-in stage. At college you see that different is good.

I’m in my first year at college, in Maynooth. I’m doing European studies with Spanish and history. I love it. We’re all engaged in the class, whereas in secondary school lots of people don’t really want to be there.

I’d love to work in an embassy or as a civil servant. I’m studying Spanish, because if I went back to America Spanish would be so useful. If I could do any job in the world I’d love to work at an Irish Embassy in America.

I’d love to do a master’s in international affairs, but a master’s is expensive, and I know I have to work towards that.

My sister is having a baby next month in Georgia. That’s the next stage in my life: being an aunt. I’m going to be the godmother, too. I’m going out there after my exams. Clare is having a daughter. She will be the next new generation. Being an aunt, that will be a properly adult thing.