Adoptee Story

 Thanks again to K@W for finding and posting these articles.  G.S.

Portraits: Summer theme


By Bob Sylva – Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, July 8, 2007

In a display of enterprise admirable in a high school graduate, Annie Noguchi managed to snap up two jobs this summer. She’s working at Forever 21 and Victoria’s Secret, both stores at the Arden Fair mall.

Her love of shopping, her quirky style sense, her ability to disguise her pungent intelligence with vapid solicitude, gave her some impressive credentials. She’s a natural performer. Getting the job at Victoria’s Secret required an on-the-spot rehearsal.

“The manager wanted to see how I would interact with customers,” says Annie. “So she told me, ‘Just stand there and pretend you work here.’ So, I stood there, I folded some panties, and I said, ‘Hello, welcome to Victoria’s Secret! May I help you?’ ”

She laughs, rolls her eyes. “But since I didn’t really work there, I couldn’t help anyone!” But she showed potential. And she got the part. And, after just a few days on the skimpy lingerie beat, she acquired an invaluable skill — how to fit a bra.

Which, apparently, requires some knowledge of calculus and engineering. “First, you measure the midriff, and then you add 5 (inches),” says Annie of the formula. “Then you measure the bust line …” And she proceeds to explain the addition and subtraction that leads to a perfect fit. Voila!

In the fall, she’s off to Berkeley.

Now, the workday done, she’s sitting at a table outside of Espresso Metro on Freeport Boulevard, which is just down the street from her alma mater, McClatchy High School. She is wearing heels, cream slacks, a floral camisole topped by a sheer blouse.

Annie is 18 years old. She has a round face, dumpling cheeks, silky bangs that brush her eyes. She is funny, deadpan, amused, and it’s hard to know whether she’s being merely ironic or purely facetious. She manages satire with porcelain composure.

In high school, she earned a 3.9 GPA and scored an 800 on the verbal SAT. She says she likes to read “cowboy books” by Larry McMurtry and Dante’s “Inferno.” She plays the Korean drum, performs traditional Japanese dancing. She’s Buddhist; loves politics. She got accepted to Brown, Columbia and UCLA. But she chose UC Berkeley. Her best friend, Kao Thao, a Hmong refugee from Thailand, is going to Cal, too.

Now, high school finally over (and didn’t that seem like an eternity), Annie has this final summer in Sacramento. To work, to relax, to shop. Her desire to leave home, to breathe on her own, is palpable.

“I’m just eager to get out,” she says, relieved.

Annie was born in Seoul, South Korea. At 3 months old, she became one of thousands of Korean adoptees.

“When my mother found out she was pregnant, she went to this home for unwed mothers,” Annie says. “She worked in a printing plant where she met my father. That’s all I know.”

She arrived here in her parents’ arms, March 31, 1989. Her parents, Andy and Twila Noguchi, he a state employee, she a teacher, had only seen a snapshot of their new baby.

“I’ve seen that photo,” says Annie, making a face. “I looked funny. I was real fat!”

Now that fat little baby is off to the big time. But Annie Noguchi has a few things left to do. She has to work, earn some money, spend time with friends. There’s a shopping trip planned to Los Angeles. And a national youth convention of the Japanese American Citizens League in Santa Clara. And, maybe for the first time in 18 years, she has to clean her room.

Messy? She nods her head.

How messy? She puts a hand 3 feet off the ground. The princess dwells atop a cushion of clothes.

“My mother wants to turn my bedroom into a crafts room,” says Annie. My! The graduate, not even cool yet, and the old bedroom is getting fresh paint.

In her yearbook, friends wrote tributes to her intelligence, her fashion savvy. Asked what she thinks of herself, Annie says, in what sounds like a blueprint for happiness, “I think I’m responsible. And I like to have a lot of fun. I’m not reckless, but I’m not cautious. I’m sorta up for everything.”


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