A multiracial family tells its story
One of Pamela Purdy's favorite memories is the letter she received from a Vietnam veteran who had just read her book, ``Beyond the Babylift: A Story of an Adoption.'' He wrote: ``I never would have thought a thing would have come out of that war that was good.''Skip to next paragraph
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What came to Mrs. Purdy and her husband, David, one spring day in 1975 was a five-year-old half-Vietnamese, half-black dynamo named Hoang. Till that point, the youngster's life had been a struggle to survive in a conflict-torn country. But any apprehensions about joining a strange new family vanished at the first glimpse of an airport escalator.
Hoang, together with the three other Purdy children, raced up and down the contraption a half dozen times. When he plopped into the family car, Hoang clicked on the radio, top volume.
``Oh boy, do we have an active one!'' murmured David Purdy.
That was 13 years ago. Today Hoang is Hoang-Stephen (Stephen to friends and family), a handsome, sturdily built freshman at Bridgewater State College south of Boston.
The journey toward early adulthood hasn't been easy for Stephen or his parents. There were anxieties left over from a turgid first five years in Vietnam, wrestlings with what Mrs. Purdy terms his ``hyperactivity,'' and the dark intrusion of racism.
As he sits at the dining room table in the Purdys' red-brick parish house discussing his life, Stephen still exudes youthful energy. It's a peaceful home. Photos of the children decked out for school plays and other events fill one wall. Mrs. Purdy's pastel portraits of each son and daughter line another. Out the back door and a few steps up the street stands Winchester's Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church, where the Rev. Mr. Purdy is minister.
Stephen's memories of his early years in the United States are, understandably, a bit hazy. But his parents vividly fill in details. Mrs. Purdy's book, recently published by Abingdon Press, chronicles the most memorable of the incidents, trials, and breakthroughs that have filled their lives.
Stephen does, however, recall ``always being in the slower group'' at school because of his poor grounding in English - to say nothing of a notoriously short attention span. Like most of us, he can remember a few teachers who took a special interest in him. (``It takes a lot of parents to raise a child,'' his mother comments.) And he enthusiastically describes his discovery of organized sports through Pop Warner football.
But it's the more immediate things that spark Stephen's conversation: the just-ended football season at Bridgewater State, his final high school year at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania (complete with white glove room inspections and mandatory study halls), and thoughts about a career. Stephen has his eye on sportscasting, or perhaps becoming a pilot.
Such dreams could have seemed impossible all those years ago when he first joined the Purdy household, then in the southern Massachusetts town of Middleboro.