Forever Young

by Grace Ko in , , ,

I meet with a ten-year-old girl each week. I have the honor of tutoring her and she and I go on adventures together, through the world of Children's Literature, discussing the characters, their emotions, and the happenings of their lives. We even get to write make-believe letters to some of these very characters and sometimes, we even dabble in the world of poetry. 

Confession: Sometimes, I pretend that I'm in a two-person book club with this ten-year-old friend of mine. 

At my first meeting with this friend, I asked her what her favorite book was. Though she named several, one of them stood out to me: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I jotted it down on my "To read" list. After getting my hands on it, I read it in a day. 

Filled with a deep sadness that I don't often associate with a children's book, it touched on the brokenness and fragility of life, but equally whisked me away in a state of nostalgia, bringing back memories of the past, childhood conjectures and reveries. The story is about Edward Tulane, a china rabbit and his journey with many owners. A rabbit who learns to love and be loved and to hope in love.

Reading this story, I dug up a memory from the dusty depths of my childhood. Sometime in elementary school (I was probably around the same age as my previously mentioned friend), I had had a stuffed animal dog - possibly a mix between a Black Lab and a Rottweiler. I believe it was a gift my brother had received, but somehow this dog became mine. She was my companion on a family trip to Maryland. Unfortunately, my absent-mindedness led me to leave this companion behind at the hotel.

When I came to this realization, I cried. I cried at the thought of having abandoned my "dog". I cried because I felt guilty. "I'm a horrible owner... How could I have forgotten about my dog?" My vivid imagination took me on a downward spiral, envisioning my dog's less-than-fortunate encounter with future owners, less-loving, some even abusive. 

My dad luckily came to my rescue. He dialed the number to the hotel we had stayed at, and requested they mail us my dog. I remember the relief that washed over me after our reunion. 

It pains me to think that I don't even remember what I had named this "dog" of mine, nor do I know where this dog is now. And it got me thinking... 

When had I stopped dreaming? What had come of my imagination? When did I become more consumed with others' expectations than valuing the core of who I am? 

For in every adult there dwells the child that was...
— John Connolly

But that fourth-grader is still there, somewhere inside of me. Her dreams, her hopes, her imagination, her innocence... they're still here, in the deepest chambers of my heart. 

When Y proposed to me (almost six years ago!), underneath the magnificent starry ceiling of the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal, he said one line I will always remember: "I want to grow old and young with you." I giggled as he nervously uttered these words, because it was a play-on-words (his name being Young). I secretly thought to myself, "How can you grow young?" and I chuckled mainly because I too was nervous. But little did twenty-four-year-old Grace realize what a profound statement this was. 

"It takes a very long time to become young." -Pablo Picasso

"It takes a very long time to become young." -Pablo Picasso

A child-like heart

by Grace Ko in ,

Y and I were both born here in Korea. While I moved to the United States as a toddler at the age of two and have no recollection of my time in Korea before then, Y moved to the US in his pre-teens as a ten-year-old. 

When asked how he liked it here in Korea thus far, Y made quite a poignant analogy: he said that coming back here to Korea felt like rereading a childhood favorite book as an adult. Have you ever done that? Revisited and reopened a favorite book from your childhood to rediscover things you had long forgotten about. It's finding new in the old and reclaiming the old in the new. Since arriving here, Y often speaks of being reminded of familiar scents, sounds and scenes and having a newfound appreciation for them now as an adult.  

Y's analogy and my friend E's blog post on children's literature got me thinking about my favorite children's books. 

Here are just some: 

Corduroy by Don Freeman 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco 


Here's to always having a child-like heart!