childhood chronicles: my parent’s place


whenever i return home, i drift, without fail, to my shelves of childhood books. and by home, i don’t mean my apartment in new york where sirens and incessant car horns invade the tiny space. i mean my parent’s place.

it is here that i can find rows upon rows of my childhood books. my first thought is, always: i’m thankful to my parents for having kept them all these years. i open one up to see “susan” written in thick black sharpie on the front flap. the writing is round and childish. fourth grade? maybe earlier.

i love flipping through the roald dahls and remembering the first time i read matilda. the boy i’d had a crush on at the time (this was in third grade) pointed at the cover and told me i looked just like matilda who was perched on a bookshelf, surrounded by piles of books. i remember not knowing whether to feel flattered, annoyed, or amused. i don’t really remember his face, but i do remember this matilda incident.

i love the anne of green gables-es too.  anne of the island – third in the anne series. i’ve reread this one countless times – mostly in the fall. it’s been years since my life has been tethered to the start of school years and winter and summer breaks, but most falls, i’ll seek out this third in the series. it’s the one where anne goes off to college. she leaves home, shares a house with friends, expands her intellectual horizons in lecture halls, dances at soirees, and misses home. it may take place in nova scotia in the early 1900s (omg), but the emotions are the same. and i love re-reading it in the fall – close to the start of a “school year.”


the little mermaid

they don’t make children’s stories the way they used to. when i was four or five, my mom and aunts read me the little mermaid. the hard core, hans christian andersen version. translated into korean. the version where the little mermaid turns into white sea foam at the end because she can’t stab her prince in the heart with a dagger. they told me years later that i’d cry on cue at that part – after reciting much of it with them. a feminist from an early age. [i’m assuming i was heartbroken that she’d put some self-absorbed loser she’d rescued above her own life].

a few years later, the disney version came out. my youngest aunt took me to see it at the movie theater – twice. i loved it that much. the disney cast of characters was raucous, silly, animated (literally). i loved sebastian the lobster (or crab?). a far swim from hans christian andersen. i still love that disney version and always will. the disney fairy dust – sterilizing and prettifying everything.

i think there’s something to be said for the original HCA version though. for one, it’s the original. and two, it’s good to expose children to a range and depth of emotions. yes, the little mermaid felt as if she were walking on daggers every time she took a step with her human legs. there’s value, i think, in exposing kids to that in a story. to all the complicated layers of life that fall short of being disney moments. and all for the better, likely.