As soon as she arrived at our place, she dragged me upstairs where we played her favorite games. She particularly favors games like the Korean version of tag. Absorbed in the game, she muttered non-stop some unintelligible words she had picked up from a kids' TV program. In an instant, I became a friend the same age as her. After a while, she stopped and breathlessly ordered me: "Grandpa run! Run!" I obeyed, running around her on my own. Seeing us both soaked in sweat, my wife teased us, saying, "Like grandfather, like granddaughter." We were all so happy.
Ready for a change, my granddaughter wanted to go outdoors and catch dragonflies just as we had last summer. I was so chuffed that she remembered this. Alas, it was too early for dragonflies. I didn't want her to be disappointed, so we sat side by side on the wooden swing carefully looking around for flying insects. I dislike mowing our broad garden, but now I was happy that it made a good playground for her.
Eventually a yellow butterfly landed on a tulip. Whispering in my ear, she asked me to catch it. I stealthily approached, snatching at it with a dragonfly net, but in vain. It swiftly evaded the net and flew away. I could see the disappointment on her face and I felt a bit sorry for her. I promised her that I would catch one. We spotted another butterfly flying slowly around the daffodils and waited patiently until it came within catching range. Approaching silently, I caught it in my hands. My granddaughter clapped her hands in sheer joy. We were all thrilled.
Suddenly I was Matt in Mary Lawson's novel, "Crow Lake," in the scene where Matt and his sister Kate lie on their bellies, gazing into the dark water, waiting to see something special, and the thrill of being a part of my granddaughter's precious childhood gripped me. Through such innocent games, we achieved a joyful communion that transcended the generations. I hope that the memory of chasing butterflies in my hinterland garden will be one of an essential purity and innocence, which will remain with her throughout her life.
Above all, I am grateful to her because she shared her world with me ― the joy and innocence of children.
I miss her even though it's been only two weeks since she went back to Seoul. I am already impatient for our next reunion playing together in the garden. She will be taller and more mature, and she will introduce more difficult games which I may find difficult to adjust to, but I will be willing to make the effort so as to maintain our deep friendship. Last night, while talking on video chat, she proudly suggested the word, Nabi (butterfly), as an example of a word with the letter, "N." I was over the moon: she still remembered chasing butterflies with me. I pray that, many years down the road, conjuring up scenes from her childhood, the memory of playing in the countryside, where butterflies, dragonflies, frogs and her grandparents were her playmates, will bring a happy smile to her lips.
Lee Eung-tae (email@example.com) is a former high school teacher who taught English for 35 years.