As I read a Freshly Pressed article today, I was thrown back in time… to a time when innocence and naiveté prompted me to stew in anger and burst into tears. To a time when melodramas and unrequited love were the center of my life, to a time when nothing could convince me there was anything more worthy of my loyalty than such love. Oh, how time has passed. Oh, how I have changed. Will such a time ever return to me?
Sandra Stephens’s post was about her experience reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and I found myself nodding and wistfully agreeing with nearly every sentiment. Little Women is a classic for the ages, a story nearly every girl has read at one point or another in her life. I distinctly remember finding the book in my small junior high school library and hesitantly beginning the journey. Growing up, the public library was practically an extension of our home – every one of the librarians knew my name, and they went out of their way to clear our library card so we could borrow more books. I went through a Nancy Drew phase in 6th grade, and when I ran out of those at the public library, I moved on to the Hardy Boys. Boys were definitely NOT as cool as a girl, but what could I do? So I worked my way through the Hardy Boys and soon found myself in the same place: no more books in the series. Imagine my delight when I found Nancy Drew AND Hardy Boys books. Whoever thought of making those three friends – I am eternally grateful.
Once I moved on up to junior high, I was delighted to find another library at my disposal. And there I found Little Women, a book that forever broke my heart. Two words: Jo and Laurie. Okay, fine, that was three words, but oh my gollies, I will never forgive Louisa May Alcott for that travesty. HOW in the world did she contrive to break their hearts AND mine?! Where in the world did she find pleasure in such cruelty and evilness? I was all of thirteen years old. There is no way she could NOT have known that lives would forever be ruined at the callous stroke of her pen.
I read the remaining novels in the series, and all the tales of Jo’s happiness did absolutely nothing to convince me that she had married the right man, that she had made the right choice in breaking things off with her first love. Looking back, I think Louisa May Alcott was just born in the wrong period and in the wrong country. The ridonkulousness of it all is absolutely PERFECT for a makjang weekend 50-episode Korean drama. Exhibit A: At the center of the story is a large family of four daughters: the typical responsible, subdued, feminine eldest daughter Meg; the passionate yet tomboy-ish second daughter Jo; the quiet, sweet, frail third daughter Beth; and the spoiled asdf!@#$ youngest Amy. Exhibit B: Father dearest has a heart of gold, causing him to try help pay a friend’s debt and ultimately bring poverty upon his own family. Every Kdrama ever. On top of that, he goes off to war and becomes wounded, leaving the women to struggle to find their way through the world. Uh, every Kdrama ever once again? Exhibit C: Despite the fact that Laurie and Jo are besties turned lovers, and are absitively posolutely perfect for each other, they break up for unfathomable reasons. (Noble idiocy, of course, played a part.) Jo marries an old geezer and deludes herself into believing she’s happy. And the clincher? Laurie marries Jo’s youngest sister Amy. Now tell me, how is that NOT a Korean drama?!
I read several more of Alcott’s novels, and I remember perhaps one or two left me satisfied, but waaaay more often I wanted to scream and throw the books across the room. Only the fact that they were borrowed prevented me from doing so. And thus continued my life until I found a random book on the library shelf one day. I don’t even remember the title, author, or the cover – the former two I never remember, but I’m usually pretty good at remembering the covers of books. (It’s the only way I can track down favorites.) The novel was a bit… different from most others I had read until that point, and I just muddled through for the sake of muddling through. But I will never forget the ending. The man, if I recall, was some kind of scientist who was working on a rocket/spaceship that would be able to fly to the moon. He grew ill, and one day, his lover was fiddling with a record player/recorder he had had in their home. When he came home, she deliberately cut her finger on a broken vase and cried out to him. He rushed to her side, calling out “Darling, I’m here!” and tended to her finger. Not long after, he succumbed to his illness and died, much to the woman’s – and my – devastation. At the very end of the novel, she is living alone in a tiny, run-down room in freezing conditions. With fingers frozen stiff from the cold, she carefully takes out a record and places it on the turntable. And from the speakers a voice filters out, “Darling, I’m here!” *sob*
Needless to say, I was devastated. And not long after, I finally got around to watching the movie that every tween in my class was obsessed with: A Walk to Remember. *swoon* I watched it at least four times during the 7-day lending period courtesy of Blockbuster, and I loved it so much that I bought the DVD. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my very first DVD was A Walk to Remember, and I’m proud of it. Since then, I have probably seen the film another half dozen times, and I love it every single time. But the film itself is not enough. After buying the DVD, I went out and borrowed the novel the film was based on, by Nicholas Sparks. And there I found the missing piece that made the movie perfect. The film ends with Landon Carter in his early twenties, and we just don’t know if he decided to go on and marry some hussy that sunk her claws into him. Oliver Barret (Love Story, 1970) claimed there would never be another love, but he went out and found a rich heiress in the sequel (Oliver’s Story). I call B.S. But our Landon was no nincompoop Oliver. The novel is told by Landon in his old age, and as he closes his story of his first – and last – love, he looks down at his hand, where he is still wearing the ring Jamie gave him. *bawl* That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.
Thanks to A Walk to Remember, I suffered a Nicholas Sparks obsession for several months. Just ask my local librarian. Though some novels were better than others, and though it became all one long story by the time I was on book #8, I was in weepfest paradise. I will never forget reading Message in a Bottle, the book that left me dehydrated and blind thanks to an inability to crack open my eyes. It sucks to be Korean minus double-eyelid surgery. Each of the letters in the bottles were just so heartwrenching in their beauty and in the longing and love conveyed in them. As beautiful as the words were, it was the idea of undying love that really pushed me over the edge. The thought that a man could love so deeply and so steadfastly even after she was gone… that was manna to my tween soul. Of course, until I wanted him to get over his dead wife already and move on and see the woman standing in front of him. Sigh. One moment I’m hatin’ on Oliver for moving on, the next I’m hatin’ on Garret for being stuck in the past. Who you talkin’ ’bout bein’ fickle? In any case, I bawled throughout the book, and then I bawled when I closed the book. I literally – yes literally, not virtually or figuratively – read the last sentence, closed the book, and wept into my parents’ bed covers. Can’t be crying on my own bed after all.
The age of leukemia and intense melodramas passed in Kdramaland – well, as much as something can completely go out of style in Kdramaland aka never – and I also grew out of my weepfest lovin’ days. Rom coms became the new choice of poison, and I discovered romance novels. *swooooon* Oh I will never forget the summer I first read a Lisa Kleypas novel and learned there was a whole world out there of Kdramas in book form with shmexy buff gents with titles and impeccable manners instead of stick skinny Korean flower boys who are determined to be as poopy as possible. But my obsession with romance novels is saved for another day. I fell off the melodrama train and happily stayed off, though I did allow myself a few exceptions. *cough Will it Snow for Christmas *ahem A Star’s Lover *achoo Mr. Goodbye *clears throat Snow Queen *oops better stop there.
What is first love or second love or even third love for that matter, that we laugh and cry and celebrate and mourn because of it? What is it about such love that captivates us and never sets us free? I thought I was all done with first loves and pure loves (I’m still working on the Pure Love intro!) and innocent loves and all that other stuff. But I finally watched A Werewolf Boy last week, and out the window went that belief. I am still very much in love with first love, with pure love, with innocent love, and all that other stuff. Every bit of it. And I hope I never fall out of love with it – with any of it.