Monday, March 12, 2007

How I Know Grace

Yesterday was a short but lovely visit to Libby's fabulous new apartment in Mystic, CT with fellow Blue Rose Girls Linda and Anna. We snacked on figs and cheese, and then walked through downtown Mystic to the bridge, walked along the water, and then shopped our way back to Libby's apartment where we looked at Anna's breathtakingly beautiful art for Priscilla and then had a delicious dinner (asparagus pie and a salad, and preserved peaches with strawberry ice cream for dessert). Then I had to cut the visit short to skedaddle back to New York, and on the train ride home I thought about what to write for my posting today. Spending time with the lovely BRGs makes me feels so lucky and blessed to be part of this group, and so I was remembering some of our early posts when we first started this blog. Linda (I miss your posts, Linda!) had written about how she had met both Grace and Anna, and at the time I remember thinking that I wanted to write about how I know my fellow BRGs, too.

So, I'll start with Grace, who wasn't with us because she is in Hong Kong, but was with us in spirit. Grace was the first Blue Rose Girl that I met, way back the summer before our 5th grade year in Upstate New York. For those of you who have read Year of the Dog, you know that the book is loosely based on our childhoods, and the character of Melody is really me. But did you know that how Melody and Pacy met in the book is not how we actually met in real life? (Although the lunch lady incident DID actually happen when we were in school, but not until 7th grade.)

We met at my family's house. My family had just moved to New Hartford, NY from New Jersey. I'm actually not sure how our parents met--perhaps our mothers really did meet in the grocery store as they did in the book, I'll have to ask and confirm (did they, Grace?), but at any rate, our parents met, bonded over both being from Taiwan, and Pacy's family came over for dinner. Back then, I was painfully shy, and I hid this by being kind of a snob. I was a bit of a tomboy as a kid, growing up sandwiched between two brothers, and when Pacy and her two sisters came over, I immediately thought, "Hmff. They must all be sissy girls." My parents urged my brothers and I to show Pacy and her sisters the ravine behind our backyard, so off we went. I thought my initial judgment was confirmed when my brothers and I rushed off ahead, leaving Pacy and Ki-Ki lagging behind (I actually don't recollect Lissy being there, although she must have). Pacy later said that she had forgotten my name and was calling out random names that she thought could be mine (like Penelope), asking us to wait up because Ki-Ki couldn't keep up.

Anyway, I was too shy to be friendly, but Pacy was unyieldingly so, and of course we soon became fast friends. We actually went to different elementary schools, but saw each other quite often throughout the week, and always on weekends, slept over each other's houses, and became best friends. When we started junior high, that was when we finally got to go to school together, and it was heaven. But, alas, it was short-lived, as after 7th grade my family moved away to California (which is chronicled in the sequel, Year of the Rat, coming out next January). But we were fairly faithful although somewhat sporadic penpals, and kept in touch through letter writing and the occasional phone call all the way through college, with I think two visits by Grace to CA, once in high school and once in college. We lost touch for about 2-3 years when Grace studied abroad in Italy and I left for Taiwan after graduating, but got back in touch through our parents when I decided to move to Boston. We became roommates in Boston, both starting out our publishing careers together, Grace as a children's book author and illustrator, and me as an editorial assistant.

When I was home for the holidays, I looked through my old letters from Grace, and one in particular stood out to me, and I took it back with me to New York. Grace writes about applying to art school, and then says:

I'm going to illustrate children's books, y'know. That would be so cool. One day when we're all grown up, you'll see in a book store: Illustrated by Grace P. Lin. That would be excellent. Don't you think?

Yes, I think that would be excellent.


Anonymous said...

That is really wonderful. Your post captures the sweetness and magic of being a kid.
I love the line "Hmff, they must all be sissy girls"

and the quote from Grace's letter.. just great.


Libby Koponen said...

I love this, too. My favorite parts are Grace being "unyeildingly" friendly (that one word captures so much about the heart and confidence some kids have)...and I also love Pacy forgetting your name and randomly calling out names that she thought could be yours to tell you KiKi couldn't keep up.

But the whole post was great, I just especially loved those details.

ChatRabbit said...

What a awesome post- it's amazing how you 2 have come full circle! Oddly enough, I was in Mystic over the weekend, too- I put a bunch of pictures on my blog today. Love that town!

Anonymous said...

This is a great story! It's also nice to hear that some friends stay friends years later! I've lost touch with all of my school pals.


Linda S. Wingerter said...

I've been wanting to hear this story for a long time!

Elaine Magliaro said...


It's good to know how you and Grace came to be best friends. I have known several of my closest friends since first grade. I even went to elementary school, high school, AND college with two of them.

The first time I met Grace I knew I was going to like her. Everyone who meets her likes her!

gail said...

This is a great story! Do we get to hear how you met the other BRG's too?

Sure would be fun!


Anonymous said...

Alvina, that is the nicest story. Thank you for putting it on the blog.

ElsKushner said...

Thank you for posting this! The dedication/acknowledgment/foreward/afterward (I forget which and don't have the book in front of me) in "Year of the Dog" where Grace mentioned Alvina, her best friend who grew up and became her editor, made me kind of choke up. So it is an especial treat to read the whole true story.

Grace Lin said...

Gee, did I write that? Some of those letters are painfully funny and suprisingly poignant.

These days, I can't remember what is fact from fiction--there's a lot in The Year of the Dog that I thought was true that I now realize couldn't have happened. Gosh, I wonder what that means about me?