Fairy Tale

I taught first grade at an English-speaking school for foreigners in Seoul from 1975-1977.  Korea was a poor country at that time and the walk each morning from my small, Korean-style house to Seoul Foreign School was dusty and colorless.  Animal carts and bicycles pulling heavy loads shared the road with cars and it was hard to find even a small patch of green anywhere.  I’d always harbored the suspicion that fairy tale happenings could tumble into the everyday world at unexpected times but Seoul in the late ‘70s was not a place where that seemed likely to happen.  So, although I was half a continent and an ocean away from home, I walked to school each day along a drab, dull road feeling like a plain old ordinary school teacher…

…until the morning a car driven by a Korean chauffeur met me just outside my front door.  He motioned to me to get into the car and (because this was a safe country in the middle of safe times) I did.  He dropped me off at the entrance to Seoul Foreign School.  He met me outside my door the next morning…and the next…and the day after that.

I didn’t know enough Korean to be able to ask him who he was or why he appeared at my door each morning.  So, in my mind, he had fallen into my world from another realm entirely and there must be something magical at work.

After about two weeks, he stopped appearing.  As I think back on it, I suspect that he worked for a foreign diplomat or business person, that he was killing time when he wasn’t needed by his employer, and that he’d been found out and reprimanded.  That would be the factual explanation.  But in my mind, he brought a magical happening into my ordinary life.  I firmly believe that the boundary between the real and the fantastical is open to traffic if you find the right spot to make the crossing.  I write for children and I keep company with children’s writers because, like me, they have an eye out for such crossings.