Grace Tu

Grace Tu

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bittersweet Regret

I was a tutor to someone.  It was after the Europe exchange program and I had to come back to school for that last two courses.
My classmate told me about this little girl from an incredibly wealthy Chinese family.  The little girl was then about eleven years old but only had the reading and writing skills of a six-year old, according to her school.  I was also told that she was so shy that she was almost mute in any class.  I interviewed with her father and got the tutoring job.
So twice a week I’d drive to this mansion on the west side of the city and I’d bring with me a book that I believed a ten-year old should know how to read.  We’d sit down in what looked like a toy room, surrounded by pink walls, girly decorations, and Hello Kitty this and that everywhere.
School works always needed to be taken care of first.  We’d review all those red marks on the quizzes and read all the words out loud again and again.  We’d prepare for the up-coming quizzes together, make sentences, and for the last twenty-minutes of the class, she would read out-loud the children’s book that I brought.  I told her stories of mine, how I was also trying hard to be where I wanted to be, and she would sit there quietly, but listened with such a focus in her eyes.  
Slowly she talked more.  With timid smiles she started showing me quizzes with questions she got right, and her dad told me how impressed her teacher was with her improvement.  One day I got a phone call from her mom calling from China, telling me how her daughter talked about me every day over the phone, and how she would like to thank me in person when she came here for the holiday. 
It was around that time, towards Christamas, when I got the offer to start my job in January.  I chose a school day in the morning to visit the house and told my student’s dad I couldn’t tutor my student anymore.  I was going to leave for Taiwan immediately for a vacation, and when I came back I’d be starting my new job.  The father told me I must have a holiday dinner with them because my student had already spent a lot of time picking out a present for me.  He told me I should really say goodbye to my student in person.
I never said bye and I never went back to get my present that she gave so much thoughts picking out.  I remember getting a call from her mom when she arrived in Vancouver, inviting me to the dinner.  I remember mumbling something over the phone saying no to the dinner.  I remember walking into a store tying to find a Hello Kitty necklace but I never bought it.  I remember calling a few friends of mine trying to find someone who can take over the tutoring.  And then, I remember thinking it’s too awkward to call when I came back from my vacation. I started working full-time, and in the midst of new pressure I forgot, temporarily, about my student and how warm she and her family used to make me feel.  Finally, one day during the past five years, I saw her name and number in my phone.  The level of guilt overwhelmed me, so I clicked delete, hoping not seeing would make me forget.
And here is the end of this story:  There is no forgetting when it comes to feelings; somehow the heart always remembers.  I can’t even remember her name, but I remember exactly how I felt when she showed me her passing grades and I remember exactly how I felt when she gave me a humble smile and said thank you. Every time I think of her, my heart would be filled with bittersweet regret.
Photo taken: December 11, 2011. Vancouver


  1. thanks for the story, its makes me think a lot.

  2. I think this is a nice story and to be honest most of us have probably experienced something like this but let live and learn right? =) Keep smiling~