“The Child Who Never Grew,” by Pearl S. Buck (1952, and a second edition in 1992)
“…And yet, almost more powerful and fascinating was the “Foreword” written by James A. Michener, author of “South Pacific” and so many other classics.
Michener writes of Pearl S. Buck as his neighbor in eastern Pennsylvania at the close of World War II. And another well-known neighbor there was Oscar Hammerstein, the famous lyricist.
Michener and Hammerstein help found “Welcome House”
Michener tells how Buck convinced both Hammerstein and himself to help her with an adoption program for Asian-American orphans – born of American military fathers and Southeast Asian mothers.
The three of them founded “Welcome House,” which Michener describes as “a meticulously run orphanage for ‘unadoptable’ Asian-American children,” and Buck funded much of the cost of its operation with her book royalties.
That’s an inspiring story, one that makes “The Child Who Never Grew” worth reading, just to be able to read Michener’s “Foreword.”
But you won’t stop there. And when you begin reading Pearl Buck’s story about her mentally challenged daughter, the insights Michener has provided about his neighbor become even more profound.
“The Child Who Never Grew” is a mere 107 pages long. And when it begins on page 25 – after the foreword and introduction – Buck writes, “I have been a long time making up my mind to write this story. It is a true one, and that makes it hard to tell. Several reasons have helped me to reach the point this morning, after an hour or so of walking through the winter woods, when I have finally resolved that the time has come for the story to be told. Some of the reasons are in the many letters which I have received over the years from parents with a child like mine. They write to ask me what to do. When I answer, I can only tell them what I have done. They ask two things of me: First, what they shall do for their children, and, second, how shall they bear the sorrow of having such a child?”
Buck explains how she can answer the first question, but the second one is more difficult “…for endurance of inescapable sorrow is something which has to be learned alone,” she writes.
Another reason she says she decided to write “The Child Who Never Grew” was because “I want my child’s life to be of use in her generation. She is one who has never grown mentally beyond her early childhood, therefore she is forever a child, although in years she is old enough now to have been married and to have children of her own – my grandchildren who will never be.”
She continues, “When I knew at last that there could never be an answer, my own resolve shaped into the determination to make meaning out of the meaningless, and so provide the answer, though it was of my own making.”
And Buck’s answer to the meaninglessness is in “The Child Who Never Grew.” It’s well worth the read.
- Carla Offenburger
Korean War Baby comments:
Pearl S. Buck actually had a hereditary disease that caused her first and only daughter to be institutionalized all of her life. Ms. Buck had a hysterectomy to prevent her from having natural children, thus leading her to adopting six children. Perhaps her forced infertility led her to desire even more so to adopt the “unadoptable”.