Always with You
Always with You
Emily awoke. On her night table, a letter was propped against her grandfather’s picture. Her name was printed in pencil crayon the way only Grandpa did it, with each letter a different colour.
He was always so kind and funny and silly...and now he was gone.
A child’s first experience with death is often that of a pet or a grandparent. In Walters’ Always with You, it is the latter occurrence, and, in this case, the grandparent, a grandfather, to be precise, has obviously thought about his eventual death and has planned ahead. At future significant points in the life of his granddaughter, Emily, the grandfather has arranged for her to receive a letter from him, with the letter often being accompanied by a meaningful gift.
Grandpa’s first letter to Emily appears shortly after his death, and it is the one referenced in the excerpt above. It concludes with the significant statement, “I’m not there to dry your tears, but I want you to know that I’m still always with you.” [Emphasis mine] The next arrives a few months later, and it includes “two season passes for the amusement park where she and Grandpa had gone so often.” Years pass before another letter, together with a gold pen, appears in Emily’s lunch bag the day she begins high school. Grandpa has recognized how overwhelming high school can sometimes be, and his letter contains comforting words of reassurance and the challenge “to take this pen and make your mark on the world.” Again years roll by, and it is only after Emily’s university graduation ceremony that her parents hand her a gift from Grandpa, a silver bracelet with the inscription “Always with you” inside the band. Twice more in the book Grandpa reaches out to remind Emily of his continuing “presence” in her life, once when she gets married and again after “My baby’s baby had a baby – I always wanted to be a great-grandfather.” With the wedding note, Grandpa included his pocket watch, and to his new great-grandchild he gave a silver rattle.
Like Munsch’s Love You Forever, Always with You is more likely to appeal to the adult readers who are sharing the book with children than it will the young listeners who have yet to experience the life events the book references. However, children will still be engaged by the opportunities to lift the “envelope” flaps that cover the letters’ contents, thereby revealing what Emily’s grandfather had written to her.
In an opening “A Note from the Author”, Walters shares the happening which led to the creation of Always with You and concludes by saying, “I hope that as you read this book, you remember someone you love and all the ways they are still with you.” I suspect that a number of parents and grandparents will be prompted to follow Emily’s grandfather’s example and will actually prepare their own series of letters and gifts.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.