Staying in touch has been a challenge for families across the globe long before the pandemic; with so many extended families living apart, connection sometimes requires creativity. Five years ago, Korean grandparents Grandpa Chan and Grandma Marina decided to learn how to use Instagram in order to stay in touch with their family; they now live in Bucheon, near Seoul, while their grandchildren Arthur (16) and Allan (15) live in Korea, and Astro (5) and Lua (1) live in New York.
The Instagram account Drawings_For_My_Grandchildren started as a family diary of sorts and has become a global sensation, winning Webby awards and garnering 399,000 followers; each post is written in English, Korean, and Portuguese, a nod to the patriarch’s migration to Brazil at the height of the Korean war.
Grandpa Chan draws while his wife writes the stories. Posts range from small observations on daily life (in one post, Grandma Marina sings the praises of cozy sleep socks) to explanations of Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and stories about when the two began dating in the early 1960s. Archival family photos are posted alongside stories about their father’s childhood. Recently, of course, the posts have featured sketches of the two wearing masks (“When will this hassle end? I started reading the Sherlock Holmes masterpieces that you lent me. #corona.”)
“Looking Back Life Was Beautiful: A Celebration of Love” is the book version of the Instagram account; a gorgeous, tear-inducing ode to family, and while the stories and memories are about their family in particular, the book and the account will be enjoyed by all.
“We started our Instagram page 5 years ago to connect to you,” they write. “Back then Astro was a newborn and Lua wasn’t even born … One day, after we’re no longer here, we hope you’ll be flipping through [this book] and remember us through these stories.”