1. In fourth grade, packed in a room with 80 of my Korean classmates, I learned to sing a dozen songs without understanding a word of the lyrics. I concentrated so hard and learned to parrot so well that I can still sing those songs perfectly today.
But back then, it was gibberish set to cheerful melodies. It took years before the sounds coalesced into words that held meaning. The song I remember best, with its cheery, high notes, was about saving money to build Korea into a new country.
Korea was already a new country, though, at least to me.
2. I had brought a music box from the States, and in time, the box broke. But I saved the little wind-up mechanism, the delicate metal heart, long after I forgot what the box had looked like. Sometimes I would wind this heart and listen to its tinkling sounds without recognizing the song.
That was decades ago. But yesterday, for whatever reason, I heard that melody again in my head, and suddenly words filled in where there had been none.
Born free, as free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Born free to follow your heart