Op Eds

There’s a Curious George in All of Us

The first thing I noticed the first time I ever visited Harvard a year ago was The World’s Only Curious George Store. Standing brightly and proudly at one of the three corners of the Square, it struck me as unique, clever, and significant––a symbol of innocence and childhood steps away from the world’s most prestigious university.

Today it is threatened with an uncertain fate, under pressure from the building’s lead investor to repurpose the building. There have been attempts to designate the building as historical, in an attempt to save another part of Harvard Square from falling to gentrification. As odd and niche as it is, I’m sure most of us can agree the Curious George store should stand. The last thing Harvard Square needs is another overblown parody of commercialism, the likes of a Tatte or Urban Outfitters, that tends to serve outsiders and visitors more than it does Harvard students.

Yes, you might say, isn’t Curious George the same thing? Its campiness and overstocked interior evokes that of a museum gift shop, and clearly is not meant for the college student demographic. But, I’ll reply, you miss the point: Its uniqueness and historical relevance cannot be razed. We’ve got twenty cafes in the Square, and similar numbers of clothing stores. We need some sense of uniqueness. Harvard Square is not a strip mall. (That’s what New Haven is for.)

In my experience, it seems as if precious few students here know exactly what and where the store is. During Opening Days last August, I went with a friend and purchased a shirt from the store. Whenever I wear the shirt, fellow-students always laugh and smile, and ask me where I purchased it. Many express surprise: “I didn’t know there was a Curious George store!”

I’ll smile but remain bemused: How does one not know where the store is? It occupies the single best piece of real estate in Harvard Square. Granted, we become accustomed to our surroundings quickly—it’s a rite of passage, for example, when a freshman finally takes the splendor and glory that is Annenberg Hall for granted and views it as just a dining hall.


And I will admit that unlike the two other stores that mark the vertices of Harvard Square, CVS and The Coop, students are rarely occasioned to visit Curious George in his home. When was the last time you visited the store, if ever? Yes, we’re college students—the store isn’t exactly tailored to our demographic, but one should at least visit it once.

Over winter break a few months ago, I happened to dine with one of my favorite high school teachers. One of the things we discussed was the role of children’s books, full of whimsy and fantasy and allegory.

“It’s a curious thing,” she said, “that the books that stay with us the most tend to be the books we read in childhood or as young adults.”

She was right: children’s books are irrevocable reminders of the beauty and ineffability of childhood. Whenever I read Madeleine, or The Cat in the Hat, or, yes, Curious George, to my seven-year-old sister, I’m always struck by how much these books have the power to entertain and amaze even adults. There is a reason why the humorist Stephen Butler Leacock once declared, “Personally, I would sooner have written Alice in Wonderland than the Encyclopedia Britannica.”

We must remember our childhood, a time that for many of us was full of dreams, of imagination, of innocence. I remember all the games I would play with friends, my brother, or my favorite stuffed animal, and dream of the future. Today, we reside in the world’s greatest university, a place where those dreams should be closer than ever to reach. And yet the purity of thought that characterizes childhood is often lost among us. Yes, we are not children. But can it be said we are adults? Legally, yes, but we all deal in one way or another the many worries, hopes and fears that characterize the turmoil of late adolescence, as we take stock of what our lives are to be in decades ahead.

Which is why I say: The next time you’re in the Square, go visit Curious George at his store, while it still stands in limbo. You might buy a shirt, as I did. You might stand around and look at the books that once entertained you, years ago. You might even recapture some of your childhood.

And in the midst of the turmoil that perpetually rocks this campus, and our lives, that might be the best thing for our mind and soul. There’s a Curious George inside all of us. We just have to become reacquainted with him.

Robert Miranda ’20 is a Crimson editorial editor in Holworthy Hall.


Recommended Articles