Labor Day is almost here and that fact generally brings me a sigh of relief that the long, hot, humid days of summer are over for a while. This summer was different for me though. True, the heat and humidity took their usual toll on my skin, hair and attitude. But this year, the summer felt lighter than usual. This summer one of my little preteen neighbors spent several hours a week in my company. With her parents unavailable to her during the day, she developed the habit of texting or calling me late each morning with the same question, which generally garnered the usual response.
“Are you home?”
“Can I come over?”
The reply to the last question depended on what I had on the docket for the day, but usually it was the same as the day before.
“Anytime after 10:00 but you will have to help me with a few things, ok?”
Then, around 10:00, our day together would begin. Some days we cooked. Some days we visited friends or delivered food to people. Some days we washed a dog or a car. But toward the end of the summer, every day, we would read together. This routine came about when she announced to me that she had two books to read for school and there were only two weeks of summer vacation left.
“Well,” I announced, “I guess we will have to have reading parties every afternoon.”
“What’s a reading party?” she queried suspiciously.
“Oh! They are such fun! I can’t believe you have never been to a reading party. At a reading party, the hostess lies down on the sofa and reads whatever book she is reading at that time and the guest reader lies on the other sofa. They set a kitchen timer for thirty minutes. During that time, they each read their books, then when the timer goes off they stop reading, eat popcorn-popped the old fashioned way except with coconut oil-and tell each other what is going on in their books. They do this for about ten or fifteen minutes and then they lie back down and set the timer again. They do this at least three times. Then they end the party with a plan for how many chapters they will read that night. They shake hands with books on their heads, and then the party is over for that day. And that is a reading party.”
“Oh. OK. Sounds like fun.” And it was. For the next week, we quietly read until one day K asked if we could take turns reading her chapters out loud, so she could practice. That was fine with me, for her books were really good. One was called Bud, Not Buddy. The other was called Wonder. Both were thoughtful coming of age books that brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t wait to see how her books ended. That last week, I would receive text messages from her alerting me to the page number she was on.
201! This book is really good! Are you home? I am going to do GOOD on the test!
And so on, and so on, and so on. The end of summer crept up. On the day she went back to school, I watched the clock. At 3:00 on the dot I sent her a text.
“How was the book test?”
“She didn’t give it yet. Are you home?”
K is now two weeks into the school year and still no test. She seems completely unfazed by it but I am just a touch disappointed. You see, K works hard for her grades and reading has not always been easy for her, let alone enjoyable. I knew that if she had the chance be tested on the books, she would do well. Not only had she finish the books, but we talked endlessly about them. Still, no test. As I write this post, the clock reads 2:31. I know that soon I will hear that familiar BOINK,-boink of my phone alerting me that I have a message. Maybe today there was a test. Maybe not and, if the truth be told, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that K and I now have a new memory to file away and recall at will. We read two books together. We ate popcorn. We cried over a little boy’s struggle with looking different. That is what really matters, not the test. Still, I am curious, so I will wait for the text. It will come eventually, and I will be home waiting for the details.