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It takes a night, and a girl, and a book of this kind a long, long time to find its way back

June 8, 2009

In 45 hours and 55 minutes, AJ will be on summer vacation. And don’t think he’s not counting those minutes. He’s tired of being cooped up indoors, although I can almost guarantee that he’ll be missing school within a few days and will be counting down to back to school with a fervor equal to his counting down to the end of second grade.

Although I dread the throwing of family routine to the four winds that summer vacation implies, the last couple of weeks of school inevitably require my presence daily, sometimes several times a day. So by the time school is out, even I am looking forward to it, if only because I’m tired of signing my name on the school visitor’s log. I spent the morning dropping AJ off at school, sprinting over to the park district to drop off AJ’s summer registrations, and then back to school to help with his end-of-year class party. Tomorrow I’ll be back in the middle of the day to see the puppet show they are putting on for the first graders and to have lunch with AJ. And then on Wednesday morning, I probably won’t bother to go home. Since school only lasts an hour, usually the moms hang out on the playground with their coffee until the kids come running out. And then the great yawning weeks of summer begin.

Amazingly, I managed to map out a plausible schedule for AJ’s summer over the weekend. He’ll be playing in a twice weekly flag football league and continuing piano lessons. He’ll attend one week of full day sports camp, two weeks of the half-day camp for gifted kids that he did last summer, and hopefully a week each of less-than-half-day camps for baseball and football. AJ has made it very clear that he wants to run around. We’re hoping to also make a trip out west in August to visit my mom and dad in their new digs. I’ve never been to that part of the country and am looking forward to having the chance to do some hiking and maybe see some of my wayward yoga teachers that keep migrating out that way. And he still has a few more weeks of baseball season to go. And we’ve got plans for some day and weekend trips. Summer will go fast, I think.

And my 11-year-old niece G may come out and stay with us for some one-on-one aunt time. She’s having a hard time with her family’s move back to the U.S., with her little sister, with being almost 12. My brother says she reminds him more of me than anyone and thinks it might help her out to spend some time with me. And of course, I would love that. I was just a little older than she is now when I moved back to the U.S. from England. I think I know, at least to some degree, how she feels.

I have a picture of G in an ornate silver frame on top of the bookshelf in my bedroom. There are three pictures there, all taken by our friend J at our wedding, all in black and white, all in fancy silver frames. One shows me in the back of the limousine, holding my bouquet. We were sitting outside the church, waiting for someone to check and make sure Mr. Spy was not standing in the lobby, so he wouldn’t see me before the wedding. The other is of Mr. Spy and I just after the ceremony, also in the back of the limousine. We are smiling broadly. The third one is of G, who was three years old. She was wearing a blue velvet dress, a little too big for her, and hanging close to her mother’s legs, her blond hair curling below her chin to frame her face. She had a great time at the wedding, and for weeks afterward would talk about “Auntie Harriet’s Birthday Party” in rapturous tones.

She’s changed so much in the intervening years. And because we see them so infrequently, thanks to the distance between our homes, the changes always seem huge and jarring. She went straight from 6 months old to 3 to 5 to 7 to 9. I’m looking forward to getting to know 11.

My other niece is AJ’s age. M. is much easier to get to know. She is a little larger than life. She hurls herself at the world, asks you anything, tells you everything. But G has never been like that. She watches things, she reads a lot, and she loves to talk about what she reads. We’ve gotten to know each other through books. I send her things that I loved to read when I was her age, or sometimes things I’ve found more recently that I thought she would like, and then we talk about them.

When I moved back to the U.S., I hid behind my violin, which gave me a public identity, a unique place in my new social world. I immediately found a home and friends in the orchestra room. But G, who is more introverted, does not have something like that to carry her through to her new world, a built-in device to give her a space. She’s going to have to declare her own. I am sure she’ll find it easier than she thinks it’s going to be right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If there’s anything I can do to help her find the confidence she needs, or if I can at least be there to listen, I will gladly do it.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2009 4:41 pm

    You sound so organized and together!

  2. The Lass permalink
    June 8, 2009 11:29 pm

    G. is lucky to have an aunt who understands her. I hope you get that time with her.

  3. crankygirl permalink
    June 9, 2009 8:17 am

    I forget that school ends so much earlier in your neck of the woods. I hope that G comes to visit and that it softens the transition for her.

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