“When I was little, we used go into the neighbor’s cornfield when the corn was high. It must have been in August or September right around when school started. We’d go early in the morning and then we’d pretend we were explorers in the jungle until it was too hot to be in the jungle anymore.” Sophia took a sip of the lemonade and brushed the bangs out of her eyes. They clung heavily to the side of her face, damp with perspiration.
Isaac smiled, “Yeah, we didn’t have any cornfields near where I grew up, but we’d climb trees a lot and pretend they were watch towers. Wow! I hadn’t thought about that in a while. I remember once I stayed up in a tree until dark because my brother bet he could find me no matter where I hid. I was in trouble at bed time though because I had forgotten to feed and walk the dog while I was up in the tree.” He chuckled at the memory. He set his empty glass down on the porch and the condensation began to make a wet ring on the peeling paint.
Sophia giggled, “That happened to Trevor once too.” She became pensive again, “Time goes so fast… Are you ever worried that you’ll pass something important by accident and you won’t be able to turn around and get it when you want to?”
His high school years had seemed as if they would never end. He remembered the frenzy and pressure of SATs, applying for colleges, looking for scholarships, and the social pressures of senior year. However, the years afterwards seemed to go faster. He and many of his friends had graduated from the same university. He had been to several weddings over the last few years, and he was now in the stage of musing over if a master’s was worth the time and money or if he should look into a better job right away. He felt very old all of a sudden. Had he missed something in all this? Maybe that was why he had been so restless recently, wanting to do something important, but not being able to decide between grad school and investing in work. As he watched Sophia finish her lemonade and rest the glass of half melted ice cubes against her cheek, he couldn’t help the slight twitch in the corner of his mouth. “If it isn’t rude, how old are you anyway?”
“So old… I’m nearly nine.” She protested his incredulous look, “Pretty soon I’ll be in middle school! I won’t be able to be in the children’s play or have as much time for playing outside or with my dolls. I will have more homework and important things to do.”
He looked across the open lawn and beyond the fence to the neighbor’s cornfield, his tongue searching for little bits of lemon stuck between his teeth. He had agreed to spend the summer at his aunt and uncle’s so he could have some time to think without pressure. This coming from Sophia was almost too much. “You have three or four more years before you have to get ready for middle school, right? Just relax.”
“Yeah, only three more chances to be in the elementary poetry contest, three more summers at camp, three more Christmas days when everything is really a surprise. Three isn’t a very big number, you know?”
He had to admit it wasn’t. Three was the difference between thirteen and sixteen, between a freshman and a senior. It had been more than three years since he had last seen Sophia, just learning to read and refusing to look him in the eye for any reason. That was the last time he had visited the old farm house, getting to the point of needing repairs. This summer, Aunt Jillian and Uncle Matt had asked for him to stay with them a few weeks to help with the remodeling. He didn’t mind the work and figuring things out, but he had been nervous because they were so laid back. He hoped they would actually be able to accomplish something, as they were known to drop work for a craft project or pick-up game in the yard with the kids. So far, the work was going smoothly and he was grateful he had come. He smiled to himself thinking of how different Sophia was from them, already worrying about middle school.
“Well,” he decidedly slapped his thighs and turned to face Sophia, “since you only have three more June 5ths before the end of your childhood, we had better make the most of today. Why don’t you show me your club house in the woods? Your mom said it is pretty impressive.”
“That’s because Trevor and Josh helped me. We haven’t finished it yet though.” She reached between the rails on the porch steps to pick a rhododendron. She rolled the stem in her hands a little while and stuck her nose in the bloom. Then a surprisingly calloused little hand shyly reached across the porch step and took her cousin’s hand. “But I want you to see it anyway. Can you show me how to fix the pulley? It keeps getting stuck.”
The pair hurried across the yard and over the split rail fence, not wanting to lose another minute. They worked on the club house and imagined they were fortifying it for a battle. Then it occurred to him. Sophia hadn’t been worried about missing something important like a middle school reading list, or getting into a club, or finding the perfect job. She was worried about passing by something like… this; a miserably hot afternoon spent improving her club house. She hadn’t mentioned middle school because she was trying to prepare for it; she’d mentioned it as a deadline. She was focusing on enjoying as much as she could before she had to move on. The shadows were growing longer. Uncharacteristically, Isaac did not feel the need to return to the project in the house, which he had taken a break from several hours ago. Isaac worked just as hard on the club house as his cousin, still thin and childlike, yet already aware of the value of time. As they made calculated adjustments and tweaks, Isaac put in just as much effort as when he was working on wiring with Uncle Matt or completing an application. It seemed important somehow.
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