“How many days of school do I have, Mami?”
You mean this year? Before the end of second grade? Are you finishing second grade already?!? “Four days, Sweetheart. Just four.” I’m eager for summer, but this year’s teacher will be hard to lose.
“What’s after that?”
“Camp Grandma.” I smile. “Grandpa got the pool ready for you.” They have a pool right in their backyard.
“Yay!” She sits up in bed, clapping her hands together giddily. I want to tickle her, jump up and dance around the room with her. Summer fever is contagious. I can feel the sun on my face at the public pool, hear each squeal as she chases friends around the park, kicks a ball, straddles her bicycle. “Do you think I’ll be able to touch the bottom?” Her cousin was six when she touched the bottom. “… and now I’m eight! I think I’ll touch. Last year, I almost could. Almost. I think I’ll touch this year. I know I’ll touch. What else will I do there?”
“You’re going on a field trip with your cousin.”
“Oh, right!” She is beyond thrilled. She is elated. She’s going to the zoo with her cousin, her cousin’s class, and Grandma.
She shifts gears. “I know I probably can’t have a whole pack anymore, but… will you make me a card, Mami? Maybe a couple of cards?” It has become a tradition.
“You’ll have your cards, Cutie Pie. One card for each day. Don’t worry.”
“Oh, good!” She sounds relieved, and I realize her shoulders were up tight by her ears and they’ve dropped now. “I like Pokèmon cards, too. Remember when you put those in? Will you…? I liked that.”
“You’d like me to get you Pokèmon cards?”
“Yes! And I’ll make you cards, too, Mami. We can have a writing day. We can write each other cards… in separate rooms,” she decides. She has always enjoyed an element of surprise.
Cards. Treasures. Summer. Growing older. Going away on a trip. Leaving each other and coming together again.
The pure glee of each discovery, each reunion, each… new… thing.
“I would like that, Sweetheart, very much.”
* * *
What I know about Camp Grandma is this:
There are outings and puzzles and playtime and parks and ice cream every day, sometimes twice. Ice cream is a rule. At Grandma’s, there’s also a pool.
Mama and I are not there to wake her or nag her, hug her or guide her. Grandma and Grandpa handle what needs handling in that regard. Sometimes, their style is just like ours. More often, it’s not. And all of this is good.
Every weekday morning, Grandpa heads to “the office” – their nickname for the local McDonald’s, where he gets one cup of coffee and chats for an hour or so with friends about local news, the state of the economy, nearby real estate, the grandkids and recent golf games. My daughter goes with him at least once, so he can show her off. She gets a treat, some coloring pages, a book, and intermittent but rapt attention from all the grown-ups. Plus, she gets to eavesdrop on all the grown-up conversation. This may be the pinnacle of her annual summer trip – or close to it.
* * *
Later this week, in the early morning, she asks, “Remember when you came to my concert in first grade? I was sad because I had to go back to my class and I couldn’t come home with you?”
“I won’t be sad today.”
“No?” Our day begins with her second grade awards ceremony. Then her Mama and I go to work.
“No. When you came on the field trip and left and then came back to pick me up, I wasn’t sad.”
I see we’re also preparing for next week, and while I’ve usually led this conversation, she’s handling it beautifully today on her own.
“Good!” I push a lock of hair behind her ears. “I’m glad.”
“I hope I get an award for reading.”
She gets an award as “Most Improved Student in Math.” My partner and I beam with pride.
Here is the true beginning of summer. And we are all ready for the first time.