My life ended the summer I turned twelve. Not literally, of course. But the changes I experienced then certainly amounted to an ending of the life I had known up to that point. It’s an old, sad tale. One many of us have experienced. That was the year my best friend moved away…
“Are you going to just sit there and mope all day, boy?”
“What else is there to do? This summer just goes from bad to worse. First Steve’s family had to leave, and then I found out that the new people moving into their place only have one kid…a girl! I can‘t think of anything worse.“
I kicked at a loose stone near the tire swing where I had “parked my carcass” as Dad liked to say.
“Ow!“ A sharp pain indicated my error as to the rock‘s mobility.
Dad chuckled as he ran his fingers across the red stubble on his chin. "Don’t you think you should reserve judgment until you actually meet her, Brad? Mom’s made a pie, and we thought we should all go over and introduce ourselves. That is, if you’re not too busy with your landscaping.”
Through my dusty sneaker I rubbed my protesting toes, but the ache of missing my friend could not be so easily assuaged.
“I know it’ll be tough with Steve gone, but remember that some of God’s most wonderful blessings can start out disguised as our biggest disappointments.”
“Oh, great. Now I suppose you’re going to tell me that this new girl will end up to be the love of my life…and we’ll share our first kiss in the barn…and ten years from now we’ll get married and live happily ever after. Yuck.”
“Stranger things have happened.” Dad winked at Mom. The oft told story of their romance closely resembled the scenario I had just described.
“Well I don’t care about all that stuff. I just want to go fishing and build forts and that kind of thing like I did with Steve. Girls don‘t care about any of that.”
I was right, for the most part. Jenny didn’t like to fish or build. And I certainly had no interest in sewing and such. But we did spend a lot of time together. Being the only kids living near each other in our rural area, often our only choice for same-age companionship was each other.
We found a good middle ground for our time together. We went on hikes and picnics, picked berries and gathered materials for my building projects or Jenny’s crafts. Many evenings we played board games or watched movies with either her parents or mine. Jenny’s dog accompanied us nearly everywhere that summer. A stout, funny-looking canine with a most unusual football shaped head, Millie kept us in stitches with her antics.
It certainly wasn’t the summer Steve and I had planned before his Dad’s job transfer, but as time went on, I must admit that I started to look at Jenny in a little different way. Maybe spending time with a girl wasn’t so bad after all.
I turned twelve near the end of the summer.
“Brad--I wanted to give you something extra special for your birthday.“
“You didn’t have to buy me anything, Jenny.”
“Well, it isn’t exactly bought. Um…it’s in here.” Jenny headed for her barn.
I tried to think of something to say, but couldn’t. Not that it would have mattered, anyway. My mouth was suddenly devoid of all moisture. So, I just followed her.
Is this what I think it is? What Dad teased me about? History repeating itself? I’m not sure I’m ready for this!
Jenny led the way to the far back corner of the barn. I will never forget that first kiss. The softness of her hair. The scent of her breath. Her eyes were closed. Her ears, too. After all, puppies’ eyes and ears stay sealed for the first couple of weeks. Millie thumped her tail enthusiastically as if in approval of the gift.
It turns out Dad was right. What started out as my worst summer ever, ended as one of my best. Once she was old enough to leave her mom, Penny and I became inseparable. She was my best friend, supreme entertainer and confidant extraordinaire well into my adult years.
Oh, and Jenny? She and Bob still live on the neighboring farm. Amber and I visit them frequently. Our kids often play together. So do our Bull Terriers.
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