Miss Whirlwind informed me as she rushed in through the door. School is officially over for the year although she has another week of 'out of school hours' care next week and will stay in the boarding house until next Friday as well. At age ten this is tough when your friends are all at home with at least one parent.
It is also tough when your father is not able to take time off and see you be the talking dog in a class play. I went instead. It was funny and she did well. Her father did get to speech night on Thursday. Just as well when she was getting a prize!
But, this is the weekend. She has been dropped off by the mother of one of her friends and stays with us until her father arrives home from work. Usually she has homework or 'prep' to do but this weekend there is the blissful prospect of the summer holidays. She has no intention of wasting a moment.
"What else are you going to do?" I asked the other day when we were busy icing the Christmas cake.
She thought about it and then said, "I want to do lots of drawing and learn some more cooking and look after my tomatoes and go swimming and riding my bike and make some things and remember Dad and I are going to stay at the beach."
I note silently that nothing is said about playing with friends. A child who prefers her own company, she is not looking forward to next week's out of school hours care and being herded around in a group on various outings and excursions. I have to sympathise, although without actually saying so.
Her father is taking annual leave for a month at the end of that week. Then it will almost be time to return to school. Friends will step in and see that she is looked after for the day and she will enjoy it but look forward to the evenings and some precious time with her father before returning to the routine of school boarding during the week and only weekends with her father.
Reading is important for her. It means that she can escape for a while. It means she can explore other people's emotions and locations, their hopes and fears and dreams.
I was worried for a while that she was using books to escape from real life but she seems to have her feet firmly planted on the ground. "School is boring. There isn't enough to do there."
It has been a toss up between Latin and Japanese next year as an 'extension' class. We talked a lot about it. In the end Latin won. She wants to learn more Italian later. Her best friend's family is Italian and she knows "little bits".
I have found her a simple picture book I own. It is in Italian. I give her an Italian dictionary as well and tell her, "See how much you can work out for yourself."
I get that "I know what you are doing" look from her but she accepts both with a grin. It is another thing to do.
"But," she tells me, "I am still going to read and read."