This is a work of fiction.
I didn’t let the boys sleep in, and at first, I took Freckles’s silence for tiredness. Therefore, I was expecting him to complain loudly when I asked him to help with the dishes, but he didn’t.
“Grandma,” he said, “can I talk to you about something?”
“Yes, of course.”
“I don’t have any friends anymore. Curly has his um, Scouts, and Sammy’s has his girlfriend, but I don’t have one single friend.”
I thought Sammy was a bit young to have a girlfriend, but this wasn’t the time to quiz Freckles about that. Besides, having a friend who was a girl wasn’t at all the same. I’d been sick for so long, I hadn’t kept up with the boys’ friends for the last year or so.
“I know you have to go to a new school, but you can still visit your old friends on weekends, and you’ll make new friends come September. I’m sure you won’t be the only boy starting at a new school.”
He rinsed my coffee mug and said, “I don’t know how to get friends.”
“You’re a very nice, funny, and outgoing boy, so I think what might help is not to worry about making friends, and concentrate on having fun. Also, don’t forget about your old friends.”
“I don’t have any.” He looked at me as if I should have known this.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I was sick for a year and have a bit of trouble remembering things people told me while I was in the hospital. It’s all a little foggy. Can you tell me why you feel you don’t have any friends?”
“Yeah, okay. Adam was my friend but then his dad got moved to some new job.” He looked pained, and I thought it was more because he’d thought of his dad, rather than about Adam. “After that, I didn’t have any friends.”
“Maybe you and Adam could write to each other.”
“What?” He held a plate in mid air and stared at me. “Write to him? I only write to Santa once a year, but he’s old enough to like letters.”
“Nobody’s too young to like letters,” I said. Freckles shook his head.
“His dad might not think it was cool.”
“You wouldn’t be writing to his dad, and besides, I’m sure he’d appreciate that you wanted to stay in touch with Adam.”
“I don’t think he’d like it. It’s too girlie.”
“Did Adam give you his new phone number? Maybe you could call him.” Freckles shrugged.
“It’s been like six months. He’s probably got a zilloon new friends.” He hung his head down over the dishes and I heard him crying, but didn’t comment on it.
“What made you and Adam become friends?”
He looked up at me, and his face was streaked with tears.
“What? I dunno. It just happened.”
“Did he laugh at all your jokes?”
“He told me they were . . . he didn’t laugh unless they were funny.”
“So he challenged you to think up better jokes?”
“What? No, he just didn’t laugh if they weren’t . . .”
“And,” I said, “I’m sure you did something for him that helped him grow as a person. Think about it and next time it’s your turn, we can talk more about friends.”
Freckles helped me to put everything away, and I gave him a $10 bonus.
“What are we doing?” Curly asked. “My phone says it’s gonna rain.” I looked at the sky. How had I missed those dark clouds?
“I think your phone just might be on to something. Well, I think we should go shopping. We’re a little low on a few things we all like, and we’ve got company, so we’ll leave chopping wood for tomorrow.”
“Is there a store here?” Sammy asked. “I want gum.”
“Yes, but we’ll drive to the city.”
“Yay!” Freckles said. “Can we have lunch at McDonald’s?”
“No, but we can buy anything you like and have it here.”
By the time we got back, it was lunchtime, and the sky was so dark, it resembled night.
It started to rain while Curly was helping with the dishes. There was some lightning, but it was far away, so I didn’t worry. Curly looked nervous, but didn’t admit it, and we finished quickly and went back to the van where the others were sitting.
My phone rang.
“Hello, this is Lydia speaking.”
“Hi, it’s Emily. Berkeley has a tummyache, so I’d like to keep him in today.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I hope he feels better soon.”
“Oh, he ate too much chocolate, again. He’ll be fine by dinnertime, I’m sure, but just in case, you know?” She sounded disappointed.
“I understand. You’re welcome to come tomorrow afternoon, same time, same place.”
“I’m not sure. Tomorrow’s our last day here, and we have to be out of the cabin by eleven.”
“How about you come for breakfast after you pack up your stuff, load the car, and then drive here.”
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. Say, do you know any other kids about nine or ten?”
“Um, let me think.” I heard her sipping something, and then she said, “Berkeley’s been playing with Steven, who’s also four, and I’m not sure how old he is, but I know he has a brother named Dan. He went to play with another boy his age.”
“Can you ask his parents and also about the other boy?”
“Sorry, which boy?”
“Steven, Dan, and Dan’s friend.”
“Oh, sure. I have their Dad’s number in my phone somewhere. His name’s Andy. I don’t know about Dan’s friend, though.”
Andy was a soft-spoken, friendly man, and I asked about his kids.
“Steven’s four, and Dan’s ten.”
“Wondefful. Berkeley’s coming and I have a ten-year-old grandson named David, but we call him Freckles. Would you like to join us tomorow morning for breakfast? The exact timing isn’t too important.”
“Sure, that’d be great. Should I bring anything?”
“Just yourselves. Do you or the kids have any allergies?”
“Great. Do you have anyone else with you?”
“No.” Just like Emily had, he sounded sad. I told Andy how to find us, and then we said goodbye.
“What are we gonna do all day long?” Freckles said, looking outside at the rain that was pelting down.
“Well, we could go and chop wood,” I said.
“What, in a thunderstorm?” Curly said.
“It’s only water,” I said.
“No way!” Sammy said.
“I’m not being serious,” I said. “We’ll chop wood tomorrow after lunch.”
“So what then?” Sammy said. He looked at Curly. “Can we play on your phone?”
“We can’t play with only one phone,” Freckles said. “Can we borrow yours, Grandma?”
“That still wouldn’t be enough phones,” I said. “Besides, we didn’t come camping to be glued to screens all day long.”
“But it’s raining,” Sammy said. “We can’t camp. Let’s go home.” I shook my head.
“I knew it would probably rain at some point, so I made sure to bring things we could do indoors. It’s a little hard to play boardgames or cards sitting in seats like we are, but it’s perfect for knitting.”
“Knitting?” Curly said the word as if he wasn’t quite sure if he’d heard me correctly.
“That’s right, knitting,” I said. I pulled a bag from the storage area and opened it up. “I’ve got lots of yarn, different kinds of needles, and five little goodie bags.”
“Like at a birthday party?” Freckles said.
“Better than that,” I said. “Each one has stitch markers, a darning needle, point protectors, and a pair of scissors.” I handed out the supplies. Sammy stared at his and looked like he was going to bolt, even if that meant running right into the pouring rain.
Lydia looked sadly at the bag she was holding.
“What’s up?” I asked her.
“I used to knit with Grandma,” she said.
“Your dad’s mom or your mom’s mom?”
“Mom’s mom. She moved away because it’s too cold here.”
“Why don’t you make something for her and when we get back, we can mail it.”
Lydia thought about this and nodded.
“She likes blankets. She’s always cold.”
“This is for girls!” Freckles said.
“Yeah,” Sammy said.
“There’s nothing ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys,'” I said. “What would you like to make?”
“Dunno,” Freckles said.
“What can we make?” Curly said.
“Almost anything you can wear.”
“Unerwear,” Sammy said.
“That might be one of the few things I’ve never tried to knit,” I said.
“Socks?” Freckles said.
“Sure, you could make some socks.”
“What’s the easiest thing?” Sammy asked.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll make that, I guess.”
“A hat?” Curly said.
Lydia gave me a questioning look.
“Would you like to ask me something?”
“What are you making?”
“I was thinking I might make a sweater.” I got out my binder of patterns. I showed Freckles all the sock designs.
“Those are cool,” he said, pointing.
“Yes, they are. Would you like to make them?” He nodded. I showed Sammy some scarves, and he picked the simplest one. Curly picked a fancy hat that I knew Stacey would absolutely love.
“I’m making this for Mom.”
“Great.” I passed the binder to Lydia, who scrutinized all the blankets. She looked disappointed. “What’s up, Lydia?”
“There isn’t one I want to make.”
“That’s okay. We can browse on my phone and find one.” I went onto the website I used and searched for blankets. Lydia pointed to a very complex one. “What do you think of that one?” I said.
“Grandma would love it.”
“Wonderful.” I showed them all the sweather pattern I was going to make.
“Which one is the hardest?” Sammy said.
“Definitely Lydia’s blanket.”
“What’s CO?” Freckles asked.
“Cast on,” I said. “It’s how you start.”
“I’m making that blanket for Mom,” Sammy said. “I bet it’ll be warmer and better than hers.”
“Don’t be mean,” I said. “Besides, you’re using the same yarn and pattern, so it should be almost the same. Now, I need my phone with me, so I’ll write out the first part so Lydia can get started while I get the rest of you going.”