“How was school today Grace?” I asked.
The next day after picking up Grace from school, she talked about Juno again saying with excitement: “Mommy, mommy, Juno is my new best friend, and she’s from Japan Mommy!”
“Okay Grace, I’m so glad you have made such a great new friend!” I said.
By Friday, Grace was so thoroughly excited about her new friend Juno, she got in the car and exclaimed: “Mommy, mommy, Juno is from Japan, she moved to the United States two weeks ago and she is my new best friend!”
“Grace, is she actually from Japan? Like, as in, she is actually Japanese, and came here from Japan?”
“Yes, she moved here two weeks ago Mommy” Grace said.
“Does your new best friend speak any English Grace?” I asked.
“Ummmmmmmm………..no, not really” she says with a surety.
Isn’t it amazing how children can communicate with other children regardless of language barriers? I guess when they’re playing it doesn’t really matter what language they speak.
I got a kick out Grace’s long drawn out “no.” Grace is such a sweet girl. When I took the girls to school the following week, I walked them all the way up to the play ground. There I witnessed Grace seeing Juno for her first time that day; they wrapped their arms around each other like they were long lost friends who hadn’t seen each other in months or even years. I watched Grace and Juno play together, chasing each other while laughing and running around in circles being silly. Juno didn’t need to be able to speak English and Grace didn’t need to be able to speak Japanese for the two of them to grow close and really know each other’s hearts. I think they both wore their hearts on their sleeves.
Grace and Juno really did become quite good friends over the next four months. Their teacher, Mrs. Stephens, had given Grace the assignment to help Juno around the school, help her communicate with the teacher, keep Juno on pace with what they were doing in class, and just be a friend to her. Mrs. Stephens is quite creative, knowing Grace’s personality and how easily distracted she is, this gave her an important responsibility that was meaningful and a goal that was achievable for Grace. I think it also helped keep Grace on track; knowing she had to help Juno made it more important for her.
Ever since Grace started school, she has always had a difficult time making friends. Anyone who knows Grace would have a hard time believing this, especially since she is so very friendly. In fact, when I have said that in conversation to friends of mine, they immediately doubt me and think that I am being critical of her; but I’m not. It’s true that it doesn’t make sense though. Grace is always so quick to give hugs and kind greetings to people she knows and loves, and already feels loved by. However, starting when Grace was in pre-school, she would go out to the playground, find something to do, and go at it alone, with no effort to interact with any of the other kids; it just didn’t come natural for her. Then in Kindergarten, her next teacher noticed the same thing, she would go out to recess and just play alone, she would get into her own little happy place in her mind and didn’t seem to care about anything else. I called it “Grace-land Space-land.” Grace’s Kindergarten teacher was such a doll, she didn’t like to see kids playing alone so she set Grace up with some friends that she felt matched her personality. It worked out fine and she started to see that there are options aside from playing alone.
She’s in third grade now, and for some reason, still responds best to being “set up” with a friend. Mrs. Stephens must have been inspired to choose Grace to sit by Juno and help Juno. I think this small gesture on Mrs. Stephens’s part made a huge difference in Grace’s life forever. I don’t know if Grace would have made friends with Juno out on the playground on her own—she just needed that little introduction and encouragement.
The three girls; Grace, Juno and Doreen all grew very close together and would play together every day at school. I get the feeling that “two’s company, three’s a crowd” didn’t apply to them. They are all three such kind, sweet, loving little girls and all have hearts of gold.
On the last week of school before Christmas break, Grace came to me heartbroken and devastated. On the verge of tears, she said “Juno is moving back to Japan, Mommy.”
“What? That’s impossible; she hasn’t even been here four months.” I said. “Are you sure you’ve got it right? She’s probably just going back for Christmas break.”
“No, Mommy” she starts to cry, “She’s moving back to Japan, she has to clean out her desk and take everything with her.”
The next day at school I saw Juno’s mom and confirmed it with her. It was a sad day for Grace and a sad day for mom too.
After school got out, Grace asked to play with Juno every day. She REALLY wanted to see her again before she went back to Japan. I assured her that we had time. I spoke to Juno’s mom and I knew when they were leaving and when they were available to play.