Just Grace and the Flower Girl Power: Excerpt
THE FIVE BIG I-CANNOT-BELIEVE-ITS OF MY LIFE SO FAR:
1. That my teacher, Miss Lois, decided to call me Just Grace instead of my real name, which is Grace, without the Just part in front of it. This happened a while ago, but it still bugs me! Even just thinking about it can make me grumpy. Yesterday I drew a cartoon explaining how the whole thing happened. Sometimes drawing cartoons helps me feel better. I don't know why it works, but it does. I'm glad about that.
2. That I finally got a real live pet, and it's NOT a turtle or a fish! A while ago I had a big idea to make a pretend dog. I called him Chip-Up and I made him out of cardboard boxes. I took care of him like he was real. That way Mom and Dad could see how responsible I was and then they'd let me get a real dog. Chip-Up looked super good, and even though I worked really hard to take care of him, Dad did not seem like he was ever going to turn into a dog-loving person. But one day he surprised me and did. The day I got Mr. Scruffers was the best day of my entire life! A cardboard dog is okay, but a real dog is 100 percent better. And even though Mr. Scruffers is a girl dog and has a boy name, she is still amazing and perfect for me!
3. That Augustine Dupre is getting married in two weeks and I didn't even know she had a boyfriend.
4. That Augustine Dupre is having her wedding in the middle of Mrs. Luther's backyard. Mrs. Luther is one of my next-door neighbors, so if I wanted to, I could spy on the wedding and see the whole thing right from my bedroom window. Of course I am 100 percent invited to the wedding, so the spying part doesn't matter, but still even just knowing that I could do it is kind of cool.
5. That I am NOT going to be the flower girl at Augustine Dupre's wedding!
FIVE THINGS ABOUT AUGUSTINE DUPREE THAT YOU CANNOT TELL BY JUST LOOKING AT HER:
1. She is a very good listener. If there is something you want to say, she can make the air around her quiet and still so the words just float out of your mouth without you even having to think about pushing them.
2. She is in love with Mrs. Luther's cat, Crinkles. Even though Crinkles lives next door with Mrs. Luther, he spends a lot of time visiting with Augustine Dupre and sitting on her sofa.
3. She has great ideas and is a good problem solver. She can make an idea go straight from her head into your head so easily that your brain might even forget that she thought of it first.
4. She is funny and likes to make jokes.
5. She is my best grown-up friend who is not related to me.
WHAT I DID TWO SECONDS AFTER AUGUSTINE DUPREE TOLD ME SHE WAS GETTING MARRIED:
I screamed. "AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" It was a long, happy scream, so Augustine Dupre was mostly surprised and not mostly scared. That was good. I couldn't help the scream. Sometimes you can't help but be crazy if your head is suddenly feeling combustible. The extra energy has to get out of there somehow.
WHAT I DID TEN SECONDS AFTER AUGUSTINE DUPREE TOLD ME SHE WAS GETTING MARRIED:
My brain went through a superfast list of everything to do with a wedding: wedding dress, flowers, flower girl . . . and then it stopped. I looked up at Augustine Dupre and said, "I will be the best flower girl ever! I promise! I promise! I promise!" And then I threw my hands into the air and said it one more time, extra big for special meaning: "I PROMISE!"
WHAT IS SAD BUT TRUE:
Just because you really, really, really want be a flower girl and you know you'd be perfect at it, and even if it's probably the only time in your entire life that you'll have the chance to be one, this does not mean that your wish of being the flower girl is going to come true. This I did not know.
HOW I FOUND OUT ABOUT NOT BEING THE FLOWER GIRL:
I opened my arms to give Augustine Dupre a big I'm-so-happy-I-get-to-be-the-flower-girl
hug, but instead of letting me hug her she held my hands and looked down at me with a sad face. "Oh, Grace! I'm so sorry," she said. "You can't be the flower girl. Luke has promised being the flower girl to his little cousin. We'll find something else for you to do. I promise! Something special." Augustine Dupre was saying lots of words, but the only ones that I was hearing over and over again were "You can't be the flower girl. You can't be the flower girl. You can't be the flower girl."
It was surprising, because even though I had only been thinking I was going to be the flower girl for about two minutes, it was still super disappointing and sad to find out it wasn't going to happen.
WHAT MY MOUTH SAID NEXT:
"What's her name? The girl who gets to be the flower girl?" I don't know why it was important, but suddenly I wanted to know everything about her. It was 100 percent easy for me to imagine that I was not going to like her even one teeny tiny bit.
Augustine Dupre looked worried. Probably because I was wearing my unhappy face—sometimes I'm not very good at hiding it. She made a little sigh and said, "Her name is Delphine. She's five years old and she is Luke's only niece. I'm sure you will like her, and I know she will love you!" Augustine Dupre put her hands on my shoulders and studied my eyes like she was trying to see into my brain to know what I was thinking. It was a good thing she didn't have those kind of powers. Sometimes the things that go on inside your head are better kept private.
WORDS CAN BE POWERFUL:
I don't know why it happened, but suddenly my whole mood was different. Augustine Dupre's words had changed me. She had changed my mad to sad.
Mad is easier than sad.
Sadness is not easy.
WHAT WAS NOT AN EXCELLENT SUGGESTION:
"Maybe you can help Delphine practice," said Augustine Dupre. "She will need some help. What do you think?"
WHY THIS WAS NOT AN EXCELLENT IDEA:
I looked up at Augustine Dupre and smiled. I gave her my best fake smile—the one I had practiced tons of times. It worked great for the school photo, and I wanted it to work on Augustine Dupre too. I didn't want her to be sad. Being a bride is super special. It's the only time a grown-up girl gets to be like a princess. Lucky for me, I'm really good at the smile—it worked. So far Mom's the only one who can tell it's not for real.
WHAT IS NOT EASY:
It's not easy to think of the exact right thing to say when someone is looking at you and expecting you to say the exact right thing. And what I didn't want to do was to say something wrong and ruin Augustine Dupre's bride-happiness.
WHAT I SAID:
I took a deep breath, looked up at Augustine Dupre, and said, "I might have a lot of homework. I don't know yet, but I'll really try, you know, to be helpful."
Augustine Dupre smiled and opened her arms for the hug from before. "Of course, Grace," she said. "I know you'll do your best. It's going to be fun. You'll see." I hugged her back real tight. Sometimes a hug can say things that a mouth just can't.
I had a few more questions for Augustine Dupre before I ran upstairs to tell Mom the wedding news. She was going to be crazy surprised.
WHAT I COULD NOT BELIEVE:
I couldn't believe that Augustine Dupre was going to be marrying someone I had never even met before. That part was weird—really weird.
1. Who is Luke?
2. Does he live in France?
3. Is he going to visit soon?
4. Does he speak English?
As soon as I finished asking my questions, Augustine Dupre's hands shot up to her mouth. It was wide open. She was shocked. "But, Grace," she said, "you've met him. How can you not know Luke?" She held up a you-wait-here finger, then turned and ran off into her kitchen. From the doorway I could see her pull something off the fridge. I was patient and still, but she ran back anyway, like maybe she was worried I was going to leave or something. "Look," she said. She held out a long piece of paper. It was a photo strip from an automatic photo machine—the kind where it's fun to make all sorts of silly faces. "There," she said, and she pointed to one of the pictures. A smiling man was posing next to her. "You know Luke, right?" she asked. I squinted. He looked familiar, but somehow my brain just couldn't remember from where. Dumb brain!
WHAT IS UNFORTUNATE:
Just because there is an easy way to solve a problem, it does not mean that you will be smart enough to choose that way. The smart me would have said, "Augustine Dupre, can you help me remember where I know Luke from?" And even though I would have maybe been embarrassed for a second, she would have for sure helped me.
But I did not do this. Instead, I pretended that I remembered that I knew him. It saved me from being embarrassed, but now I was stuck in a yes-I-know-Luke lie!
AUGUSTINE DUPREE'S BOYFRIEND:
When someone shows you a picture of their almost-husband, you should really offer up some compliments. It's super bad manners not to say something nice—even I know that. "He's very smiley," I said. "And I like this picture too." I pointed to the one where they were both sticking out their tongues. Augustine Dupre smiled. It was a real smile, I could tell, because of her eyes.
WHAT MOM SAID WHEN I TOLD HER ABOUT THE WEDDING:
"I know! Isn't it exciting?" Mom did a twirl and started humming the wedding song. "Da dum da da. Da dum da—" I couldn't believe it! "Mom!" I shouted. "You knew about the wedding? How come you didn't tell me?" Mom stopped in the middle of her second twirl. "Sweetie, Augustine Dupre wanted
to be the one to tell you. It's her big news, not mine." She came and hugged me. Weirdly,
today was turning out to be a big day for hugging.
WHAT MOM SAID NEXT:
"I know it's a change, but it's a happy change, right?" Mom was still hugging me tight. She was waiting for an answer. I could tell I was trapped. Her arms were like padlocks of love—they were only going to open if she knew I was feeling okay. I nodded my head yes. It worked. She gave me an extra squeeze and then let go. "Hey," said Mom. "How about some French toast? Would you like that?" "No thank you," I said. "I'll have cereal." "Okay," said Mom. "If that makes you happy."
After breakfast Mr. Scruffers and I went up to my room, and even though my favorite stuff was all around me, I still couldn't think of a single thing to do.
As soon as I got upstairs to my room, I started to think about everything that had just happened. Sometimes doing lots of thinking by yourself is not a good idea. It can make you sad.
I decided to go down to the living room. The ground floor was closer to Augustine Dupre. Maybe it would help to be closer to her bride-to-be happiness. Maybe some of her joy would float up from the basement and help make me feel better.
I didn't have much time to experiment because Mr. Scruffers started whining, jumping on me, and finally racing back and forth between my legs and the back door. She was 100 percent desperate to be let out! There are only two things that make her crazy like that—squirrels and Crinkles.
Mr. Scruffers has a mini-superpower. It has to do with the backyard. Without even looking out the window or the doorway, she can somehow tell if there is a creature walking around on our lawn. I don't know how she does it.
WHAT I USED TO DO:
I used to let Mr. Scruffers charge out the door and chase after a squirrel or Crinkles, but then I started to feel kind of bad. It was my empathy feelings working. And they were working for Crinkles. Suddenly I was thinking about how he must feel super nervous and scared every time he steps into our yard. I'm sure the day we got Mr. Scruffers was one of the worst days of his whole cat life. He really has to be brave to come and visit Augustine Dupre.
HOW I HELP CRINKLES:
I tried to get Mr. Scruffers not to chase Crinkles, but it's impossible—she has to do it. She can't help herself. It must be a nature thing: dogs can't help but chase cats.
To help Crinkles I invented a new way for letting Mr. Scruffers outside. First I check out the window to see if Crinkles is out there. If he is, I jiggle the door handle around before I open the door. That way Crinkles can hear the rattle and know what is about to happen. Usually he runs and hides. The extra waiting drives Mr. Scruffers crazy, but at least it's more fair for Crinkles.
I don't do the door handle warning for squirrels, but that's okay, because they eat all the strawberries off our strawberry plants. Plus, I don't think they're that scared of Mr. Scruffers anyway. Dad says she'd never catch one in a million years. Squirrels are fast!
I never really thought about squirrels until we got Mr. Scruffers. Some of her squirrel thinking has rubbed off on me. I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling she spends a lot of time thinking about squirrels.
WHO WAS OUTSIDE:
Mr. Scruffers was whining and had her nose pushed right up against the crack where the door opens. I looked out the window to see if it was Crinkles or a squirrel, but I couldn't see anything. Mr. Scruffers was going 100 percent crazy. Finally I just opened the door and followed her out. She ran straight to the side gate. Someone was banging on it and shouting. "Scruffy! Scruffy! Scruffy!"
I didn't have to be a detective to know who it was. It was Robert, Mimi's new little brother. Robert is in love with Mr. Scruffers—at least that's what Mimi says. Mr. Scruffers likes Robert okay, but it's not love, except for when Robert is eating—then she loves him. If you are a dog, food can change everything.
THE TWO IMPORTANT THINGS I SAID TO ROBERT:
1. "Robert, you are not allowed to bang on the gate. If you want to play with Mr. Scruffers, you have to come to the front door and ask." I told him this because Dad says it's important for people to not use the side gate. He's worried that someone will leave the gate open and then Mr. Scruffers will get lost. This is a good thing to be worried about. Mostly this is a rule for tall people who can reach the gate latch, but I told Robert about it anyway. It is good practice, because one day he will for sure be taller.
2. "You should probably go home and put on some pants and maybe some shoes." Robert was wearing a T-shirt, racing car underpants, and striped socks. This was not the best choice for an I'm-going-to-play-outside outfit, but maybe when you are almost four years old you don't care so much about pants—you just want to get out of the house really fast!
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT:
Robert looked at me and nodded, but he didn't move. It was confusing. Maybe he was only pretending to understand me. Thankfully two seconds later I heard Mimi's voice calling him from her front door. I yelled back at her. "Mimi! He's here!" I didn't want her worrying that he was missing or something. And then I added some more information: "And he's not wearing pants!" Somehow that seemed important. I guess it was, because five seconds later Mimi was suddenly standing in front of us. She was not happy.
WHAT ROBERT SAID TO MIMI:
"Oops. I forgot."
WHAT MIMI SAID TO ME:
"Don't ask. It's a mystery to me too."
WHAT BEST FRIENDS CAN DO:
Sometimes best friends can answer each other's questions before the questions are even spoken out loud. This was one of those times.
WHAT I SAID TO MIMI:
"Don't worry. I won't tell anyone."
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT:
Robert looked down at his legs and up at Mimi, and then he ran back home across the lawn. I guess his brain was thinking, "Oh! I get it. Legs need pants." Whether his brain was also thinking, "Feet need shoes" . . . that part was hard to tell. Mimi followed him home.
WHAT I 100 PERCENT FORGOT TO TELL MIMI:
That Augustine Dupre was getting married!
I ran inside and shouted out to Mom that I was going over to Mimi's house.
WHAT I SAID TO MIMI THE MINUTE SHE OPENED HER DOOR:
"Augustine Dupre is getting married in two weeks in Mrs. Luther's backyard, and I don't get to be the flower girl!" Of course Mimi was totally surprised. "You aren't the flower girl? Are you sad or mad?" she asked. "Sad," I said. "And really I should be super happy for Augustine Dupre, but I can't because mostly I'm just sad for me." Mimi made her I-feel-sad-with-you face and opened the door wide so I could come in. I followed her up to her room. On the way we passed the kitchen. She grabbed a plate of banana bread. Mimi is not allowed to take food up to her room, but no one saw her and I didn't say anything. And besides, this was not a normal day. This was a special occasion—it was a flower girl crisis!