Summer Nights in the Country

Over time, our household has accumulated a growing number of friends who have learned how to make themselves at home. There is one girl in particular, however, who has made this an art form.

That girl is Sam, originally Nina’s friend but subsequently adopted by the family as a whole – including by my dog. Sam used to be really shy about coming over, constantly insisting she was imposing. Slowly we convinced her otherwise. Now Sam helps herself to everything from the contents of our fridge to whichever of our beds she decides to collapse on.

She calls my parents Uncle Calvin and Aunt Meg and demands hugs from everyone, including Eli. When she first started to make an appearance, my dog freaked out. Then Sam told her to shut up (she even barked at her a couple of times) and, by some miracle, my dog obeyed. Now Sam can pop in unannounced and my dog will streak to her side for cuddles. This is made all the weirder by the fact that Dad and Eli can’t even pull into the drive without her barking at them.

Last week, Sam arrived to spend the night, after cajoling her mother into letting her return when she’d only left our house 6 hours before. I got out of my shower that evening and went hunting for Sam and Nina in hopes of hanging out before bed. I found them – of course – in the cornfield.

Countless online tests have agreed that Nina’s demigod parent would be Demeter. My baby sister has embraced this label and Sam encourages her. I found them five or six rows in, with cornstalks up to their ears and Nina looking perfectly at home.

“It gets wider ahead,” she told me.

We left the fringe rows, which run parallel to the property line, and came into the cornfield-proper via an irregularly wide row. Then, as if on some sort of quest, we set off down it to see where it would take us.

Note: the ground in a cornfield is rough going for bare feet, even when much of it is damp from recent rain. My feet haven’t hurt that much since we hiked the rocky shores of Lake Superior.

The sun was starting to set and there was rain away to the south, so we paused regularly for photos. (In addition to being energetic and sweet, Sam is also very photogenic, especially with the sunset lighting up her curls.) Eventually Nina called from the lead, “So, how far are we going?”

By the time we reemerged at our property line, we had walked nearly a mile there and back, which is further than the girls had ever gone. Our arms and legs were itchy from constantly rubbing against corn leaves. Then we noticed the sunset.

We’ve had a number of brilliant sunsets lately but that night was especially gorgeous. The storm clouds coming in from the east had turned a stunning pink and burgundy, the air was clear, and the fireflies were just coming out.

At first, we were satisfied with snapping pictures from our yard, but it was soon determined that the neighbors’ house got in the way of the best shots. I was the first across the road, sliding across the ditch and then hopping over beans to get a better angle.

Nina stayed in our lawn while Sam posed for her in the middle of the road. (Don’t worry; we can see cars coming from either direction for a long way off.)

“I’m going to run up the road to see if I can get a better shot,” I told them. “Want to come?”

“Pass,” Nina said immediately.

As I took off at a jog, I heard Sam mutter, “Oh, she was serious. She’s actually running.”

It’s about a quarter mile to the nearest intersection, which was as far as I was willing to go. I crashed through  more fields, gasping for breath and trying to get a clear view of the clouds. Unfortunately, that incredible burgundy color had faded to gray by the time I made it. Still, it was fun.

Already sweating, I decided to walk back to the house. And then a car passed and I realized what I must look like: a girl in pajama bottoms and an oversized tee, no shoes, and her phone, walking down the side of the road.

Yep. I’ve officially been countrified.

I rejoined the girls on our lawn and lay staring up at the drifting clouds while my face burned from the exercise. Once the sunset had faded, we rounded out our evening of adventure by sitting on the roof, which I’ve yet to do in the three years we’ve lived here. It rained for a couple of minutes and our giggling drew the startled attention of the north neighbor, who then ducked his head and hurried into his house.

I don’t know why he’s so embarrassed of us. It’s not like anyone else living on our street shares his sentiments.

And this is why I love having Sam over: she has a carefree sense of adventure that’s very contagious and easily satisfied. By the time we crawled inside (startling my dog, who tried to come onto the roof with us), we smelled like corn and grass and rain, which are the best sorts of smells.

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