Seriously? my 14-year-old demands. You want me to scrape paint? 

I’m merely suggesting it as a possibility, a fine August afternoon option before school begins next week. She opts to clean her chicken coop instead, which I can’t help but think is a healthier option.

At lunch, she shows me photos of the Amazon rainforest burning, immense swathes. She’s a Vermont teen; these are digital images that can’t possibly contain the heat and wind, the roar and terror of these fires.

Talking, I think of all the ways I’ve provided for this child and failed her, too — an American child who’s benefited from American largesse, and yet she’s a child who hasn’t seen her father in years.

On this breezy August afternoon, the crickets are working away, reminding us that summer’s yet here, but not for long. In her eyes, I see myself reflected. She cuts her grilled cheese sandwich in two and eats silently, filled with the power of adolescence.

The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when summer is changing into autumn — the crickets spread the rumour of sadness and change.

— E. B. White


4 thoughts on “Fire

  1. To aid in your paint scrape recruiting, consider this anecdote: I knew a dean of medical school admissions who said his favorite interview question was “What was your worst summer job and why?” Invariably, he said the tougher the job, the better the student was. Pumping septic tanks, barning tobacco, cleaning legion toilets- he said all these students had grit. So, congrats on your prescient parenting! GT

  2. I’m inspired by all those summers my father had his three kids scrape and paint our house — a different side every year, and then back around to the first again. It seemed like an enormous house, although, in retrospect, I realize it wasn’t. Septic tank pumping sounds much worse!

  3. As a single mom to a 14 yr old girl, much of your writing speaks to me. Funny that I have my daughter painting shutters on her final week before school. Yesterday, instead of starting on that or doing her summer reading, she chose to make dog and cat toys out of rags and tennis balls.

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