Samantha breathed in a roomful of air and let it out slowly.
"Angela, sweetie? It goes in the hamper. Remember?"
A three-year-old blonde with bouncy ringlets batted her eyes and smiled sheepishly. "Oh, yeah." She grabbed the sock off the floor and placed it in the hamper, then went back to the suitcase, full of dirty clothes from their recent trip. She picked a shirt out of the bag and made a beeline for her dresser.
"Angie! The hamper. They all go in the hamper." Samantha shook her head.
"All of them?"
Samantha clenched her fists, closed her eyes, and nodded.
Keeping an eye on Angie, she slowly backed her way out of the room. Must I repeat myself 250 million times? I can't believe we just got back from vacation. I feel like I need one all over again.
Angie continued to place the clothing, piece by piece, in the hamper. Samantha looked into Jonah's room down the hall to find him sitting at his desk, staring down.
Samantha didn't like the tone of his voice. "Yes, Jonah?"
"I forgot to take this tiny book with me on our vacation. I have to read it by tomorrow."
Samantha sighed. "Then let's read it. At least it isn't long."
She knelt beside his desk chair as he opened the photocopied eight-page beginning reader. He had been reading one a night every weekday since a month or so into first grade. He needed to read it fluently to go on to the next one, and he only had a few books left.
The first few pages seemed to go smoothly. It was clear the "lesson" of this particular book was the "tion" ending. Each of the pages had one or two words with that letter combination on it.
"Steve and Don toook a vacation," Jonah read.
"Nice job, hun." It was clear Jonah knew "vacation" by sight. Not surprising, I suppose, since we just got back from one.
Jonah struggled in a few other spots, but worked his way through to the fourth page.
"Sound it out, sweetie."
'Jonah-what sound does 't-i-o-n' make?"
Jonah sighed. "Tieon?"
Samantha sighed and gritted her teeth. She turned back to the first page and pointed to a word. "What is that word?"
Jonah smiled. "Vacation."
She covered up the first four letters. "What does that say?"
He stared intently. "Tye on?"
She sighed and turned to the second page, pointing to a word there.
Again, she covered up all but the ending.
Samantha grumbled, then felt a light touch on her arm. "Can I give it a try, dear?"
Jonah turned around. "Hi, Grandma."
"Please." Samantha stepped back, breathed in deeply, and let it out slowly. "Thanks."
I'm so glad she came to help me get resettled. Samantha leaned on the side of the desk and watched with interest.
Grandma rubbed Jonah's back and grabbed a blank piece of paper off his desk with her wrinkled hands. "Hi there, Jonah. Do you have a pencil?"
Jonah nodded and opened his desk drawer. He grabbed one and gave it to her.
She wrote slowly and deliberately on the paper. t i o n = s h u n
"Whenever you see those four letters in a word, Jonah, they actually sound like 'shun.'" Grandma smiled. "Shall we try reading again?"
Jonah's smile was wide, and his eyes sparkled. "Yup."
He read it through without a glitch.
"Action: a-c-t-i-o-n. Nation: n-a-t-i-o-n,..." Jonah walked down the hall spelling excitedly.
"My pleasure, Samantha," the older woman said. "Sometimes a bit of age, and a new perspective, is all you need."
"Patience helps too, doesn't it?" Samantha laughed.
"No doubt," she snickered. "But that often comes with age."
The two wandered into Angela's room, where Samantha again took a deep breath as she spotted her daughter placing a pair of socks-in her dresser.
"Angie, darling, can I show you what you need to do?" Samantha took the socks out of the drawer. She put them in Angela's hands and walked her to the hamper. "This is where they go. Each one goes in here. Would you like me to stay and watch?"
Samantha and her mother sat on Angie's bed and watched, giving her gentle reminders when Angie started walking in the wrong direction.
"Patience comes with age, eh?" Samantha winked. "I guess I'm getting older."
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