Sarah burst into the kitchen, wearing her biggest smile. "Last day of school, Mom! Summer's finally here!"
Her mother grinned back. "It's going to be a special summer, too," she said. "I've just learned that your cousin Maria will spend it with us."
Sarah couldn't believe her ears. "Cousin Maria? The one who lives in Mexico City? But why is she coming here?" Sarah asked.
"She's never been to the United States before. And since we have an extra bed in your room, your dad and I thought it would be fun to have Maria with us for a couple of months."
Sarah nodded. "I guess. But, Mom, we've never even met each other."
"I know. But she's your age. I think the two of you will become good friends. There is one problem, though. Maria doesn't speak any English."
"Your dad and I speak Spanish. Things will be fine. You'll see."
I'm not so sure, Sarah thought. How can Maria and I become friends when we can't even talk to each other?
Maria arrived two days later. Sarah's parents talked to their visitor in Spanish, but she didn't say much. She just looked around shyly.
She's homesick and afraid, Sarah realized. I'd feel the same way if I were her. But if I can't speak her language, and she can't speak mine, how can I help?
As Sarah was getting ready for bed, she had an idea.
When Sarah woke up the next morning, she slipped out of bed as quietly as she could. She took some paper from her school notebook, picked up a pencil and on the first sheet of paper, she wrote the word "bed." Then she taped it to her bed's headboard.
She taped signs to the chair, lamp, desk, rug, bookcase, window and curtains. She couldn't wait for her cousin to awaken, so they could begin a language lesson.
But when Maria woke up and saw the signs stuck all over the room, she just seemed confused.
Sarah pointed to the sign on the chair. "See? This is a chair." She turned to Maria. "Say, 'chair.' "
She went to her desk, got more paper and another pencil, and handed them to Maria. "Write down the Spanish word for chair."
She began to write on the paper. When she finished, it read "silla."
"Silla?" Sarah asked, pointing to the chair.
"Now you say 'chair,' " Sarah said.
"Chair," Maria said smiling.
The girls went on labeling and pronouncing everything in sight, and by the time they caught Sarah's dog, the two girls were giggling together. The pooch bounded away wearing a sign reading: Dog — Perro.
She seems happier, Sarah thought, And I feel less strange around her. Maybe we can be friends after all.
Sarah found her mother reading on the front porch. "Hey, Mom, how do you say ‘friend' in Spanish?"
"A boy is called 'amigo.' A girl is called 'amiga.' "
"Thanks," Sarah said, hurrying back to Maria.
"Hi, amiga," Sarah declared.
Maria looked pleased. She pointed at Sarah. "Amiga."
Sarah nodded and gestured back and forth between the two of them, "Friend, amiga. Amiga, friend."
The girls beamed at each other.
They spent most of the day playing their new game, forgetting the words and going back over them until they remembered.
Sarah was glad summer had only just begun.