"Really, now?" she says, trying not to act too interested for fear of scaring him away. "What's her name?"
"Tanner," he says, suddenly shy. His mom nods; she knows who she is. A skinny little string bean with a Red Sox cap and dark hair down to her waist, which she tucks behind her ears. She looks like a tomboy, but doesn't play any sports. She's brainy, though. A real scholar. We always knew my cousin would find someone smart. Smart girls don't overlook his irresistible charm and manners, his big goofy grin and excited brown eyes.
He takes out a carefully folded piece of looseleaf paper from his pocket. The worn creases are evidence of how many times it's been opened." She likes me," he says, sliding the note across the table so it covers the grocery list for the week. In swirly cursive letters it reads, "I think you're cute" with hearts in place of every apostrophe and quotation mark and on top of the 'i'.
His mom stifles the "Aw" in her throat. "Well, why don't you have her and few other friends over for pumpkin carving? That way it doesn't feel awkward with just the two of you."
My cousin shuffles his feet. "Well, I don't know, Mom. I think we were just going to volunteer at the Fall Festival together at school." He suddenly looks up, afraid he hurt her feelings. "Is that alright?"
"Of course, I don't care," his mom says. He sighs relief and climbs the stairs to finish his math homework.
His little brother, who had been sitting quietly playing with his Power Rangers at the other end of the table, pipes up. "Hey, Mommy," he says.
"I have a girlfriend, too," he says nonchalantly, while continuing to duel his Power Rangers. He's six.
"You do, do you?" she says, eyebrows raised.
"What's her name?"
"Katie," he says, his tone now with a hint of superiority. "We share snack together."
Oh the days when relationships were as simple as folded up notes and sharing cookies at snack time.