Tomorrow would be her first day of eighth grade. Iris was excited to start another school year and to experience a taste of of high school. She wasn’t sure what to wear on her first day; should she try to look less like a thirteen year old and more like a sophisticated new freshman? Frankly, she didn’t even know what that meant so she kept with her standards, simple and not flashy. Aunt Bronwyn had taken Brigid and Iris school clothes shopping a few weeks ago. She let Iris buy a bunch of black t-shirts and sweaters (more than her dad would have allowed) and some fun skirts that were much more teenage girl than middle schooler. Iris always planned her first week of school outfits so she didn’t have to worry about what to wear; it was hard getting back into the swing of school and set schedule after a summer of having to be nowhere in particular.
After deciding on her new jeans, black t-shirt, and a green sweater for her first day of art class (the second day of school), Iris sat down to write another letter to Charlie. She wasn’t sure if he had received her thank you note/drawing yet but wanted to get in the habit of writing to him. She had the idea after dinner with Dad; having a pen pal could be fun. Her dad told her about his junior high pen pal and how he and her mother had written to each other during college. It made her parents seem way more romantic than they actually were. Her dad also agreed to take Iris to DC over fall break in October. She wanted to see some exhibits at the National Gallery of Art; Dad wanted to visit some of his friends from college who lived in Alexandria. It all worked out. They loved road trips and she was looking forward to making mix tapes and planning their snacks. She hoped Charlie would be able to come to the museum with her or hang out at some point before she left. That’s why the letter was important.
Dear Charlie, 8/24/1997
How are you? Did you start school yet? My first day is tomorrow. I’m pretty excited to go back to school this year; I get to take art classes at the high school two days every week. It’s kind of cool that I get to do that.
My dad said that we can come to DC over my fall break in October? Do you have a fall break? We’ll be there October 15-18th. If you’re around maybe you can come to the National Gallery of Art with us or Natural History. Those are two of the museums we’re going to. We’re staying in Alexandria with my dad’s college friends. They’re really nice and I get to stay in this cool attic bedroom they made in their new house. Let me know if you can come. You can call me if you want to. My phone number is 540-212-6678.
Did you like the picture I sent you? I drew some other ones with a female character added, like a dragon slaying duo. I was thinking of making them into a comic book. I’ve never made something like that before but it seems like a good idea. Dragons are pretty cool.
Write me back and let me know if you’ll be around in October.
She sealed the envelope and got it ready to mail. She set it with her backpack and art case by her bedroom door. She could put it in the mailbox on her way to the bus stop in the morning. She was ready for this school year to get started.
After dinner with her dad, Iris felt better about herself and her goal of being an artist. She could focus on getting better and finding her personal style in her art. She could stop drawing her babyish unicorns and mermaids and decide what type of artist she really wanted to be. She spent more time over the weekend working on her dragon pictures; she thought they could make a really great comic. Granted she had never read comics before but she had a sense about it. Her dad had a box of comics in the attic. He brought them down for her to look at for inspiration. Most of his were about superheroes like Superman and Batman and the Amazing Spiderman. She liked the panels and the way that format jumped off the page at her. The dialogue didn’t have to be long. She worried about the writing part but short dialogue might not be so bad. Just one more part of her goal.
The whole family was coming over for dinner later tonight. Iris decided she wanted to make a final visit to Land of Legends to mark the official end of summer. She had some time before she had to start helping with dinner. Other than her walk with Grandpa, she hadn’t been to the park much since the Fourth of July. She felt like she needed to say goodbye to the park somehow. She looked around her room for something to mark the end of this era for her. She spotted her glass unicorn figurine sitting on the window sill. She decided she would bury the figurine and a drawing in the grove by the unicorns. If she was lucky she could come back in twenty years or something like that and dig it up. Like a time capsule.
She looked through her recent drawings and picked one o f her unnamed heroine riding a unicorn-like horse into battle against a ferocious, evil red dragon. She turned it over and wrote a note to her grown-up self:
To the older me, 8/24/1997
Hopefully I remember to come back when I’m older and find this package in my secret hiding place at Land of Legends. I buried this a few days after turning thirteen and a day before the start of 8th grade. This was a fun but weird summer. I made a new friend, Charlie, over the summer. I got to wear lip gloss for the first time and I decided to become an artist. That’s what I want to be. Whenever I come back and dig this up again I hope that this dream will have come true. It would be cool to be a real artist.
Remember that this is were the drawing started - Land of Legends. If it weren’t for the unicorns and the kraken and the dragons being an artist would never have occurred to me as something I could be.
Anyway, I hope I have a really cool place to live like an apartment in New York like on ‘Friends’ or a house somewhere cool. Always have Fruit Loops for breakfast on Friday.
13 Year Old Iris
Iris went down to the office and found a small plastic mailing envelope for her time capsule. She folded her picture/letter and wrapped the unicorn in it. It all fit snugly in the envelope. She taped it shut and wrote “Iris Mason, 8/24/1997” on the front with a Sharpie. She made one more stop in the tool shed for a small shovel and made her way to the front of Land of Legends.
She followed the same path that she had walked so many times before. The one she had taken with Charlie and with Grandpa; start at the Yeti’s Cave, walk to the Walkway of the Gods, through the minotaur’s maze, and use the trick exit to get to the other side quickly. Walk towards the beckoning mermaids and other Creatures of the Sea. Iris paused at the Kraken, saluted the sinking ship, cut over to the dragon, and caught the Fairy Trail to the Fairy Forest. There weren’t many visitors on the grounds so Iris was able to move quickly to her final destination. No one was in the clearing by the unicorns; she was able to climb into her hiding place unseen. She dug a hole big enough for her envelope time capsule. She tucked it in and covered it with dirt. She made a wish for her dreams to come true. “I’ll see you in the future when everything I wished for has come true. Don’t go anywhere.”
Iris crawled out of the grove and took one more look at the unicorns and fairies she had spent so much time with over her first thirteen years. “I’ll be back sometime. I promise.” She turned away from the display and went back home.