In the summer of 2002, my family moved from Canada to southern China for my dad’s job. My little sister, Nancie, started Grade 4 at the International School of Nanshan Shenzhen, then known as the International School of Sino-Canada (ISSC). Despite skipping a grade and being 9 years old in a class full of 10-year-olds, she settled in quickly.
Soon, a boy called Spencer burst into her life. He tried repeatedly to give her things, especially money. One day, he managed to slip one past her in Ms. Relano’s art class, in which the students were doing a gift-wrapping module. When my sister got home, she noticed something extra in her backpack: a wrapped gift with a considerable sum of money inside. Nancie was floored at Spencer’s slyness; my mom was highly amused. The next day, Nancie turned over the package to Ms. Relano, who had to explain to Spencer that money was perhaps not the most appropriate way to woo girls.
One evening, at an ISSC Thanksgiving event, he and Nancie were assigned door duty. When my mom and my grandmother arrived, Spencer quickly deduced who they were and sprang into action. He addressed them in the most polite manner he could muster and offered to take the dishes my mom had brought to the right classroom. When Nancie begrudgingly told my mom who he was, she laughed: “So that’s Spencer? He’s so polite!”
And yet, it wasn’t completely one-sided. Despite my sister’s aversion to Spencer’s attentions, she freely admitted to sitting with him on the school bus. He had a handheld game console, which Nancie would watch him play in companiable silence on their way home. It became a nice kind of calm at the end of the day. Other times, they acted just like kids, bantering and blocking each other’s way in the hallway.
Halfway through Grade 5, we moved back to Montreal; Nancie and Spencer didn’t get to say any special farewells before she left. Last month, my sister and I had a chance to catch up when she visited Beijing. We sat outside in a courtyard on a balmy summer evening, laughing long and hard about Spencer’s schoolboy attentions. Eventually, we settled into a more wistful mood.
“Now that the years have passed, I can look back on those times with a certain fondness,” she said. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wonder about him from time to time. If Spencer is with the girl of his dreams, and if he is anything like he was 10 years ago, I’m sure she would be a very happy girl.”
It was hard not to admire Spencer’s spirit. At a time when most of his peers were struggling with their own insecurities, this 10-year-old boy pursued the girl he liked with a conviction that some people twice (or even three times) his age don’t have.
This month, we give tweens the attention they deserve with a feature on how to support their physical, emotional, and psychological needs. To liven things up, we’ve also got a roundup of age-appropriate activities for tweens in Beijing. We hope that these tips will help your family navigate the tumultuous pre-teen years.
And wherever you are, Spencer, we hope that you’re wrapping up a storm for the girl of your dreams. (Preferably not money, though.)
illustration by Sijia Chen
This article originally appeared on p9 of the beijingkids August 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com