Eight-year old Laurel had a job to do.

“Please keep Mandy in your room until our meeting ends,” Laurel’s mother said.

“Okay, Mom.”

She bounced up the stairs, her dog following.

Maureen, then President of Detroit Working Writers, welcomed fellow board members to her kitchen table. From start to finish we conducted business without a bark from Laurel’s hostage. Once released, Laurel and Mandy wormed their way into my heart.

Because my ninth year was the most remarkable of my lifetime, I have a soft spot for children of that age, or on the cusp. There’s a glimmer of innocence in their eye, a ray of doubt-defying faith.

And the child loved to laugh.

A year later, I embarked upon developing my lavender farm on our property and hosting a festival.

“What may Laurel and I do to help?” Maureen asked.

For hours, they stamped gift bags and filled sachets with dried lavender buds, amongst other boring tasks. Laurel never complained. The following summer Maureen said, “Laurel and I would love to help again.”

I couldn’t believe how the girl and her sandy blonde hair had grown. She wore a long white dress and yellow sun hat, passing for a pre-teen.

“Would you like to demonstrate how to harvest lavender for our U-pick guests?” I asked.

She smiled and nodded with wide eyes.

Laurel took her positive attitude into a blooming field where she stood all day, scissors in hand. A volunteer photographer captured her profile as she held lavender stems. The following season, I painted Laurel’s photo for the festival’s poster. In 2006, Laurel appeared on the cover of my poetry book titled Growing Lavender & Other Poems.

As a graduating senior in high school, Laurel returned to the farm with a professional photographer to pose for class pictures. Later that summer during her graduation picnic, Laurel’s laugh rang above all others.

To witness another rite of passage, Maureen drove us to Albion College last week for the Honors Convocation and Laurel’s senior thesis presentation. “She’s the outgoing president of the Chevron Chapter of Mortar Board, a national organization of scholars. She’s announcing the names of the incoming inductees,” Maureen said.

I thought my friend would burst her buttons.

As we walked down the aisle of Albion’s United Methodist Church, I recognized Laurel’s face, the one I studied and copied thirteen years ago. She sat on the platform with other presenters.

Dear Reader, it has been a pleasure to watch Laurel grow into an accomplished, responsible woman. To observe her honor ceremony and thesis presentation was an unexpected privilege.

Laurel plans to leave for Maine after graduation. She’ll work as an outdoor education leader, advancing from four years as a cabin counselor. Eventually, she hopes to use her psychology degree in some capacity.

The girl who took dog-sitting and lavender U-pick demos seriously will find her place in this wide world, I believe. For Laurel carries laughter and a ray of doubt-defying faith wherever she treads. And with a glimmer in her eye.

Email Iris at irisleeu@sbcglobal.net.