Aya told me when we were walking home from her birthday party that she couldn’t reveal her wish, of course, but that it was “a big huge happy-storm that would change the course of everything we ever thought we ever knew and make it even better!”
“The landscape will be unrecognizable,” she said. “But in a good way!”
I know Aya’s got this power within her to make big grand-scale changes, and that they turn out for the best, so all I can do is trust her and feel confident that we’re all up for the challenges that life brings!
A few days before her birthday, while we were dancing before breakfast, Elder had suggested, “Let’s throw Aya a big party! Invite her family from home, head on over to Oakenstead, and really give her a big bash to show how much we appreciate her!”
I called up her folks at home and extended an open invitation to any and everyone who wanted to come. Dr. Jasmine had passed on shortly after Elder and my wedding, but because of our connection to the B&B, we figured we’d still be able to have a party there. I called up the attorney handling Dr. J’s estate.
“Sure!” he said. “I’ve got all the paperwork here. It explicitly states the place is open for you and Emma to use all you want during the time when the estate’s being settled. I know I don’t need to mention that you’ll leave it in the condition you found it–or better.”
So on the morning of Aya’s birthday, she and I headed over to Oakenstead to greet her family. She and Nade spent a few moments chatting on the bench by the river. Aya told me later that they got off on the wrong foot–a few awkward comments, a little jostling around. Nothing that wouldn’t smooth over during the course of a good party.
I hadn’t been to Oakenstead since our wedding. What a home of memories it was for me! The place I first laid eyes on Elder, where we held Plum Day celebrations, where I first met Elder’s family, where Elder and I were married. And the home of Dr. Jasmine, no long with us.
The house was so empty–as if Oakenstead had decided that it needed to manifest physically that the life that had filled it with warmth was gone.
All the furniture had been carted off!
I called the attorney.
“Oh, right, that,” he said. I could hear him shuffling through papers. “Right. Exactly.”
He explained something I couldn’t quite follow about estates and entailments.
“It will all work out in the long run,” he said. “Don’t worry your little animal hat about it. Go ahead and enjoy the facilities for the party, and all the details will be worked out in the long run.”
It’s people, not furniture, that make a party.
Once everybody started arriving, the big empty rooms echoed with laughter.
We hired Marcus Eugenius as the entertainer, forgetting there was no piano. It felt so good to see him anyway. I realized that in being so busy with getting our family started and then with S-GAS, I hadn’t been spending much time with friends, and I made a quick resolution to get together more often with those I care about.
What’s a house, really? Just a container for conversation, laughter, and good feelings.
Five minutes into the party, and we were already feeling like we had the makings of the Party of the Century.
Cassandra showed up–I was so glad! We hadn’t seen her in ages and ages.
Aya’s cousins Kyo and Kin seemed to be impressed to get a chance to actually meet Cassandra Goth. The world they come from is a late-generation legacy world. The Goth family are historical figures back in their home.
Everybody found their way into the kitchen! Alex had to defend his spot at the bar as mixologist, and I needed to elbow my way to the oven to roast the chicken and bake the cake, but it was so worth it!
Music and dancing, and old friends and new ones! Aya’s cousins and Uncle Jacob–everybody there for Aya.
Family and friends kept streaming in. Aya’s younger cousin, Ren, stood with his back to the crowd, just taking in all the party sounds of laughing, chatting, and music. Elder did that too–he says he likes to just surf the noise, let it wash over him and he can pick up all this information about what people are thinking and feeling.
The crowd was a bit much for Free. He took his llamacorn out to the garden for an adventure. I’m glad he’s learning how to make sure he doesn’t get too overstimulated by too many people and too much noise. And I know the aroma of roast chicken and strawberry cake will bring him in when he’s hungry.
Emma and I reflected that our adult birthdays were just around the corner. We feel like old friends, now. Funny–to be old enough to have an old friend.
“We’re next,” Emma said. And her words carried with them shelves full of subtext.
When Aya stepped up to the cake, everybody sang, threw confetti, brought out the party horns, and cheered!
She didn’t let the noise and confusion distract her from composing her wish.
We kept singing while she blew out the candles. More confetti! More cheers!
Aya told me later that she felt such a sense of being honored and valued during that moment. Elder and I had wanted her party to be a gesture of appreciation for her–and it was.
I threw in an extra verse of the birthday song, making up the words:
You’re the rock star
on a quest!
You’re the body builder
who never rests!
You’re Aya, oh, Aya!
Backwards, forwards, you’re the best!
Aya’s little cousins had a great time. Their reputations preceded them: they’re hot-heads, mean, and evil! But while they were here, they wore their angel halos and spent the party smiling, dancing, eating good food, and hugging their mom and uncles.
As the party winded down, I played a Bach violin partita that I’d been practicing for Aya. I know she likes Bach just about as much as I do.
When we got home, Free-Jon said, “I forgot to give Aya her present.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s a story.”
“You can give it to her now, before bed,” I said. “She’s downstairs in the computer room. I’m sure she’d love to hear it.”
This is a story about birthdays.
Once upon a time, you were little and tiny inside a room.
It was all red inside–but not dark red, really nice, like with light shining through. Like inside a ruby.
Some people use baby talk when they talk about that room and they call it a ‘woom.’
But we’re not babies, right? So we’ll call it by its rightful name. Room. Or, if you want, the Red Room.
In there, you learned everything! Everything there is to learn. It’s the learning room.
Then, a time came, and you said, ‘I want out! I am so ready!’
So you banged on the walls of the Red Room–and your mom screamed and yelled, ‘Owwwieee!’
Then, out you spun! Aya!
And when you came out, you were like the perfect person–just all you! Same backwards as forwards.
A. Y. A. — A. Y. A. See?
So because you already learned everything when you came here, that’s why you’re so good at everything!
And after a few days you spun again, and you were a kid! And then you played and got really smart.
And then spin–a teen! And more smart.
And spin–a young adult! Do all that stuff. Smarter.
And now today, spin again. And now you’re like everything that a Sim can be! Because, you know. Super Aya, and stuff.
“Well, Free, that’s kind of a crazy story. But thanks! It’s nice to know that you think I’m smart and all that.”
“You’re not just smart,” Free-Jon said, “You’re smart and funny and cute.”
And, I thought to myself as I tucked Free-Jon into bed, remembering Aya’s no-nonsense advice when I was lovelorn for Elder, she’s also a big part of the reason that Free-Jon is even here.