In the afternoon, we headed next door to CathyTea-House & Gardens.
“Arabella,” I said, “This place might be of special interest to you! It was built by my good friend Miss Penguin!”
“Do I know her?” asked Arabella.
“Well,” I continued, “Miss Penguin is to you what I am to Free-Jon!”
“You mean she’s my fairy step god-aunt twice removed?”
“Oh!” I replied. “I wasn’t thinking so much of the step-aunt twice-removed part. That’s true that Free-Jon’s mom and I do have a sort of doppleganger connection. I was thinking more along the lines of the fairy godmother part.”
“You mean Miss Penguin is my fairy godmother?”
“Exactly!” I answered.
“Then this must be my fairy palace! Let’s take a look!”
And she led me inside the atrium to look at all the magical wonders her fairy godmother had created here.
“I feel so inspired!” I said.
The TeaHouse has already become one of the most popular hangouts in town. Arabella was quick to introduce herself to the others there. She’s so friendly and outgoing!
“I happen to have a very special connection to the lady who built this,” she told her chess opponent, “so if there’s anything you need–anything at all–be sure to let me know.”
Joel headed to the tea room, where he found a fellow writer.
“I’m curious,” Joel asked. “Do you prefer to compose with pen and paper, or on the computer?”
“Neither. I just close my eyes and see it,” said the old writer.
The kids had free rein for the afternoon, getting to roam the TeaHouse grounds and the surrounding park area.
Corey and Free-Jon headed straight to the pirate ship. These two, with their glasses and shaggy hair, remind me of colorized twins!
They were quick to call out to Zerxes.
“Hey, Zerxes!” Corey yelled. “We need a look-out! Come and join us!”
Zerxes looked a little timid climbing up the ladder. I’ve noticed he seems a little leery of heights.
“Zoom!” he said! “The ground is a long way off! Are you sure this is what children do? Why is it I have never seen a grown person up here!”
“That’s because it’s the Crow’s Nest!” shouted Arabella. “It’s for crows! Not grown ups!”
While the kids were playing, I had time to sneak in a quick painting. I couldn’t resist!
I mean, look at this place! It’s so magical and inspiring!
All the colors and swirls and feelings–just like Zerxes’ story of the big “purply and teal whirly swirly hug“–that’s what I painted. Just how I feel inside the atrium, like I’m inside of the biggest, swirliest, whirliest hug!
When Arabella finished playing pirate, she marched right back into the atrium.
“Ok, Miss Cathy,” she said, “I’m ready for the rest of the tour.”
I led her up the secret staircase.
And we found ourselves in the tower studio, where a heart-shaped bonsai waited us.
“It must be a secret message from my fairy godmother,” said Arabella. “What could it be? I know! Love everybody!”
While Arabella pondered the bonsai and I tended the balcony garden, Free-Jon took up a most important task.
Little Free ran all through the common areas, picking up all the dishes he could find from the community picnic.
He ran into the atrium with a stack of dishes nearly as high as he was. I thought for a moment about reminding him to walk and be careful, but then I noticed how careful he was being as he jogged through, smiling and feeling like the most helpful guy at the park.
When I saw his grin, I decided, too, not to praise him. I could see he was doing this for the intrinsic joy he felt in keeping the park clean–plus, his mom and dad told me that, just like his dad, he loves to do the dishes.
I didn’t want to interfere with that internal motivation to do something helpful. When he’s already got the right instincts, there’s no need to shift that and have him work for praise, rather than joy.
It was getting dark when I finally had a chance to catch up with Emelia.
“So! Em! Whoa! Kid-you! You’re so awesome!”
“I know, right?” Emelia answered. “What I went through to get here! You’d never believe.”
“Oh, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea,” I answered.
“Let me tell you anyway! First there was that trouble my mom caused, and then there were all these complications about who was responsible for what, and then I kept just waiting for the key-note so we could have the final party and I could get back to some semblance of my life, and all along that wild and crazy stuff was happening at home, and I think I finally, totally, and in full actuality understand the meaning of doppleganger!”
We laughed so hard! I’d been exploring dopplegangerism myself for what feels like that last eon, and to meet somebody else who really got it, from the inside-out, just felt like such a relief.
“Well,” I said as soon as we could catch our breath, “it’s nice to see you’re back to the old you!”
While Em and I caught up, Arabella and Free had a chance to make a new acquaintance in the tea room.
“These froot-loops are so scrumptious,” said Arabella. “Would you like to try some, miss?”
With no warning, the woman began to yell at Free.
“Loops have no business with fruit! None! None at all! And how many loops do you think had to die to make that one bowl of cereal?”
“Gee, ma’am,” replied Free. “I didn’t have anything to do with that cereal.”
“Don’t yell,” he continued. “When you yell at me, you sound like this, ‘Waa, waa, screechy-screech!’ Only louder. And it makes me feel weird inside.”
It didn’t go over too well. I checked in with both Free and Arabella later, to make sure they weren’t feeling upset or frightened by her aggressive behavior.
“I thought she was funny,” said Arabella. “I was going to laugh, but Free gave her a little lesson in manners, so I thought I’d be polite, too.”
“Some people haven’t learned yet,” said Free. “It’s no big deal. That’s what we’re here for, Mom says. To help people learn how to be with each other with no yelling and fighting.”
Zerxes has been inventing his own lessons in bravery for himself, confronting his fear of heights by playing on the monkey bars.
“If it’s what children do,” he told me later, “then I want to be sure to experience it. But can you, perhaps, enlighten me as to what is particularly amusing about swinging from one’s arms until the shoulder joint feels it is about pop?”
I have to applaud his persistence.
When we finally straggled home, Arabella was the last to leave.
“I could live there,” she sighed, sleepily. “It’s like the perfect magical fairy princess palace garden that I could ever even dream of. I know when I close my eyes tonight, I will even see it in my dreams.”