“When you get home from school, it will be your aunt Shug’s birthday party,” Salix called to Tamarind as she was running to catch the bus.
Salix wanted the party to be special. It was for her little sister, after all. She thought she’d cater, and maybe she’d give a special toast, too!
She decided she’d use the Family Stats app to take a look at all of Sugar’s traits and skills and other statistics. That way, she’d have lots of facts she could quote to illustrate just how remarkable Sugar Maple Bough was.
“Holy Freezer Bunnies!” Salix said when she brought up the screen with Sugar’s traits. “I knew Sugar had a lot of traits, but I had no idea she had… 38!”
“Sheesh! And that’s even with helping to keep all three kids stocked in Zzz juice, plus buying youth potion for all of us!”
She did a quick tally and discovered that Sugar had completed, in addition to all four childhood aspirations, these adult aspirations:
- Mansion Baron
- Musical Genius
- Friend of the World
- Renaissance Sim
- Nerd Brain
She’d just started working on Computer Whiz that morning and was already at level three of it.
“My goodness,” said Salix. “That’s basically incomprehensible.”
She checked her sister’s skill set next.
“Six skills maxed,” Salix noted. “And when–how–did she get up to level 8 in comedy already?” Salix didn’t remember Sugar joking around that much, but she must have to have that skill so high so quickly. And video games at level 9? How did that happen? When did she even have time to play games?
“I wonder if my sister’s been happy,” Salix thought. “All that skilling. All those aspirations. Something’s got to give.”
“Seven deaths witnessed.” Salix did a quick tally and realized she’d seen as many. But what about the emotions?
1,042 times happy. She checked her own stats–1,068 times happy, and she was years older than her little sister.
Her sister was living a happy life.
Three o’clock rolled around, and the kids came home from school. onezero dove right into her homework, party or no party.
Tam and Doug, too, decided they’d whip through their homework before the guests arrived. They’d save the extra credit for after the party.
“Hey, babe,” said Salix when Chandler got home shortly after the kids. “Do you think of my sister as a happy person?”
“Happy?” said Chan. “Well, fulfilled, maybe. Purposeful. That’s just as good as happy, isn’t it?”
“No,” said Salix, “I’m talking happy! She is. I checked the Family Stats app. Her happiness points have almost caught up to mine, and I’m older! And happy! She’s funny, too.”
“Now that I knew,” said Chandler.
“No, I mean funny, ‘ha, ha.'”
Before she came in for the party, Sugar strolled through the garden. A handful of plants were ready to evolve. This was something Sugar loved to do. When she ran her hands over the plants, feeling the energy from their DNA, she felt how this miracle of improvement–this ultimate act of creation–allowed one to take part in the very substance of the universe.
Sugar kept her wish to herself and blew out the candles before any of the guests had a chance to break free from their conversations and fill the courtyard with the noise from their party horns. It was just as well. For a music-lover, sometimes silence beats off-key singing and out-of-tune horns.
After cake, Salix surprised Sugar in the doorway.
“A toast! To my little sister! I was going to mention how awesome you are, Sis, because of all your traits and aspirations and skills. But you know what? None of that matters. You’re my sister! And I’d love you if you hadn’t accomplished any of that! Your stats show you’re happy–and you know what? Even if your stats showed you were angry or sad or tense or bored–who cares? I’d love you still! It’s not your traits, your skills, your aspirations, or even your emotions, Shug! It’s you. We love you ’cause you’re you! Thanks for being here, little Sis!”
The door closed as soon as the toast was finished, and alone, Shug whispered, “Yes!”
It had sunk in. This truth she knew, this blessing of understanding that kept her going day after day, this mindfulness she chose in all she did, knowing that nothing really mattered in what she did, and everything mattered in how–she saw that this was understood. It was something shared. Something that was becoming part of their family.
There are many was of teaching, Sugar realized, and many ways of learning.
“I heard your toast,” Tamarind said when her mom came out to put away the leftover cake. “You really think achieving aspirations doesn’t matter? So that means you’re ok if I don’t make any progress towards mine?”
“You think you don’t want to be a Chief of Mischief, mija?” Salix asked.
“I’m thinking I don’t want my aspiration to define me,” Tamarind answered.
“You sound just like my mom and my aunt Madrona,” Salix replied.
While Tamarind chatted with their mom, Doug Fir brought his extra credit out to where onezero sat working on hers.
Something about being with onezero always made Doug feel relaxed and happy. She had this calm energy–this peacefulness that just spread to everyone around her, and this quality drew Doug to her.
“Whatcha writing?” Doug asked.
“‘Habits of body and mind,'” onezero replied, “‘influence the idea of aging more than the actuality of cellular response to time.'”
I found Sugar back inside, programming a plug-in.
“So?” she asked me. “Do you get it? Are you still wondering if I wished for what you always wish we wish for?”
“I didn’t wish it this time, Shug,” I replied. “I know you’re the one to make your own wishes.”
“Maybe you get it!” she replied.
And I think maybe I do. It’s been six generations since we’ve had a goofball. And we may never get one before this legacy is done. And I think maybe I realize that it doesn’t matter. I might just be realizing that the evil trait, the mean trait, the slob trait, the insane trait, the glutton trait, the hot-head trait, the lazy trait–all those traits that I would never choose–they just don’t, in and of themselves, matter. I might just be realizing that completing five aspirations or fifteen aspirations or no aspirations isn’t such a big deal. And maybe, just like Salix says, it’s no big deal to max skills, and maybe it’s even no big deal if one is happy most of the time or sad most of the time or even angry most of the time.
Maybe… just maybe… life, digital and on this side of the screen… maybe…
Go on… write it…
maybe it is simply life.
Not to be figured out. Not to be analyzed. Not to be anything.
Maybe it’s just life.