On the morning of his birthday, as on most mornings, Tomas stood at the long line of tombstones and mourned for those who had gone before. So many Sims he’d never met. So much they’d each given. There was Alvaro, the once red-headed entertainer, an artist and musician who had become good friends with Sugar and onezero and whose ghost was sometimes seen wandering the lot late at night, usually on its way to the gaming rig for a fast-paced session of Maniac Matchem.
There were Salix and Chandler, Red’s grandparents. There was a whole line of tombstones, each one with a story behind it, each one marking the spot of a Sim who had loved and been loved, who had favorite foods, and favorite jokes, and stories, and aspirations, and skills, and dreams, and for whom, now, all those were forgotten. Some of the tombstones were so worn that Tomas couldn’t make out the inscription.
“Just a matter of time,” he thought. But the “matter of time” may be different than Tomas thinks, for we’re on a race now. Once the gen 10 baby is born–that very moment–we’re turning off aging, and we’re putting our two authors to work writing books of life for everyone they know whose name is still legible on their tombstones. We’ve got plans for what’s next, and the plans are starting to take shape.
“Do you want a party, Tomas?” Sugar asked.
“I guess so,” replied Tomas. “If it’s not too much work.”
Sugar laughed. She feels gratitude for every party. A gathering of friends, a celebration of family–a party’s not just another tick off her aspiration list; it’s a chance to create shared happiness.
J.P., always happy for an excuse to listen to the grown ups tell stories and jokes, was glad for a party, too.
“Happy birthday, Dad!” he said, wrapping his dad in a monster hug.
“Thanks, little bug,” said Tomas.
Tomas, though he had a youth potion in his inventory, was eager to become an adult. He likes being a dad, and someday, he’ll be a granddad. When that happens, he doesn’t want to still be just a young buck. His wish filled him with inspiration, and J.P. blew the birthday horn so that everyone would know that it was time for cake!
Clarence, who’s been at every party ever since he, Jamie, Alder, and Red were little kids, always wearing that sad old clown hat, to mellow his natural cheerfulness, sang the birthday song.
It was a busy party! Cypress played Arithmetic Attack and topped off her mental and physical skills, then switched over to Keyboard Commander and quickly knocked off creative. J.P. worked on the final drawing he needed for his aspiration. I was busy watching Redbud, Nathanael, onezero, and Sugar to see if any of these gluttons, four days from their own birthdays, would guzzle the contents of their own white cups.
When the party ended, I panned over to see if the cowplant were ready for feeding. Oh, no! I’d been so occupied watching everyone that I’d missed feeding time! This cowplant has been part of Cradle Rock since generation six, and I feel remorse that I hadn’t been more vigilant on the night of Tomas’s birthday.
In the morning, while one mentored and the other practiced, Red completed her musical genius aspiration, and J.P. finished Artistic Prodigy.
Cypress took a holiday from school to complete rambunctious scamp aspiration and begin artistic prodigy. With the super-skill trick, rambunctious scamp can be completed in a matter of hours, and creative prodigy in a day or two.
After school, all the park boys came over.
“It’s the year of the G,” said J.P. “Everybody here, except for Uncle Alder, has a trait that begins with the letter G!”
Late at night, Cypress discovered that she could mold a llama from one of those big lumps of clay sitting around on the table.
“It’s not quite like I imagined,” she said, looking at the round rump. “But when I make the legs long, they just get bendy-spindle.”
Red has moved onto the painting aspiration. She’s been looking forward to working on this aspiration for a while, since all the other adults in the family, except for Tomas, have already completed it, and since she loves to paint. How joyous to do what she loves best of all as part of her new aspiration!
Having used up her vacation days, Cypress felt so excited for the first day of school. The park boys would be there! And she’d have actual homework when she came home from school! And, oh my! There is so much to learn! And do you think the teacher will be nice?
Sugar, onez, and Nathanael were all three days from their next birthday, and Redbud was five.
Sugar and Nathanael, if they chose to age up, would be elders; onez and Red would be adults.
Maybe we should have an unbirthday party, Sugar thought. She took a moment to check in with her feelings and intuition. Yes, an unbirthday party for the four of us is just the thing!
Little Miss Pepper Doodle felt pretty happy to have a party after school. She tried to think of all her best jokes that she could tell to Clarence.
Before the guests even arrived, Red pulled out her white cup, reflecting on all that she had to live for.
For onezero, it was the gift of existence–just to be, to breathe, to enjoy this beautiful desert home–that inspired her to drink from life.
Sugar remembered her commitment: to see this family through to gen 10. They were almost there.
And Nathanael, as he set down his empty white cup, took a moment to remember Tamarind, who’d gone on without him to join her brother. They hadn’t seen her ghost for a while, and he wished her godspeed, wherever she was.
Clarence had aged up earlier that day. He didn’t mind all that much that he hadn’t had a birthday cake. But when he saw the warmth of the family here at Cradle Rock, when he remembered back to the day he’d first come here, he just felt a little sad that he’d always been on the periphery, and not an actual family member.
Sugar sensed how he was feeling.
“Clarence,” she said, “so glad you’ve come to your second home. You know that no party here is complete without you! You’re one of the family, park boy!”
When the party ended, J.P., who had moved on to his final aspiration, Whiz Kid, got to drink a serving of Zzz juice and stay up all night playing chess with his mom. She beat him, fair and square, but he remembered every move of every game, so next time, he’d know better how to respond to the Ruy Lopez.
The next day after school was the most fun part of the Whiz Kid aspiration–story time! Jade, of the Wade-and-Jade Hour, stopped by and tried to concentrate on his homework, but onezero’s funny voices while she read kept distracting him.
onezero enjoyed the story so much that she retold it to Tomas and Nathanael later that afternoon.
“See, there was this llama, who was looking for some sort of portal…”
Cypress, who looks so much like Cedar that my heart just about stopped, spent the afternoon practicing her violin. To her own ears, she sounds great already!
Cypress practiced while the sun went down and well into dark. When Tomas’s potions began emitting a strange sulfuric smoke, she was the first to notice that something might not be right.
Before the fire spread, Red was there, armed with the fire extinguisher. She had it out in no time.
“I think too much has been happening, Dad,” J.P. said after the fire was safely out. “We’ve been having too many parties, too many people coming over, and too much going on. It makes it hard for me to concentrate! And that’s how mistakes happen.”
“You know, son,” Tomas said, “I’m pretty sure nearly every Wonder Child and legacy kid has started a chemistry-set fire. It’s par for the course. What do you think we put it outside for? And how come your mom just happened to have a fire extinguisher ready? We’re prepared. And as for all the parties, well. It’s not everyday we have a birthday and four unbirthdays right in a row like that. Think of it as your special busier-than-ever time. Before you know it, we’ll be back to same-old, same-old quiet days.”
“Before you know it,” said J.P., “it’ll be my birthday!”
What? J.P. is right–just a few more Sim days, and our eldest Gen. 9 kid becomes a teen!