Alder’s an old man now: his life-bar has begun to sparkle. Sometimes, he looks around and reflects on how much has changed since he wrote that essay in high school about his family.
Loners give something unique to families–we know how to be in the same space without getting into each other’s face, you might say. Because of this, all of us here have learned that it’s not the hours of conversation or playing cards or playing chess or working out together that make us family. It’s home–it’s living our lives here, each of us, doing our own things, but doing them in proximity. –-Alder Bough, Essay for English Comp: What’s a Family?
He still has times when he gets to enjoy that loner’s dream of “doing our own things in proximity,” when he can play chess or paint or tend the garden within earshot of the sounds of his niece’s laughter.
More and more, though, somebody always wants to “do things together.” And that’s not exactly a loner’s idea of the best way to spend time.
It works for everybody else, though.
“Did you have a good day?” Sugar asked Cypress at the end of a long day.
“It was fun!” said Cypress. “J.P. and I played chess, and onezero read stories, and Dad and I told jokes, and I made all the potions, and I didn’t even start a fire!”
“That’s great,” Sugar said. “You’ve made such great progress on all your aspirations. All’s that’s left is to earn that A in school! So, you know what that means?”
“It means no more Zzzz juice! You get to sleep in a bed! And, you get to choose what you do!”
“Wow! Maybe I’ll watch cartoons all day!”
Having free time for the last few days of childhood is a perc that J.P. and Cypress enjoy. It leaves plenty of time for playing pirate, swimming, and eating ice cream.
“Got time for a hug, Pepper Doodle, before your embark in your frigate for France?” Alder asked his granddaughter.
“It’s not a frigate, Gramps. It’s schloop. And we’re not going to France for truffles and wine. We’re going to Barbados for molasses and rum!”
The whole family received invitations to one of their friends’ birthday parties, and they all went! The first thing they did when they arrived the party was hug each other.
“Redbud!” onezero said, wrapping her niece in a big hug.
“J.P.!” Tomas said, wrapping his son in an even bigger hug.
“Alder!” onezero said. Even her loner nephew couldn’t escape the family hugs.
“Thanks for inviting all of us,” Redbud told their friend. “It’s so fun to do things as a family.”
They returned home late, and everybody was tired and hungry. J.P., feeling to happy to go straight to bed, took a quick swim, and then washed all the dishes before heading off to bed.
On Monday morning, onezero took her breakfast out to the bar where Redbud was sitting.
“Whatcha doing? Mind if I join you?”
“Of course not, onez!” Red answered. “I was just sitting here, enjoying the sun, thinking. How many weddings do you think have taken place under that arch, onezero? So many! And not one of those couples is still alive. They’re all buried somewhere in that long line of tombstones.”
“That may be true,” onezero replied. “And at the same time, look at what continues. Look at what they’ve contributed. You. Your brother. Your two children. Family doesn’t stop when roots change form. It goes on.”
J.P. brought his spinach frittata out to join them.
“It’s fun having breakfast together before school,” he said.
“Of course!” said onezero. “Everything’s more fun when we do it together!”
Nathanael often forgets that he’s also a loner. He agrees with onez that even breakfast is more fun when he’s with his grandkids, and he’s always found that being near onezero brings a calm that surpasses that even of solitude!
While the kids raced off to catch the school bus, the adults lingered, enjoying sun and conversation.
“You want to maybe play a game of chess later?” Nathanael asked onez.
“I don’t really plan my activities,” onezero answered. “I just listen and respond. So, we’ll have to see where energy leads me.”
Tomas chuckled. “I’ll play chess with you, Nathanael, if you’re looking for somebody to play with.”
Sometimes, though, all this togetherness gets to be too much for a loner Sim.
“Why do we have to do everything together?” Alder snapped one evening, when he was sitting with Tomas, Clarence, and one of the new park boys, Anderson. “It’s all your fault, Tomas! Before you came, we were perfectly happy just doing our own thing! Now it’s always, ‘Let’s play chess!’ ‘Let’s paint together!’ ‘Read me a story!’ It’s too much! I can’t even breathe on my own anymore! We’re always breathing together!”
“Take it easy, Alder,” Clarence said. “Nobody’s forcing you to sit here. You’ve got a whole big lot to enjoy. Why don’t you go spend some time alone? Head into the music room and read a book or something!”
“What was Uncle Alder yelling at you about?” Cypress asked her dad later that evening.
“Oh, he was just needing a little space,” Tomas said.
onezero joined them. “Can I help you with your homework?” she asked Cypress.
“She’s already finished!” Tomas answered.
“I guess I see what Alder’s talking about,” Cypress said. “I’m never alone. Just last night, I went out to dance by myself. You know that they always say, ‘Dance alone and the world dances with you!'”
“So out I was, dancing alone so the world could dance, too, and before I knew it, Mom came over and started dancing. She dances really good!”
“But I wasn’t dancing alone anymore, was I? I was dancing with Mom.”
“That’s ok, half-pint,” said Tomas. “When we dance together, then the whole world and the whole universe dance with you! When we dance together, then it’s a celebration!”