Skill U: 5.2

H. Walker, Von-Windenburg Estate

Week Five, Day Two – Junior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

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I had so many feelings that I wanted to express to Dad about my decision to stay in Windenburg. I hoped my letter captured them all. I knew Dad would support whatever I decided, but I also wanted him to understand.

Staying here makes sense academically, especially now that Dr. Dean is here. It’s the best of both worlds: I get the classical tradition and culture that Windenburg offers combined with the attention to modern technique that my old dean insists on.

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I’ve begun composing, and through my compositions, I feel that I can express insights and ideas that I haven’t been able to fit into words.

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Something about the landscape here spurs all sorts of musical creativity. I find inspiration everywhere!

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Windenburg opens me up to life: all my senses become sharper, more keen, more alive to every little distinction.

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I also love being part of a family without being part of it. It’s hard to explain. The Villareals have made me feel that the Von-Windenburg Estate is my home. I’m not a guest or employee–though I do have responsibilities and I work for my room and board. They treat me like I belong. And at the same time, I am free from all the tangled dynamics that family members feel with each other. I can simply enjoy and appreciate being with this family without feeling the burden of family destiny.

I also love to be able to encourage healthy habits and patterns. The other day, when I came upstairs to the room I share with Max, I found his dad helping him with his homework–that was a first! They were both smiling and joking.

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I spend a lot of time reflecting on the ways that Mom used to set limits while also encouraging me to grow. She did this effortlessly–at least it seemed effortless. So with the Villareal kids, I always think, “How would Mom handle this?”

The other day, Luna told me that she’d just joined a club and she wanted to go to an outing with them. It was Saturday, she’d just earned an A in school, she’d finished her homework and extra credit for the weekend–it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate.

“What’s the club?” I asked.

“Partihaus,” she answered.

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Now I’ve heard a lot about Partihaus. I’m friends with one of the members, Marcus. And I’ve met Paolo. I’ve heard that club can get pretty wild. The two women in the club recently had kids, and Marcus and Paolo are the dads. Maybe being parents has settled them down a bit, but I didn’t want to take chances.

“Tell you what,” I suggested. “How about if the club meets over here? We’ve got plenty of room to dance, and I’ll cook up a nice lunch.”

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“I guess that would be ok,” Luna said.

“If she’s having a hang-out, I want one, too,” Max said. He’s in two clubs, the Renegades and the League of Adventurers.

“How about if you invite over the Adventurers?” I suggested. The Renegades are notorious for sabotaging plumbing, and I didn’t want to spend the afternoon fixing things.

“Can we play in the closets?” Max asked.

“Sure.”

“Will you make cookies?”

“Ok.”

“Deal,” said Max.

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Luna slid into a cool chick attitude as soon as Paolo came over.

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But the five of them just hung out in the back bedroom, dancing.

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Elsa, one of the little Adventurers, kept popping out of the closet.

“Turn the music down!” she yelled. “We’re on our way to find Marco Polo and they didn’t have Techno on the Silk Road!”

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“Did you say the Silk Road?” shouted Lucas.

With closet doors banging, kids yelling, and music blaring, it was a funny mashup Saturday afternoon.

“When are all these people leaving?” Hugo grumbled when he got home from his landscaping job. “I just wanted to sit quietly at the table and do my homework.”

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“Things will settle out soon,” I said. “In the meantime, enjoy your spaghetti. Then maybe you could go into the basement and watch cooking shows or head outside and relax by the pool.”

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In my letter to Dad, I tried to express what this is like: how it feels like a fun creative challenge to help these kids get what they need, individually and as a group. I guess the word is fulfilling. My work as an au pair is fulfilling for me: I’m learning and using my creativity, and I’m helping. It feels like, for now, I’ve got a purpose here.

Then there’s Max.

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When I first arrived a year ago, he seemed like the saddest, angriest, most miserable little boy. Now, he’s happy.

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He still yells at his sister sometimes. I asked him what he was feeling when he yelled at her. His answer surprised me.

“I like the face she makes! Her eyebrows go up and her mouth goes down!”

“But do you know that face shows that she feels hurt and surprised?” I asked.

“Yeah!” he laughed. “It’s so funny!”

Still, he doesn’t do it too often. Usually just when he’s bored or feeling tense or hungry.

When I first got here, he was getting a D in school and was close to flunking out. We got calls from the principal every other day about his attitude and poor schoolwork.

It took a lot of effort, but Max is really smart. The other day, he came home with an A.

“Where are your clothes?” I asked him. He was dressed in a robe.

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“It’s the Royal Robe of Honor,” he said. “It’s what dignitaries get after they complete the greatest adventure.”

I still have no idea where that robe came from and what he happened to his regular clothes! But we haven’t gotten a call from the school about it yet, and he was happy, so I’m hoping everything is ok. And that A is something for us all to celebrate.

These are some of the big and little joys that I’d hoped I’d conveyed in my letter to Dad. I just wanted him to understand how rich life is for me here, how everything fits.

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After I put the letter in the mail, I realized I’d forgotten to tell him the most important change that being here brings.

That change is me.

When I think back to who I was a few years ago when I first stepped onto campus–how scared and unsure I was about everything–and then I compare that to who I am now, words just can’t come close.

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I feel like I was a cardboard person back then, just trying to find myself and be brave enough to be me. And now! Now, I feel that I know what “me” means. I’m not sure it’s something I could express in a letter to Dad if I tried. It just might be something that I have to say in music.

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