The old ones aren’t really old: they’ve just lived for a very long time. Sugar Maple taught them all the secret of everlasting youth decades ago.
When Cypress and Knox brought Squid to visit the old family home for the first time, she found herself in the midst of dozens of conversations happening simultaneously, and each of them seemed to be about something exciting and new.
“This is where you grew up?” she asked her mom over and over. It was hard to imagine Cypress, who seemed so at home in the big meadow, here on this plateau overlooking the desert, in a busy home where someone was always talking.
Not only that, but people kept stopping by. Squid thought that was neat. She even got to meet the mailman lady.
She wasn’t exactly sure what to make of her great aunt onezero. Usually, when Squid told a joke, the other person laughed and laughed. But onezero just said, “Uh-huh,” in a sweet, high, echoing voice, and looked at her, as if expecting more.
Even the people Squid wasn’t related to seemed curious about her.
“You’re Redbud’s granddaughter?” one of the guests asked her.
“Yes,” replied Squid. “Do you know about me?”
Squid liked it best when it was just her grandma and grandpa there. Her grandma was young, sort of like her mom, but with old eyes, and her grandpa was see-through.
“Would you buy me a new chess set?” Squid asked her grandma. “Please? I’ll use it every day, and I’ll get so smart! You won’t regret it? Please?”
“Let me think about,” Redbud said. “Ok!”
“Aw, Gran! You’re the best!”
Squid’s dad wanted to show her around the place.
When they got the garden, he whispered. “I’ve got a secret! See that cherry tree? Right there, that’s where me and your mom got married! It was a secret elopement! Just the two of us!”
“For real?” Squid asked. She still had a hard time picturing her mom and dad there at Cradle Rock.
In the afternoon, Knox got a text from one of the members of Cypress’s garden club.
“Hey!” he said. “Looks like we’ve got an emergency meeting of the club. A bunch of seaweed washed up at the bluffs, so we’re going to harvest it for compost. You want to come with, Squid, or stay here with the old ones?”
“I’ll stay here, if that’s ok. Is that ok with you, Grandpa?”
After her mom and dad left, Squid found herself alone in the kitchen. All the visitors had left, and everybody else was off doing something, and she sat at the kitchen, with the forgotten high school calculus books, and the sculptures of elephants and bunnies and the Freezer Bunny Easter egg.
It was suddenly very quiet, except for this buzz that was always going on in the background.
“Can I invite over a friend?” she called. No one answered. “Is it ok if Jennifer comes over?” she asked again. Still no answer.
So she called up Jennifer and asked her if she wanted to come visit at her grandma’s house.
And an hour later, there was Jennifer, walking down the path by the line of tombstones and heading straight for the chess board, where Squid sat trying to remember the ways the different pieces moved.
“This is far away!” said Jennifer. “Do you live here now?”
“No,” said Squid. “I just visit. I still live in the meadow.”
“That’s good,” said Jennifer. “I like the meadow.”
“Me, too!” said Vi. “It’s green!”
“So who lives here?” Jennifer asked.
And Squid explained about how this was the family home, and everyone that she was connected to had once lived here, and some still did, and in their heart of hearts, it still felt like home to everybody. Except her. For her, home would always be the meadow.
“Dad said I was even born here!” she said. “Only I don’t remember dry dusty air. I only remember green!”
“I like knowing where your people come from,” Jennifer said. “It’s like it’s part of you, even if you feel like the really-you part is somewhere else.”
“You’re my very best friend!” said Squid. “You understand me, Jennifer!”
Soon Sempervirens was so sleepy she could hardly keep her eyes open.
“Guess it’s time to go, huh?” said Jennifer. “Unless we want to have a sleep-over here, right?”
“No,” said Squid. “I wanna sleep in the meadow. That way, when I wake up, you know. Green.”
“Bye, Little Green!” said Redbud as Squid got ready to leave.
“Bye, Grandma. Will you come visit me at home?” she asked.
“Of course!” said Redbud. “I need to sample some of your mom’s famous ice cream, don’t I?”
It was a little bit confusing to Vi, having so many people in so many different houses, and she still wasn’t completely sure how all of them were related to each other or to her, but one thing she knew for sure: this was her family.