Three Rivers 21.1

Twenty-first Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: The Dos are a game-generated family, living in another beautiful home by TheKalinotr0n.

21.  Healing Past Wounds

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Before the girls came home from school, Debra Do liked to walk through the house, sensing the mood in every room, filling each, as much as possible, with her own peace. She called  this ritual “Prepare.”

Her daughters, each of them, would bring home backpacks stuffed with their own issues just waiting to be triggered: might as well have a clean space in which to receive them.

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“Let’s unpack it,” Debra liked to say to her elder daughter, Kaylyn.

“Oh, Ma. Leave it packed. It’s too gross to look at,” Kaylyn would say.

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But Debra would insist: “Tell me about it. You don’t have to spill it all at once. A little at a time will do. Don’t just leave it there, festering inside of you with all the old hurts.”

Debra, Kaylyn, and Nyla, the younger daughter, had plenty of old hurts. The death of her father when she was seven spun itself through Debra’s core, so deep that it was a part of her, and she knew, each time someone left, that the terror of abandonment would awaken.

When Kaylyn’s father left in the middle of Kaylyn’s second year in grade school, Debra steeled herself to be strong for her daughter, for she knew what it was like when a father disappeared. Death or desertion, it hardly mattered to a child. All the while, as she was there to be both mother and dad for Kaylyn, her own heart split. Echoes of past pain seared her. You can die of a broken heart, she read, and so, out of her desperate love for Kaylyn, she meditated. She practiced mindfulness. She did yoga. She went to grief therapy. She pounded pillows. She tended plants. She baked batch after batch of cookies: chocolate, marzipan, French vanilla-cinnamon oat, rose water. And one day, her heart stopped aching. She found she could breathe a full breath without it catching.

That was when she shifted her attention back to her daughter. That was when she began the ritual of “Prepare,” and when, every day after Kaylyn came home from school, she’d ask, “What have we got to unpack today?”

One day, she didn’t even need to ask.

“Ma, let’s unpack it,” said Kaylyn, and she launched into a litany of complaints against girls who snubbed her, boys who laughed at her, and teachers who piled on the homework and made snide comments when kids complained.

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“It’s tough when you feel alone,” Debra said.

“I hate it,” said Kaylyn.

“How do you feel at this moment?” Debra asked.

“At this moment?” replied Kaylyn. “All right, I guess.”

And Debra was rewarded with one of her greatest joys: the sight of her beautiful daughter, smiling.

“Ma, I’ve got calculus homework. You think you could help me we’re done eating? You like calculus, right?”

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Nyla, her younger daughter, was a greater challenge. She seldom showed her deepest feelings.

Debra understood this. When pain goes that deep, it stays hidden, coiled around the heart or buried in the marrow.

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Debra and Nyla shared the same pain. Debra had met Nyla’s father when Nyla was five. They met at yoga class. Debra always laughed that a Marine would take yoga.

“Body and mind,” said Stefan, Nyla’s father.

They married within a year, and then Stefan was deployed for six months overseas.

He never returned.

Having been through grief before didn’t make it easier, Debra discovered. Each time was different. This time, she felt it on so many levels. Her own fear of abandonment was triggered. Her anger at Kaylyn’s father reasserted itself. And when she wrapped her arms around little Nyla, she felt her own body tighten in grief, remembering the death of her own father. How can you be there to support a child when your own life is shattered in pain, once again? Scars hurt every bit as much as living tissue, she realized.

They got through it. Sometimes, she thought that Nyla was the one who decided to be strong for her.

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Nyla was a storyteller, even from early childhood, and whenever she suspected that her adoptive mother was hurting, she would launch into a tale. Most often, the stories were tragic, and as mother and daughter felt themselves wrapped in the story’s shroud, the warmth they shared would slowly melt the blocks of ice within.

Lately, Nyla had begun to tell hero’s tales. Debra wondered where her younger daughter learned the pattern of the hero’s journey. Does it lay so deeply within us that when we’re called to draw from those reserves of strength we come to find that path engrained in the code of our imagination?

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“The girl had five ghosts,” Nyla said this night, as she finished her story. “And each had its own powers, and they followed the girl wherever she went so that she could call on them whenever she needed them! And never once did they ever abandon her.”

“Now that’s a fine story,” said Debra. “And with that, I think it’s time for bed for one storyteller, at least.”

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Nyla hugged her big sister goodnight. This was what the “Prepare” ritual was for, so that, before laying down for sleep each night, they could feel this warmth. Debra clung to the faith that each time their day’s journey led them here, something healed inside.

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In the middle of the calculus tutorial, while Debra explained some of the finer points of infinite series to Kaylyn, Nyla returned with a bowl of chips.

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“It’s your bedtime, Squirt,” said Kaylyn.

“I can’t sleep when I’m hungry,” said Nyla.

“Bed after snack,” said Debra.

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Kaylyn tucked in her little sister when the calculus lesson was over and the chips had been eaten.

Debra and her older daughter watched a movie together, avoiding romance and opting, instead, for a Hercule Poirot mystery.

“I like that crafty Belgian dude,” Kaylyn said.

“I like Christie’s sense of moral justice,” added Debra. “What a safe world she wrote.”

Kaylyn laughed. “Safe? Somebody always dies! Usually several somebodies!”

“But justice always comes,” replied Debra. “The mystery’s always solved, and justice comes, and everybody heals and moves on. That’s a tidy world.”

“Can I sleep in your bed tonight?” asked Kayln.

“Sure,” said Debra. She’d read article after article about the dangers of co-sleeping with older children, but finally she decided screw it. There were times when a body just needed to hear another body’s breath beside it in the dark of night, and she wasn’t about to deny that to either of her daughters just because some of the latest psychologists said it led to chronic insomnia or increased anxiety.

In the middle of the night, Debra woke as the moon shone through the bedroom window. Kaylyn was breathing deeply beside her.

She got out of bed to check on Nyla.

“What are you doing up?” she asked, when she saw Nyla standing beside her nightstand with the lamp turned on.

“If he’s never coming back,” Nyla said, “who will tuck me in when you’re gone?”

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“Oh, Sweet Pea,” said Debra. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m the one that stays, remember?”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

Nyla lay back down.

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Debra rubbed her younger daughter’s back and sang to her, an old sorry song about a mourning dove in a pine.

As she watched the little girl sleep, she thought how some wounds we carry with us, and this was surely one, a mark upon a life that would follow this little girl until she sang her own little ones to sleep, and maybe even past that time.

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