I’m making pancakes when the phone rings. It’s Serena, asking about Marigold. While I’m talking, I walk away from the stove for an instant, and when I turn back, it’s on fire!
I grab the fire extinguisher, and finally figure out how to turn it on. Who knows how I manage to put out the fire, but I do.
Then I rush to Marigold’s room to check on her.
She’s talking to Riley, as if everything is all right in the world.
I bring in a fan even though the air in her room doesn’t smell smokey. Before I head back to clean up the kitchen, I pause for a moment to listen to her sing.
“Little rain, little flower.
Grow, la, la, la,
Grow, la la.”
Later in the day, even though snow blankets the valley, we head out. I’ve noticed that we both start feeling a little fussy when we spend too much time inside.
Marigold says, “Pretty snowflake!” She reaches out to touch them.
I watch her greet the world with wonder and acceptance. Everything is new for her, and everything is as it is, as it should be.
My little bunny, growing up in this misted valley, with precipitation 335 days a year, and glimpses of the sun few and far between, with werewolves, vampires, witches, and fairies as her neighbors, friends, and teachers, all of this will be normal to her. This will be home.
I spend the early part of the winter grieving my abandoned dream of my “normal” life–a warm-blooded husband, a houseful of kids, neighbors and friends that are like me, not supernaturals. It helps that Marigold embraces this strange world of mystery with love and awe. Once the old crumpled dream blows free, maybe I can join her in claiming this magical world as normal.
I invite Frank over to meet Marigold. He goes to her instantly, his eyes twinkling.
He’s a natural with kids, and they become fast friends.
I’ve never seen Frank with a bigger smile.
“I’m the uncle, right?” he asks me. “Uncle Frank.”
While they rock together in the rocking chair, I reflect on what a simple thing it is, holding a child, and what warmth it brings to the heart.
Marigold, too, learns that she can trust those who come to our home.
A few days later I throw a party so more friends can meet the little bunny. Arkvoodle gives her the traditional blessing from his home planet.
She flashes him one of her crazy grins.
Mara persuaded me to pick up a stereo, and with indie music blaring, she and Beatrice perform a dance routine.
They’re having so much fun. I remember how, with every party I’ve thrown, we’ve had young people and old people, witches, werewolves, fairies, vampires, humans–and the differences are no big deal. It’s who we are, not something that gets in the way.
Watching Mara and Beatrice dancing with joy, it dawns on me: this is the essence of my dream. This is what I’ve always wanted. The externals don’t matter: it’s the experience that matters.
I’ve always wanted one Big Love that would transcend time. That’s what I’ve got. I wanted to give a mother’s love to a child. That’s what I’m doing. I wanted to garden in a beautiful valley, surrounded with mountains, rivers, and lakes. I wanted friends that appreciate and celebrate each other and a community that’s vibrant and diverse. I have what I’ve always wanted. It’s simply more miraculous than I, in my humdrum imaginings, could have ever conceived.
It’s cold and snowing, but in my heart it’s spring.
Marigold spends the party taking her toys out of the toy box and setting them down, one by one, in the kitchen, the living room, the TV area. I guess she figures they want to party, too.
As the guests begin to leave, I find her with her little sheep toy sitting out on the porch.
“Was it too noisy in there for you?” I ask.
“Lamber wants hay,” she says.
Felicity finds me on her way out. “I’ve been talking with trees,” she says.
I’ve known Felicity for a while now. We’ve become good friends.
“Have you learned Plant?” I ask her.
“I’m trying,” she says. “All those vowels!”
As I walk Frank out to the porch, we pause to watch a deer go by. We don’t exchange a word, but I feel chills running up my arms, and when I look at Frank, his eyes are moist with tears.
“So beautiful,” he whispers.
Marigold and I read until it’s late. I haven’t been doing a good job keeping a regular schedule with her. We eat when we’re hungry, sleep when we’re tired. Once we get into a book, we’re usually so engrossed that we keep reading until we finish, no matter how late it is or how sleepy we are. I know I might regret this lack of setting a schedule for her later, but for right now, it works.
For one thing, sleeping in the day lets me be awake at night, when Dante comes out.
The night of the party, I find him in the back garden with a Reaper snowman he made.
“Dante!” I cry. “It freaks me out to see you with the Snowman of Death!”
He laughs. “You know Grim and I go way back. Besides, I’m not afraid of the hereafter, especially when I get to spend it with you.”
We talk all night. I can talk with him forever, and when I tell him that, he says it’s a good thing. “We probably will be talking forever,” he says.
In the morning, while Marigold takes a nap, I rock in the chair and let my eyes close. I am too tired for dreams, but not too tired settle into peace.