Marigold takes over the bedtime story routine.
“I love it, Mom!” she says. “It’s so fun to read these stories that I loved so much as a kid.”
“It’s not boring to you?” I ask.
“If it is, I just make up a new story.”
I hear her with Patches.
“They always tell you to dream. To live! They say ‘magic is in your heart!’ I’m here to tell you that magic is all around us, and dreams are OK, but what’s more important are the feelings they evoke. Rather than ‘follow your dreams,’ I say, ‘follow your feelings.’ Love, inspiration, peace, enthusiasm–let these be your guides! Then your life will be rich.”
It’s her valedictorian speech. I’ve heard it a hundred times already, as she walks through the house practicing.
“Do you like the message?” she asks me.
“Very much,” I say, reflecting that it took me a lifetime to learn that lesson. I imagine the students sitting in the auditorium. Will they listen to her? Or will they each be so wrapped in the membrane of their own dreams that their ears close while their eyes follow the chimera of all they hope to make real?
The night before graduation, we celebrate Marigold’s birthday. Though frost lies on the ground, she wants to have the party outside.
We’re all there to celebrate: Annie and Mara Nix, Pip, Bobobo, Patches, Gator Wolff, and more friends.
“Let me go change,” Marigold says. She runs inside and when she returns, she’s dressed like a go-go Greek goddess. “All set!” she says.
And we cheer.
I have lived to see this bunny become a young woman. I exhale the breath that I’ve been holding these past five years. Wish granted.
That night, I read Patches her story. I don’t know how many more chances I’ll have for bedtime stories.
“Is it true that feelings are more important than dreams?” she asks me.
“They’re both important,” I say. “Feelings lie at the deeper level, at the core. And the dreams, they’re just one of many pointers to the feelings. You can follow the dreams or follow the feelings, Little Patches, whichever feels right to you. Just don’t mistake the pointers for the real thing, OK?”
“Like the moon story?” she asks. I look at her quizzically. “The finger isn’t the moon.”
“Exactly,” I say.
I live to see my daughter walk out of our house wearing her cap and gown. This is the valedictorian, top of her class. She’s been rehearsing her speech all morning.
I feel tears of gratitude, pride, and relief as I head out to the cab. This is what I’ve prayed for, that I would live to see Marigold graduate. I’ve accomplished what I set out to all those years ago when she was brought to me, a funny little bunny in a basket, and now, she is a young woman, ready to inspire and lead others. What a miracle.
I tell Marigold that I’m proud of her, and then we fall into the silence of our thoughts as we wait for Patches and Bobobo to join us in the cab.
I realize that it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the whispering voice.
Maybe you have integrated it into yourself, so there’s no longer a need to hear it as if from without.
Patches and I follow the trail of daisies that Bobobo leads into the auditorium.
“Think I’ll graduate one day?” Patches asks me.
“Absolutely,” I say.
“Will you be proud of me?” she asks.
“I’m proud of you already, Patches,” I say, “and nothing will ever change that.”
Marigold’s speech is received with cheers and a standing ovation. Her classmates vote her “Most likely to take over the world.” Bobobo looks at me and says, “How’d she get that job? That’s supposed to me mine!”
When we get home, Marigold and Patches play chess, and I look out the window, watching Bobobo as he rides his rocking horse, deep in concentration. I will not see him graduate and become a young man, this I know. But I’ve seen him grow into a young sprout, and with his sister, I can trust that he’ll receive the guidance that he needs. She’s got more strength and wisdom than I could ever muster. He’ll be in good hands.