Coming Home 5

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“I like it here, Grandma,” Marshmallow said. “Everything is clean and the food tastes good and the sheets smell like vanilla.”

“You’ve lived a lot of places, haven’t you, Marsha?”

“Yeah. Brussels was the best, but Rio and Calcutta were cool because if we hadn’t gone there, we wouldn’t have picked up Tomas and Kumie, and they belong with us. But it’s too bad that both those places were so stinky and noisy. But sometimes, Brussels was stinky, too. Like in the alleys. And London! London smelled like a monkey’s armpit!”

With all that moving about, Cinnamon wondered about the children’s schooling. Not that going to a traditional school was necessary! Her own children were home-schooled until Stellar decided he wanted to play soccer on the Windenburg Junior High team and Thalassa decided she wanted to ride the ferry in to town with her brother each morning. But they didn’t learn much at school, except sports and how to get along with other kids. The real learning–the botany, geometry, algebra, literature, music, art–they learned at home from Steve and her.

Thalassa reminded her so much of Steve. It wasn’t just the shape of her eyes, those high cheekbones, and that beautiful nose. It was in the way her mind worked, in the turn of phrase, even in the pauses between words and the way she looked up and to the right while visualizing the solution she was about to propose.

She could read her children well. Stellar, she could read for he was just like her. One look at him, and she felt what he felt. Thalassa she could read by relying on the nonverbal lexicon that Steve taught her.

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He would be so proud of her. He would be proud of both of them. He was always proud of Stellar, by default. Perhaps because Stellar was the first-born, but more likely because Stellar reminded Steve of Cinnamon, and Cinnamon had never had to work to impress her husband.

But Steve was always so hard on himself, and he naturally extended those impossibly high standards to his daughter, his tiny replica. Outwardly, she seemed to thrive under his expectations, rising to the top of her class her first year in school and maintaining that position through graduating valedictorian. Steve was thrilled when she received full scholarship to the medical school of her choice, and when she graduated, he pushed her to choose some arcane specialty. But he was gratified when her general practice brought her a position with Doctors without Borders.

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Still, Cinnamon felt relived to have her daughter here, in this country, no matter how useful and humanitarian her work was.

“You remember the free clinic in town?” Cinnamon asked her daughter over early breakfast. “They do such good work there.”

“Yes, I’ve been keeping up with them,” Thalassa said. “I gave a presentation on their alternatives to vaccination, actually.”

“I heard they have an opening,” Cinnamon said.

“Right,” said Thalassa. “Dr. Barnes retired.”

“Ma, Uncle Stellar says he’s taking me to the beach after breakfast,” Kumar said. “We’re looking for sculpting stumps!”

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When Cinnamon carried fresh sheets to the upstairs bedroom, she found Thalassa on the computer.

“Don’t let me disturb you!” she said, while she made the bed.

“Oh, it’s fine, Ma,” said Thalassa. “I’m just checking email.”

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“Anything interesting?”

“There is, actually,” replied Thalassa. “About work.”

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