A reply to: A letter from Mr. Watergate
I must have read your letter five times! I have almost a photographic memory, so to reread something is sort of silly for me, since I can just remember it. But still, there’s something about casting my eyes over your words that makes me feel warm inside.
Where do you work? I suddenly realize I know hardly anything about you!
I don’t work for a company–or even for money, actually. Well, I paint. And I earn a small profit from selling my paintings to galleries and at art fairs in the city. But I don’t have to work for money. I’m really fortunate in that my father’s business was very successful. I inherited the family home, and along with it, a nice stipend that covers all my expenses, and then some.
I’m a folklorist. Did I mention that? Yeah, I guess it’s not really a high-paying career! In my junior year at the university, I had doubts about my future as a folklorist. This was right before my dad passed on. I told him I thought maybe I should switch majors to finance or business or even education. Something practical.
He said, “Are you nuts, Greenie?” My dad called me “Greenie,” his nickname for Meadow, since, you know, meadows are green. “Do you know how many accountants there are in this world? How many business majors? How many teachers? The world is overrun. But how many folklorists are there?”
He said vocation isn’t about money or even earning a living. “I’ve got you covered, Greenie,” he told me. “So that means it’s your responsibility to make a contribution in the way that only you can.”
So, that’s what I’m doing with my life. I guess that’s why I adopted Jena, too, so I could share some of my good fortune and so that, maybe, when Jena grows up, she can make a contribution, too.
What do you feel your contribution is, Chance? You wrote that you had unfinished business. Does that tie into your contribution?
I think it’s wonderful that you’re considering writing. You have so much to share with the world.
I know you made a big difference in my life, through writing to me, and you also made a difference to Jena’s life. Maybe your contribution to the world will be to be a writer!
Think of all the people you can inspire!
Writing is interesting. My uncle Jasper is a literature professor–well, he’s retired, but really, once a lit professor, always a lit professor. And he is always talking about how “words change us.”
I have to admit, that’s true. So, if you become a writer, you’ll be able to change people for the better through your writing! You’re so wise, and you’ve learned so much through experience and even mistakes, so facing up to those, writing about what you’ve learned, that’s bound to change everyone who reads your stories, essays, or poems.
Thanks for asking about Jena! She’s doing so great. Each day, she seems to learn a hundred new things, and as she gains confidence, she becomes happier.
Congratulations to your sister on her upcoming wedding! I’m so happy for her! Will you wear a tux? And yes! I’d LOVE to see wedding pictures! I can’t wait to see pics of all your family.
You said you wanted to know about my life. It’ so boring.
I mean, it’s not boring to me. To me, it’s fascinating and very fun.
But when I think about writing about it… would you be interested in hearing about the wild blueberries I picked for my yogurt parfait, and the cow who lives around the corner whose milk went into the yogurt?
I could tell you about the old woman who raises the cows and makes the yogurt and the stories she’s told me about her grandmother, but those interesting stories are someone else’s life, not mine.
I could tell you a story from my childhood.
My dad was a big name in the alternative energy field. He’s the one who introduced wind power to Windenburg. He used to have to travel to the city often for conferences and to meet with partners, and he often took my brother Norman and me with him.
“Meet me back here at six o’clock,” he’d say, as he’d leave us at the entrance to the park. Then off he’d go to the conference or meeting, and Norman and I would have free run of the park. For adventurous kids like us, it was bliss!
One summer, we were hooked on collecting stuff. I wanted to get as many different snow globes as I could. They fascinated me! Each one seemed to hold its own world, and I invented stories about the people who lived there.
My brother collected rock concert posters. He sold them at auctions and made a lot of money! He’s always had keen sense of entrepreneurship!
One day, we had such great luck! I found a snow globe in an old box, and it was one I’d been looking for forever, with a little diorama of a dinosaur, and it was so weird to see the snow falling on the brontosaurus, like the Ice Age.
Norman found about ten posters for a Flaming Lips concert. We ran from block to block to block, picking up his posters from telephone poles and bus stop shelters and cement walls.
When we stopped, we didn’t know where we were.
“Are we lost, Norman?” I asked him.
“Of course not!” he said. “We’re in the city! You can’t get lost in the city!”
But we were lost. We had no idea how to get back to the park.
Finally, Norman said we had to split up. He told me to stay where I was, in this central square-type park, and he’d go exploring, and when he found his way back to the main park, he’d bring Dad back here to the square to pick me up.
At first it was fun to be there by myself.
I found more snow globes.
I watched this woman who pretended she was an astronaut statue. That was really fun.
Everyone I met was really interesting!
I made a really good friend with another kid. We played together on the bars, and even though I never saw her again, I’ve always thought of her as one of my best friends!
It’s funny how we can have “friends-for-a-day” and they somehow stay with us forever.
When my friend found out that I was waiting for my brother, she told me that I’d have to wait forever and that he might not even ever come back.
“You can’t get to the park from here,” she said. “It’s way far. It’s Forbidden. So, you’ll have to stay here. I’ll bring you snacks, like cookies and stuff, because I live in that building there, and you can sleep under the cardboard.”
I didn’t want to do that.
So, I decided that, even if it was Forbidden, I’d find my own way back to the park.
I ran in the direction of the sun, for I had a pretty good idea of east and west, and I knew the park was to the west, and when I got too tired to run, I walked, and I must have run-walked all afternoon.
When it was just starting to get dark, I found another outdoor square, all lit up with beautiful paper lanterns, and there, walking through the square was my uncle Jasper!
I was never so happy to see anybody ever before in my whole life! Seeing him meant I wouldn’t have to sleep under cardboard that night!
“What are you doing here, all by yourself, Meadow?” he asked.
I told him all about the big adventure and about getting lost and about Norman heading off to get found while I waited in Lost-land for him to return and how he never did.
“We’d better get you to the park,” he said. “We don’t want anybody worrying over you!”
We made it back just as Norman was reaching the park entrance and my dad was walking out of the conference, so nobody even had a chance to be worried!
It seems scary when I think about it now, but at the time, I had so much fun exploring, and I had this amazing trust that everything would always work out right.
Sometimes, I think that trust in life, or in the universe, or in the Rightness-of-Whatever, was misplaced, just a naive childish belief in goodness.
I mean, there is so much badness in the world.
I think about Jena, and what her mom experienced, and about all the terrible things that happened in the world that landed her mom in that refugee camp in the first place.
And then, I think about Jena sleeping peacefully in the next room, and I think about all the beauty that surrounds me everyday. And there’s Mozart!
And, I guess I just have an unshakeable trust in goodness.
After all, I’ve got you for a pen pal!
I hope I didn’t bore you forever, Chance.
Enjoy your sister’s wedding!
And good luck with the writing!