Skill U: 8.7

Honey Walker | Van Windenburg Estate

Week Eight, Day Seven – Senior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

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It’s graduation day. Mom and Dad have arrived to hear me deliver the valedictorian address. Before the ceremony, they took me out to lunch at the restaurant on the island.

“I always wanted to ride a ferry,” Mom said. But the way she was looking at me, I knew that the words she spoke didn’t come close to expressing the thoughts she was thinking or the emotions she was feeling.

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I felt all sorts of things, too. This day was such a culmination! I felt very nervous–that, most of all. In a few short hours, I’d have to deliver the speech!

I felt sad, too. I’d be leaving soon, saying goodbye to the Villareals, this island, and to Windenburg. I’d received an offer to play for the San Myshuno Symphony Orchestra, and I didn’t feel I could pass it up. Positions for violinists with a major symphony are so rare.

I felt excited, too, about the new life that was waiting for me. A violinist with an orchestra! And living in the city! I was just finishing college, but I still had so much to learn, so many experiences waiting for me.

It had been a few years since I’d seen Mom and Dad, so on top of all the other feelings, I felt that crazy mix of comfort and unease that I always feel with my parents, increased ten-fold after such a long time away from them.

I can always read my parents, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve seen them–so in addition to my own feelings, I felt theirs, too.

Dad looked so proud. My graduation had been his dream, too.

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“So,” I teased him over lunch, “daughter graduating from college. One more thing you can cross off your bucket list!”

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“That’s your Dad,” Mom joked back, “the family dreamer!”

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“I take my work as the family dreamer seriously,” Dad said. “It’s a big responsibility.”

He talked about all the dreams he’d had: a house for Mom, a garden for himself, a dog for me, and always time for us to spend together. Then, he said something that made me blush.

“You can dream. Well, I can. I can dream. But you know what? I can only dream so far. I can only dream what I can imagine. And so what happens when a guy like me has a daughter that’s more wonderful, talented, beautiful, and amazing than I can dream? That’s when I give over the dreaming duties to the whole universe. That’s why, Honey, you’re not my dream. You’re the universe’s.”

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When Mom left to powder her nose, Dad asked to hear some of my speech.

“What for?” I asked him. “You’ll be there to listen.”

“I won’t be able to hear right. All the people and noise. Plus, I can’t concentrate when I’m bawling my eyes out.”

I shared the opening with him:

“College begins with a dream. Maybe it’s your dream. Maybe it’s the dream of those who love you. Maybe it’s society’s dream. But along the way, the dream begins to morph. It becomes reality. And that’s when you’re put to the test.”

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He was quiet.

I couldn’t tell if he was thinking, if he was bothered, or if he was just feeling a lot.

“What do you think, Dad? Is it OK?”

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He told me a story about when he’d been in the Marines. It was a story I’d heard many times before, and it usually ended up with him getting back to base safely, after completing some kind of crazy mission, and writing a letter to me and Mom.

“Do you know what?” he told me. “I never told you the real ending of that story. I did write you and Mom, whenever I made it back safe, but never first. I wrote you later. After I wrote that other girl.”

I knew which other girl he meant.

“Why are you telling me this, Dad?”

“I never sent the letter, of course. I just wrote it and stuck it in a box. It’s just that she was a dream I never gave up on. Reality, that I’ve got. And it’s cool. It’s got your Mom in it. And sometimes it’s really hard, and sometimes it’s a piece of cake. But for me, whenever I had trials, I always went inside to where that first dream of mine was. That smart, beautiful girl. It’s like I tucked her away inside of me. Listening to you talk, the smart things you say, I feel like what I tucked away has somehow become real right here for me.”

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“Dad, that’s really weird.”

He laughed. “I know it! You don’t need to tell me! But I kinda believe in miracles. Like the stuff of our feelings–somehow that can come out and make something real.”

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Mom joined us.

“So do you think I should take out the part about the dream morphing, becoming real, and putting us to the test?” I asked Dad.

“Hell, no! That’s the good part!”

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The speech went well.

I got a big applause at the ending, after I said this:

“During the first year, you feel that college is a pole with you at one end, and success at the other. But by the time you stand here at the end of the pole, you see that it’s become a plane, and it’s possible that the whole journey is no longer about success. Maybe, the whole journey is simply about this: discovering that you stand here in an open meadow, able to see all the way around you. And now is when you can venture out, in any direction, even without a path, into the surrounding field of possibility.”

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Whisper 2.08

Dear Mom,

I took my college entrance exams, and guess what? I got accepted! Guess what else? I qualified for full scholarship in three subjects: phys ed, communications, and fine arts. Guess what else? I earned 18 Advanced Placement credits in each! I’m so excited! I’m going to college.

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I was still trying to decide what major to pick when I asked Riley how she did.

“I didn’t take the exam,” Riley said.

“Well, you’d better hurry. We’re leaving soon.”

“I’m not going to take it,” she said. “I’m not going.”

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“Not going? You have to go!” I said. “That was the plan! That’s the dream!”

“It’s your dream,” Riley said. “It always has been. I’ve never wanted to go to college. I want to stay home.”

“But Riley!”

“It’s true,” she said. “Remember when I was voted ‘Most likely to never leave home?’ That might seem like a joke to some, but to me, that’s my dream.”

“But Riley!”

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“Not everyone wants what you want,” she told me. “You go, because it would give you joy. But what’s more important? Just doing something because it’s expected, or because it’s someone else’s dream? Or doing what you want, even if it lets down someone else’s expectations, because it’s your dream?”

“Is this because of Argus?” I asked her.

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“No,” she replied. “I talked with Argus about it. He was all ready to support me in going away to university. But I’d already made up my mind, even before Argus and I went out. I just didn’t know how to tell you.”

“I wish you were so afraid of me that you’d go anyway!” I said. “Just because it was what I wanted. I imagined you, after all.”

“Marigold!”

“I’m sorry. It’s just. I was so looking forward to rooming with you in the dorm, and going to parties with you, and studying all night! Now! Oh! It’s like my dream’s been torn in two.”

“I’m sorry. I hate disappointing you. But a dorm? With strangers? Who don’t wash their dishes and leave dirty towels laying around and forget to bathe? And parties? I hate parties! And studying all night? I’d hate to have to study. I hate all those things.”

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Oh, Mom. It was so hard to listen to Riley. I felt so sure that college was the best thing for her. Half of me still feels that way. But I had to listen when she told me what she loves: taking care of our home, caring for Zoey and Roxy, being here for Patches and Bo. And, yes, she admitted that she was looking forward to spending more time with Argus.

“Women worked hard and fought for equal rights so we’d have a choice,” she told me, “not so that we’d all have to march to the same drummer. I’ve looked in my heart, Mari. This is what I want.”

She’s right. Even I can see that. It breaks my heart to leave alone, Mom, but I guess I’ve got to do it.

On my departure day, the shuttle arrived in the early morning to take me to the airport. Riley had gotten up with me so we could have breakfast together.

“Write me, ” she said.

“Of course!” I replied.

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The kids were still asleep, and I was hoping to have lucked out and avoided having to say goodbye to them. I worried it would break my heart.

When I got into the shuttle, I looked back at the house. There was Patches, coming out to wave goodbye.

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And then Bo came racing out, waving his arms and making crazy faces! I was laughing so hard I couldn’t cry! Oh, Mom! I am going to miss this nutty family.

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Good thing I got advanced placement–it means I’ll only be away from home for two terms.

And when I come back, I’ll have a degree!

Oh! I forgot to tell you what program I chose! I’m going for fine arts. I figured that phys ed came naturally, and communications fits with my career–so both of those, I’ll be working on anyway. So I decided to challenge myself and major in fine arts. Just like you did! I want to be well-rounded. That’s why I chose what would be most difficult.

Oh, Mom! I’m going to your alma mater, and I’m majoring in your degree! Maybe I’ll even live in your dorm!

I’m going to miss you so much, too. I wonder if I’ll feel your spirit there on campus…

Love,

Marigold

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Whisper 1.32

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Shea arrives early the next morning in the pouring down rain.

It feels amazing to see him again.

“Shea! You haven’t changed!” I tell him. “Your head leaves are white, sure, but you look as fresh as ever!”

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I feel so excited. Shea is here! After all these years!

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“There’s really nothing I need to tell you about the baby,” he says. “He’s doing great. Anyway, you know, plants don’t really care for their sprouts. That’s what we have gardeners for. You’re a great gardener, so just, you know carry on!”

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“I do love veggies, you know this,” I tell him. “But truthfully, Shea? I never thought that I would be a mother to a life form in the vegetable kingdom.”

“Do you know why I’m smiling?” he asks. “It’s so artistic, like a wish come true. I have to confess, back in college, I always dreamed of you caring for a  little sprout of our own.”

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That night, while Marigold is upstairs doing her homework, before bed, I might add, like we agreed, Shea, Bobobo, and I spend time together in the front room.

“Did you really dream of this?” I ask Shea.

“In my youth, yes,” he says. “Didn’t you?”

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“I never knew what to dream,” I tell him. “I was confused and clueless. I was very much in love with you, and you were my first best friend in college, but I couldn’t understand your feelings for me. I felt it best just to go along with whatever happened.”

“I remember you used to ask me what plants thought of marriage. Do you remember that? I gathered that being faithful was important to you. You know it doesn’t work like that for plants. I was just so afraid of disappointing you. I couldn’t stand that I might break your heart and smash our friendship. But I dreamed of this! Of course, neither of us had white hair and laugh lines in my dream, but it still feels miraculous to me that it’s come to pass.”

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Funny, how I feel so comfortable with him, even after all these years. It’s not the same type of love that I feel for Dante, which is a love that feels like destiny. This feels more like being with kin, or maybe the way I feel so at home in the forest, among the ferns and trees.

“Your daughter is amazing,” he says. “So smart! I guess she’ll be heading off to college!”

“She’s just a freshman in high school,” I tell him. “We still have a few more years at home.”

“Let me know when you’re starting to fill out applications,” he says. “I know a few of the deans there. I can pull some strings.”

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Early the next morning, he’s out raking leaves. Oh, this brings back memories!

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“D0 you remember our squirrel friend?” I ask him.

“eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh?” he says. “Of course I do! You know, his great grand kits are still playing outside our old dorm!”

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“Look at all these leaves,” Marigold says as she comes home from school. “Did you rake these?”

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“Whee!”

And then she tosses them all up into the air, and Shea and I laugh.

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We feel like family, Shea, Marigold, Bobobo and I. What if I had let myself dream, back in those long ago days. If I had, then this would have been my dream, too.

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Whisper 1.24

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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!

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Marigold says, “Pretty snowflake!” She reaches out to touch them.

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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.

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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.

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I invite Frank over to meet Marigold. He goes to her instantly, his eyes twinkling.

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He’s a natural with kids, and they become fast friends.

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I’ve never seen Frank with a bigger smile.

“I’m the uncle, right?” he asks me. “Uncle Frank.”

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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.

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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.

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She flashes him one of her crazy grins.

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Mara persuaded me to pick up a stereo, and with indie music blaring, she and Beatrice perform a dance routine.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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