Lighthouse: Sparks of Dream

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I arrived with the moon rising over the valley. Early the next morning, I’d head up to the back country, where Santi waited with Ritu’s friend. At the mountain cabin, I had plenty of time to think.

I’d brought my journal to occupy the evening, and I let my thoughts return to Momo’s visit. Something in my awoke when I saw her with her family, and I itched to discover what it was.

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We’d been relaxing over late morning coffee while Elui scoured websites for anything that might lead him to David.

“Anything promising?” Sept asked Elui.

“Here’s some anti-Newcrest posts,” Elui said. “Might be something David would be interested in.”

We heard a knock at the door. An extra-terrestrial child, light-skinned, like Sept, stood on the porch.

“Sept?” I asked. “Are you expecting family?”

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The girl introduced herself as Alma Mori, Momo’s daughter.

“Are you Octy?” she asked Sept. “I thought he was little like me.”

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“He is about your size!” Sept said. “I’m his brother!”

She took us out to meet the rest of the family, and Momo explained they were delivering Octy’s new dog.

“We have so many dogs already!” said Alma. “Our dog had pups, and now they’re grown! And so we’re finding homes for them!”

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Momo said she wanted to talk with Sept and “the other one” before we took them to Seb and Octy’s.

She had a focused look, and I wondered if she was scanning Elui and Sept. Sept had never mentioned Momo to me, but I had the impression they knew each other, that she was one of the 144.

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“Momo!” he said, when he saw her.

“You remembered!” she said.

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“Of course!”

He told me later that she was one of the first ones to sing back. She’d been on the ship. The man who adopted her had other extra-terrestrial children. She had a good upbringing, Sept said, with so many siblings. “She was never lonely, like I was,” he said. “She was surrounded with big brothers and sisters.”

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I could see her supportive upbringing in the way she carried herself, with confident grace. She looked like never questioned if she belonged here.

I looked in on Elui.

“We have visitors!” I said.

“I know,” he replied.

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He greeted her with a complex series of hand gestures. Sept explained later it was a cultural greeting. They’d all been taught it as toddlers, as well as taught that it was only to be shared within their group, as a way of acknowledging connectedness.

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“I can’t believe I still remember that!” Momo said.

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“I’m glad you’re here,” Sept said.

“I am, too,” she replied. “I didn’t even think we’d meet you! I was going to tell Octy and your dad to be sure to give you a big hello. I never thought I’d be able to do it myself, in person.”

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Though this was the first time the three had been together since their adoption, they conversed and moved in that way that close friends and family do, with belonging.

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Elui filled Momo in on his current search for David and the leads he’d found, and she listened with all of her being. I was beginning to realize that extra-Ts, at least those like Sept, Momo, and Elui, hear on multiple levels, all the time.

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The subtle communication of thought, feeling, emotion, visualization, even bio-chemistry, are continuously broadcast and received when they are together.

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This redefines privacy and precludes secrecy. I have a feeling that, though many people might claim to want that level of transparency, few would be willing to be as honest and vulnerable as being without mask requires.

But the riches this type of sharing nurtures!  They seem to naturally fall into the deep connection that so many of us, on this planet, at least, long for.

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After the three caught up with each other, we all walked over to Seb and Octy’s.

Lemon was a beautiful dog, sweet-natured and extremely intelligent.

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I always wondered if she was an extra-T. She had an other-worldly quality. It wasn’t just in her mismatched eyes, but in her bright look. Sept said she communicated telepathically with him.

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If she was an extra-T dog, she wasn’t the first.

Mop, the pup Octy’s mother gave him, certainly was no breed from this planet. Mop had grown into a very unusual dog, with huge paws, a funny coiled tail, big mule-deer ears, and a squeaky soprano bark.

She came from a planet called Pu!’Re, where eleven moons reflect the light of the distant, dim sun. The people who inhabit the planet are pale cave-dwellers, roaming the dark forests and meadows to gather food. Through their physical connections with the plants, rocks, and wild creatures, they commune with the spirits of the natural world. For them, physical harmony is the highest good. Pu!’Re boskobo, like Mop, are considered messengers of the deities.

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Octy simply considered Mop his best friend.

Of course, the moment he met Lemon, he had two best friends

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I had begun to suspect that other extra-terrestrial boskobo had somehow come to or been dropped off at this planet. There was a red and white dog we met on the boardwalk who also had an intelligent gaze, and I’ve never seen a dog from around here with fur like that.

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Sebastion was thrilled with Lemon.

“She’s beautiful!” he said. “Are you sure you want to give her away?”

Momo assured him that it would be for the best, considering their crowded home.

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Seeing Momo and her family affected me more than I would have imagined. I suppose my heart still hurt from my father and mother disowning me. We’d never been that close, and I always knew that their values weren’t what I wanted for myself, but still, I felt I belonged with and to them, in some way, even as I struggled to break free.

Seb’s house was full with all of family, and the kitchen rang with laughter, singing, jokes–even little Winter Mori’s temper tantrum. It felt like a home should feel.

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I found I missed that feeling of belonging to a tribe, if I ever had it, and maybe I missed it all the more, for never having had it.

Of course Sept and I belonged with each other–I always felt how he found home in me. But in those moments when I was deeply honest with myself back then, I realized that, while I brought home to him, I myself didn’t feel I belonged–not when I saw him with Octy or Seb, not when I saw him with the pagotogo, not when I saw him with Manny or Whisper, and not when I saw Momo with her family.

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I could almost see the lines of affection that connected Momo to Ayaka to Alma to Winter. When one moved, it was as if the other sensed it.

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Ayaka, Momo’s wife, was from here, and she held an integral point in the family. She sparked a hope in me that maybe I could, too, someday. Maybe I could feel a child’s needs before she felt them, and be there with the hug, or glass of juice, or word of encouragement that she needed.

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I wanted that. I wanted freedom and independence–and I had them. But I also wanted, as a free and independent being, the invisible strings of family love to connect me to others.

Early the next morning, as I warmed myself by the fire, I let myself feel the depth of this longing as fully as I could. As each spark rose, I imagined it carrying my dreams of family, my dreams for community, my thirst for a tribe. Let these sparks fly!

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Author’s Note: Many thanks to Xantheanmar for sharing Elui with our story. You can learn more about him at  Potatoes and Carrots by Xantheanmar. And big thanks to Kira for letting Lemon come live with Seb, Octy, Mop, and the baby! I’m so happy that Momo and her family brought her, too! You can learn more about this lovely family at KK’s Sim Stories.

Septemus 77

last08

Dear Sept,

Tomorrow I’ll give you the box that contains all the letters I’ve written, including this one. I’ve been reading through them. Bittersweet.

Yesterday was your last day of school, and Monday morning, we’ll head to the agency office in Willow Springs to register you. You’ll be a “registered alien,” with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that entails. Our involvement in the program will be over. Believe me, I’ve got Geoffrey’s number on speed-dial, as well as the offices of our senator and local representatives, just in case we need them. I’m none-too-happy about this “registering” bit.

It felt odd looking at the first letter I wrote. I remember sitting at the kitchen table while you were sleeping, and I wanted to explain so much. I wanted to form some sort of connection between you and me, and I didn’t know how to go about it. All I could think of was to write, so that you wouldn’t have questions when you grew up.

I was such a solitary, lonely guy.

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I didn’t have anybody. But then, neither did you. You were so tiny, I could have fit you in a tea-cup.

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It took us a while to have each other.

There were days when I wondered if I’d ever understand you–if you’d ever understand me. Little did I know you understood me from the get-go!

Ah, this house is going to feel empty when you eventually move out on your own, son. I know that day is coming soon.

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You used to wake so angry! Do you remember that? That crooked frown of yours, those gangster eyes.

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I never really considered you to be a child. You were never like Octy, speaking baby talk, seeking comfort and cuddles.

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You were speaking in complete sentences, in Vingihoplo and our shared tongue, and you had an opinion on everything.

Sometimes, when I look at you now, I see that same little man you used to be.

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You’ve got the same grin.

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But then you start talking, explaining some esoteric insight you’ve gained, and I am overcome with your eloquence. You’re graceful, son, in gesture, word, and action.

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You used to feel so lonely.

I was helpless. I knew you were grieving for Situ, though I didn’t know her name then, nor even who she was nor her role in caring for you. I thought she was your mom.

You missed your pagotogo.

Even as a tiny thing, you’d taken it on yourself to be responsible for them. You wouldn’t rest, or let me rest, until we’d found them.

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I read the letter where I wrote, “You won’t have to grow up a solitary kid, like I did, Sept. Not if I can help it.”

I guess you didn’t grow up solitary. These past few weeks, with all your gotogo visiting, we have been smack in the middle of family. You’ve never been happier.

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There was one night–you went out and looked at the stars. I think that might have been one of the first times I heard you singing to them. You slept out on the porch that night, Sept.

That was the first time it really sunk in to me how far you’d traveled to get here.

sept367

I remember the day I found the bizoopagoto forum. Did you know that Elliot, Emmanuel’s mom, was my first forum friend?

It was your first day of school. I had to bite my tongue not to blurt out the news. But after you told me all about your teacher, Ms. Care-a-lot Sweets, I told you we’d found them.

That was the biggest best smile I’d ever seen.

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Since then, your smiles have become a daily thing.

That was all you’d been waiting for, wasn’t it?

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Son, do you remember all the hours we danced?

We danced while we waited to find your kin.

We danced when we didn’t know what else to do.

Many times, we simply danced to dance.

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Septemus, my son, you’ve taught me to dance through life.

We dance with Octy now.

Soon your dance will lead you away, out into the world, and Octy and I will dance together, waiting on your return.

It’ll be different, but you’ll always be my son.

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Thank you for giving me family, for teaching me love, and for showing me something better to aspire to be.

Forever,

Your pops

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Septemus 49

Septeen1301

Dear Sept,

It’s from you that I’ve learned to listen to that voice that sounds inside. It’s not my voice. Usually, it’s yours.

This time, it belonged to someone else.

“Come outside! Meet with us again! We want to see you!”

How could I refuse? I knew who it was. It was your people. I’d been hoping to have another chance to see them. I’d been waiting for this.

I felt excited. I was going to see your people again. What would they tell me this time?

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I hoped I would remember every word they spoke.

The light wasn’t frightening this time. It felt warm. It felt like a welcome.

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For just a moment, my rational mind kicked in: What if something happens to interrupt the beam?

The ship was an awfully long ways up there.

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But once I begin to lift off the ground, I put my worries aside.

Trust.

This was their words.

Concentrate.

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I looked in the bedroom window as I began rising up.

There you were, fast asleep.

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Do you know how proud I am of you?

“Sleep well,” I whispered. “I’ll be back before you wake.” I hoped I’d have more news from your people to share with you.

Septeen1307

It seemed like I was gone for a long time, though it was still dark when I returned, and you were still sleeping in your bed.

It’s hard for me to explain what it feels like on returning. It’s something like waking from a dream–so much has happened, more than I can process at the moment. And that strange feeling of adjusting to the atmosphere and gravity of this planet. That’s the most disconcerting part.

Septeen1309

I stood in a stupor on the lawn before our house.

The space craft hovered above.

And then, then I heard singing. It was all twelve of them–all twelve who’d been on the ship–but with the echoing of their voices, they sounded like hundreds. The melody followed the cadences of the songs you sing, that same minor key, filled with longing and love.

Pagoto, dear one,
Hold one,
Carry one.

Love one,
Dear one,
Our one,
Sweet one.

EO inna-inna O
O inna-inna EO.

EO in’i O
O in’i EO.

Septeen1308

I looked up, and the light of the ship’s eye winked, and then it was gone.

Son, when I remember what happened, I will share it with you.

–Your pops

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Dr. Jasmine’s Casebook: Just Like A Vacation

This story was written for the September 2017 Monthly Short Story Writing Challenge held by our writing community at the EA Forums. If you write SimLit, we’d love to have you join us! We have a new challenge each month.

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“Pack your things!” Deidre called.

“Where’re we going?” Edgar asked.

“Didn’t you hear, doofus?” Tiana said. “It’s a mandatory evacuation.”

“I don’ want to go,” Edgar said.

“Just think of it as a vacation,” said Tiana.

“But it’s not even stormy.”

The sky had turned an eerie gold, and the bay, though calm on the surface, roiled in its depths. Hurricane Kali was expected to make landfall in 38 hours. The forecast track targeted a direct hit on the city.

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Shelters had been set up in schools, gyms, and the convention center.

Deidre surveyed the rows of cots.

“No way in Hell we’re staying here,” she swore. “How am I supposed to keep my babies safe sleeping next to strangers?”

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They had enough gas to make it across the bridge. Maybe they could refuel in Newcrest or, if their pumps were dry, in Magnolia Promenade.

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One look at the lines at the gas stations along Newcrest strip, and Deidre kept driving.

“Mama! I gotta pee!” Edgar said as they reached the turnoff for Magnolia Promenade.

Tiana took her little brother to the restroom while Deidre filled the tank.

Store windows were boarded up.

The family took a stroll along the river path to stretch their legs before getting back in the car.

“All of this will be flooded,” Tiana said. “Think so?”

“Likely,” replied Deidre. Magnolia Promenade sat below sea level.

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“And what about these trees?” Tiana asked. “Think they’ll all be blown down?”

“Most likely so,” said Deidre.

“Awesome,” said Tiana. “Like the apocalypse.”

“What’s an Apoca?” asked Edgar.

“The end of the world,” said Tiana.

“Don’t scare your brother,” warned Deidre.

 

Tiana had to pee when they reached Willow Creek. People had set up tents in the park and were grilling burgers as if it were a Fourth of July Barbecue.

“Can we stay here, Ma?” Tiana asked. “They got free Wi-Fi.”

Deidre glanced over her shoulder towards the creek. When the levee breaks, this will all be underwater, she thought.

“No. We’re moving on.”

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“Where we going?” Edgar asked in the car.

“I thought we’d go to the mountains,” Deidre said.

“Great,” replied Tiana. “Where all the forest fires are.”

“Will you look up the air quality?” Deidre asked.

Tiana pulled out her phone.

“Oh. It’s OK. They had a cold front and rain. The air’s good now.”

The wheels hummed over the pavement, clicking now and then as they passed over the cracks in the blacktop. The rhythm carried a sense of calm, in spite of the circumstances.

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“Wish I had a Tea Cake,” said Tiana.

“What’s that?” asked Deidre.

“I want tea! I want cake!” yelled Edgar from the back seat.

“Like Janie,” said Tiana. “To ride out the storm with.”

Her sophomore English class was reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. Deidre chuckled.

She had her own Tea Cake back when the last big storm crashed into the city, sixteen years ago. Matter of fact, that’s likely when Tiana had been conceived.

“Just as well you don’t,” said Deidre. “There’s plenty of time for all that.”

“It’s gonna be a cat ten,” said Tiana, checking the #HurricaneKali tweets on her phone.

“No such thing,” said Deidre. “Doesn’t go past five.”

“Still. If it did. There’s this boy in my class who’s this major league climate-change-denier. His parents are mega rich. They live right on the bay. All their windows face the water! I hope their house gets smashed.”

“Tiana! That’s a terrible thing to say, and an even worse thing to think!”

“It would serve him right.”

“Don’t ever.”

“OK. But still. You gotta admit that’d be some beautiful irony.”

They drove on in silence.

They reached the mountains after nightfall. Edgar slept in the back seat while Deidre and Tiana pitched the tent in the dark. They were too tired to fix a meal, so they snacked on granola bars, bottled water, and Starbursts for supper.

Deidre woke before dawn the next morning to grill a proper breakfast.

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They charged their phones at the Visitors’ Center. When they weren’t hiking, fishing, and pretending to be on vacation, Deidre and Tiana followed the tweets about the storm.

Edgar chased butterflies, looked for salamanders under rotting logs, made bows and arrows out of twigs and branches, and hunted for arrowheads in old midden mounds.

vacation02

Hurricane Kali, aptly named, was the first category five to make landfall in the city. For decades, the city council failed to enact a storm water plan, ignoring the recommendations of experts. Instead, codes were lax and construction boomed. The storm brought widespread flooding, collapsed the sewage system, tore bricks and decks and tiles off of buildings. The entire power grid went down, and it would likely be weeks before it could be restored.

“How bad is it?” Deidre asked her daughter.

“Pretty bad,” Tiana replied.

vacation05

Deidre called a neighbor who was staying with parents in Oasis Springs.

“That bad, huh?” she said, after she got the report.

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“How bad?” asked Tiana.

“Our apartment building was condemned,” said Deidre.

“What are we gonna do?” asked Tiana.

Deidre had next month’s rent already saved up, but there’d be no way they’d get back their deposit. She was sure that skinflint landlord would file for bankruptcy.

“Guess we’ll have to start over,” she said. “How do you feel about the desert?”

For now, they stayed at camp, trying to relax and beat the stress.

“It really is like being on vacation!” said Edgar.

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And it was. Except when it was over, they wouldn’t be going home. They’d be starting new.

Forgotten Art: Norm – Newt 10

A reply to: A letter from Newt

normnewt1001

Hey, Newt!

Every time I think about your letter, I smile. I know, I know! It’s been ages since I’ve written! But it’s been a long time for good reasons, not bad. Things are finally coming together with the business.

I’ve been smiling because your last letter was just so normal. It cracks me up. When we started writing each other, we were so opposite. I mean, yeah. We both ran our fathers’ companies and felt like we were living someone else’s life. But I didn’t have any women in my life (except my sister, but you know what I mean). You had plenty.

Now, I’m finally turning around the business so it feels like my business, run the way I want it to be run. You’re getting your life together. I’ve got Ira. And you’ve got Janet.

Now, we’re just two normal successful guys. Happy, boring people.

I kind of always wanted to be a happy boring person. It looked so good from the outside.

It feels pretty good from the inside, too.

normpix12

This’ll  be a short letter. For one thing, I don’t have much to say. Life’s boring! It’s actually really good. No drama. Everything’s working out OK.

For another, I’ve got a little girl who’s waiting for me to read her a bedtime story.  She’s in the kitchen right now, having cereal for desert. We let her eat the junky kind, loaded with food coloring and all those sweets, but we don’t tell her that the food coloring is natural (beets and carrots and blueberries and stuff) or that the sweetener is malt syrup and honey. She likes it. It’s colorful. That’s what counts. It only matters to me and Ira that it’s healthy, too.

normpix13

I was glad to hear that your cousin is OK. It’s been a while since you wrote, so I hope his recovery is still progressing well.

Hope things are going well with you and Janet, too. How’d your Christmas trip to see your aunt go?

It’s a funny thing. When I was young, I always took family for granted. They were there–they were the people who were in the home, always there. Then my mom died and my dad died not long after, and I was out in the world, running Dad’s business, and family were the ghosts who filled the empty corners of my empty house. I don’t know how Meadow kept on, after Mom and Dad died. She leaned on me. She leaned on our uncle Jasper. She disappeared into her books and studies. But mostly, for me at that time, family was the ache around my heart. I tried not to think of them.

It’s so different now. Now family is the chatter in the kitchen. Family is the jokes at the end of the day. Family is that warm feeling of not being alone when I’m home.

normpix15

It’s like it was when I was a kid, except I don’t take it for granted anymore.

I liked that sense I got from your last letter that you don’t take it for granted anymore, either. It sounds like Janet really means something to you. Heck, you two are taking it slow! That’s a change!

I know from experience when you’ve got a good woman, she’s worth waiting for.

Whenever Ira takes a long time getting ready to go out, or is late coming home, or keeps us waiting for supper, I always tell her it’s no big deal. I’d wait forever for her.

But I got a sleepy little girl who won’t wait forever for me, and tomorrow’s a school day. I’d better wrap this up and find that sleepy-head so we can read tonight’s installment of Treasure Island.

normpix11

Take care, Newt! Maybe next time, I’ll have something more exciting to share. But truthfully? I hope not. I like the boring life just fine.

Be happy,

Norm

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Forgotten Art: Norman – Mel 4

A reply to: A letter from Mel

mel407

Dear Mel,

I’ve boxed up a treat for Gari and Zee and sent it in the mail. No need to wait for the birthday, though! These little guys will want to get out as soon as they arrive! I selected four: two ducks, one Bubba bear, and one cat. All but the cat are made of soft rubber. The cat’s made of vulcanized rubber. The ears feel good to bite on–not that I’ve ever bitten vulcanized rubber ears, I’m just saying.

They’re all from that organic, fair-trade toy company, so the rubber is natural, and even the dye is organic and biodegradable. Everything’s eco-this, eco-that. Get ready for fun.

I want to thank you for writing me back so quickly. Your timing was perfect.

mel411

I got your letter right around the time I had a really tough letter to write. I mean, maybe the toughest letter I’ve ever written.

Before I wrote back, I talked with Ira. I sat with Aari. I talked with my uncle Jasper. I did some research, and I thought a lot. Then I got your letter, and I knew I could write my reply. I knew I could level up, take the high road, and write the letter that had to be written.

Now that I’ve sent it, I feel relieved. I don’t know if I said the right words, and I don’t know if my letter will help. But I stepped up as a friend to a guy who’s in a tough spot after doing some bad things.

Ira says she would’ve understood either way: writing him back or not writing him back.  Then she said some things about what it’s like to have me as a friend that made me feel pretty good. I’ve never thought of myself as anybody who had anything to offer anyone. I’ve got to admit: It feels good knowing at least one person is happy to have me in her life. And it feels even better knowing it’s the person who makes me happiest of all. That would be Ira.

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You mentioned you’re curious about her, her daughter Aaradhya, my sister Meadow, and my uncle Jasper. I will love to tell you about them! Of course it’s not crossing a line.

I think of you as something bright and positive in my life–you make everything better, like a new dishwasher. That sounds… not so exciting. But for me, an engineer who’s always looking for eco-this, eco-that, my new water-saving, low-electricity-usage dishwasher is the best thing next to my popcorn maker!

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Point is: You’re this bright spot in my life that makes everything better. Of course I’ll love to tell you about the people in my life. I just hope I don’t bore you to sleep doing so! I know I’ll go on and on.

Aari is something wonderful. She is very smart. She loves doing math equations. I’ve started showing her simple algebra, and she takes to it naturally. She’s got a logical mind.

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I wish you could see her smile. I swear: the room gets brighter.

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She gets a little sad sometimes. She had a rough few years before her mom took her and left her dad. Ira told me that Aari’s dad never hit Aari. But Ira has scars from what he did to her. I imagine that things like that scar a kid on the inside.

Sometimes when she’s sad, she likes to sit with me. We don’t say much. We just sit until she feels better.

mel402

Now and then, she has a tough time at school, when the noise and other kids’ yelling gets to be too much for her. She lashes out sometimes. We’re working on it.

The main thing, from what I’m learning at this support group I go to for partners of people who’ve experienced domestic violence, is to hang in there with the person. Don’t take their words or actions personally when they’re triggered. Just be there. Don’t give up on them.

It comes easy to me so far. I’d do anything for Ira and Aari. I’ve decided that even if it gets tough, I’ll level up, best I can. They’re worth it. I’m lucky I’ve got this group, my uncle, and my sister. And I’m so lucky I’ve got them.

mel401

My sister Meadow, by the way, has just decided to go back to grad school. She’s already got a PhD, but she wants a practical degree. Her other one’s in folklore. I think I mentioned that. Anyway, my sister started volunteering at the transition home that Ira and Aari used to live at. It was Ira’s suggestion. So, Meadow’s been leading art classes. And now, she wants to be become an art therapist, combining art and folklore.

My sister has always been about helping other people make their lives better. That’s why she adopted Jena. My niece Jena is smart, and she loves to talk about super heroes. Huh. I just realized that Aari is Jena’s cousin, in a way. Maybe we’ll make it official sometime.

doveex211

My uncle Jasper is a character. He’s an old hippie, beatnik, retired college professor. He’s read just about everything and synthesized it all into his own version of the meaning of life. I don’t mind. I listen. It’s the questions he asks that’ll get you.

mel408

I saved the best for last: Ira.

What’s there to say about her? She’s everything. She listens. She questions. She encourages.

She worked as a barista when I first met her. But she stopped that job. She’s thinking about becoming a teacher. She’d make a great one.

She’s got the gift of making you feel like you matter. It’s not just with me: She does this for everyone.

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The best thing is she makes me happy. She seems pretty happy herself, too.

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So how’s it all going in your life? Zee and Gari doing OK? Have you tried anymore painting? Ira and I both love to paint.

And how about your neighbors? Are they acting more neighborly?

Anybody who knows you is lucky to know you.

And I’m grateful to be your pen pal.

Take care–and let me know what the kids think of their package!

–Norm

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Forgotten Art: Norman – Newt 4

A reply to: A letter from Newt

newt406

Hey, Newt.

Ugh. You can’t tell from my keystrokes that the tips of my ears are bright red, can you?

Don’t worry. I waited to write. I wanted to make sure I got my cool back. Wouldn’t want you to know I was embarrassed out of my skin.

Dude! Where did you grow up? Antarctica? Didn’t you watch the Lambastic Legends of Llamacorns when you were a kid?

A Llamacorn, my friend, is a cross between a unicorn and a llama, and the vintage Llolicorn edition issues are special and very rare.

newt405

You have no idea how sought-after Llamacorn action figures are today. I’m talking triple–sometimes even quadruple-digits. Those things are keen, especially the Lollicorn editions.

Look ’em up online. And if you happen to notice the gold and blue one for sale anywhere, let me know. I need it to round out my collection.

newt404

That’s something Ira and I have in common. We both collect antique toys. Though she happens to prefer Mistress Mew-Meow.

Stop, Newt. Don’t even go there. It’s not what you’re thinking.

newt411

Ok. Now my ears are red again.

What was I even going to write?

Oh, yeah. My homework. Well. I blew it. Failed the course. It’s not for lack of effort. It just hasn’t been right yet.

Ira came over right after I got your letter. I was ready to do just what you instructed: “When you’re sitting next to her, yawn and let your arm stay around her shoulders.”

The thing is, she sits next to me, but not next to me. I’m in the love seat. She’s in the chair. Adjacent. Next, but not next.

newt403

She’s my best friend, man. I don’t want to blow it with her. Besides, once we get talking, I have so much fun, I forget about everything else.

Still. I gotta admit. She makes me feel… you know. Like, very much so.

newt401

We did almost have a moment the other day. We were playing Party Frenzy on the console. Somehow, our arms got tangled up. Like interlaced. Like linked. Arm-in-arm. I was so into the game, I sort of didn’t notice. I just felt kinda warm on one side.

“Um, Norm?” Ira said. “My arm? I can’t get my guy to the dance floor!”

We were on the dance floor level of the game.

newt412

I apologized and let her go.

I’m kind of not worried, though. I think I’m going to have plenty of opportunities to get close to her.

newt410

You see, I kind of asked her to move in.

Now, don’t go yelling at me about being too fast! Or putting the cart before the horse. Actually. I guess I put the horse in the barn before I even got the cart out. Or. Whatever. Don’t go there.

The thing is, she needed a place.

I asked her one day, “So we always meet up here. Let’s go to your place one day! How about tomorrow?”

“There’s just one thing,” she said. “I don’t have a place.”

newt409

Turns out, she’d been staying in some shelter, all this time. That’s why she always wore the same black outfit. That’s why her shoes are these old canvas worn-out things. Here I am, one of the guys with the most resources in town, and my best friend, the person I care most about, is half a step away from being homeless, living in a shelter for women and children.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention? She’s got a kid. A cute, spunky little girl named Aaradhya.

newt413

Well, they don’t live in a shelter anymore.

That’s right. I asked them to move in.

newt408

So, maybe I haven’t made my move yet, but Ira made her move–she moved right in with me!

I tell you, Newt. I’m starting to understand your feelings about being a family man. I may not yet have even gotten to first base with Ira, but she’s made it to home with me already: literally and figuratively. She’s sharing my home, and she’s planted herself right smack square in the hearth of my heart.

I never thought I had it in me to love this deep.

And I haven’t even yet started to tell you about my new sorta, kinda, maybe-one-day daughter.

newt407

I owe it all to you, man. I never would’ve had the guts to ask her to move in if you hadn’t inspired me to speak up for what matters. If I didn’t know how much a guy like you could have a soft spot for family and a good woman he loved, I probably would have let her go right on living there in the shelter and wished her well. Maybe I would have written the shelter a check from “an anonymous benefactor” and designated the funds for her. But it wouldn’t have brought near the joy that opening my home has.

Thanks, man. I only hope that you get to regain some of the happiness you lost. I owe you, big time.

Your flunking student, who’s learning more than you can know…

Norm

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Three Rivers 21.1

Twenty-first Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: The Dos are a game-generated family, living in another beautiful home by TheKalinotr0n.

21.  Healing Past Wounds

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Before the girls came home from school, Debra Do liked to walk through the house, sensing the mood in every room, filling each, as much as possible, with her own peace. She called  this ritual “Prepare.”

Her daughters, each of them, would bring home backpacks stuffed with their own issues just waiting to be triggered: might as well have a clean space in which to receive them.

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“Let’s unpack it,” Debra liked to say to her elder daughter, Kaylyn.

“Oh, Ma. Leave it packed. It’s too gross to look at,” Kaylyn would say.

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But Debra would insist: “Tell me about it. You don’t have to spill it all at once. A little at a time will do. Don’t just leave it there, festering inside of you with all the old hurts.”

Debra, Kaylyn, and Nyla, the younger daughter, had plenty of old hurts. The death of her father when she was seven spun itself through Debra’s core, so deep that it was a part of her, and she knew, each time someone left, that the terror of abandonment would awaken.

When Kaylyn’s father left in the middle of Kaylyn’s second year in grade school, Debra steeled herself to be strong for her daughter, for she knew what it was like when a father disappeared. Death or desertion, it hardly mattered to a child. All the while, as she was there to be both mother and dad for Kaylyn, her own heart split. Echoes of past pain seared her. You can die of a broken heart, she read, and so, out of her desperate love for Kaylyn, she meditated. She practiced mindfulness. She did yoga. She went to grief therapy. She pounded pillows. She tended plants. She baked batch after batch of cookies: chocolate, marzipan, French vanilla-cinnamon oat, rose water. And one day, her heart stopped aching. She found she could breathe a full breath without it catching.

That was when she shifted her attention back to her daughter. That was when she began the ritual of “Prepare,” and when, every day after Kaylyn came home from school, she’d ask, “What have we got to unpack today?”

One day, she didn’t even need to ask.

“Ma, let’s unpack it,” said Kaylyn, and she launched into a litany of complaints against girls who snubbed her, boys who laughed at her, and teachers who piled on the homework and made snide comments when kids complained.

twentyone09

“It’s tough when you feel alone,” Debra said.

“I hate it,” said Kaylyn.

“How do you feel at this moment?” Debra asked.

“At this moment?” replied Kaylyn. “All right, I guess.”

And Debra was rewarded with one of her greatest joys: the sight of her beautiful daughter, smiling.

“Ma, I’ve got calculus homework. You think you could help me we’re done eating? You like calculus, right?”

twentyone08

Nyla, her younger daughter, was a greater challenge. She seldom showed her deepest feelings.

Debra understood this. When pain goes that deep, it stays hidden, coiled around the heart or buried in the marrow.

twentyone12

Debra and Nyla shared the same pain. Debra had met Nyla’s father when Nyla was five. They met at yoga class. Debra always laughed that a Marine would take yoga.

“Body and mind,” said Stefan, Nyla’s father.

They married within a year, and then Stefan was deployed for six months overseas.

He never returned.

Having been through grief before didn’t make it easier, Debra discovered. Each time was different. This time, she felt it on so many levels. Her own fear of abandonment was triggered. Her anger at Kaylyn’s father reasserted itself. And when she wrapped her arms around little Nyla, she felt her own body tighten in grief, remembering the death of her own father. How can you be there to support a child when your own life is shattered in pain, once again? Scars hurt every bit as much as living tissue, she realized.

They got through it. Sometimes, she thought that Nyla was the one who decided to be strong for her.

twentyone11

Nyla was a storyteller, even from early childhood, and whenever she suspected that her adoptive mother was hurting, she would launch into a tale. Most often, the stories were tragic, and as mother and daughter felt themselves wrapped in the story’s shroud, the warmth they shared would slowly melt the blocks of ice within.

Lately, Nyla had begun to tell hero’s tales. Debra wondered where her younger daughter learned the pattern of the hero’s journey. Does it lay so deeply within us that when we’re called to draw from those reserves of strength we come to find that path engrained in the code of our imagination?

twentyone13

“The girl had five ghosts,” Nyla said this night, as she finished her story. “And each had its own powers, and they followed the girl wherever she went so that she could call on them whenever she needed them! And never once did they ever abandon her.”

“Now that’s a fine story,” said Debra. “And with that, I think it’s time for bed for one storyteller, at least.”

twentyone07

Nyla hugged her big sister goodnight. This was what the “Prepare” ritual was for, so that, before laying down for sleep each night, they could feel this warmth. Debra clung to the faith that each time their day’s journey led them here, something healed inside.

twentyone06

In the middle of the calculus tutorial, while Debra explained some of the finer points of infinite series to Kaylyn, Nyla returned with a bowl of chips.

twentyone05

“It’s your bedtime, Squirt,” said Kaylyn.

“I can’t sleep when I’m hungry,” said Nyla.

“Bed after snack,” said Debra.

twentyone04

Kaylyn tucked in her little sister when the calculus lesson was over and the chips had been eaten.

Debra and her older daughter watched a movie together, avoiding romance and opting, instead, for a Hercule Poirot mystery.

“I like that crafty Belgian dude,” Kaylyn said.

“I like Christie’s sense of moral justice,” added Debra. “What a safe world she wrote.”

Kaylyn laughed. “Safe? Somebody always dies! Usually several somebodies!”

“But justice always comes,” replied Debra. “The mystery’s always solved, and justice comes, and everybody heals and moves on. That’s a tidy world.”

“Can I sleep in your bed tonight?” asked Kayln.

“Sure,” said Debra. She’d read article after article about the dangers of co-sleeping with older children, but finally she decided screw it. There were times when a body just needed to hear another body’s breath beside it in the dark of night, and she wasn’t about to deny that to either of her daughters just because some of the latest psychologists said it led to chronic insomnia or increased anxiety.

In the middle of the night, Debra woke as the moon shone through the bedroom window. Kaylyn was breathing deeply beside her.

She got out of bed to check on Nyla.

“What are you doing up?” she asked, when she saw Nyla standing beside her nightstand with the lamp turned on.

“If he’s never coming back,” Nyla said, “who will tuck me in when you’re gone?”

twentyone03

“Oh, Sweet Pea,” said Debra. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m the one that stays, remember?”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

Nyla lay back down.

twentyone02

Debra rubbed her younger daughter’s back and sang to her, an old sorry song about a mourning dove in a pine.

As she watched the little girl sleep, she thought how some wounds we carry with us, and this was surely one, a mark upon a life that would follow this little girl until she sang her own little ones to sleep, and maybe even past that time.

twentyone01

Three Rivers 13.1

Thirteenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

13. The painting that expressed how she truly felt

thirteen11

Red–the pain slashed through her womb when the door slammed. Leave. Take a piece, leave her behind with a gap where the strongest healing can never reach.

thirteen09

Red. So dark it’s black. A single rose petal lay on top of the armoire, dried black. Touch it. Pick it up for safe-keeping, and it crumbles. Red to black. Crumbles to dust.

thirteen08

Indigo. Blue. She thought the door would open again. He would return. Texts unanswered. Messages spinning through the air. She walks suspended through the days. This pain tethers. How long before she knows the door stays shut for good?

thirteen07

Red to black to blue. Forgotten, while the babies cried and dishes filled the sink and bills came due and the door stayed shut. Blue. To abandon hope. The door stays shut.

thirteen05

That year left its mark deep within. She felt it still, that tear inside, where he ripped her in two. She thought love was in the heart. But it was her womb that ached. It ached for her, and it ached for those two babies. Abandoned. She knew where abandonment was felt, deep in the womb where families are made.

thirteen17

Where families are made, like the parlor where her brother played the guitar. Like the kitchen where her mother baked the casserole. Like the dining room where the children gathered after school with books and jokes and stories and laughter.

thirteen18

Red to black to blue to green. A path stretches back from there to here. Laughter flows from gaps and fills the space with green.

thirteen04

Where homes are made. Where families reside. Her son grabs his cousin in a bear hug.

thirteen14

Her niece sings purple songs, and the sink fills with bubbles that birth rainbows.

thirteen16

Red to black to blue to green. Yellow.

The bills were due and the babies were crying and the dishes piled in the sink and her mother called. “I’m coming. I’m bringing you home.” Hope returned. He was gone, but hope returned.

thirteen03

And now her daughter learns from an aunt how to use her mind, how to be strong, how to grow to be a woman that can’t be torn in two.

thirteen15

And it’s all right. It all worked out.

Red to black to green to blue, and yellow follows through, and the pain, still there, recedes until it’s something new.

thirteen02

Gratitude. Green spills into gratitude. For a mother and a sister. Brother and little cousins. For a daughter and a son. And even for you. Gratitude even for you.

thirteen01

For you live in them, the daughter and the son. And the pain does, too.

thirteen06

Gratitude. You live in them. The daughter and the son. The door slams shut, the womb in two. The pain resides where the family grew. Red to black to green to blue. Gratitude?Look again, on a day that’s new.

thirteen13

Red flows to black flows to green flows to blue. Follow the path to the center, through.

Cousins and a brother. A sister and a mother. These two gifts of babies that look like you.

Red to black to green to blue. A yellow arch in the center, the door to home we walk through.

Wonder 6

Mae

six02

“So? I was right?” asked Ulrike when I ran into her in the park.

“You were,” I told her. “We have a little boy.”

“A son for Paolo!” she laughed. “Will you raise him to be the artist or the player of futebol?”

I chuckled. “We will raise him to be Charlie Rocca Cups!”

Something in me has shifted, after Charlie’s birth. All my future-thought, planning facilities feel like they aren’t accessible. I can’t think about schools or colleges or child-rearing philosophies or anything like that.

All I can do is enjoy the sandwiches that Berry makes for me.

six12

All I can think about is cleaning dishes.

six07

All I can feel is this wash inside of colors I don’t even know how to describe. Yeah, I guess I’m still in love and drowning in oxytocin.

This biochemical cocktail of love is great for writing, though! I finished that book about our dad, and now I’m writing a book about bunnies. What? Oh, heavens. It’s true. I am drunk on the mommy-hormones of love.

six06

Fortunately, Berry’s got herself together. She’s still taking over any projects that require concentration.

six05

“What would I do without you?” I asked her the other day, when both the bathroom sink and the toilet broke.

“Marry Paolo, most likely,” she replied.

six01

The whole time we’ve been here, Berry’s been painting every day. Her work’s masterful. She’s been painting a lot of landscapes. The scenes look like they’re from the Pacific Northwest, where our dad grew up, and where we spent most of our summers as kids, roaming around through mountains and along the coast with Frank and Sylvia, our dad’s parents.

six03

I’ve spent a long time looking at her most recent painting.

I can’t really express what I see in it. Three trees in the foreground, and there’s something about the way that smaller of them inclines away from the other two that tugs at me.

It feels like family in some way, that dynamic of love, dependence, and individuation.

six04

“Berry,” I said to her. “Thanks for being here with me while I’m this big puddle of emotion. I don’t feel like myself. I feel good, but I feel weird. Thanks for being here to keep everything going.”

She wrapped her arms around me and didn’t say anything, except she hummed this funny little song that our mom used to sing.

six10

I heard her later that night singing the song to Charlie.

Mares eat oats
And does eat oats
And little lambs eat ivy,

A kid’ll eat ivy, too,
Wouldn’t you?

six11

It’s just an old nonsense song that was popular when Mom and Dad were kids, but when I hear her sing it, all these marrow-deep memories come alive.

When I found out I was pregnant, I was so happy–so fiercely happy. It was a power beyond me–like in my genes. And I thought of Frank and Sylvia, Nonny and Papa, Mom and Dad. I thought of all this continuation of a gesture, a voice, an arch of an eyebrow.

I didn’t think about a song, and how one day, maybe little Charlie Rocca will sing this same song to a little baby in his arms.

But somehow Berry knew.

six09

Somehow, Berry’s got this all figured out, this complicated dance of ties and love and independence.

six08

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