Whisper 2.09

Hi, Riley!

I’m here! I’m at college! And guess what? I’m staying in Mom’s old dorm!

And guess what else? All her old art is still on the walls and the walkway. I guess she’s like some famous celebrity-artist alumni, so they’re leaving up her art for posterity. I think it’s so awesome.

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So college is really cool.

At orientation, I met some of the other students.

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Man, you wouldn’t believe how cool some of them are.

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I met this one girl from Bridgeport. She has the greatest style. She was wearing cargo pants, layered tanks, and–get this–sandals. And a big classy hot-looking belt with a huge buckle. Wow.

It takes somebody really confident to pull of that look. And that’s Jaclyn. Confident and… well, you fill in the blanks!

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Riding home from orientation, it hit me: I’m here!

College is all about discovering yourself, right? Or at least, that’s how I feel. You’ve already discovered yourself!

But me? I’m just figuring out who I am, what I’m all about. That’s the college experience.

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I guess my dorm mates are OK. OK, they’re weird! But heck. Who’s not weird?

This one guy was dressed like some sifu, and he sat next to me at supper. Didn’t say a word. Just sat there, with a concentrated look on his face. I asked him if he was meditating, and he mumbled something, and then dove into his tofu dog. Oh, boy. People are strange.

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After supper, I got a phone call and it was some guy inviting me to a party! I hadn’t even met the guy! But get this! He knew Mom!

His name was Mahmoud something, and he’d actually gone to school with Mom. He never left town, even after graduating. Still lives in the same frat he lived in back when he was a student. I was so tempted to go, just to meet someone who had that connection with Mom.

But I was so tired. And I had classes early the next day. So, I declined.

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Oh! Guess what? I’m even staying in Mom’s old room! I’m using her easel and sleeping in her bed! It’s sort of weird, but also…. Well. I guess you could say that it comforts me. I mean, I don’t feel so alone, and I don’t miss you and everybody so much when I feel Mom all around me like that.

Do you think it’s funny that connections are so important to me?

I mean, I’m always acting so independent and everything. But Riley, I’m not really independent. It’s just that I’ve got you and everybody at home supporting me, and that makes me feel like I can conquer the world.

But actually, sometimes, when it’s late at night, and no one’s looking, and I’m all alone, I feel sort of… not really lost, but sort of alone. I guess that’s why I wanted you to come with me, so I could keep pretending to be brave.

Don’t worry! I’m not guilt-tripping you! I’m glad for you that you did what you want.

It’s just that I’m also really, really grateful that I get to sleep in Mom’s old room because it makes me feel a little less like a bunny in a basket dropped on somebody’s doorstep twenty years ago…

Anyway. Enough of that.

So I woke up super early on my first day of classes. I was so excited. It was pouring down rain, which made me so happy since it felt like home, only warmer, and then I raced to my class.

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Class was cool. The prof is from Champs Les Sims, and he talks with a really strong accent. I felt like raising my hand and asking, “Ou est la fromage, c’est vous plais?” LOL! But I didn’t. I refrained. Because, you know. Manners.

I’m trying really hard to make a good impression on all my professors. Plus, it’s interesting. Did you know that Cézanne strove not to copy nature, but to recreate it, trying to produce “a harmony parallel to nature?” I think that’s awesome. It answers something I always wondered about, which is, now that we have photography, what’s the purpose of painting? And this gave me insight into the answer.

I’ve got a little bit of time in between classes, so I thought more about that while I was waiting for the next class to start.

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I’m taking such a full load that Mondays and Wednesdays are packed. I just go from class to class with, like I said, a little break in between to digest the material from one lecture before cramming in the stuff from the next.

Tuesday, I’ve just got a single class in the lecture hall, but the first Tuesday, I was so tired that I slept right up until class.

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At least I didn’t sleep through the lecture like some people!

I was so focused on taking notes. I want to remember everything!

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After the lecture, though, guess what? I got another phone call from another person who’d gone to school with Mom! She invited me to a party, too. Can you believe it? I was so surprised.

And you know what? This party, I’m going to. I want to meet this person who says she knew Mom back when they were both crazy rebels and anarchists. Did you know Mom was an anarchist? I didn’t either! I wonder if it’s true…

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Well, I’d better stop writing if I’m gonna make it to that party. Man, I miss you so much!

Did you make the special beef food for Zoey and Roxy? Give them lots of pets and snuggles from me. Tell Patches and Bo that I miss them and that I hope they’re not giving you a hard time.

And when you write, be sure to fill me in on everything that’s going on with you! I can’t stand not being there to hear everything right from your own lips as soon as it happens. Of course, it’s not like you ever did share all your secrets with me, you rascal!

Anyway, love you lots. Miss you and the fam.

Be good. Have fun.

Dang, I really better go or I’ll be late for that party.

OK.

Bye.

Love you lots,

Mari

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Whisper 1.40

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Tomorrow will be Bobobo’s first day of school, and I’m still here to see it.

“Will there be kids there at school?” he asks.

“Yes,” I say. “That’s pretty much what school is about.”

“Yuck,” he says. “I should really stay here with you.”

But we agree that he’ll try it. I have a feeling he’ll love learning, even if he does choose to spend recess talking to the librarian to avoid what he calls “the stupid conversations” that kids have.

While Bobobo is getting ready for bed, we notice silence. We have a portable keyboard outside, and some stranger had sat down to play it all evening. We didn’t mind, for the music was lovely–Chopin preludes, which sound amazing on electric keyboard.

But when the music stops mid-passage, I look out the window.

It’s a sight I know all too well.

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We race out.  We’re crushed, having to witness this yet again. No matter how many times I’ve seen a reaping, it never gets easier.

Bobobo stands behind me and giggles.

When I turn to look at him, he’s chanting, “One down. Six billion, nine hundred million, and ninety-nine one thousands to go!”

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I worry about him sometimes.

The next day, he and Marigold hop on the school bus together.

“Have fun!” I call after them. I’m hoping that Bobobo will be decent, at least, to the other kids.

With the kids gone, I have no distractions for my grief. I’m still mourning Frank. I have witnessed so many passings. I’ve lost so many old friends and a lover. And no reaping has hit me harder than this. I feel that I never realized how I’d counted on Frank’s support and the warm way he made me feel. And now he’s gone, and I can’t thank him.

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We have so many angels in our lives–do we even recognize them when they are here?

I make a mental note to tell the kids how much I love them today, before they go to bed, and to let them know how grateful I am to have had a chance to care for them.

When school’s out, Marigold calls to ask to go over the Wolffs, and Bobobo asks to go home with a new friend. That’s wonderful! He made a friend!

When they come home, I ask them how it went.

“Did you do your homework?”

“First thing,” says Marigold, trying hard not to roll her eyes.

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“I played video games first,” says Bobobo. “Get the brain-juice pumping, you know!”

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“I played video games second,” said Marigold. “The Wolffs have awesome games!”

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“I did my homework second,” said Bobobo. “It is very stupid.”

“Did you finish?” I ask.

“Of course!” He says. “What’s the point of half-stupid when you could have whole-stupid! Duh!”

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“As long as it’s done,” I say. “Then what did you do?”

“I talked to Patches. I had to tell her all about school. She thought it was silly to be at someone else’s house.”

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After supper, Dante joins us. It’s the first time we’ve been together in the living room, all four of us.

“It’s a picture postcard of the perfect family,” I say.

Dante chuckles.

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“Mom, I’ll read Bobobo his bedtime story tonight,” says Marigold. She’s looking at Dante when she says that, so I figure she is being considerate, letting us have an evening together.

While she selects Bobobo’s book, I come up beside her.

“I’m so proud of you, Bunny,” I whisper in her ear. “I love you the whole moon over.”

She giggles. “Mom! Your whispers tickle!”

I kiss Bobobo. “I could eat you, little Sprout,” I say. “I bet you’d taste great with ranch dressing.”

He makes a sound like tiny explosions in his mouth.

“I love you, Mischief,” I tell him. “You are a miracle and an amazement, and I’m so lucky to be your mom.”

“Same, same,” he says. “Green Tea.”

I stand at the door and watch them while Marigold begins the story.

“Every story starts with magic,” she says, “for that’s where we can find what is true!”

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Dante stands behind me, and I can feel the pulsing of the red light of his heart.

“How did we get such kids, sweet?” he asks.

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“We must have dreamed them,” I say, and he wraps his arms made of red light around me and I feel on the outside that same warmth that spreads through me inside. I’ve lived another day.

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Whisper 1.26

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Ice crystals blanket the plants in the garden and it’s pouring down ice-cold rain on Marigold’s first day of school. Of course, rain is nothing new: it pours nearly every day, unless it snows.

“Bye, Mom!” Marigold calls as she races to the bus. I’m on the phone with Felicity, and by the time I hang up, the bus is already turning around and heading off towards town.

“Have a great day at school!” I call after the bus.

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When Marigold gets home, I ask how school was, and she says fine. Then, she turns around and starts talking with Riley, only I can’t see Riley anywhere.

“Who are you talking to, Bunny?”

“Mom! Riley! He’s right here! Duh!”

I shrug. I always encouraged her to use her imagination, so if she wants to pretend that Riley is there, I suppose that’s fine.

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Only when it’s time for bed, Marigold is running through the house whacking the air with her pillow.

“Go to bed, Marigold,” I say. “And did you do your homework?”

“Yes! Wumph! Oh. That hurt!” And she giggles and races outside.

She spends half the night pillow fighting with Invisible Riley. By the time I finally manage to get her settled down and into bed, we have only a few hours until the school bus comes, and she still needs to take a shower and have breakfast. I decide to pack an extra sandwich in her backpack and let her skip the shower so she can squeeze in a little more sleep. She’s going to be one tired bunny by 4:00 p.m.

As she settles into the backseat of the bus, leaning against the corner and closing her eyes, I regret that I didn’t do a better job establishing regular schedules for us when she was little. It was no big deal back then if we stayed up all night reading, and so often, even when we were both so sleepy we could hardly keep our eyes open, I would fall for “one more page, please?” I guess I taught by example that it was fine to stay up all night, as long as you were having fun. Now, we’re paying the price.

As the bus drives off, I see Riley, sitting innocently on the porch. I pick him up and put him away. We’ll have to have some limits. When Marigold gets home from school, I’ll explain that first comes homework, then eating, then bathing, then sleeping, and then, if there’s any time in the morning, after breakfast and hair-combing, then Riley can come out to play while she waits for the bus.

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I hope she accepts these limits without fuss.

Around mid-day, I look out and see a dog standing in the field in the pouring rain. He’s very cute, with a little borzoi tail.

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I head out to him to see if I can persuade him to come in out of the rain.

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He follows me home, but he won’t come in. I hope he sticks around until Marigold gets home. She’s been asking if we could get a dog, and I’d love to adopt a stray.

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“Oh! Puppy!” she says when she gets off the bus. She approaches him slowly, talking in a gentle voice. I can see that she’s a natural with dogs. I don’t need to coach her at all. She knows just how to make Stray Dog’s acquaintance.

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Soon they’re playing tug-of-war, and I’m thinking how nice it will be for us to have a four-legged friend.

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She’s able to persuade Stray Dog to come inside, and he joins her while she plays house.

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While she plays, I explain to her about the new Riley rule. She seems relieved.

“That’s a good thing,” she says. “I love Riley, but to tell the truth, he was being kind of a pain. He wouldn’t let me do anything but play with him. I like to play with him, but I like to do other things, too.”

I give Marigold a kiss and read her a story before tucking her in.

After Marigold goes to sleep, I find Stray Dog curled up on my bed, and my heart opens like a rose. I had no idea having a dog around would make me so happy.

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It’s too wintry outside for me to garden, so I started a tiny indoor garden.

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The plant is very strange. I was fooling around with some seeds I found, using the science station I have to see if I could splice the genes. And the resulting plant is something completely new to me! The fruit looks a little like a durian, but I’m too cautious to eat it. At any rate, growing the plant lets me stay connected to the garden during the long season when the plants are dormant.

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At Marigold’s birthday party, I had a revelation: I realized that I’d been faithful to Dante since I met him, and I realized that I like this.

When he comes by, I confess to him that I like being true to him.

“I simply can’t cheat on you, Dante,” I tell him. “It’s just not possible.”

“You’re eternally faithful,” he says. “Me, too, to you.”

“Well,” I say, feeling suddenly very bashful, “since we’re faithful anyway, what do you say we make it official-like? Would you, maybe, become my boyfriend?”

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He agrees.

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We head inside to the big bed. I feel overcome with happiness, making it for real. No more pretending that I’m looking for someone alive, no more thinking “in time” or “what if.” It’s now, and we’re a couple.

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Later, before I fall asleep, I think how lucky I am. This is Big Love. Maybe I’m nuts, but at that moment, it seems even more special that we’ve stayed together despite the odds. For something like this to last, beyond the grave, it means it runs deep. Maybe this is what they mean when they say “soul mate.”

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