Another Legacy, 4.13

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 24, 2023: How do you show love?

From the Journal of Nicki Flores

My dorm room stands stripped of all my belongings: clean, empty, and ready for the next student who will spend four years of his or her life here.

I can’t believe I’ll be leaving all this behind.

My dormmate Yusuf came to say goodbye.

“Let’s keep in touch!” he said.

“Oh, we will! We will!” We have to.

I’d really wanted to end my college soccer career on a high note, but we lost. As usual.

I felt sad and disappointed in losing, like always. But I also realized that I am really, really going to miss this. I’ve loved being a soccer player, even on the losing team. I’ve just loved college, every moment of it, and losing soccer games is part of that. I’ve loved it.

After my last finals, I was off the team–officially graduated, even if we hadn’t had the ceremony yet, so I couldn’t play anymore. Soccer is over.

But that meant that for the first time in my entire four years at the university, I was free for the Saturday Night Dorm Party!

Asuka came, and we danced in the party room down the hall.

The party got a little weird with dormmate drama. That’s one thing I won’t miss. And it made me realize that I don’t really regret that being busy with soccer kept me away from college parties. They’re not that great, after all.

I found an empty easel in a quiet corner and painted a portrait of Asuka.

I wanted to capture Asuka’s quietness, her sort of peaceful happiness, that’s just there wherever she is. In the painting, she’s partly blocked by the dresser, and that seemed symbolic to me of the way she sort of stays in the background, there, beautiful, but not demanding.

I think some people would paint the person they loved front and center. But I wanted to show Asuka how she is, bright and colorful in drab surroundings, but not demanding. Quiet and peaceful. I call the painting, “Love is Always There.”

My last day at college, before the graduation ceremony, I jogged through campus. I just sort of breathed in all the memories. I haven’t really spent much time dreaming of the future because I’ve been so busy with finishing up the term and meeting all the graduation requirements, and I wasn’t ready to start opening that bag of dreams yet.

Dad’s already moved to Sulani–he got that job! And I’ll be joining him tomorrow.

But this last day, I just wanted to remember. I’ve loved this so much, and I want to pull it all into me, so that my whole experience here becomes part of my bones. I want to take this with me.

I’d always wanted to participate in the debates, but I could never find the time, due to practice, games, studying, and studio work, but finally, that last day, I was able to join in!

I felt pretty confident. Just talk from your heart, right?

Well, no. Debates come more from the logical brain. I did terribly!

But at least I can say that I have had the experience of a college debate!

At last it was time for the graduation ceremony.

The UBrite mascot found me while we were waiting to make it into the graduation hall, and we snapped a picture. I can’t wait to share this with my kid someday, once I adopt.

Then it was over. One last time riding my bike through campus.

Outside the sports arena, one of the new soccer recruits jogged to practice. It felt so odd not to be going in with him. I think missing practice will be one of he hardest things for me. My brain and body are just wired to head to the arena every weekday at 6 p.m. sharp.

When I got back to the dorm, there wasn’t a crowd of dormmates waiting to cheer me, just a few new students and one of my old friends.

“Well, I guess it’s off to the big world!” one of the new guys said.

“Ha! Good luck out there!” said the other.

It’s supposed to be exciting, heading out, starting fresh. Career! Family! Fame! All that good stuff.

But I’ve loved my life here. I’ve loved being a college student so much. I’m going to miss everything–even the stinky dorm hallways and the cold leftovers on the foyer table!

These years have been amazing, and the only way I know to show my love for them is to breathe all my memories so deep into me that they become part of who I am. I’m taking this experience with me.

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Another Legacy, 4.7

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 18, 2023: What’s your favorite meal to cook and/or eat?

From the Journal of Nicolette Flores

For my graduation party, Dad cooked up my favorite meal: Tofu tacos, root beer floats, and carob cake. My teacher, Ms. Kaneko, brought over a chocolate cake, too, which was even better than Dad’s carob cake!

We invited so many people. Asuka and Kaito both came. It was my first chance to be with both of them at the same time since I’d developed the crush on Asuka. But there were so many people, and it was so noisy, and we were all so relieved and happy about graduating, that I didn’t even check in with my crush-feelings. I had enough emotions swirling around in me!

Dad brought me a root beer float and a slice of Ms. Kaneko’s cake, and I felt calmer immediately.

“Your speech went over really well,” he said. “I’m still thinking about it.”

It meant a lot to me that Dad liked my speech. I’d practiced it a lot, because I wanted my delivery to be perfect, but I didn’t practice it before Dad or let him read a draft of it. I wanted it to present my own thoughts, and I wanted the speech to be the result of my own efforts. And I wanted to surprise him.

Ms. Kaneko probably knew it by heart, though. She listened to me toss around ideas, gave me feedback on my drafts, and was my audience-of-one when I practiced.

Earlier that evening, at the ceremony, I was so nervous.

“Are you ready for this?” Ms. Kaneko asked. “I know you are!”

I was ready to graduate. I was ready for college. I was ready for whatever the next chapter of my life would bring. I was especially ready for the graduation party. But the speech?

“I guess so!” I replied. I was pretty nervous, actually.

I took a big breath. Looking out over my classmates, it struck me. I was leaving high school. I thought back on the prom here and how amazing Kaito looked when he arrived at it. Right then, I felt a twinge of regret and loss. So many things I’d dreamed of happening during high school, like becoming Kaito’s girlfriend, hadn’t happened. Sure, I’d done a lot, but so many dreams were left unlived, and now I was leaving them behind.

I swallowed and started my speech.

“Don’t let people write your prompts for you,” I began.

I went on to compare life to an essay, and how we can write responses to other people’s prompts (“describe your happiest day,” “what’s your favorite meal?”, “where do you want to be in five years?”) and we might come up with something clever and something fun to read, but what we write will lack authenticity. Instead, create our own prompts. What do you want to write? What do you want your life story to be?

I didn’t think my speech was all that original–I mean, ever since Emerson, commencement speeches have urged graduates towards authenticity. But I still felt it was valid.

My classmates looked mostly confused, but the grown-ups were clapping, and my dad said to me later, while we were eating my favorite meal at the party, that this was his favorite speech, ever.

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Another Legacy, 2.6

Kiki had done it! Yesterday, she took her last finals, earlier in the week she’d given her last presentation and submitted her last research essay, and now, she was done with school!

Her final grades contained one big disappointment–a B minus in Plein Air Painting?

That had been her favorite class! Sure, she often strolled in late, not always realizing just how long it would take for her to walk from her house to the painting site for the day. She was even a little late for the final, come to think of it, with all that emotional turmoil she’d been going through. But a B minus? Surely her work merited more than that!

For an instant, she felt relieved that Ira wasn’t there to see that she’d earned a lower GPA than Ira had–and then she felt guilty for feeling that, and ridiculous, too, for Ira would never make her feel bad for her grades. She’d help her reframe it.

She thought of what Ira might say. Look at your overall GPA! You’ve graduated with an A. This will make absolutely no difference in your life or your career, down the line. If anything, it’s taught you some valuable lessons.

Kiki wasn’t sure yet what those valuable lessons were or might be, but she could discover them in time.

“Hey, congrats on graduating,” said one of her roommate’s friends. “Good deal, star.”

Susume stopped her in the hall. “Hey,” he said, “before you move out, can you just do one thing? Can you just kick the soccer ball with me so I can brag that I kicked the ball with the Great Kiki?”

She flashed back on Susume’s words when she was waiting on the graduation ceremony to start… before she moved out.

Truth was, she hadn’t even thought yet about moving out. She’d sort of put all of that on the back burner… or even, not even in pot yet, but still in the fridge, figuring that she’d deal with it once she was done with her classes, so she could concentrate.

She had no idea what she was going to do next.

“Congrats! We did it!” One of the other graduates interrupted her thoughts.

“I know! We made it!”

The ceremony was long and boring, not really a celebration at all. And afterwards, Kiki was so full of energy and emotion that she had to juggle the soccer ball a bit, just to release some of what had been pent up. She didn’t work out too hard in order to save some reserves for the game that night.

Then she got a call from her coach. “Grats, star,” he said. “We’re gonna miss you.”

“Wait, what? I’ll see you in half an hour for tonight’s game, right?”

“Oh, man,” he replied. “Nobody explained the fine print, right? You’re off the team, babe. Graduated. Once you get that piece of paper, you can’t play for us anymore. We’d lose our eligibility. You’re welcome to come watch, though!”

And just like that, it was over, her whole athlete-scholar career. She always thought she’d have one last game, and that would be the real celebration.

She couldn’t bear to go watch. What if she cried in the stadium? What if her teammates tried to say goodbye to her? It would just be too weird to be there and not be suited up. Besides, they’d already replaced her.

She spent the night playing video games, something she hadn’t done for years. She’d think about tomorrow tomorrow.

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Another Legacy, 1.38

One last push and Ira will make it–the completion of her long era as a student. She’s defended her thesis, held her last individual show, and now, all she needs to do is write her short biographical statement for the MFA Graduates’ Show.

How can she sum up the essence of herself in under 60 words?

Ira Mahajan developed her eye for the out-of-place in her early career as a paparazzi photographer. She brings that sense of the strikingly absurd, mixed in with the everyday, to her work as a painter. Having been a student for over a decade, she’s not sure yet what else waits for her, but she is eager to find out.

She truly feels unsure about what she’ll do with her time when she doesn’t have a perpetual to-do list with impending deadlines, but she’s kind of eager to find out. One thing’s for sure, she’ll start by finally getting some sleep.

It’s a long morning of sleeping in that she daydreams of while waiting for the winter graduation ceremony to begin.

But when the other graduates show up, the daydream fades, and the excitement of reality jumps in.

“We really did it!” Ira exclaims.

“Bro! Dude! We’re here!”

None of them are sure what they’ll do after graduation–that is, the next day, or the day after that, or the month after that, and this realization casts a bit of somber cloud over their jubilations. But still. What an accomplishment. And in the quiet moments before filing in to the ceremonial hall, they each pause with their own reflections on hard work, perseverance, and privilege. They made it.

Graduation is held on Winter Fest, and after the morning event, the family joins in with their holiday traditions. Their house is still too small for an inside tree, and once again, as it did on the Winter Fest when they found out that Kiki’s adoption was going through, it snowed during the night.

But Kiki and Case love being outside best, especially in the snow, and Ira feels happiest when they are happiest.

“How is it to finally be an MFA?” Case asks Ira.

“I’m not sure,” Ira says. “What if I don’t do anything with my graduate degree?”

“Does it matter?” Case asks. “I mean, look at who you are. How wonderful you are, as an artist, a thinker, a person–a friend. And so much of that has been developed while you’ve been a student. Just as you are right now, I can’t imagine you need anything else.”

It’s the sweetest, most validating thing anyone could have said to her. She does feel pretty well perfectly complete.

They have a grand feast with tofu turkey, mashed potatoes made from potatoes they grew in their own garden, ginger-carrots (also home-grown), and cranberry sauce.

“Best feast ever, right?” Case says.

Kiki closes her eyes and realizes this might be her last holiday while still living in the house. They haven’t decided yet, but there’s a chance she might move onto campus, and if she does, she knows how one thing leads to the next, and she’s not sure the stone cairns that mark her path will lead her back home once she sets out on her way.

Father Winter comes at dusk.

“I hear you already have every heartfelt wish,” he says, “but I brought you some presents, anyway.”

A few days after Winter Fest, they hear from the university. Kiki’s been accepted for early admission in the Fine Arts Distinguished Degree program. She’s racked up a slew of scholarships–enough to pay tuition, books, and then some. She was even awarded an athletic scholarship. It seems a bit odd to her, since she’s never been on a team, but her P.E. teacher did write an amazing recommendation based on her fitness scores. When they dig deeper, they discover that it’s part of the Inclusion and Diversity Initiative. The athletic program is given an incentive by the university to include a certain number of students with disabilities–and Kiki’s autism diagnosis counts. If they meet their quota, the athletic department gets more money. Simple as that.

Kiki’s not sure how she feels about being accepted under those qualifications, especially as she’s never had team experience. They’d start her as a trainee, and she’d have to go to daily practice, every game, and discover her potential. If she did OK, she could stay on the team and continue to receive the athletic scholarship. One other thing: she’d have to live on campus. And she’d have to start soon, before winter break were even over.

She thinks it over during her run. She loves being physically active, more than almost anything, and the idea of being on a team excites her. She’s never really been part of a group, and here is a chance to do so. And she’d get to learn an actual sport. The other kids used to call her a spaz, back when before she got fit, and she was never chosen for sports at recess–not that she was the last to be chosen, she simply was not ever chosen. This could be a chance to turn that around.

When she gets home from her run, she gazes at Ira’s graduation photo. All during childhood and her teen years, Ira was there studying, painting, practicing violin–working so hard. Ira never backed down from the challenge.

Now her MFA with Honors diploma hangs on the kitchen wall to testify to that hard work.

Kiki will step up to the challenge, too. It will mean leaving home sooner than she’d planned. It will mean stretching herself beyond any concept she’d had before of what she was capable of doing. But now, she wants to be a scholar athlete more than anything she’s ever wanted. She isn’t sure she’ll be able to do it, but she has Ira as her role model, and she wants to try.

Case and Ira throw a going-to-college party for her. They invite all the friends, and to Case’s surprise, they have a full house.

Case feels as proud of Kiki for taking up the challenge as he does of Ira for meeting her challenge. If he’d stopped to think, he might’ve felt proud of himself, too, for what he’d accomplished, in the community, his career, and the lives of his family. But that’s not his nature, to feel proud of himself.

Instead, he stands at the window and looks out on all the memories with the bittersweet taste of goals met, griefs endured, and love tended.

And with that, Gen 1 comes to a close.

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Whisper 2.29


Dear me,

Nothing–or at least few things–make me more nervous than opening the envelope that contains my grades.

And nothing–I mean, nothing–feels better than seeing those A’s staring right back at me!

Yeah! I did this thing! Master Controller!


The ground was still blanketed in snow when I walked into the graduation ceremony, though the sun warmed the air.

“Congratulations, Marigold,” said Melvin Moon.

“Thanks for coming to see me graduate!” I said.

“Of course!” He replied. “I wouldn’t let my best friend graduate without offering my felicitations!”

I had to chuckle. My mind had been so full of Shannon lately that I completely forgot that Melvin and I were best friends.


The ceremony lasted forever, and it was nearly dark when I got out. Plus, all the snow had melted!

But there I was, diploma in hand, my second degree! Phys Ed major, and summa cum laude!



Mom would be proud.


Before I made it back to the dorm, I got a text from Shannon.

Congrats, babe. Party. Coming?

Hell, yeah!


Shannon was nowhere to be seen when I arrived.

Instead, I was met by Becky Blackstone.

“Oh! I’d recognize you anywhere,” she said.

“Have we met?” I asked.

“You know me, right? I mean, no, we haven’t met. But Becky Blackstone? For sure you’ve heard of me. Famous like you, right?”


“I’m not really famous,” I said.

She laughed.

“Get out! If you’re not famous, then how come I’ve been reading about you for the past four years in the same rags that have all the stories about my family?”

I had to admit, she was really cute. Maybe she was a little starstruck or a little full of her own status, but her enthusiasm was adorable. Plus she had the cutest mini-dreadlocks.


We got to talking. She’d just finished her first semester as a technology major.

“I want to design video games,” she told me. While she was telling me about her idea for a game based on the jet stream, Shannon came in.


She was wearing nothing at all. She looked kind of sad.


“I see you two met,” she called to me. “I thought you might have something in common.”

“Right on!” yelled Becky. “Thanks for inviting me!”

By the time Shannon returned from getting dressed, I’d just given Becky my address.

We kind of decided that we wanted to spend more time with each other, and since I was leaving in a few hours, I invited Becky to come visit over semester break.

She seemed pretty excited.


Shannon had disappeared again by the time I had to head back to catch the shuttle home.

Just as well!

I raced back in the rain, thinking about everything–about friendships starting and those that just continue. I thought about Shannon inviting over Becky so we could meet.


All through the long flight home, I kept replaying my whole connection with Shannon, from our first meeting during my first time in college when we were so wrapped up in our own universe, then back to the time when I was home, writing her so often, to this up-and-down stint for my second degree, when it took me the whole time to figure out what Shannon meant to me and to understand what I meant to her. I thought about Becky, who’d be coming to visit in a few days. I felt like I was following through with Shannon’s wish for me.

When I got back home, the first thing I saw was the graduation gnome, tossing up his mortarboard in celebration.


And then I noticed the plants! Did nobody tend the garden while I’d been gone?

Better get busy!


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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.


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.


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.


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


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


“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.”


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.”


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?”


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.”


“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.”


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!”


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 2.13

Hey, Riley!

How’s it all at home?

Man, these last few weeks of the term have flown by!

At a party the other night, I ran into Jaclyn, one of the first people I met here, and we were realizing that in just a few days, we’ll graduate.


I haven’t really been doing much besides studying, painting, and hanging out with Shannon.

Oh, the other day, I did train one of my dorm mates. She’s a werewolf.

“Hey, you like dogs, right?” she asked me.

When I nodded, she said, “Then train me! I want to be able to run faster!”

“What kind of techniques do you want me to use?” I asked her.

“You know. Like you’d use with a dog. Or a wolf. Really hard-core stuff. I’ve gotta get in shape!”

“How about I train you like a person who wants to get in shape?” I asked.


At the end of the session, I think she was wishing I had trained her like a dog. There’s no way I’d be that hard on a pup! But a person? I can make a person sweat!


Of course I’m painting whenever I get a chance. I love it so much! I’m still not really that great. My prof says I’ve got a “primitive sense of color and composition,” but then he follows it up with, “and I’m not usually so lavish in my praise.” Ha! So, I guess, maybe I’m developing a style, even if I don’t think it’s that good.

It is ridiculously fun, though. I can see why Mom painted all the time.


My dorm mates are pretty cool. They tend to be quiet and keep to themselves, but every now and then, a few of us will meet in the dining room while we’re grabbing a quick snack before the next class.


Mom always told me about all the good friends she made in University. But, though I’ve met a lot of people, I’ve really only made one friend, Shannon.

That’s OK, though. I know I’ve got a gajillion friends waiting for me at home, and I really didn’t come to college to make friends. I came to learn, as naive as that sounds.

And I have learned so much!


Lately, I’ve been thinking about how pieces fit together. It started when I was jogging home from class, really, and I felt how my joints fit together, then the muscles around the bones. Then I thought about that whole network of blood vessels and nerves and how they traverse and connect all these disparate parts of the body.

Everything fits.


It’s like that in communities, too–like here at the University, we’ve got all these people, students and profs and hangers-on, and they all fit to make up this place.

And it’s like that with pieces of knowledge, how little archaic bits of data and information fit together to create something awesome.

And it’s like that with families, too.

Dang! I’m late. I’ve got to head off to my finals! I’ll finish this letter later!



Hey! I’m back!

So… we got our final results this morning…


What do you think? You wanna make a bet that I failed?



I aced those babies! I got an A in every class! Which means… I’ve graduated, Riley!

Yes, indeedy! You’re now reading the writing of a college graduate, with college honors and a fine arts degree! Woot!


I just got out of the graduation ceremony. In fact, it’s taken me so long to finish up this letter that I’ll have to drop it off in the mailbox on the way to the airport, which means you’ll probably see me home before you get his letter!

I know. I could bring it home with me. But isn’t it more fun when I check the mail at home, and then I get to call out to you, “Hey, Riley! You got a letter!” Ha!

I know I’m all giddy now, but I felt pretty awe-struck and serious at graduation.

I was there alone, which actually made it more significant for me.

Shannon says she doesn’t do good-byes. And you know that I don’t like them, either. So when I left her still sleeping in my bed, I just left. It’s like it’s not over if there’s no goodbye. It just carries on, only I happen to be back in Moonlight Falls and she happens to be here at the university.


When the ceremony finished, I wanted to leave a mark there on the sidewalk outside the auditorium. I spray-painted a mural. I think Mom would approve.


I saw Jaclyn outside the auditorium.

“How’s this for symmetry?” I asked her. “You were the first person I met, and it looks like you’ll be the last one I talk with before I leave!”

“Oh, you’ll be back, though, right? I can always tell. Some students aren’t happy with just one degree.”

You know, Riley, I think maybe she’s right. And I hope that when I come back for my next degree that you’re here with me, too. And maybe Patches and Bo! We can get Mara to look after Zoey and Roxy, and we can rent a little house here on campus. I’m ready! What do you say?


When I got back to the dorm to pick up my luggage, all my dorm mates came out to say good-bye. I kept looking around for Shannon, but she was long gone.


And now, I’m guessing that this letter is feeling jealous of me, for I’ll be seeing you before this letter does! I hate to seal it up and stick it in the mailbox, for then it’s got its long, lonely trip in the mailbag, but I can see my plane taxiing in to the gate, and soon they’ll be calling us to board.

Oh, Riley! I did it. I got my degree–well, my first one at any rate–and I had my college experience, complete with a Big Love and all!

I won’t even say goodbye as I finish up this letter, for I’ll be seeing you so soon… and when I wrap you in a big hug, I’ll say…



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Whisper 1.42


Marigold takes over the bedtime story routine.

“I love it, Mom!” she says. “It’s so fun to read these stories that I loved so much as a kid.”

“It’s not boring to you?” I ask.

“If it is, I just make up a new story.”

I hear her with Patches.

“They always tell you to dream. To live! They say ‘magic is in your heart!’ I’m here to tell you that magic is all around us, and dreams are OK, but what’s more important are the feelings they evoke. Rather than ‘follow your dreams,’ I say, ‘follow your feelings.’ Love, inspiration, peace, enthusiasm–let these be your guides! Then your life will be rich.”


It’s her valedictorian speech. I’ve heard it a hundred times already, as she walks through the house practicing.

“Do you like the message?” she asks me.

“Very much,” I say, reflecting that it took me a lifetime to learn that lesson. I imagine the students sitting in the auditorium. Will they listen to her? Or will they each be so wrapped in the membrane of their own dreams that their ears close while their eyes follow the chimera of all they hope to make real?

The night before graduation, we celebrate Marigold’s birthday. Though frost lies on the ground, she wants to have the party outside.


We’re all there to celebrate: Annie and Mara Nix, Pip, Bobobo, Patches, Gator Wolff, and more friends.

“Let me go change,” Marigold says. She runs inside and when she returns, she’s dressed like a go-go Greek goddess. “All set!” she says.

And we cheer.

I have lived to see this bunny become a young woman. I exhale the breath that I’ve been holding these past five years. Wish granted.


That night, I read Patches her story. I don’t know how many more chances I’ll have for bedtime stories.

“Is it true that feelings are more important than dreams?” she asks me.

“They’re both important,” I say. “Feelings lie at the deeper level, at the core. And the dreams, they’re just one of many pointers to the feelings. You can follow the dreams or follow the feelings, Little Patches, whichever feels right to you. Just don’t mistake the pointers for the real thing, OK?”

“Like the moon story?” she asks. I look at her quizzically. “The finger isn’t the moon.”

“Exactly,” I say.


I live to see my daughter walk out of our house wearing her cap and gown. This is the valedictorian, top of her class. She’s been rehearsing her speech all morning.


I feel tears of gratitude, pride, and relief as I head out to the cab. This is what I’ve prayed for, that I would live to see Marigold graduate. I’ve accomplished what I set out to all those years ago when she was brought to me, a funny little bunny in a basket, and now, she is a young woman, ready to inspire and lead others. What a miracle.


I tell Marigold that I’m proud of her, and then we fall into the silence of our thoughts as we wait for Patches and Bobobo to join us in the cab.

I realize that it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the whispering voice.

Maybe you have integrated it into yourself, so there’s no longer a need to hear it as if from without.

Maybe so.


Patches and I follow the trail of daisies that Bobobo leads into the auditorium.

“Think I’ll graduate one day?” Patches asks me.

“Absolutely,” I say.

“Will you be proud of me?” she asks.

“I’m proud of you already, Patches,” I say, “and nothing will ever change that.”


Marigold’s speech is received with cheers and a standing ovation. Her classmates vote her “Most likely to take over the world.” Bobobo looks at me and says, “How’d she get that job? That’s supposed to me mine!”

When we get home, Marigold and Patches play chess, and I look out the window, watching Bobobo as he rides his rocking horse, deep in concentration. I will not see him graduate and become a young man, this I know. But I’ve seen him grow into a young sprout, and with his sister, I can trust that he’ll receive the guidance that he needs. She’s got more strength and wisdom than I could ever muster. He’ll be in good hands.


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Whisper 1.10


My last term at university flies by.

Some of my dorm mates complain that their papers are being graded too harshly: one misused semi-colon, one missing possessive apostrophe, and the essay receives a D. I can understand about the missing apostrophe until Shea explains to me that the entire notion of possession is culturally biased. “Plants don’t own things,” he says.

I see his point. So I stage a protest against the culturally biased, too harsh grading.


I notice that the other students there are fellow Dean’s List members. I guess, since we’re coming from a place of academic strength, we feel like we’re in a position to speak up for those who aren’t.


We shout and rant and rave for hours, until finally, the Dean’s secretary comes out of the administration building and says, “Enough. Go home. Everybody gets higher grades tomorrow, the Dean says.”

By then, we’re starving.


I race back to the dorm to tell Shea that we won–now he can leave out all the possessive apostrophes he wants.


Back at the dorm, Shea is lining up a battalion of snow people.

“We persuaded them, Shea.” I tell him.

“That’s great,” he says. “I’ve got more important things to do than study punctuation right now.”

“But punctuation is always important!”

“Not as important as snow people!”

He has a point there!


On the last day of the term, Anoki invites me to a party at his dorm.

I realize this might be my last time to see him for while.


Finishing college means leaving behind best friends.


After talking with Anoki, I notice a guy hanging out in library.

“I don’t think we’ve met yet,” I say.

“Jeffrey Dean,” he says. We talk for a bit, and I feel like we’ve got a lot in common.

“Hey, what do you say we ditch this place and go on a date?” He asks.

I look around. Anoki has already gone to bed and the party seems to be wrapping up.

“Sure,” I reply.


We head over to the student lounge, but we don’t even make it inside. We just stand out in the snow, talking for hours.

“College life has been good for me,” Jeffrey says. “Before college, I spent all my free time hanging out, racing cars, getting stoned. It was a sure way to noway. How about for you?”

I tell him about my life back in Moonlight Falls, with all those random-seeming things that kept happening.

“I think college has been good for me, too,” I say. “I’ve got focus at least. Or that’s what it feels like.”

It has been good.


It’s late, and our date ends.

The next morning, I hear the sound of an envelope being slid under the door. Oh! The term grades!

Ugh! I can’t bear to look! What if they were as bad as last time?

Then you’ll be a proud B student who’s graduating from university!


But when I look, I see all A’s staring back at me!


Ooo! Yes! I did it! A perfect GPA! I guess my extra credit compensated for last term’s B’s!


And then, it’s time for graduation. A snowman watches as I file in for the commencement ceremony.


I can’t believe that all that hard work paid off!


The ceremony lasts all afternoon, and I have plenty of time to reflect on all I’ve learned: a lot about art, that’s for sure. And art history. I learned how to stage a successful protest. I’ve learned that best friends come from all different cultures, even plant!

And I’ve learned a great new recipe for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! The secret is in the spices.


Jeffrey Dean invites me to one last party before the shuttle leaves for Moonlight Falls.

Shannon Arkers is there, but I don’t see Jeffrey anywhere.


I head back to the dorm to pack.

eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh has found a new friend.


Somehow, this makes me feel less sad about leaving my own best friend.


The shuttle horn honks.

“Move it!” calls the driver.

I watch my friends file out the dorm to say goodbye.

“Bye, Shea! Thank you! Keep in touch! Take good care of eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh and his new buddy!”

And like that, an adventure is over.


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