Summer House: Ch. 9

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The doors between our two homes stay open. On the island, no one locks doors, anyway.

A custom of knocking never even began for us, not since Bernard raced over for pancakes and “white honey coffee” his first morning here.

I’ve discovered it’s just as convenient to make a meal for four as it is for one, and I appreciate not having so many left-overs.

Bernard has taken it upon himself to keep the anachronisms’ supper bowls filled, and Elise has decided that walking Dixie each morning and taking Crystal with her on her evening jog fits into her exercise regime.

“I am going to get so fit this summer,” she said. “When I get back to school, everyone will think we got a new athlete, or something. Track star! That’s me!”

I love becoming immersed in the rhythms of a family. It reminds me of the best parts of the childhood summers here. Voices call from room to room. The sounds of chairs scraping against the floor when someone sits at a table, the gurgles of water running through the pipes, the hiss of the kettle on the stove, the dissonant explorations of small fingers across the piano’s keyboard, the distant strain from a radio–this bustle of family life brings a feeling of belonging, even if this isn’t my family.

My favorite times are when Sonya joins me at the porch while the children splash in the pool, or when she stops by late at night, after they’re tucked into bed.  When I was a little girl, my room was above the kitchen, and on hot nights, we kept all the windows open. I often woke late at night when the moon shone in, and I heard, below me, at the kitchen table, the voices of my mother and aunts, sharing all the secrets that women share. These evenings with Sonya remind me of that.

Only Sonya has not yet begun to share secrets. I can hear them, waiting for expression, behind every full stop and pause. I can see them in the dark semi-circle that rings the brown iris of her eyes, as she glances down or away.

Secrets can wait. There is a time for secrets to be kept, and a time for them to be divulged. We’ve only known each other a week now. We’re just getting the feel for what we each value, for what we share in confidence and at large.

Friendships grow at their own paces, depending, perhaps, on how much is at stake. With Shingo, neither of us had anything to lose, anything to protect, and so our trust of each other happened instantly. It’s a rare friendship, and an easy one, too–easy to gain, easy to keep.

This friendship that’s developing with Sonya, what feels like a sistership to me who’s never had a sister, comes with a great deal to risk for Sonya. What’s keeping her husband away: what’s in store for her and her children–how to keep them safe, healthy, and feeling loved–all of that is at risk. I view the family with tenderness, seeing how fragile they are, how vulnerable during this summer of change and uncertainty.

And so Sonya shields the harsh truths, and I proceed tentatively. But this quiet, gentle time brings a poignant sense of the ripening of love.

“I never knew my grandfather,” Sonya said, after I’d made a casual reference to mine. She poured the tea from the steeping pot into the serving pot. “Mmmm. Darjeeling! Smell. It’s fruity.”

“Spicy,” I said. “You didn’t know either grandfather?”

“Oh!” Sonya laughed. “I forgot there were two! No, I never knew my father’s father, either, not surprising.”

She added the last words under her breath and looked away, the way she does when closing the door to secrets.

“My grandfather was everything to me,” I said. “My mother’s step-father, actually. I never knew her birth-father. But the man I knew as my grandfather, he felt like kin to me more than any of my other family. He got me.”

“Soul family?” Sonya asked.

“Yeah, like that. Like our souls knew each other from lifetimes and lifetimes of connection.”

“Now that’s family,” Sonya said.

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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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Septemus 11

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Dear Sept,

Have you heard of intentional families?

These aren’t the families you were born into. They’re the families of your choosing.

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Like me choosing you, Number 77.

And you choosing me back to be your bizaabgotojo.

My nonny used to tell me, “Pipsqueak, you may have been brought here by a dozen twists of fate, but even if fate hadn’t conspired so, your poppy and I would have had to choose you.”

I feel that way about you, Septemus Sevens.

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You seem to be creating your own intentional family these days.

I heard you ask our young friend Lucas, “LucasyoumybizoopagotoOK?”

He looked at you like he couldn’t understand a word.

“He’s asking you to be his big brother, Lucas,” I explained.

“Oh! I’ve always wanted to be a big brother!” said Lucas. “Sure!”

“Oh, squeegee!” you replied.

sept340

You chose Miko for your bizaabgotojo since the moment you first met her. Nearly two years later, and she’s still telling you the plotlines of completely inappropriate otome, and you’re still eating it up.

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Little bug, I’m telling you this as one orphan to another: Intentional families are where it’s at.

We are the folks who will be with you always and forever, no matter when you need us.

We’re here.

We’re here, and we chose you. You chose us back.

And it still doesn’t quite make that empty feeling inside go away, does it?

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sept364

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My little bug. I see you looking, searching, and longing. I know. I’ve got a corresponding empty spot inside of me. When your own bizaabgotojoto by birth are gone, that spot just sits there, and no amount of games, Kisuuu, faux BLT, waiting-dancing, flashcards, singing, and totally inappropriate otome can fill it up.

Don’t despair. We are resilient beings. Love is resilient, too.

Your bizaabgotojo,

Sebastion

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Vampire Code: Kinnish Smile

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Jaclyn found a spot at the tables near the performance area, where Cathy was playing Irish ballads on an old guitar. She waited for Davion to finish his stint at the grill and join her.

She caught the whiff of tubers sprinkled with calendula pollen.

“My favorite,” she said, moving to sit beside her boyfriend.

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They’d gotten together so quickly, all those years before. She’d known, the instant she saw this twinkly-eyed gnome that they were bound to be together. The same rune had pulled them both.

She hadn’t wanted more than what they had–kisses snuck in when no one looked; cheerful banter; an unspoken promise. Separate homes suited her just fine, especially when his perched on the island across the bay.

As a wee girl, she’d never nursed dreams of husband, home, and family. Her dreams were always of the wide oak and meadow. Sometimes, she bristled at the closeness–she loved the feel of freedom more. But still, once or twice a moon, she and Davion came together, and it felt as right as kin.

Tonight, Davion’s presence carried strength. If it was true, as she was beginning to suspect, that she’d been pulled here for this campaign that she and Sugar were about to marshal, then maybe Davion had come for that same reason. She could use a Sargent at Arms by her side.

He would make a fine husband, this jovial, hale fellow. She would feel strengthened, to be able to call him mate.

“Will you spend the day with me tomorrow?” she asked before returning home.

“Sure as the dew on the meadow!” he replied.

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The next morning, she waited in the garden, staking the hollyhocks. She greeted him with a kiss, and one led to another, and soon they stumbled into a bush, and by the time they emerged, Jaclyn had made up her mind. She would ask him.

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But not right at that moment.

For at that moment, it was time for elevenses, and after elevenses, time for a pot of Darjeeling tea, and after tea, time for scones and more tea, followed by scones with strawberries and Devon cream, followed by strawberries with coffee and chocolate, and soon, Jaclyn remembered that she had promised Sugar to run up the hill to see if it was true what Sugar suspected about Cathy Tea and Brennan Stuckey’s youngest son, Rocket, so it looked like afternoon tea–and any possible question that might or might not be popped–would have to wait.

“Come with me, eh?” she asked Davion. “I need your keen eyes, too.”

When they arrived at Cathy Tea’s, they found Rocket first, dancing with a wild look in his eyes.

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“Aye, he’s got the rune,” Davion whispered. “This one. He’ll do!”

Jaclyn nodded.

vc507

She would call Sugar later. For now, they soaked in the good feelings of this bustling family.

Cathy invited them to stay for afternoon tea, and Davion and Jaclyn joined the family on the patio for green tea with veggie wraps.

Towards evening, Jaclyn and Davi found themselves upstairs, alone.

“I like the kinnish smile here,” Davion said.

“Yeah, it feels like home,” said Jaclyn.

vc508

She wanted to keep that homey warmth.

“Davion,” she whispered, as she kissed him on the cheek.

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“Oak in the meadow
Acorn on the tree.

“Ring on the collared dove,
Marry me.”

She pulled a fairy quartz ring from her pocket and handed it to Davion.

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“It fits,” he said. “I never thought and yet I always dreamt that I would have a bonny elvish bess!”

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“I’m hobbit, too,” she said, as she kissed him full on the lips.

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“What will our bairn be?” he laughed. “Elvish-hobbit gnomish bae!”

She giggled. “I hadn’t thought of that!”

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The sun was about to set, and Jaclyn wanted to catch its last rays on this day of promise.

As she walked though the living room, on her way to the edge of the hill, she heard the laughter of Sparkroot and Flor, and the songs and coos of Cathy and Rocket. She knew what wish she would make as the sun’s gold faded: the warmth of kin would bolster any heart, no matter what trials waited in the nights to come.

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 4

A reply to: A letter from Dove

meadowwrite06

Dove! Congratulations! I have a million things to do, and I owe one of my other pen pals a letter, too, but after I received your letter, I had to drop everything to write!

I’m so excited for you!

Of course, it must feel very stressful. And I’m so happy that you have Maki there to help. Seeing what a challenge it is to raise a toddler on my own, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be the single parent of an infant. What a blessing that Maki would come into your life! Does she plan to be with you after the delivery?

And of course I’ll write! I can’t think of anything that would keep me from writing to you. Don’t feel badly about your decision to wait to share your pregnancy with me.  Isn’t it part of the Pen Pal Code that we get to choose what to reveal and when? I don’t think the code says we need to tell everything about ourselves!

I’ve heard of online friends even posing as someone else–I think that could be fun, too. Sort of like imaginary friends. Because even when we pose or pretend, we still reveal. There’s something of ourselves and our essence that gets transmitted even when we’re pretending to be someone else.

Congratulations on your promotions, too! Will you keep working after you have the baby?

I can imagine that it must feel very rewarding to have a job outside the home–a chance to talk with others, go someplace! Do something besides cleaning up after a little one.

meadowex15

Except for mild instances of stir-craziness, I feel happy with the lifestyle of stay-at-home mom. I’m focusing my career on my painting now, which I’m able to do at home, and my uncle has gallery contacts that have begun to express interest in my work. So, even though I miss the stimulation of going someplace every  day, I feel that, on balance, the rewards overwhelm any temporary feelings of confinement.

Jena is doing so much better. Her movement skills are developing, so she feels less frustrated now that she can get where she wants to quickly and easily. It keeps me on my toes, though, especially since she’s so independent now! She’ll get her own food whenever she’s hungry. (I make sure to always leave a plate of healthy snacks out for her.)

The other day, I found her sitting on her bed eating tofu tacos. She acted like it was the greatest thing.

When I asked her what she was doing, she said, “Bunny frog party.”

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She’s starting to speak in English, and I’m starting to be able to understand her! It makes such a difference.

I’ve always thought of her as this miracle in my care. The other day, though, I felt a beautiful shift. As I carried her into bed, I found myself thinking of her as my daughter.

meadowex12

Well, Dove, soon you’ll be holding your own child in your arms. In fact, maybe you’ve already given birth!

Sending you–and your child–and lovely Maki–so much love right now,

Meadow

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Whisper 2.14

Hey, Shannon.

Well, I made it home. And, guess what? It was still snowy when I arrived! My worries that I’d miss the snow melt were for nothing!

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Remember how you said it was important for me to get back home because people here needed me?

You were right.

When I arrived, Bo and Patches were both standing in their room, not speaking to each other. Patches looked mad, and Bo, he just looked forlorn.

whisbi21402

I’ve never seen my little brother look that way.

They both broke out in smiles when they saw me, and, for the moment, their troubles seemed forgotten.

The next morning, though, I made sure to spend a little time with each of them. I’ve been gone for a while, and a lot can change in a family in the time it takes to get a degree.

Bo and I worked out together. It gave us a chance to catch up while doing something–kind of took the pressure off of talking about difficult things.

Eventually, Bo came out with it. “She hates me,” he said. “I deserve it. I’m rotten to the core. But it still sucks. I thought she’d have my back to the end.”

It was Patches he was talking about. I thought about it while we continued working out. My IF Riley and I are so close–even though we’re different, I feel like she can read my mind.

whisbi21403

I bet Patches can read Bo’s mind, too.

Shannon, have you ever been so close to someone that you could read their mind? If that person has friendly thoughts, it can be nice. It can bring the two of you closer. But what would happen if that person didn’t always have the most generous of thoughts? What if some of those thoughts were even destructive or mean?

I found Patches playing chess on the computer.

She and I aren’t that close, so I wasn’t really sure how to approach this.

“You ever get inside your opponent’s mind when you’re playing chess?” I asked her, cringing at how obvious I thought I was being.

But Patches was interested in the question. “I can’t really read their minds,” she said. “But sometimes, it’s as if I can, because I can figure out the lines of possibles moves, and then based on my analysis of their play, I can predict which one they’ll choose, so it’s as if I can. But in truth, there’s only one person whose mind I can read, and that’s Bo.”

Uh-huh.

whisbi21404

I wasn’t really sure how to proceed. What would you have done, Shannon? Would you have even gotten involved?

Part of me felt like not intruding, but when I saw how sad Bo looked, I couldn’t just ignore it. I feel like if I notice something, it’s for a reason. So if I notice that there are problems between my brother and his IF, then it seems like it’s up to me to say something. I mean, what if I didn’t say anything and they just went on being miserable? At least if I say something, the worse thing that can happen is that they get mad at me for interfering. And that’s not so bad!

whisbi21405

Bo and I headed out to join Riley at the tea table. I figured it might help to have Riley’s perspective.

“So how did you all get along while I was gone?” I asked. Yeah, you know me, Shannon–I’m not really subtle.

whisbi21406

“Beautifully,” Bo said.

“Well,” Riley confessed, “Sometimes we got along beautifully.”

whisbi21407

She poured a little more tea and looked at Bo.

“And sometimes not,” she said. “It’s natural for teenagers to be moody, and I guess sometimes bad moods can be taken out on other people.”

“I keep it to myself,” Bo said, “when I feel that way. I don’t see what the big deal is.”

I remembered how angry I’d felt sometimes when I was a teen. There were days when I wanted to stop being friends with my mom, when I wanted to skip school, and when the whole world just sucked. I tried to keep it to myself and not act on any of it, but my mom was pretty good at figuring it out, anyway.

“Riley,” I said, “You know how you always say that you can read my thoughts?”

“Oh, sure,” she replied. “It’s that way with all IFs and their person. I mean, after all, it was your thoughts, initially, that brought us to life.”

“Uh-huh. I guess it was pretty lucky that you spent most of my teen years in my mom’s closet. What do you think it would’ve been like for you if you’d been around when I was having rotten thoughts and feelings?”

“I wouldn’t have minded,” Riley said. “I would have understood. Unless they were mean thoughts about me.”

“They might have been,” I said, “unless I learned to reel it in a bit when I was feeling hormonal.”

“Can you control your thoughts?” Bo asked.

“You can be aware of them, at least,” I said. “And then if you end up having a thought that’s ungenerous, you can not fuel it with emotions by just watching it pass.”

Shannon, do you think that was an OK approach for me to take? I thought about being more direct and letting Bo know that when he thinks mean thoughts about Patches she picks up on them, and that’s what causes the distance between them. But I also thought that he might be more responsive if I came at it from an angle. I don’t know. I’m not very good at helping my brother with complicated interpersonal relationships. What would you have done?

It might have been OK that I took that approach, for you know what he said next?

“That sounds like an art. An art of the mind. I’m not sure I can only have beautiful thoughts. In fact, I’m pretty sure, no, I can’t. I don’t even know what comes first, the thought or the feeling.”

I told him that not knowing was a start and he could watch to see what did come first.

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I don’t know, Shannon. I’m not sure anything I said made a difference or helped at all. But I did notice that afternoon that he and Patches were talking, then they were joking, and then they were sitting together to play a game of chess.

That afternoon, I found Riley standing at the upstairs window looking out over the back meadow.

“Your feelings were right,” she said, just as if she’d read my mind. “Letting Bo discover on his own how his thoughts and feelings are intertwined and how they affect those he lives with, that’s the right approach.”

I joined Riley, and together, we watched the snow melt.

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Shannon, what’s a family? We share all these tangles of emotions and habits in this shared space, and we have all this history and tradition. We get defined by the thoughts we hold of each other. I think part of what drew me to you was a sense of freedom I felt from you–you define yourself. But didn’t you say to me, shortly before I left, that you found something of yourself when you were with me, something you had never known existed?

Riley leaned against me and smiled while we watched the grass showing itself for first spring. “Everything’s right,” she said. “Now, when it all feels good, and even before, when it felt messed up. The whole of everything is right.”

Life’s not really simple, is it, Shannon?

I’ve just been home a few days, and I miss you already. What do you say to coming to Moonlight Falls for a visit? I’m sure this valley would love to see you! And the valley is not alone in that wish…

Love,

Marigold

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Wonder 51

5101

Since I’ve been working at the clinic, I’ve noticed that we get a bunch of regulars. Jeanette is one of them.

I’m not sure if she’s actually sick each time she comes, but I can’t figure out why else she would stop by. Surely, she has other things to do on a beautiful morning.

“Your heartbeat is regular,” I told her. “Your lungs sound clear. Your eyes are bright. Your complexion is good. I can’t find anything wrong with you.”

“Maybe I should stop in tomorrow on my lunch break,” she said. “Just in case any new symptoms develop. Are you working tomorrow?”

In the break room at lunch, I told my supervisor about her frequent visits.

“Benefit of the job,” he said, with a chuckle.

I have no idea what he was talking about.

5102

Our research is going well. I logged in a few test results after lunch.

My boss was giving Brantley, the research project manager, a hard time.

“The grant deadline is in two weeks!” he shouted. “Have you even started the application?”

“I thought we agreed at our last staff meeting that you’d be handling the application,” Brantley said.

5103

I felt relieved when my lab duties were over and I could return to the examining rooms where we talk in quiet voices.

A boy I’d treated a few weeks back was there.

“How’re you feeling, spud?” I asked him.

5104

He had a sore throat and a slight fever.

“You’ve just got a virus,” I said. “We’ve got a good cure for that.”

5105

“Will it hurt?” he asked.

“Not at all!” I replied. “You’ll feel great within a few hours, and you’ll be running around and driving your mom nuts.”

“I haven’t got a mom,” he replied.

5106

“You don’t?” I asked.

“Naw,” he said. “I’m a morphin.”

“An orphan?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Who do you live with?” I asked.

“The other morphins at the Morphin Ridge.”

I gave him a child’s dose of remedy.

5107

While he rested, I went out front to talk with the social worker who’d brought him in. I’d wanted to let her know that the boy would be just fine and to tell her that she could bring in any of the kids at the first sign of cold or flu. We ended up talking for nearly half an hour about Windenburg Kids’ Home and the children who lived there. Many were adopted fairly quickly, she explained. In fact, the boy I’d treated was scheduled to be moving in with a family just as soon as the final paperwork cleared. But there were some who never found homes.

Riding the ferry back, I started thinking about my house on the island. I had an extra room downstairs. I’d enjoyed living alone, but was that really what I wanted for all of my life? If there was someone out there who needed a home, and if I had extra room to spare…

I spent the rest of the ferry ride daydreaming.

I got a call that evening from my friend the waitress at the diner. She asked if I wanted to meet her at the bar.

“Bear-suits?” I asked.

She laughed. “No, it’s an extra-terrestrial conference,” she replied. “Interested?”

I wasn’t really, but I thought it would be fun to spend an evening with her, so I agreed to meet her there.

“Charlie,” she said when she saw me.

“Are you feeling OK?” I asked. “Your voice sounds kind of husky. You’re not coming down with something, are you?”

She laughed. “Never better,” she said.

5108

We enjoyed a few drinks and a long conversation. I told her I’d just begun to think about adopting.

“Adopting?” she asked. “You mean, you’d be a single parent?”

I told her how I’d been raised by a single mom and my aunt and how my experience of family stemmed from the discovery minha mãe had made that it was love that made a family, not necessarily a mom and a dad bound by marriage.

My friend said something about an early shift and left abruptly. I decided to walk around to enjoy the warm night. I wanted to turn over my idea of adopting a child so I could look at it from all sides.

I ran into minha mãe.

“Man, this is perfect timing!” I told her. “You’re exactly the person I want to talk about this with!”

5109

I explained my idea.

“There are so many kids that need homes,” I said. “I know that I can’t take them all, but even if I just take one, I’d make a difference, right?”

“Charlie,” she said, “I’ve always known you would be an amazing father. And I’ve also always had a hunch that you wouldn’t become one in the traditional way.”

5110

“Really, Mãe?” I asked. “But what do you mean?”

“Charlie,” she said, “think about it. Have you ever been interested in a girl, I mean in any way other than as a friend?”

“Well, no,” I admitted. “But I’m not really interested in guys that way, either.”

“I know,” said Mãe. “And that’s fine. You’ve always been you. You love everyone, and everyone loves you, just maybe not in the flowers-and-candlelight kind of way. Or even in the quickie-in-the-closet type of way. I think it’s a beautiful thing, Charlie, your love of people. You will make a good father, and I think adoption is the perfect way for you to become one.”

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“Thanks, Mãe,” I said. “It’s pretty sudden, but it’s the right decision, isn’t it? ”

She wrapped me in a big hug. “It is so much the right decision.”

5112

“Now just get busy filling out the paperwork,” she said. “I hear the process can take a really long time, and I want to get to have a chance to meet my grandkid before it’s too late.”

I looked at her hard.

“Is there something you’re not telling me?” I asked.

“No, spud,” she replied. “Just being realistic.”

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