Another Legacy 2.17

One morning, Kiana received an email from the building manager.

Dear tenants:

As you know, building occupancy has been low for the past several years, and many of you have been enjoying the quiet, along with free use of facilities such as the laundry room. However, that is all about to change. While we hope that the building remains a quiet and peaceful sanctuary in the city, we will no longer be permitting units to stand vacant. Starting this month, you can expect new neighbors, as we are actively recruiting residents. As such, we will be implementing laundry schedules as follows…

And attached was a complicated weekly schedule, determined by odd or even ending apartment numbers combined with vowel- or consonant-starting last names of tenants. It was a bit much to take in. Fortunately, there was a laundromat around the corner, and Kiana could put in a load before taking a jog, then return to plop in it the dryer, head out for a smoothie, and come back just as the drying cycle was finishing. This fit into her routine much better than trying to figure out the building manager’s complicated code.

“So, I hear you’re getting neighbors soon,” the mailman said when he ran into her in the hall.

“Yeah! It’ll be so different not to have this common area to ourselves. We’ve come to think of it as an extra room! Just imagine–I might actually run into somebody, besides you, when I come out to get the mail! How weird is that?”

“Kinda normal, actually. It’s called neighbors.

Kiana chuckled.

She decided she’d better start getting into the habit of doing loud activities, like juggling the soccer ball, outdoors, where no one would mind if she jumped up and down or bounced the ball on the ground.

“Do we need to start doing yoga outside, too?” Jonah asked.

“No, no. Yoga is a quiet activity. It’s good to do in our Wellness Room.”

About a week later, the neighbors on her floor moved in, Brett and Sophie York. They didn’t seem too happy.

They had a son, Scott, who was about Jonah’s age. Kiana found him having a panic attack in the foyer.

“I can’t look down!” he said. “Is it safe up here? Is it… is the building moving in the wind? Are we blowing?”

Kiana tried to calm him down, but eventually, it seemed the best thing to do was to walk him to his apartment and let his parents help him relax.

“So, it looks like our new neighbors might need some help settling in,” Kiana told Jonah while they were working on their project. “Think we might find ways that we could be good neighbors?”

Jonah took some time to think about it. Before bed, he told Kiana everything he had thought up.

“We could play classical music for them, because everything is better with Bach!”

His list went on, including sharing fresh produce from the garden, inviting them over for tea, dance parties, and video games, painting pictures for them to hang on their new walls, and going on walks with them to help the get to know all the best places in the neighborhoods.

“You’re an amazing neighbor,” Kiana said. “The only thing I could think of was to smile and say hi whenever we saw them.”

“That’s nice, too,” Jonah affirmed.

After that, Kiana didn’t think about them too much. She was far too busy with her next gig, creating landscape designs for a sci-fi movie. “We want it to look far out,” the producer had said, “but also recognizable. Like it feels like the home you know is your true home, even if it’s on a different planet.”

It wasn’t hard to do, Kiana discovered, since that was how she always felt here–on a different planet than where she was from, but one that was her true home, nonetheless.

“We have the best plants.”

She turned around to find Jonah weeding and pruning the parsley and taro plants. It seemed like the plants grew greener and stronger with every bit of attention Jonah shared with them.

“You’re such an amazing person,” Kiana said, a bit in awe of this child who had become such a big part of her and her life.

“Not as much as you!” replied Jonah.

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Another Legacy 2.16

One summer afternoon, Kiki had that rare feeling that everything–absolutely everything–was all right in her world. She couldn’t remember a time like this, when all the aspects of her life seemed in order. Her freelance work was going great, earning accolades and higher commissions. The apartment was furnished and decorated just the way she liked it, and all the appliances were fixed and pesky stains cleaned up. Jonah was earning good grades at school and seemed like such a happy kid, overall. “He’s just got such a good attitude,” his teacher had said at the last parent-teacher conference. “Even when other kids tease him, he just smiles and carries on, like water off a duck’s back.”

When she got home, she found an email from her contract agency. A big film studio was looking for concept designs and requested her, specifically. If they didn’t get her, they’d go somewhere else. It was a big job–would she do it?

She took the job. With everything going so well, she had the extra bandwidth to focus on this. She stayed up late that night, sketching out a few ideas to send to the producer, so she could see if she was on the right track before devoting too much time in that direction.

She got up a bit late the next morning to find Jonah busy with a drawing.

“What are you working on, bud?” she asked.

“It’s such a big project,” he said. “I gotta finish it up before school to send to the design studio.”

She chuckled, but it made her wonder, too, about how much of her–what she did, what she said, what she thought and felt, even–Jonah took in.

“Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?” Jonah asked when he got back from school.

“No,” she said. “In fact, I’m still not really sure it’s what I want to be. It’s just sort of what I do.”

“You mean, you didn’t choose to be an artist so you could be different from everybody else?” Jonah asked. “So when they teased you, it wouldn’t matter because you were, like, a famous artist and words couldn’t hurt you?”

“No,” she answered. “The teasing just sort of stopped when I got to college, and I think I’ve always just accepted that I was different, even before I started doing art.”

She wondered if something was going on. Maybe she should have asked more when his teacher mentioned teasing, even if she did emphasize that he handled it well.

“Let’s spend some time together,” she said. “Would you like a story?”

He chose the big book of Grimms’ fairy tales.

“Can you read ‘Simpleton’?” he asked.

OK, now she knew something was up. She’d talk with him after the story. But partway through, he said, “Excuse me,” and ran upstairs. When he came back, he was wearing a bear costume, part of a matching set that they’d worn for a community center talent show–the Singing Dancing Bearios!

“Feel like being a bear, huh?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“I remember I was a bear for a while, when I was a kid. Would you like it if I were a bear now, too?”

“Would you?” he asked.

When she joined him, two yellow bears on a blue couch, she thought maybe this was the right opportunity to talk.

“So, grrrr. It’s kinda sweaty to wear these costumes in summer, growl. Any special ggggreason to wear them tonight?”

“I just thought if I was a bear, people couldn’t call me fat, because pineapple bears are supposed to be fat.”

“Oh. Are people calling you fat, then?”

He nodded his bear head.

“Other kids?”

Another nod.

So this was, at least, part of the teasing.

“I bet that feels lousy,” she said.

He nodded. She pulled him close and they sat together for a bit.

“I’m too sweaty,” he said.

The next morning, he was still in his bear suit, so Kiana put hers on, too. Together, they worked on their designs.

“I want you to know that I think you’re just right,” Kiana said.

“I think I am, too,” said Jonah.

“Did you know that I used to be really fat?” Kiana asked. “I mean, really–like way overweight.”

Jonah laughed. “Now you’re teasing!”

“No, it’s true!” She told him all about how heavy she’d been her first year of high school, and how she turned that around once she discovered that there was a correlation between being overweight and all sorts of health problems.

“I liked myself,” she said, “and I loved how I looked, but I decided it was more important to be healthy. Then, fitness and wellness became special interests, and I joined the soccer team in college, and that was that!”

“I want to join the soccer team when I’m in college, too,” Jonah said.

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Another Legacy 2.13

The moment Jonah got home from school, he pulled out his homework and got to work.

“You don’t have to do homework right away,” Kiki said. “You can do other things first–rest, eat snack, play. You know, charge your batteries.”

He thought for a moment. “There is something I’m really excited to do!” he said. “I’m just not sure how to get started.”

It was his school project.

“Oh, I used to love those,” Kiana said. “I can help!”

They worked together to put together the model of planets.

“I did this same one when I was in your grade!” Kiana said. “We had the same book, too.”

“It’s pretty interesting,” Jonah said. “Some of these words are really big.”

When they finished, Jonah pulled out his homework again.

“Do you like reading, Jonah?” Kiana asked.

“It’s hard,” he said. “My eyes get tired and sometimes I forget what line I’m on. But I like learning. So I’m motivated.”

Kiana chuckled to herself. Jonah had an interesting vocabulary, she’d noticed: “vista,” “motivated,” these were rather big words for a little kid.

“How do you know a word like ‘motivated,'” Kiana asked, “or what it means?”

“I hear people talking,” Jonah said. “They’re always saying things like, ‘Oh, Jonah is a very motivated learner.’ And I think they’re right.”

After homework, Kiana reminded Jonah that his supper was waiting on the kitchen table. “I have a few things I have to do,” she said, “but I’ll be down to join you before you’re done eating.”

Kiana took a quick shower, hopped into her PJ’s, and looked over her latest character concept she was developing for work. It was awfully quiet down there.

When she went down to check on Jonah, she found that he wasn’t in the kitchen. He’d carried his meal out to the foyer.

“Is something wrong?” she asked. “You know this isn’t actually part of our home. Is there a reason you’re sitting out here?”

“I like the view,” he said. “Is it OK? We don’t have any windows in the kitchen.”

“Sure. It’s fine. We don’t have any neighbors on this floor yet, and the view is nice. I’m sure it’s fine to take your meals out here when you want.”

They sat together while the sun set and the city grew dark. It was very peaceful here, and there was something magical about watching the lights come on in the buildings across the way.

“I’ll take your dish,” Kiana said when Jonah had finished eating.

“Can I stay out here a bit longer?” he asked.

“Sure,” she said.

After Kiana left, Jonah saw a pale light float from out of the apartment. While he watched, it seemed to form into the shape of an older woman.

He felt too shy to talk to it–can you talk with something that is and isn’t there? But he got a good feeling from whatever it was. It was the same feeling he got when he was around Kiana. Maybe this is what home feels like, he thought, or the feeling of being loved and being safe.

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Another Legacy 2.12

The concrete reality of her decision to step up to become an adoptive mom slammed Kiana hard when she turned to look behind her as she got out of the elevator in her building and there he was. Jonah. The kid she had adopted. She had really done this thing! And now, there was a kid who would always be behind her, who would always need her, and whom she would always be responsible for. Holy wow, indeed.

Her days of long quiet solitude and not having to answer to anybody were over. Just like that.

She’d thought long and hard about it, but in the end, she really felt it was the right thing–it was what Case had done, and since she had so much now, so much to share, it just seemed like she should do it, too.

“Gosh, we’re so high up,” Jonah said. “I want to take in this vista and treasure it, you know, so that when I get sent back, I’ll still be able to remember what it was like to live at bird level, even if it was just for a little bit.”

Kiana’s heart broke.

“You’re not going to be sent back,” she said. “You’re home! You get to live here always!”

If there’s a little kid who depends on you, she learned in that moment, then your own worries and concerns can wait. She’d figure out how to deal with losing her solitude–and she’d find some way to get what she needed–but right now, this child, her actual, adopted son, needed her and needed to feel that he was home.

It didn’t take Jonah long to find the balcony garden upstairs.

“I love plants,” he said, racing up to talk with them as the sun set.

Before bed, they sat together in the kitchen. Kiana cooked a snack of grilled cheese sandwiches, and after they ate, Jonah wanted to talk.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said. “I think maybe this was meant to be.”

“Oh, yeah?” replied Kiana. “What do you mean?”

“The truth is in our names.”

She looked at him quizzically.

“Names don’t lie.”

“And so… what is it about our names that makes you think this was meant to be?”

“They rhyme!” He replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Kia-NA, Jo-NAH.”

“Sometimes I’m called Kiki,” Kiana answered.

“Then I can be Jo-Jo,” he said.

Kiana woke early, while it was still dark, to make breakfast and pack Jonah’s lunch. The adoption counselor had recommended that he begin school right away, to start right in with the normal routine and schedule. “We’ve found,” she said, “that for most children, having their new parents take them to school and then be there to pick them up, right away, even in the early days of settling in, actually helps the child adjust more quickly. It’s the routine as well as the going-off-to-school and the coming-back-to-home again that is important.”

Kiana thought of Ira while she cooked. Had Ira realized how much of a mom to her she’d been? She never called Ira “Mom,” for she always felt that her birth mom was there, an angel inside of her, but for her, the name “Ira” meant everything that “Mom,” in its best sense, signified.

She had set three tomatoes on the counter–and they reminded her of the little family unit she, Ira, and Case had formed. My, she had been happy! She felt, at home, that she always had a safe place with people who understood her. She hadn’t wanted for anything.

“Don’t worry, Kiki,” she heard a voice, that sounded a lot like Ira’s, say. “You’ll be able to provide the same for him.”

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