Another Legacy, 4.18

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 29, 2023: What is something you learned recently?

From Nicki Flores’ Journal

Strange and terrifying things have happened recently, but let me start with the normal. Magdalena joined scouts.

My dad and I were both scouts, and being a scout, I feel, helped me develop so many good personal qualities, like discipline, kindness, helpfulness, and application. Dad says he thinks that, through scouts, we learn how to learn, so that we have a leg up on any future skills or subjects. He’s probably right.

Anyway, Magdalena often asked about our scout trophies, and she loved to listen to us tell stories about scout trips and earning badges, so when we asked her if she wanted to be a scout, she replied with an enthusiastic yes.

“You look great in your scout uniform,” I said when she stood before me on her way to the first meeting. “How does it feel?”

“It’s scratchy,” she replied, “but I can put up with it. I’m a scout.”

She must have liked it OK, for she stayed in her uniform after her meeting, while she played and wrote in her journal.

This is our first rainy season here, and I’ve been simply amazed at how much rain falls. Copperdale is pretty rainy, so I thought I knew what rain was, but a tropical rain is nothing like a temperate rain!

We were thankful for our solid home and double-insulated windows.

But it wasn’t just the rain and lightning storms that were strange and terrifying.

Something happened to Dad.

He was in the kitchen, cooking an omelette and chuckling to himself, when he started laughing.

I heard a thump and then Magdalena screamed.

I thought maybe she’d dropped something, but when I got to the kitchen, Dad lay on the floor, collapsed.

I went to the sink to get some water for a compress, and, over my shoulder, I sensed both a dark presence and a blue light.

I heard my grandma say, “You’re not taking him. Not now. You’re mistaken. It’s not his time.”

There was a low rumble in response, and then a flash of light as Dad ascended.

I don’t know what to make of it.

But he stood there, strong as ever.

So that was strange and terrifying. But it wasn’t the strangest part. The strangest part was that it was as if my vision had somehow shifted through the shock of it all. The blue light coalesced into the form of Grandma, and the dark presence solidified into a robed figure with a sickle–the classic Grim Reaper!

I don’t know what to make of this, except to think that, perhaps, close encounters with death snap us out of our normal perception, allowing us to see with our eyes what is usually hidden from us.

Maybe this is what has allowed Magdalena to see Grandma all along.

Dad says that he’s learned that we can befriend death. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Dad says.

At any rate, since Death is an inevitable aspect of Life, I suppose it can’t hurt to accept it without resistance when it invites itself into your home.

Of course, it’s easier for me to befriend death when my dad managed to escape it. I’m not sure I could accept his presence or his friendship if he’d claimed Dad.

We were lucky that Asuka was there. I was in such an altered state that I wasn’t really available to check in on Magdalena. But Asuka, who’d been taking a nap in the studio when all this happened, had a clear mind. She stepped in and made sure that Magdalena was fine.

Which she was.

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Another Legacy, 4.14

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 25, 2023: What is a song or poem that speaks to you and why?

From Nicki Flores’ Journal

Under the Sulani Sun

Through the years
and sudden tears
you’ve seen me through
most of my fears.

Now beneath the rising sun
waves break, day has begun.
Greet the morning, promises renew.
Our labor, our play, our life we’ve spun.

I came across an old Sulani folk song, and it spoke it me, seeming to describe my new life here with Dad. I wonder how many others, filling their lives with labor, rest, and play, find themselves living this same song.

It’s funny how a simple song, with trite rhymes and common rhythms, can express deep truths of living. Sometimes, I think all of life is contained within simplicity.

My new writing studio is gorgeous. It looks out over the jungle behind our house. Our island is so small, but it’s big enough for a jungle!

Dad seems so happy. It’s funny to me to see him on the beaches, since he’s always been such a mountaineering guy. But he seems to love it. I think that, most of all, he feels inspired that the simple tasks he does each day for his job make a difference in improving the environment here.

He spends most morning picking up trash.

Plastics and discarded fishing nets can do so much damage to the wildlife, so every piece he collects and recycles makes a significant contribution.

When he’s not clearing up the trash, he’s talking to others about the importance of conservation or taking water samples.

He says these things don’t feel like work to him–they’re interesting and fun and useful. And they also afford lots of time for hanging out on the beach or taking swims in the bays.

It feels great to see him so happy.

I love the islands, too. Our little house is off-grid and we haven’t had any trouble generating enough power or water. It’s sunny almost every day, so our solar panels produce so much energy. There’s also a small spring on the island, and we have our dew collectors.

Dad brought the chickens and seeds from his old garden. The chickens have adjusted great! We don’t have to worry about predators, so they just wander around the island all day. And the plants in the garden are slowly growing.

The trickiest part for me is finding ways to go jogging. I can’t just run out the house anymore and jog through the neighborhood, since our island is so small and jungle-covered. But at low tide, I can run across a sand bridge to the next island, which is quite close and much larger. It has some great trails through it–and no cars!

Asuka’s already been over to visit. It felt so great to have her here.

She figures she should be able to come over once a month or so. But it still hurts whenever she has to say goodbye and head back to the city.

I thought about moving someplace closer. But for now, I really want to be here. This is a great place to write, without a lot of distractions. And the islands are so beautiful.

And with Dad getting older, I just want to be around. I like to soak up his happiness, now that he’s happier than he’s ever been in his life. Under the Sulani sun, we’re doing pretty well with our labor and play and this new life we’ve spun!

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Another Legacy, 4.2

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 13, 2023: If you had a billion US dollars, how would you spend it?

From the Journal of Nicolette Flores

At school, the big question everyone is asking is, “What would you do if you had a billion Simoleans?”

When I told Dad about that, he laughed. “Inflation!” he said. “When I was in school, we all wondered what we’d do with a million.”

But then he asked me what I’d do.

“I would give it all, in an instant, just to have one more minute with Grandma.”

“I feel the same way,” Dad said. “I know how hard it is.”

“It’s just not fair,” I said, because it’s not.

Then Dad put his arms around me and said, “Take a minute right now, and just feel. Can you feel your grandma’s presence here, right now?”

And I could. That bright energy of inspiration that Grandma exuded–it was like she was standing right there on the porch with us.

“I can feel her,” I said, “but it makes me miss her all the more.”

“You know what I’ve been doing when I miss her?” Dad asked. “I talk to her. Give it a try. I’ll go inside and get supper started, and you can stay out here and talk with your grandma.”

I closed my eyes.

“I know this is the stupidest thing ever,” I said aloud, “but Grandma, I miss you so much!”

I heard her voice. I felt her touch.

“I’m right here, Nicki,” she said.

“Grandma?”

“I know you miss me. But I’m right here. I’m not a physical presence, sure, but I’m still a presence.”

Can that be?

Can a presence stick around even after the physical part of it has stopped living? Isn’t consciousness just the firing of synapses?

Or could it be that presence is formed when someone is especially present during life, like my grandma was, and so, when their physical body isn’t anymore, somehow, that presence still exists? It doesn’t have a body to hold it together, but it has the compounded energy of a life of presence that somehow gives it shape and existence–could it be like that?

I haven’t let myself remember the night she died. It was just too traumatic. But maybe I can investigate that memory now.

I came home from a school dance, and it felt like there was a shadow over our house–like a dark figure was looking over it.

“Honey, something’s happened,” my dad said.

There by the garden, beside the grill, was my grandma, collapsed on the ground. Before I could even cry out, a dark figure reached down and pulled a light out from her.

He held this glowing ball of Grandma’s life force in his hand.

That’s why I thought it was the end–the total, final, complete end.

But it’s true that I feel her total complete presence with me still–nothing physical, but her energy. Her bright aliveness and inspiration.

What did he take then? Maybe just her life force, that connection that held her to a physical body, but not her, not her essence, not her presence. Maybe, like she and Dad say, she is still here, and I can connect with her anytime I wish. Maybe I haven’t lost my grandma, after all.

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Another Legacy, 4.1

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 12, 2023: What chore do you find the most challenging to do?

From the Journal of Nicolette Flores

My counselor set me the task of keeping a journal. She said it would help me “process my grief.” I don’t think anything will help me “process” anything. But I’m willing to give this a try. I like to write.

She gave me three writing chores for my first entry:

  • First Chore: Write a little bit about myself. Who am I?
  • Second Chore: Write a little bit about the people in my life who are most important to me right now. Who are they?
  • Third Chore: Write about the parts of my grandma that are still with me. What do I carry with me?

First Writing Chore: Who am I?

I’m Nicki Flores. I was adopted at age 7 by Jonah Flores. I’ve always called him Dad.

I remember when he brought me home. We lived in the city then, in a big apartment building. I looked out the window. I’d never been so high up.

“It’s a little scary up here,” I said.

“That’s the exact same thing I said when I first stepped out of the elevator when I was seven years old!” said my dad.

“Really?” Just like that, we bonded. We’ve been so close ever since.

I came into the apartment, and there was my grandma, dancing. She was always dancing. We had a dance party right then.

It happened quickly–right then, right there, I felt at home. Ever since then, I’ve been Nicolette Flores, the son of Jonah Flores and the granddaughter of Kiana Flores. Because of that, you could also call me Lucky.

Second Writing Chore: Who are the most important people to me now?

There on the wall behind me are the most important people in my life: my grandma Kiana and my dad Jonah. But I guess, since my grandma passed on a few weeks ago, I’m supposed to write about the people who are living.

Of course my dad is so important. He’s such an adorable goof-ball. We moved out here to the country before my first year in high school. Dad and Grandma thought it would be a good idea for me to go to high school in Copperdale, since they have one of the best schools. I could’ve taken the bus from the city, like some of my friends, but Dad and Grandma had always wanted to live in the country. Grandma wanted chickens. But it turns out, she’s not really into them. It’s my dad who’s head-over-heels with chickens. Newly hatched, old and scrawny, he doesn’t care. He loves them.

My dad was so young when he adopted me. He was still in college! I got to see him graduate. It’s been an inspiration. Ever since I was little, he and Grandma have always been talking to me about “when you go to college.” It’s like, it’s not an “if,” it’s a “when.”

Another person that’s really important to me right now is my best friend, Asuka Hashimoto. We met when we were both little kids running around in the Plaza in our neighborhood in the city. We were like two little free-range kids, only our pastures were paved!

We became best friends the first day we met, and I gave her a key to our apartment, and she was over almost every day.

She’s still my best friend. We both go to Copperdale–she’s one of the ones who rides the bus in from the city. And we hang out together every chance we get, which isn’t that often, actually, since she’s a cheerleader and I’m on the football team, and we’re both studying to get ready for college and keep up our good grades, but when we do get to hang out, it’s just bliss.

Then there’s Kaito. Kaito Fukada. I can’t even write his name without trembling. I have such a crush.

He’s in three of my classes. And he’s on the football team with me. And I honestly don’t know how I’m going to graduate with him sitting there in front of me. All I can do is look at him. He has such great hair. And those shoulders! And sometimes, he turns around and… that face!

OK, OK. Enough. Get ahold of yourself, girl! On to the final writing chore for my first journal entry…

Third Writing Chore: What parts of my grandma do I still carry with me?

I’ve got to say, this writing chore is the most challenging to me. I can’t think about my grandma without crying.

Everything in the house reminds me of her. We haven’t changed a thing since she passed. This is so hard.

OK, let’s see. What parts of her do I carry with me?

Well, there’s writing, for one thing. I love writing. It was Grandma who gave me my first journal.

She used to sit with me at the kitchen table when I would write. She’d be drinking tea, like always, cup after cup of chamomile tea. It’s the coziest memory. I guess I don’t view writing as a solitary habit, because my grandma was always there. So when I write, I feel like I’m not only writing to someone, I’m writing with someone. I hope it’s always like that for me.

OK. I’m feeling better.

What else do I carry with me of my grandma?

This part is challenging to put into words because it’s a feeling. I guess the best I can do is describe a memory, and maybe it will capture that feeling. It’s after supper. Grandma is drinking tea. There’s a freshly baked carob-coconut cake on the table, with two slices missing because Dad and I ate them for desert. Dad’s got his homework open in front of him, but he and Grandma are deep into a conversation. All around are swirling the scents of the cake and tea, the warm air from our electric heater, the excited voices and laughter of Dad and Grandma. And just like that, I have such a feeling of being steeped in love. All around me. For probably the first time in my life, I am in an environment that is made of love. And I think that I will always carry this with me. I hope so.

Grandma also gave me this confidence that I could do anything, and that I’d be supported when doing so. I used to bring home these really complicated projects from school, and Grandma and Dad would help me with them. But I was always the one in charge.

“OK, so what do we do next?” Grandma would ask.

And I’d have to get out the instruction book and read the next steps and explain them. So, I learned about following instructions, explaining them to others, figuring things out, and being in charge of projects. All when I was just a little kid! I think that’s something I will carry with me.

I also love reading because of Grandma. We would sit for hours on the couch in the living room, night falling in the city around us, reading stories about gnomes and dragons and princesses who were heroes. I loved being carried away to other worlds. And, because I did this with Grandma, reading, like writing, wasn’t something solitary. It was a way of connecting. I still feel that when I read. I feel connected with everyone who’s ever read those same words that I am reading! Grandma gave me that gift.

I got my love of painting from Grandma, too. She was a really accomplished artist. I remember one painting she did of this beautiful, thoughtful young woman with red hair.

I asked her who it was.

“Well,” she replied with a chuckle, “I guess you could say it’s an idealized version of my younger self.”

She was a red-head when she was younger. And I always like to pretend that my own red hair comes from her. Of course, it doesn’t, since I’m adopted, but I still feel that red-head connection. We’re kindred.

Grandma was so active, right up until the last. Sometimes, coming home from school, I’d see her juggling the soccer ball in the plaza. She was always working on setting new juggling records. I think 457 was her highest.

She gave me a soccer ball, too. The first time I played with it, in the foyer of our apartment building, I just about cried. It seems silly, but I just felt this flood of emotions. I guess I felt so lucky to have my grandma, who loved all the things I loved and shared them with me so freely. OK. I’m crying now. This chore was supposed to help me feel better, not worse.

All right. I’m done crying. This was so hard!

I guess I do feel better. I mean, when I think about who I am, and what I love, absolutely everything, from writing to reading, from being a scholar to being an athlete, it all comes from Grandma. And mostly, it’s this deep sense of being loved that I carry with me. Even though she’s passed on now, I’ve still got that. That’s part of me. I grew up in a home of love.

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Another Legacy, 3.10

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 11, 2023: How do you define success?

One winter evening, Sophie York dropped by. She hadn’t been over for awhile, since she’d been feeling poorly. Though she seemed thin and a little frail, she was in good spirits. She danced. They joked.

“It’s so great you’re feeling better!” Kiana said. “I missed you.”

“I know,” said Sophie. “I just wasn’t up for having anyone over. But thanks for looking out for Scott and Earl when I was taking it easy.”

“Any time,” said Kiana.

“Really?” Sophie asked. “I mean, if something happens to me, if my time is up, will you look after them?”

“Of course.”

“I mean, they’ll have the apartment. I’ve seen to that. And Scott’s old enough to take care of Earl now. It’s just that I think they might need a little something more. Some guidance. Someone to be there for them, if things just get too much.”

“Of course, Sophie. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that point for a long, long time, but you can rest assured. If there’s a time when you’re not around, and I still am, I will look out for your boys.”

“Whew,” said Sophie. “Now I can rest easy! You know, I think they’re my greatest success. Our greatest success, that is, Brett and mine. I mean, we had a lot of fun! Lord knows we had fun! You know we had fun! But fun isn’t really success. Bringing those two boys into this world, now that’s success.”

Kiana knew what Sophie meant. In her own life, Kiana had won sports awards and graphic arts awards. Her career had been, and still was, successful, full of accolades and praise and the satisfaction of creating useful and beautiful work. But somehow, those didn’t feel like successes. Those accomplishments had just come easily and naturally, by doing whatever had been set out for her to do to the best of her ability.

What felt like a success for her were the hard, monotonous things: Keeping a house clean and repaired with a kitchen stocked with groceries and nutritious meals and leftovers. She’d loved doing those things, but they were hard. Paying bills was hard, too, organizing all those little minutia for daily living. That was her success: providing a home for Jonah. That, and ensuring he’d had what he needed to grow up as a healthy, strong individual.

“We’re just two old moms!” Kiana laughed. “Feeling the joy of having taken care of our sons!”

A few days later, Jonah found Earl coming out of his apartment into the foyer. He was distraught.

“I just need to get out of here,” he said.

Sophie had died during the night.

Jonah ran in to tell Kiana, who put aside her own grief for the time being to head after Earl.

She found him hiding behind one of the vendor stalls in the plaza.

“Oh, Earl, I’m so sorry,” she said.

“It’s just that I’m all alone now,” he said.

“It feels that way, doesn’t it?” she replied. “I felt all alone when my mom and dad died, too. Then Case took me in and I had him and Ira. After they died, I felt alone again. I had friends and then Jonah. And I still miss them.”

“Will I always miss my mom?” Earl asked.

“Yes, I imagine so. But it won’t always hurt like it does now.”

She stayed present with him in his grief.

“Will I always be alone?” he asked.

“Well, you might feel alone sometimes, but the truth is, even now, you’re not actually alone, even though it feels that way.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have Scott to take care of you. He will always be there for you. Even though he teases you sometimes, he’s your big brother, and he’s here to look after you.”

“Scott’s busy.”

“He will make time for you. And not only that, you have me and Jonah, too. We’re right next door. You can think of our place as yours, too. Like you have a double-apartment home!”

“Really?”

“Really!” she replied. “In fact, here. Here’s a key to our apartment. Now you can come over anytime you want!”

“Really?” he said again.

“Really!”

“And can I call you Auntie Kiana?” he asked with a cheeky grin.

“Sure.”

“Thank you, Auntie Kiana!”

Earl wanted to spend some time in the plaza, so Kiana left him there, inviting him to drop by for a snack when he was ready to come back inside.

In the foyer, she met Scott.

“Oh, Scott,” she said, realizing that it wasn’t yet time for her to process her own grief. “I am so sorry.”

“I’m not ready for this, Kiana,” he said. “There was so much paperwork to fill out! And, we have money to cover the costs, but it’s just too much. I still feel like a kid. I’m not ready for all this responsibility.”

“I know it feels like so much,” said Kiana. “That’s understandable. There’s the grief, too. It’s so hard. Just know that I’m here to help anyway I can, with you and Earl, both, OK?”

“All right,” he said. “I just don’t know if I can be strong.”

“You don’t have to be,” Kiana said. “You can be exactly what you are. A boy who’s lost his mom.”

When he went back inside, it hit Kiana, exactly who she was: an old woman who’d lost her oldest, dearest friend and sometimes lover.

She considered herself an expert in grief, with her long list of everyone she’d ever lost, those closest to mere acquaintances. It always hurt. But this was raw, piercing pain. She gave herself to it, since, for the moment, there was no one she had to be strong for.

Later that evening, all the tears cried out for now, Scott and Earl came over for supper. They ate around the TV, watching silly old movies. Nobody wanted to talk or to face each other, so looking at the screen helped them feel close, without feeling raw.

Earl was going to stay over, so she tucked him into the spare bed upstairs. Then, when she was cleaning up the supper dishes, she felt a smile spread across her face. It didn’t reach her eyes, which were still a little swollen from all the crying, but at least it was a real genuine smile. It was because of Jonah.

He was comforting Scott. They’d had a tense relationship all through childhood and their teen years. For some reason, Scott just didn’t like Jonah. Maybe he was jealous. But the boys put all that behind them now that they were young men, young men in grief.

“It’s OK to feel that way,” Jonah said. “You don’t always have to be strong. Earl will understand, and it will even bring the two of you together more, to share your grief.”

“You think so?” Scott asked.

“Of course!” said Jonah. “That’s how it works!”

In her evening yoga practice, Kiana felt grief meld to gratitude. Wasn’t that always the way? Her greatest success, what had it been? Providing a home for Jonah? Perhaps. But maybe her greatest success was living, moving through emotions, letting them move through her, engaging with presence, with life, with loss, with others, with whatever was there in the present moment. Surely, that was success.

Downstairs, Jonah opened up the browser. He was completing the adoption application and getting ready to hit Submit. He wanted whatever kid he adopted to get to know Kiana. He wasn’t waiting any longer.

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Another Legacy, 3.9

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 10, 2023: Has a book changed your life?

As Jonah advanced towards his culinary degree, his courses covered all sorts of things not directly connected with the fine art of cooking. He had to learn about management, about marketing, and even about finances and book-keeping. It was the financial aspect that turned out to be a deal-breaker for him.

He just did not see himself as a business man. A chef, maybe. A vegetarian proselytizer, definitely. But a money-management-and-marketing man? Not a chance!

In The Restaurateur’s Guide to Running a Successful Business, by Alfred Schram Wordright, he read:

Your successful restaurant does not start nor stop with the menu, the hiring of the staff, or the day-to-day management. No, it all comes down to one simple principle: Cash in. Cash out. When cash in exceeds cash out, your restaurant is successful. When cash out exceeds cash in, you fail. It is that simple. And what is your most important tool for managing this? Book-keeping.

–Alfred Schram Wordright, The Restaurateur’s Guide

Jonah could not imagine his life, his work, his day-to-day existence paired down to such a miserable minimalist tyranny of tedium.

Should he just drop out now?

Nah, aside from that one management course with its odious text, he liked being in school. Besides, he had his athletic scholarship, and while practices were boring, he loved the fitness, the teamwork, and the wins. Just like Kiana had been, he was a star player.

He thought about his future while putting together a presentation for his “New Menus in Classic Cuisine” course.

When he’d first signed up for the culinary program at the university, he envisioned himself working as a chef for a few years and then opening his own restaurant, probably here in San Myshuno, or maybe someplace chic, like Brindleton Bay, and serving innovative menus comprised of fresh, locally grown produce. A garden-to-restaurant type of thing, sustainable, maybe even non-profit, designed to teach that delicious food could be healthy for the person and the planet.

It was a noble idea, but he was ready to ditch it.

“Won’t be long now before you graduate!” Kiana said during one of his afternoon study breaks.

“Yeah,” he said. “But I’ve come to a decision. I don’t think I want to work.”

“Oh? Your dream of opening a restaurant?”

“I don’t think it’s for me,” he said. “I’m not a business man.”

“But you can hire someone to take care of all that,” Kiana said.

“I just don’t really want to be involved with that,” Jonah said. “It seems… tedious. It’s not what I want to do with my life.”

“Well, all right,” Kiana said. “It sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought.”

He tried to explain more later.

“I don’t need to work,” he said. “You know, my snowboarding videos are bringing in a lot of money every day. And I can easily produce more of those. That’s not like work for me. It’s play. And if I can play, and it brings in enough money to live on and then some, why should I fill my life with extra baggage, like a tedious job I’d come to hate, and then just be full of resentment? I want to live my life, not work for a living.”

“There’s nothing that says you have to get a job,” Kiana said. “I know I’ve sure enjoyed the freedom of being a free-lancer. And if you’re earning a living through doing the things you enjoy, so much the better. Your snowboard videos are a great way to take care of that.”

“Yeah,” Jonah said. “That’s what I figure. I just don’t want to wake up some day, decades from now, and realize that I’ve been living a life of quiet desperation.”

“Oh,” Kiana said. “You’re reading Walden. Now it all makes sense.”

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Another Legacy, 3.8

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 9, 2023: What is the most memorable gift you have received?

As long as Jonah could remember, Kiana had been active. Some of his earliest memories of her were of her juggling the soccer ball, and even now, she filled spare moments with juggling. She still hoped she’d one day beat her record of 456 kicks without dropping the ball.

Jonah bought her a new ball one WinterFest. In between the steps of meal preparation, she juggled it in the kitchen. Jonah’s college friends, who’d dropped by for the festivities, were impressed.

“Whoa. I knew you were a sports legend at uni, but I didn’t know you were still a legend in action!” said Hikaro.

“It’s no big deal,” she replied. “You haven’t seen nothing until you’ve tried this stuffing!”

One thing Kiana had in abundance was confidence, and it somehow added to her charm. At least, Jonah’s college friends all thought so.

Even though it was a holiday, Jonah hit the books.

“Your friends are here. Tofu turkey is the oven. Don’t you want to come down and celebrate with us?” Kiana asked, when she found him upstairs with his nutrition text.

“Sure, sure. I will. I just want to finish this chapter first. Do you know that legumes, in addition to being good sources of minerals and unsaturated fats, also have phytochemicals that provide health benefits?”

“Oh, yeah. Of course. The many health benefits of soybeans!”

“I’m serious, though. These food sources are awesome!”

An hour later, he’d moved on to Recipe Creation.

“Ready to come join us?”

But he just wanted to draft up one more recipe idea first.

Scott York from next door stopped by.

“Would you like some supper? It’s the holiday feast,” Kiana said. She’d already dived in, unwilling to wait any longer for Jonah to come down from his studies.

“Nah, we ate,” Scott said. “I’m stuffed.”

He seemed sad.

“You’re not spending the holiday evening with your mom and little brother?” Kiana asked.

“We spent the day together. It’s late. Earl’s in bed, and Mom’s asleep on the couch. She hasn’t been feeling well lately. Gets tired out easily.”

Jonah had put away his books and come downstairs in time to hear Scott said, “I just wanted to pretend I was part of this family for a little bit. Is that OK?”

“Of course,” replied Kiana. “Make yourself at home. You’re always welcome here.”

While Jonah dished up his own serving, Scott came into the living room and curled up on the couch. Soon, he was fast asleep.

Late that night, after Scott had gone home, when Jonah was enjoying a second helping of supper, Kiana joined him in the living room.

“So, are you ready for your gift?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” he replied. She’d already given him a stocking full of climbing accessories and gift cards for coffee and specialty food stores, and new winter clothes and a gift card for a ski shop.

“This is a special gift. I’ve actually been waiting for years to pass it on to you.”

It was her original soccer ball, the one she’d used on the team in college.

“But this is your championship ball!”

“It is! You gave me a new one today. I don’t need this anymore. You’re the star athlete now. It’s yours.”

The day after WinterFest, Jonah headed up to the mountains, still full of surprise, joy, and gratitude from last night’s gift. Kiana’s soccer ball! That was her most prized possession, and now it was his.

Somehow that one black and white sphere held it all, all the gifts he’d received: a home; Kiana’s support; a big dose of confidence and courage; the willingness to face challenges; family. She’d passed on all of that to him.

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Another Legacy, 3.7

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 8, 2023: How far back in your family tree can you go?

“Did you ever know your grandparents?” Jonah asked Kiana one morning.

“You mean my birth grandparents?” she replied.

“Either.”

“Well, I suppose I may have met my birth grandparents, though I don’t remember. I wasn’t even two when my parents died. Sometimes I wonder why my birth grandparents never took me in, or uncles or aunts, either.”

“But you were happy with Case and Ira,” Jonah added.

“Oh, of course! I think it worked out for the best. I mean, I couldn’t have had a better person to bring me up than Case. It’s just that I wonder, you know? I think there were family in Henford-on-Bagley. On a farm. That would’ve been interesting.”

“What about Case’s parents? Or Ira’s?”

“They were both somewhat estranged. Case never really talked about his family, actually. Ira did, sometimes. They lived here, in San Myshuno, but I never met them. They never visited, and neither did we.”

“Do you feel like you missed out, not knowing your grandparents?”

“Gosh,” Kiana replied. “I never really thought about it. I guess maybe I did. Now, being older myself, I think it would’ve been nice to have known some older people, I mean more than just our friends. Role models, you know.”

“You often talk about how you wish I’d known Case,” Jonah said. “I almost feel like I do know him, with all your stories about him and Ira. I think it would’ve been fun to tease him. Do you know anything about my family? My birth family?”

“No,” said Kiana. “I checked. I wanted to be able to share your family with you when you asked. But the case worker said the files were closed. That happens sometimes.”

“It’s for the best,” Jonah said. “I have my own memories of my early years, and they’re not that great. For me, life started when I came here. I like so say to myself, ‘I was born here.’ That’s how it feels!”

Kiana had fallen silent, thinking of her own parents who died so young, of Case and Ira, who never got to meet Jonah, of Brett, so recently passed. So many of us are orphaned in so many ways.

“So, I’ve been thinking,” Jonah said, washing up the breakfast dishes, “it sure would be nice if any child I adopted got to know his or her grandparent.”

Kiana let the comment pass for the time being. But later, she followed Jonah upstairs, where he was working on his term paper.

“Were you serious with that comment?” she asked. “Are you really thinking about adopting?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “It feels like our family tradition. Our legacy. It’s a paying-forward, paying-back kind of thing. I’ve always thought I’d adopt. It’s just recently, I’m feeling like I don’t want to wait too long. I want my kid to know you.”

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Another Legacy, 3.6

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 7, 2023: Write a short story or poem about rain.

It rained so much that winter. Kiana did most of her exercise indoors, practicing yoga while looking out at the gray city.

Jonah had decided to live at home while going to college.

“I just don’t want to worry about you,” he told Kiana, “while I’m focusing on my studies.”

He knew that Case and Ira had both died while Kiana was away at college, and that put a fear into him. She seemed well, but you never know.

“Plus, it’ll be easier at home,” he added. “And I can eat your cooking!”

Kiana had told him how she’d struggled a bit at university, trying manage her commitments as a scholarship athlete with her coursework. Something had always been breaking in the house she’d rented with several other students, and her roommates weren’t the best when it came to cleaning or cooking, so she never had a spare moment, it seemed.

“I just want to be able to focus on my classes and sports,” Jonah said. It also didn’t hurt that Kiana was around to give him feedback on his presentations and term papers.

One day, during a short break in the rain, Kiana bundled up in her jacket, ready to head out for a city walk, when Sophie stopped by.

“He’s gone,” she said.

“Who, Scott?” Their oldest son had been talking about moving out.

“No, Brett. He had a heart attack last night.”

“Oh, Sophie.” Her heart crumpled.

“Heyo! Jonah around?” It was one of Jonah’s teammates, stopping by for an impromptu strategy session. Neither woman answered. “Ah, OK, then, guess I’ll just check downstairs.”

“Sophie,” Kiana said, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t think I can make this better.”

“I don’t expect you to, Kiana. I know he meant something to you, too. You’ve gotta be hurting as well.”

“Yeah,” said Kiana. “This hurts. But he wasn’t the father of my children.”

“Just tell me we’ll make it through this, OK?”

“OK, Sophie. We’ll make it through this.”

In the coming weeks, while the rain still poured, Kiana often stopped by the Yorks’ apartment next door, just to make sure the family was all right and to see if there was anything that needed doing.

It helped her own grief to be helping them out, too. And she felt closer to Brett by being there, in the home where he’d lived for over ten years.

Their youngest, Earl, was growing up, and Kiana was often there when he came home from school.

“Better change out of those wet things,” Kiana would remind him on especially rainy afternoons.

“All dry and ready for the world!” he declared after a quick change.

“You seem happy today,” Kiana said.

“Yeah. My teacher says that just because somebody dies you don’t have to be sad all the time. You can be happy, too. But don’t worry when the sadness comes back. That’s what she says. It’s just natural.”

“Your teacher sounds like a pretty wise woman.”

“You have to be,” he said. “It’s a job requirement.”

Heading back to her place one day, Kiana found Jonah juggling the soccer ball in the foyer, right in front of the bulletin board where, for years and years, Brett and Kiana had left notes for each other. It had been one of their main forms of communication, especially when both of their lives were busy and they went weeks without seeing each other. This had been a way to keep in touch, sometimes even daily. The notes were just little things, like “Hope you’re having a good day,” or “My life is brighter because of you,” but they provided a sweet connection.

“Did you check the board in the past few weeks?” Jonah asked.

She hadn’t. She’d been afraid to. It would bring up too many emotions.

“I think you should,” Jonah said.

There was Scott’s last note, posted the day he’d passed.

Brett's last note: Don't be glum, we've all had that day. Just remember that tomorrow will be better.

The sadness rose. The sadness melted. The rain fell. The sun shone. All of this happened at once. It was too hard, and love made it all easy. It still hurt, but the hurt was somehow OK.

She looked out the window at sunset to see Jonah on the patio, dribbling the soccer ball as the quiet rain fell and the sky turned golden and peach with the setting sun.

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Another Legacy, 3.5

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 6, 2023: Why do you write?

The gnomes cheered when Jonah wrote in his journal, which was something he did often during these years.

Kiana commented on it.

“You’re writing a lot lately. Is it for college?”

“No,” he replied. “It’s for me.”

“Is it a gratitude journal?” she asked. They’d both talked about starting gratitude journals at the new year. “I didn’t start mine. But I do take at least a moment each day to notice what I’m grateful for. Today, it’s green tea.”

“I’m always thankful for green tea,” Jonah said. “But, no. It’s not a gratitude journal. It’s more like a ‘remember-this-moment’ journal.”

“That’s wise,” Kiana said. “Life passes so fast.”

“And so much happens,” Jonah added.

He was writing an account of the mountain trek. It was easy to get down the “what happened,” but it was a lot harder to express the significance, the internal experience of awe, the almost overwhelming realization that he had accomplished a goal he’d set out for himself when he was a boy.

“I’ve heard that poetry works well to express the inexpressible,” Kiana said.

Jonah didn’t reply. He was in the zone, and that all-encompassing focus he felt in writing was almost, though not quite, as enticing as the all-encompassing focus he felt when climbing.

Kiana returned to the table with another cup of tea. What goals had she accomplished? Quite a few, actually. She earned a fine arts degree while being a scholar-athlete. She created an award-winning career as a free-lance graphic artist. She’d filled their home with paintings that were, for her, the equivalent of a journal of her life.

Most of all, she’d provided a home for Jonah and given him the support he needed to accomplish his goals.

“Every sentence I’m writing is in one way or another a ‘thank you,'” Jonah said, “or an acknowledgment of privilege and how much I’ve been given in my life. So, I guess, after all, this is a gratitude journal. Maybe this is why I write. To say ‘thank you’ to life and to you, Kiana.”

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