Another Legacy 2.18

My! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I see that WordPress has changed its default text in the edit view–always a major distraction to my autistic brain that feels fonts are friends! Where did you go, my lovely little sans-serif?

So, my last post was, what, all the way back in August? What happened? Well, I’ve been teaching, and I’ve also been writing (and publishing!) poetry! It’s a dream I never dared dream, back when I was a little girl who felt that Emily Dickinson opened up the petals of a flower to uncover galaxies. I didn’t think I could be a poet–that’s why I wrote fiction. But somehow, I’ve lost the narrative thread of my life, and moments unfold in poems, and I am a poet.

Retirement brings amazing gifts! But apparently, continuing my Sim legacy fell through the cracks! I started this two years ago on Thanksgiving, and at this rate, it will be 20 years before it’s finished! Oh–I may not live that long, so let’s step on the gas. At least I’ve played ahead to Gen 4. Maybe I can catch up by the new year?

So what has been happening with Kiana?

Kiana discovered that she loved much of the culture of the district in the city where she lived. Especially the geek festival, where everyone spoke her native language of games and geekiness!

But some of the customs were simply incomprehensible to her. Like Free Love.

Casual acquaintances, random strangers, good friends–they all felt that they could walk up to her, take her hands, whisper sweet words to her, and that was love!

That wasn’t love, at least not the way she’d been raised. Case had been an asexual, and he and Ira, who loved each other more than any two people Kiana had ever known, never shared more than a friendly hug.

All these casual displays made her miss them more, Case especially. He’d shown her that love was providing a home, cooking good food, being there to ask about and listen to her when she talked about her emotions, and offering guidance and support. That was love, not a stray kiss, a tongue, a squeeze, a pinch on the butt.

Her neighbors felt differently.

“So, the swinging city!” Sophie said one afternoon when they met in the foyer. “Is that what brought you here, too?”

“No,” Kiana replied. “This apartment was the only place I could afford. Anywhere.”

Sophie invited herself in and as they started talking, Kiana realized she really liked her neighbor, even if they did have different views on the whole Free Love thing.

“Yeah,” Sophie said, “Scott and I are what you might call swingers. I mean, we love each other, for sure, and our family is everything to us, but we also like to have fun. To express other parts of ourselves, you might say.”

“Huh,” Kiana replied, “that sounds like it could actually, maybe, contribute to your marriage?”

“Oh, totally!” replied Sophie. “We’re very open with each other. For example, we both find you very attractive. Now I get that that’s not something you’re interested in right now, but if you ever changed your mind, with either of us, just know that it’s OK, in fact it’s super cool and groovy, with both of us!”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Kiana said.

But for right now, she was happy simply to have Sophie as a friend.

Sophie joined her at the yoga classes she taught at the community center across the plaza. It was a mixed-age class, and Kiana had to use all her teaching knowledge to come up with modifications for the elders, instructions for the kids, and challenges for someone fit like Sophie.

In addition to attracting new residents like Scott and Sophie York, the district’s customs also attracted visitors from nearby cities. You can imagine my surprise when Agnes Crumplebottom showed up.

“Is it true,” she whispered to the tall, dark stranger, “that what happens in the city stays in the city?”

For Jonah, the grown ups were just being grown ups, and this was all just a happy, healthy, loving community in which to be a kid. Heck, I’m reminded of my own childhood in the 1960s in Northern California. Free Love, back then, was just another term for good vibes, and good vibes are what we hippie kids thrive on.

“You know, we’ve got a kid about your age,” Sophie told Jonah. “Would you like to play with him?”

Of course Jonah wanted to! But it didn’t happen that day, or any other in the future, for Scott, it seems, had taken an immediate and fervent dislike of Jonah before he even laid eyes on him.

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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 2.15

Sometimes, it hit Kiana out of the blue that Case would never get to meet Jonah. It felt incomprehensible to her that this kid, her son, would never get to know Case, her dad. Even though she’d never called him “Dad” and always thought of him as “Case,” he was still, in every possible aspect of the best way, her dad. And that he’d never get to know Jonah as a grandson, or Jonah get to know him as Granddad? It was too cruel.

Jonah was a great kid, like Case in his love for doing things to help the planet, but unlike him in so many ways that were, simply, intriguing and wonderful.

He was friendly, in a goofy way, and brave about approaching anyone with a joke and a smile.

But he wasn’t just outgoing and goofy. He was thoughtful and sensitive, too. At the time, Kiana’s special interest was yoga and wellness. She made amazing healthy tea, and all the neighbors stopped in for a cup at all hours.

It rubbed off on Jonah, and sometimes, after a hectic day at school, he’d head straight up to the yoga mat. “The mat’s got my back,” he loved to say.

Kiana’s days were so full–mornings getting Jonah fed and off to school, days busy with her free-lance work, then after school, helping Jonah with homework and projects, and making meals for supper and his lunch the next day. If she was lucky, she had a few hours to herself late at night, after tucking Jonah in, and always, by the time she crawled into bed, she couldn’t keep her eyes open a moment longer.

She didn’t have to worry about traffic or even strangers in their district. It was designated a pedestrian-friendly zone–no cars were allowed there–and she and Jonah knew all the vendors, neighbors, and regulars, so Jonah was free to play in the plaza whenever he wanted. Because it was known to be safe and neighborly, there were always other kids there for him to play with.

He usually brought home a few, kids who were eager to test out his art table and chemistry set.

One afternoon, Kiana was working on the graphics for a character design, unaware that one of Jonah’s friends had stopped by, when she smelled smoke.

She dashed upstairs to find the chemistry set on fire, and some child she didn’t even know whimpering, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” in front of it.

“Stand clear!” she yelled, grabbing the fire extinguisher.

The kid was fine, if a bit traumatized, the chemistry set was ruined, the carpet could be replaced, and the walls repainted.

“Whew,” Kiana said, “that was a close one.”

“I didn’t mean to,” said the kid.

“I know,” Kiana replied. “It wasn’t your fault.” If it was anyone’s fault, she realized, it was hers. If you have a kid, and that kid has friends who come over, it’s your responsibility to supervise dangerous activities. She was going to have to be more alert.

She wished she could talk to Case about this. “How did you manage?” she’d ask. “I remember you always being in the garden.”

She figured he would probably say, “Well, you were always a good kid who stayed out of trouble. Plus, all your friends were grown ups.”

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Another Legacy 2.14

Since Kiana wanted to be available for Jonah when he was home, she decided she’d plan for her necessary solitary time while he was at school. The seven hours from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. should give her plenty of time to practice yoga, go for a jog, work on her graphic art commissions, and even just chill alone, listening to music or doing something fun, for a little bit.

But it didn’t work out that way. Somehow, just by being friendly and polite, Kiana, very much a loner by temperament, ended up with the lifestyle of a people person. She seemed to make friends just by saying hello or introducing herself, and then, next thing she knew, she’d be in the kitchen making lunch with the mailman, for example.

She was completely baffled. She’d struggled to make friends all through school, hardly even thought about a social life in college, and now, she accumulated dozens of friends without even trying.

At least the mailman was a nice guy who liked cooking almost as much as she did. And he liked plants, too. That counted for something.

She ended up staying up late, after Jonah went to sleep, to fit in her time alone. Standing by the window, looking out over the lights of the city, she felt inspired, and she could whip out a digital sketch in an hour or two.

Getting her work done after Jonah’s bedtime meant they could do fun things together when he got back from school, and their district was full of fun things to do.

Every few weeks there was a festival. The Spice Festival was the first one they went to together, not so much to eat spicy food, but to feast their eyes on all the spicy colors.

Jonah was such a friendly kid. He’d talk to anybody–well, a lot of kids will talk to anybody, but Jonah actually listened, and not just as a matter of politeness, though he was a polite kid, but out of curiosity. He really wanted to learn about other people.

Kiana listened to him ask questions to a person they’d just met there at the festival, and she thought, this kid is a natural people person. With her, it was just some weird fluke of friendliness in an environment that maybe wasn’t always that friendly, but with Jonah, it was because he actually liked other people.

She gave it a try herself, trying to show some genuine interest in the bartender when she ordered a cranberry juice, but she couldn’t think of anything to ask that didn’t seem nosy, so she just stood there, smiling awkwardly. They became friends, anyway.

And so this was what her life was like right now: overfull in an explosion of color, but not like a riot of color, like all these intricate patterns, somehow intertwining themselves and lending an air of fascination to every moment. In the midst of colors and people, Kiana felt awe.

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Another Legacy 2.8

Kiana, for that’s the name she decided to use professionally, discovered with delight that she loved her work. For the most part, she only had to communicate with her clients and contracting agency through email, chat, or text, and that suited her just fine. She didn’t always understand exactly what her clients asked for in their project descriptions, but she was good at guessing, and when she guessed wrong, they always gave her the opportunity to revise her work and resubmit it.

She got to choose which projects to accept, how quickly to complete them (as long as she met their more-than-generous deadlines), and when to accept a new job. In this style, she earned enough to pay a month’s rent, bills, and groceries in the first week, and she even had some income leftover for furniture. It was going to work out, and she was having fun.

For the first time, possibly ever, she had ample time for her own art, too, because she wasn’t on a soccer team, she didn’t have to study, and there was no homework. She had autonomy, and it made her feel that she could do almost anything.

She even had time to explore the city a bit.

One afternoon, heading to the Spice Festival, she felt Case’s presence so strongly. Rarely had he ever been sad in his life, but when she felt him, she felt, in addition to his usual warmth, a new heaviness. Was it regret?

“It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way,” she felt him say. “I wanted to leave you everything. It was all for you. Everything I did was for you.”

“It’s OK,” she assured him. She explained about the apartment, and how, now that she was getting furniture and had almost saved up for new appliances and counters, it was a pretty cool place to live. She told him how much she loved her work, how good at it she was, how the bonuses kept rolling in, how she was going to make it just fine, and then some.

“Plus,” she added, “Now I know I can do it! I can’t even express how that makes me feel. To know I can make it in life.”

She felt Case’s spirit grow bright, and she felt the pride he had in her. He really had given her everything she needed.

She wanted to tell him that, too, but by the time she formulated the thought into words, his spirit had left, and she wandered the city on her own again.

And the neat thing about living in a city is that even if you’re on your own, you’re never really alone. There’s always someone to talk to.

If she ever felt lonely or just wanted company, all she had to do was wander down to the courtyard in her district. There were food booths, street musicians, people walking, folks sitting and hanging out. It was even better than the college campus, because these people all seemed to have time, and not a lot of stress.

The people she met, without fail, were interesting, too. Kiana actually felt like she was kind of the normal one, which was nice, for a change.

And it was beautiful. There were views every way she turned, city art installations, twisting walkways through gardens, and over it all, an amazing sky that reached from city to country to mountain to sea.

It hadn’t taken long for Kiana to discover that her new life suited her very well.

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Another Legacy 1.17

Case sitting on Kiki's bet

In the morning, it’s silent. Kiki sleeps. Case listens to Joe Hisaishi’s “One Summer’s Day,” played by Hisaishi himself on piano, looping over and over again.

He swallows happiness with his vegan BLT. Tomatoes are the happiest, and crisp lettuce is a close second.

When Ira grabs a plate of leftover grilled fruit for breakfast, her #samefood, Case gives up the best seat in the house, so she can have it.

Ira sitting on Kiki's bed

“It’s nice how the sun comes in, right?” he says. “This is the best window in the house.”

Case and Ira talking

Kiki’s breaths come soft and slow, like a kitten’s. Something about having a small, warm, sleeping body next to us brings a comfort that can’t be found anywhere else.

Ira dimly remembers being that size, sleeping on her dad’s chest, rising and falling with each of his breaths. When I was Kiki’s size, my dad used to tuck me in by “squeezing me like toothpaste.” I’d crawl down to the foot of the bed, under the covers, and he’d push me up by the toes, until my head reached the pillow. I slept so soundly, under heavy blankets, with the soft moon shining in my own window over my little bed.

Ira looking happy and thoughtful

“Chirp, chirp!”

“Is there a baby bird in here?” Ira asks, as Kiki stirs.

“It’s Kiki!” Kiana laughs.

Kiki wakes up

“Where Cay?” Kiana asks.

“Case, this little bird wants you!” Ira calls.

Ira hears Kiki chirp

“Not a bird,” she says.

“Would you like a story, Kiana?” Case asks.

It’s the best thing.

Case reads to Kiki

About halfway through the story, the odors in the house are not the best thing.

“Let’s finish the story later,” Case says, “and get you cleaned up first.”

Case and Kiki looking happy

“No!” Kiki yells. “No clean!”

“Fu-” yells Case, “–udge!” Ugh, it’s their first morning, and he’s messed up already. What to do? Yes, stories need to be finished, and it sucks to have them interrupted midway, but also, diapers need to be changed, and some odors just can’t be allowed to linger! And what do you do when everything is important and needs doing now? Case should have realized he was not up for this. What was he thinking?

Kiki is mad and Case swears

He remembered when he was a kid, even a little one, how annoying it was to be interrupted when he was focusing on something he enjoyed. He also remembered how he hated to have his clothes changed. He had to choose them and put them on himself. If he didn’t the socks would somehow get on crooked, and the seams would be all wrong, and buttons would be pressing against his skin. It was awful.

Sit. Breathe. Case closes his eyes. Breathe. Breathe. Sit. Breathe.

OK. Really, he needs to change her, that’s more important. And he’ll either let her put on her clothes herself, or he’ll do it so carefully, that the heels of the sock match up with her little heels, and the toes of the sock are all straight, with no weird wrinkles, and the seams are not crooked, and everything feels right.

And it goes just as he plans. She’s mad through the whole thing, pouting, glaring at him. But he focuses on doing the entire process right, in the most comfortable way, and when he’s done, he asks if she wants more story, and she replies, “Hungry.”

Her vegan BLT makes her forget all about being mad. Crumbs fly! Vegan mayo is sweet and goopy! And lettuce! The sandwich is delicious, but it’s even more fun to smoosh.

“Good to see you enjoying your meal!” Case says.

“Yum-yum!” replies Kiki, angry no more.

Kiki comes outside. She's not mad anymore.

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Another Legacy 1.16

Kiana reaching out for Case

It takes a few months to complete CPR and First Aid training, put references in order, fill out the application and have it processed, and get licensed for Foster Care, but it only takes a few hours for to bond. By the time they step off the bus from San Myshuno, after a two-hour ride spent telling stories, eating snacks, watching for horses and cows out the window, and talking about home, with its new cozy canopy bed, fridge full of apple slices, raisins, cake, and peanut butter, and garden thrumming with bees and scented with flowers, Kiana has become fast friends with Cay–or as she sometimes likes to call him, “Cay-Cay.”

“Up! Cay-Cay!”

Kiana has bright red hair and red-framed sunglasses

But instead of picking her up, Case kneels down and wraps his arms around her. He wants her, even at such a tiny size, to feel that she can see him eye-to-eye, that she can stand on her own feet, supported by him.

Case hugs Kiana

“This home, Cay?” she asks.

“Yup, Kiana. We’re home.”

Kiana asks if she's home

And as those words leave him, Case feels butterflies. Happiness shouldn’t be this strong, and for a minute, he wobbles as he stands. And just as quick as the happiness, a dash of fear–what if he can’t keep her?

“Kiki coming, Cay-Cay!” she says, and Case pushes aside the worry, swallows the happiness, and steadies himself. He’s gotta be strong now. She’s counting on him.

Case smiles so widely as Kiana toddles after him

“Snack, Kiana?” he asks when they’re inside. 

She’s grabbed the tablet and all her attention is focused. 

“You like to read, eh, Kiana?” he says.

Kiana sitting on the floor playing with a table, while Case sits on her bed

“Kiki done reading!” and she jumps up and begins to dance, no music, just the little song she sings without words in a sol-mi tune.

Kiana stands up

Eventually, she asks for food, and Case makes her a peanut butter and banana sandwich, cut in little triangles. She gets the peanut butter all over her face and fingers, and Case finds a soft towel that he runs under the warm water. So gently, he wipes her cheeks, and wraps each tiny finger in the warm moist cloth. 

While Case washes the dishes, she wanders out the door. Case watches her through the window above the sink as she wobbles across the yard to where Ira stands in the dusk, finishing a small painting.

“Who you?” asks Kiana.

Outside at night, Kiana wanders over to talk with Ira, who's painting

“I’m Ira. Who are you?”

“I know Ira!” Kiana says. “Ira Cay-Cay friend. Kiki. Kiki friend Cay-Cay, too. Friend Ira.”

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