Forgotten Art: Meadow – Watergate 4

A reply to: A letter from Mr. Watergate

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Dear Chance,

I must have read your letter five times! I have almost a photographic memory, so to reread something is sort of silly for me, since I can just remember it. But still, there’s something about casting my eyes over your words that makes me feel warm inside.

Where do you work? I suddenly realize I know hardly anything about you!

I don’t work for a company–or even for money, actually. Well, I paint. And I earn a small profit from selling my paintings to galleries and at art fairs in the city. But I don’t have to work for money.  I’m really fortunate in that my father’s business was very successful. I inherited the family home, and along with it, a nice stipend that covers all my expenses, and then some.

I’m a folklorist. Did I mention that? Yeah, I guess it’s not really a high-paying career! In my junior year at the university, I had doubts about my future as a folklorist. This was right before my dad passed on. I told him I thought maybe I should switch majors to finance or business or even education. Something practical.

He said, “Are you nuts, Greenie?” My dad called me “Greenie,” his nickname for Meadow, since, you know, meadows are green. “Do you know how many accountants there are in this world? How many business majors? How many teachers? The world is overrun. But how many folklorists are there?”

He said vocation isn’t about money or even earning a living. “I’ve got you covered, Greenie,” he told me. “So that means it’s your responsibility to make a contribution in the way that only you can.”

So, that’s what I’m doing with my life. I guess that’s why I adopted Jena, too, so I could share some of my good fortune and so that, maybe, when Jena grows up, she can make a contribution, too.

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What do you feel your contribution is, Chance? You wrote that you had unfinished business. Does that tie into your contribution?

I think it’s wonderful that you’re considering writing. You have so much to share with the world.

I know you made a big difference in my life, through writing to me, and you also made a difference to Jena’s life. Maybe your contribution to the world will be to be a writer!

Think of all the people you can inspire!

Writing is interesting. My uncle Jasper is a literature professor–well, he’s retired, but really, once a lit professor, always a lit professor. And he is always talking about how “words change us.”

I have to admit, that’s true. So, if you become a writer, you’ll be able to change people for the better through your writing! You’re so wise, and you’ve learned so much through experience and even mistakes, so facing up to those, writing about what you’ve learned, that’s bound to change everyone who reads your stories, essays, or poems.

Thanks for asking about Jena! She’s doing so great. Each day, she seems to learn a hundred new things, and as she gains confidence, she becomes happier.

Congratulations to your sister on her upcoming wedding! I’m so happy for her! Will you wear a tux?  And yes! I’d LOVE to see wedding pictures! I can’t wait to see pics of all your family.

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You said you wanted to know about my life. It’ so boring.

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I mean, it’s not boring to me. To me, it’s fascinating and very fun.

But when I think about writing about it… would you be interested in hearing about the wild blueberries I picked for my yogurt parfait, and the cow who lives around the corner whose milk went into the yogurt?

I could tell you about the old woman who raises the cows and makes the yogurt and the stories she’s told me about her grandmother, but those interesting stories are someone else’s life, not mine.

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I could tell you a story from my childhood.

My dad was a big name in the alternative energy field. He’s the one who introduced wind power to Windenburg. He used to have to travel to the city often for conferences and to meet with partners, and he often took my brother Norman and me with him.

“Meet me back here at six o’clock,” he’d say, as he’d leave us at the entrance to the park. Then off he’d go to the conference or meeting, and Norman and I would have free run of the park. For adventurous kids like us, it was bliss!

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One summer, we were hooked on collecting stuff. I wanted to get as many different snow globes as I could. They fascinated me! Each one seemed to hold its own world, and I invented stories about the people who lived there.

My brother collected rock concert posters. He sold them at auctions and made a lot of money! He’s always had keen sense of entrepreneurship!

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One day, we had such great luck! I found a snow globe in an old box, and it was one I’d been looking for forever, with a little diorama of a dinosaur, and it was so weird to see the snow falling on the brontosaurus, like the Ice Age.

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Norman found about ten posters for a Flaming Lips concert. We ran from block to block to block, picking up his posters from telephone poles and bus stop shelters and cement walls.

When we stopped, we didn’t know where we were.

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“Are we lost, Norman?” I asked him.

“Of course not!” he said. “We’re in the city! You can’t get lost in the city!”

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But we were lost. We had no idea how to get back to the park.

Finally, Norman said we had to split up. He told me to stay where I was, in this central square-type park, and he’d go exploring, and when he found his way back to the main park, he’d bring Dad back here to the square to pick me up.

At first it was fun to be there by myself.

I found more snow globes.

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I watched this woman who pretended she was an astronaut statue. That was really fun.

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Everyone I met was really interesting!

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I made a really good friend with another kid. We played together on the bars, and even though I never saw her again, I’ve always thought of her as one of my best friends!

It’s funny how we can have “friends-for-a-day” and they somehow stay with us forever.

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When my friend found out that I was waiting for my brother, she told me that I’d have to wait forever and that he might not even ever come back.

“You can’t get to the park from here,” she said. “It’s way far. It’s Forbidden. So, you’ll have to stay here. I’ll bring you snacks, like cookies and stuff, because I live in that building there, and you can sleep under the cardboard.”

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I didn’t want to do that.

So, I decided that, even if it was Forbidden, I’d find my own way back to the park.

I ran in the direction of the sun, for I had a pretty good idea of east and west, and I knew the park was to the west, and when I got too tired to run, I walked, and I must have run-walked all afternoon.

When it was just starting to get dark, I found another outdoor square, all lit up with beautiful paper lanterns, and there, walking through the square was my uncle Jasper!

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I was never so happy to see anybody ever before in my whole life! Seeing him meant I wouldn’t have to sleep under cardboard that night!

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“What are you doing here, all by yourself, Meadow?” he asked.

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I told him all about the big adventure and about getting lost and about Norman heading off to get found while I waited in Lost-land for him to return and how he never did.

“We’d better get you to the park,” he said. “We don’t want anybody worrying over you!”

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We made it back just as Norman was reaching the park entrance and my dad was walking out of the conference, so nobody even had a chance to be worried!

It seems scary when I think about it now, but at the time, I had so much fun exploring, and I had this amazing trust that everything would always work out right.

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Sometimes, I think that trust in life, or in the universe, or in the Rightness-of-Whatever, was misplaced, just a naive childish belief in goodness.

I mean, there is so much badness in the world.

I think about Jena, and what her mom experienced, and about all the terrible things that happened in the world that landed her mom in that refugee camp in the first place.

And then, I think about Jena sleeping peacefully in the next room, and I think about all the beauty that surrounds me everyday. And there’s Mozart!

And, I guess I just have an unshakeable trust in goodness.

After all, I’ve got you for a pen pal!

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I hope I didn’t bore you forever, Chance.

Enjoy your sister’s wedding!

And good luck with the writing!

Much love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Mr. Watergate 3

A reply to: A letter from Mr. Watergate

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Dear Mr. Watergate. Chance.

I like that.

Dear Chance,

Do you feel that names are significant? I do. Because Meadow–it’s so who I am. Quiet. Outdoors. Green. Wait until you learn more about me and you will see how green I really am.

And because Chance. I feel like I’m taking a big chance writing this letter to you, just like you took a big chance in your last letter to me.

I just read it. I know I should really take a few days to process it. And I will. But I wanted to start my reply now.

Ok. I really will take my advice, set this letter aside, let my feelings settle a bit, and then write back.

See you in a few days… I mean. Not really. But in my mind’s eye when I pick up this letter again.


Hi, Chance. I’m back.

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I needed to take a few days to process everything you wrote. You are really brave.

My uncle likes to say that “Virtue is easy for the virtuous.” What he means is that if someone is naturally good and usually does the right thing, then, for them, being good is no big deal. It’s just them living their lives the way that’s easiest for them.

He says he has greatest respect for those who work for virtue. “That takes the real courage,” he says.

I think that’s why he likes my brother so much! LOL!

I kept thinking of this perspective while reading your letter. To face your mistakes, especially with your children whom you love so much, that takes real courage. And then to own up to those mistakes with me, someone you barely even know, that takes even more courage.

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I respect you so much.

It must feel hard when you see that the pain felt by you and your ex-wife was spread onto your children. Pain is strange that way. Sometimes I think that it’s like a virus–all pain wants to do is grow and spread, and it will use other people to do so.

I wish I knew a Vitamin C for pain! You know, something that will kick the pain out of our systems so that we don’t have to spread it, unknowingly, to others.

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It’s possible that for me, painting is my Vitamin C.

After my dad died, I was in a lot of pain. My mom had died a few years before, and I still wasn’t completely over it. I mean, I didn’t cry a lot, but my heart had this stitch in it that wouldn’t go away. Then when my dad died, I literally thought my heart was split. I even researched if a person can die of a broken heart. And you know what? They can.

My uncle Jasper saved me then. He was grieving, too, for it was his brother who had died–and way too early. But he pulled himself together and started spending a lot of time with me, and he taught me to paint.

That opened up life for me again, and now, I paint nearly every day. It helps my brain settle out and relax, and then I can see beauty again.

My little Jena comes from a painful background. I think I mentioned she was born in a refugee camp. It’s a really sad story.

But it feels like her life is mostly new, now. I’m sure that, at some deep level, the painful experiences she had in her conception, birth, and first year will be part of a coded memory deep within her soul, but I also feel hope that the healing brought to her by fate will fill her with goodness, so that the pain brings compassion, rather than that spreading virus of accidentally hurting others.

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Ugh! I didn’t mean to get so heavy! I guess I just hear in your words that you feel badly about what happened. I also hear such strength and love in your words when you write of your daughters, and even when you write of your ex-wife.

Forgiveness is amazing!

I was thinking about Milagros, too. I think you and her mom chose the right name!

I mean, look at what she’s awoken within you! That’s a miracle that only a baby can awaken.

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The other day, my uncle was over while Jena was playing. I’d been watching her and thinking about this wonder she experiences in everything. I realized that the experience of that wonder–that’s part of being human! That’s in all of us.

This made me reflect on how each of us was a toddler once. There are no “bad” toddlers. Each of us was once this tiny thing, full of wonder and joy, looking at the world with eyes that twinkle. This is before the virus of pain infected us, when we are all virtuous, and when being virtuous is our very nature.

My uncle started talking. He says crazy things sometimes, and–confession–sometimes I think he’s a cranky old nut. But then I realized that he, too, was once this innocent baby, looking at the world with eyes of wonder.

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I looked in as he was reading Jena a good-night story. At that moment, both of them looked so pure, so full of goodness. Do you think that this quality is inside of all us?

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I think that it is.

I think that the miracle is that when you see Milagros, this open-eyed quality of wonder and goodness wakes up in you. Maybe Milagros is your Vitamin C, and when you see her, the virus of pain is cured. She’s your immunization!

Because, look. Having her has woken up so much strength and so much goodness inside of you.

Thank you for sharing that goodness with me.

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I think it’s only fair that I share a confession of my own. Not only am I single now, but I have never had a boyfriend. I’ve never had a girlfriend, either. Aside from one crush on a boy in middle school, I’ve just never felt that way.

And I’ve never felt that anything was missing from my life, either. I mean, look: I’ve got family, especially now with Jena. I have a few close friends. I have pen pals! 🙂 And I have my art. I don’t have any missing pieces.

Still, when I read your letter, I felt funny inside. Tingly. That’s why I had to put your letter away for a few days before I could continue with my reply.

Anyway, thank you for being my pen pal and for letting me, too, experience miracles.

Love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 5

A reply to: A letter from Dove

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Dearest Dove,

Congratulations! Twins! Kiya and Kari–what beautiful names!

And you sound wonderful for a new mother! Judging from your writing, it doesn’t sound like you’re tired at all!

Of course you must be–even with Maki. And you’re working full-time. You’ve got my admiration!

How lovely that Maki is there to help. She sounds like a beautiful person. And I really like that your relationship with her is based on respecting each other by not bothering with a lot of prying questions.

My uncle taught me to do that when I was a little girl. Very seldom will he ask me anything directly about how or what I’m doing. Instead, he listens. And because he doesn’t ask, and because he does listen, I usually end up telling him everything, and then some!

Thinking about how fortunate you are to have Maki gave me the opportunity to also feel grateful for my uncle Jasper. I don’t think I could do a good job with Jena if I didn’t have him!

My brother has been far too busy to help with Jena at all–he’s rather childish, himself, besides, and so I’ve picked up that he feels a little jealous or something about having someone else be the center of attention. No matter! At the Wind Farms, he’s the Big Boss, so everybody bows when he enters the room, practically!  Eh. Don’t mind me. I’m just doing the sister thing, teasing my big brother Norman.

The other day, Jasper stopped by, out of the blue. I was so relieved. Jena was feeling sad, and nothing I could do would cheer her up. Not singing, not dancing, not telling stories, not even cookies. She still gets like that sometimes.

Jasper picked her up and held her.

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Then he took her into her room, put her down for a nap, and read to her until she fell asleep.

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If you heard Jasper’s voice, you’d feel happy, too. It’s a lot like my dad’s voice was–very rich, like an oboe, only not so nasal as an oboe. Maybe more like a cello. Jasper has been an actor on the stage, so when he reads stories, he does all the voices!

He left before Jena woke up, but he’d already done the magic.

She woke feeling so happy!

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This may sound strange, seeing how she’s only two, but I think she’s working on reading skills.

She loves to play with blocks, and she’s starting to pay more attention to the pictures, numbers, and letters painted on them than she is to them as three-dimensional objects in and of themselves.

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She picks them up and studies them.  I heard her say, “One, two,” when she was examining them the other day.

“What’s that, Jena?” I asked her.

“Buckle shoe,” she replied. So I don’t know if she was reading them or just repeating the nursery rhyme I say to her when I help her dress.

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We still spend hours a day talking! I love it. I haven’t had someone who will talk with me for that long since I lived in the dorm and my college room-mate and I would talk half the night, every night!

If we talk this much now, what will it be like when she’s five or six? Or sixteen? Oh, I hope we still talk a lot when she’s sixteen. I didn’t talk much with my mom when I was sixteen. Did you?

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Right now, she loves to “talk monsters.” I tell her about big pink squishy ones with twenty tentacles, and she tells me about “Purple.” I don’t know much about Purple except “eat shoes.”

How are your babies doing now? Do they pay much attention to each other? Do they verbalize much? Are they good eaters? Tell me everything! (Oops! There I go asking a million questions after saying I don’t! I guess when it comes to babies, curiosity gets the better of me!) Oh! And do they have teeth yet?

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I wonder if they sleep through the night.

Jena has started to. I tuck her in as it’s starting to get dark, and she sleeps all the way through until morning.

I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed time alone. But now, I’ve got a few hours every night.

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I even snuck in a long soak the other day. I never dreamed that a bath could feel so much like heaven!

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Every night, before I go to sleep, I stop in to look at Jena. I can’t imagine a time when she wasn’t part of my life, anymore. She’s so much the center of it now.

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And when I think how peaceful she is, how well-loved, and how much she loves in return, I fall asleep feeling that this world is full of goodness.

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I hope all is well with you, Maki, Kiya and Kari!

Lots and lots of love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Lenora 2

A reply to: Lenora’s letter to Meadow

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Dear Lenora!

I’m sorry it’s taken me a while to reply. Of course I’ve been busy, but who isn’t? That’s not the reason it’s taken me so long to reply.

One of my other pen pals did find herself in a situation where it seemed a quick reply from me was in order–but that’s not the reason it’s taken me so long to reply to you, either.

No. The real reason it’s taken me so long to reply is because I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around what you wrote. You see, I’m a folklorist, so in my reality, werewolves, wizards, Goddesses, fairies, and witches are found in fairy tales, not in the self and family of a pen pal!

I kept thinking, and re-thinking, and researching, and re-researching, and then finally I realized that there was simply no way I could bring our two realities together.

So I’ve stopped trying. I’ve decided to accept the cognitive dissonance. I’ll live with your reality on one pole, and the reality of my world on another, and in our letters, I’ll dance happily in between!

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Thank you so much for all you shared. Do you know? You brought such comfort to me through recounting all the hardships that you and your extended family have experienced.

I guess you know that my life has been sheltered. So it’s been shocking to learn more about what Jena has experienced in her short life already. Somehow, reading about all the tragedy that you and your family have moved through has given me courage. You still seem so warm, loving, and hopeful. Maybe it’s possible not to be destroyed by terrible things that happened.

I hope this is true, because I’ve learned more about the terrible things that have happened to Jena.

You were so right that Jena speaks Urdu! Isn’t that amazing? My uncle realized that when she spoke Urdu with him, and then one of my other pen pals also suggested that she was really speaking in another language! Thank you so much for confirming that.

We have been thinking it would be nice for her to be able to grow up bilingual.

So, I sought out another refugee who came over through the same program as Jena. He was in the refugee camp with her, and he lives in our town. What I learned from Karim makes me feel even more how every smile from Jena is a miracle.

Karim said that the reason Jena speaks Urdu, and not Punjabi, which was her mother’s home language, is because she was cared for by the camp volunteers, and not by her mother’s relatives. Urdu and English are the languages spoken by the volunteers.

When I asked why her family didn’t take care of her, he said because of the shame.

Jena is the result of a gang rape, and her mom died from complications after the delivery.

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That’s why Jena was available for adoption: no one else wanted anything to do with her. She was shunned from birth by everyone except the volunteers and nurses.

Karim said he wouldn’t talk with her. He can’t look at her without seeing the shame.

I didn’t know what to say. Karim left soon after that. I don’t expect to see him again, unless through chance, from living in the same town.

We’ve sort of abandoned the idea of having Jena grow up bilingual. If it happens, it happens. My uncle has some friends and neighbors who speak Urdu, so it could still happen. But I’ve decided not to go out of the way to make it happen. It’s not like it was her mom’s home language or a language that’s associated with love.

So you can see how I draw strength from your stories of hardship and tragedy.

But all that, while a source of fresh sadness to me, is not even a part of Jena’s reality right now. Right now, Jena is doing so well!

She’s grown so much just since my last letter!

Once my uncle began speaking Urdu with her, it was like something clicked for her. She suddenly became interested in learning English!

She asks me to sit with her and play flash cards. I bought them at an educational toy store. Jena loves them. I always feel hesitant to use them because Jena’s such a littlie, and I don’t want her to have to do work already! But she asks me to play. Even though she concentrates so hard and seems so serious, she seems to really enjoy it. I think she likes to learn.

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She’s also funny and playful a lot of the time.

The other day, I came down to get a book and I found her dancing to Beethoven’s Sixth. Well, it’s my favorite symphony, too, so no wonder she was dancing!

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When the part with the timpani storm came on, she clapped her hands like thunder, and her eyes got so big!

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Then she jumped up and down, laughing. “More! More roar!”

We kept playing the storm movement, and she kept dancing and laughing and clapping and jumping.

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You’ll never guess what else I did! I actually dropped off Jena at my uncle’s so he could watch her while I grabbed a little grown-up time!

Wasn’t that brave of me?

Uncle Jasper is Jena’s favorite person, and he’d been suggesting that I leave her with him for a little while so I could go shopping or get a cup of coffee or just hang out in the Spice District, which is where Jasper lives.

I didn’t want to for the longest time. And then, last week, Jena and I were doing so well, and a new coffee shop was opening across the square from my uncle’s house, so I decided to go for it!

Jena was really mad when we first got there. I was so surprised! She’d been playing dolls at home when it was time to go, and she didn’t want to stop playing. The ride to the city on the rapid transit distracted her a little bit, but as soon as we got to Jasper’s house, she was angry and pouting again.

I told Jasper I’d stay there until she cheered up, but he said, “No, just go.” When he heard what had made her mad, he said I was just like that when I was little. “It’s a sign of being gifted,” he said. “You know, you get interested in something and can’t stand to be interrupted.”

Mmmm. Everyone in my family is that way! Even still!

Well, I left. And I hoped she wouldn’t have a temper tantrum–or even worse, cry.

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Jasper said that she pouted for about five-point-two seconds, and then she got a mischievous look on her face and started asking about his glasses.

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By the time he finished telling her they were to help him see better, she started laughing. He said she sang him a song about a pony and a star.

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They had snack. They read. They sang and danced some more. And by the time I came to pick her up, twenty-five minutes later, she looked like the happiest kid I’d ever seen!

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I had a great time, by the way! I did go to the new coffee shop, and I ordered a latte, and I almost drank the whole thing, and I actually read two movie reviews in the Weekly!

And then I ran all the way across the square back to Jasper’s house because I thought I’d been gone far too long. But it was not even half-an-hour!

Do you know what else I’ve noticed? The space between us is getting smaller. It used to be that when I’d read to her, I’d sit on the chair, halfway across the room, and she’d sit on her bed. Now, she snuggles into bed, and I sit beside her.

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Oh, Lenora! I am so lucky! I’m lucky to have you as a pen pal, and for all the wisdom, insight, encouragement, and hope you share!

I’m lucky for my uncle Jasper, and of course my brother, Norman, whom I’ve hardly even mentioned to you! (I’ll save the Norman Chronicles for another letter.)

And I’m so very lucky for Jena.

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Thank you for being my pen pal and giving so much to me!

With so much love,

Meadow

P.S. I apologize for this letter being all about me! I really did take in everything that you wrote about you and your family, and I’m so interested in all your experiences and everything you have to say! And I’m not freaked out by you being a witch and by werewolves and wizards and immortal beings–not really. I’m eager already for your next letter, and I hope it’s all about you and your dreams!

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 4

A reply to: A letter from Dove

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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.

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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.

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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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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 3

A reply to: A letter from Dove

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Dear Dove,

Reading your letters and writing to you has become such an indulgence for me! I have two other pen pals, and I love to read and write to them, too. The difference is that I justify writing to them because they giving me “new mom” and “adoptive mom” advice. Writing to them is part of my mom duties.

Writing to you is purely for me! I get such secret pleasure now for everything I do that’s just for me, even a bubble bath or a few stolen hours at the easel. Isn’t that wicked? I mean, every single minute, I’ve got a to-do list of at least twenty items. But I smile a devilish smile when I put my list aside and pull out my oil paints. Ah! Selfish indulgence! What joy!

Before Jena wakes up, I can steal a few more minutes for writing to you!

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When talking about alien life, you wrote, “I think the proof is in the fact that we even consider the possibility!” What do you mean by this? Do you mean that everything we consider possible… is possible?

If so, I will have to ponder that. I had this idea that we could imagine as possibilities every sort of impossibility.

I’m sorry your relationship is going through a tough time.

A secret: I’ve never really had a romantic relationship. I’ve had crushes before. In fact, I seem to always be forming crushes. And I seem to have a million friends. But I’ve never been in a close romantic or sexual relationship. I don’t think I miss it!

My newest friend is from the same refugee camp that Jena is from. We found out that Jena speaks Urdu, so I’ve been asking him to stop by to speak with her. I like him, but I don’t feel that kind of spark that I read about in Jane Austen novels.

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That’s so sad that you had to say unkind things to your person. Since you felt that you had to say them, I’m guessing that saying them was for higher good or for the better of you and the other person. In that light, maybe they aren’t even unkind things, do you think?

That’s so wonderful that you might be making friends with your neighbor!  It must feel so convenient and cozy to have a friendly neighbor!

I live about a mile from my closest neighbor, but this is the home I grew up in, and most of my neighbors have lived here most of my life, so we feel that we are friends, and almost even family, even if we don’t pass by each other’s house every day.

You hinted at some big things happening in your life. I won’t ask about them, since I want to respect your privacy. And at the same time, please know that anything you’d like to share, I’ll be happy to know. Think of my rose-colored glasses being worn over very sympathetic eyes! (OK, that was clumsily written, but what I mean, is I hope you think of me as a friend, too, and I’ll always be happy to lend support and encouragement whenever you need!)

So what’s new in my life?

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My uncle Jasper painted a beautiful micro-landscape for Jena. I hung it in her room with the paintings I’ve done. My work is nothing compared to Jasper’s. He’s been my primary painting instructor and inspiration.

Since we discovered that Jena speaks Urdu, she’s doing so much better! She seems happy most of the time now. I’m starting to feel hope that she’ll be able to have a good life.

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I spend a lot of time talking with her and playing with flash cards, which she loves–until she hates them! I’m learning about toddler-attention-span! It’s kinda like mine, actually: lasts forever for her current obsession and a micro-minute for things that bore her!

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She still gets mad or upset sometimes, but I guess it’s part of being a person on this planet to wake up on the wrong side of the bed now and then.

One of my pen pals told me it was “toddler hormones!” I’m pretty sure that’s just an urban myth, but next time we visit Jena’s pediatrician, I’ll ask about it.

For now, I’m just trying to provide plenty of space for her to feel however she feels in the moment.

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Like me, she changes her emotions quickly enough! So if she’s grumpy one minute, ten minutes later, she’ll catch me in a tackle-hug and be squealing for “fly-hi, Memo!”

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Ah, look! My morning’s gone and the little bug will be up soon!

Dove, thanks so much for writing, and I hope everything works out well for you, with your new neighbor friend, your relationship complications, and the other happenings in your life.

Happy sciencing!

Love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow-Dove 2

A reply to: A Letter from Dove Singer

meadowwrite07

Dear Dove,

You wrote to me! Thank you!

I was so happy to get your reply to my letter. I always feel a little self-conscious after I send letters. I forget what I’ve written, and I know that when my fingers hit the keys, I write all sorts of wild things! I often feel my mind is bypassed and the words come straight from heart and soul, just like Jena’s nonsense stories when she’s feeling happy and free.

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Then, after I send the letter, my mind kicks and says, “Hey. Did you really forget to consult me when you were writing that letter? What did you write, anyway?” So, yeah. There’s all sorts of feelings of social awkwardness that kick in after I send anything I write!

But you wrote back, so I guess I didn’t mess up too terribly!

Thanks for the kind things you said about my family. I agree that they are amazing. I recognize that I come from privilege: my family is well-educated and prosperous, and any fatal flaws my family members might possess have always been well-hidden from me. I find them perfect. My brother Norman says I look at the world through rose-colored glasses, and he might be right. But I know my vision isn’t 20-20, and if my prescription calls for rose-colored glasses to correct my sight, so be it! I like the world I see through them.

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My dad passed on a few years ago, and my mom a few years before that, so now it’s just me, my brother Norman, and my uncle Jasper. And Jena, of course.

You asked about basil: I don’t know if you get to Windenburg often, but I’ve seen quite a bit growing in the meadows here. In summer, when it blooms, the bees flock to it! I’ve always wanted to eat basil-honey! Do you think it would taste spicy? Or savory?

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That’s so interesting that you’re intrigued by modern folklore! Many of my classmates focused on urban legends, and yes, accounts of extraterrestrial-sightings were a hot topic.

I keep an open mind. I’ve never met an extraterrestrials, as far as I know. In college, a lot of my friends claimed to be “Star People.” What they meant was, as they put it, they weren’t “from around here.” They had the feeling that they’d lived past lives on other planets in other solar systems and even other realms of being and this was their first time to incarnate here. I think they were looking for ways to account for the sense of alienation that is so common in my generation. Personally, I don’t think this has anything to do with an alien heritage and everything to do with the isolation and pervasive global fears that permeate life in the 21st Century.

I feel that alienation sometimes. And I also feel very firmly attached to this earth. I know I come from here: I belong here. Maybe it’s because I grew up roaming the meadows and fields.

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I can tell that my daughter Jena feels alienation. It’s not surprising, considering what she’s experienced in her two short years. I’m hoping that by growing up here, surrounded by loving people, in a home nestled in the sun-warmed hills, she’ll come to feel that she belongs, and she’ll lose that sense that one heavy sigh of the earth will shake her off into the void.

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I do have an interesting extraterrestrial story, though! My own urban legend! When I was little, my dad took me with him up to a ridge where he was installing the wind towers. There, we looked down onto crop circles in the fields below. He asked me what I thought could make them. I said it must be God, feeling bored and wanting to draw. He laughed, of course. Then he went through all the possible explanations. He refuted them all, except the extraterrestrial explanation. “Space craft,” he said.

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So, who knows? My dad was ever the rationalist, and he believed what logic told him. I believe my heart, and my heart tells me that this world is vast and the universe beyond, and the universes beyond that, are even more vast!

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Can you tell me more about what you’re exploring as a scientist? What do you need basil for?

Thanks for letting me ramble on to you! I can’t wait to read whatever you want to share with me about your life and your interests! What are you reading these days?

Most of my current reading comes in the form of a picture book with very thick pages!

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With love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow-Watergate 2

A reply to: A Letter from Mr. Watergate

meadowwrite01

Dear Mr. Watergate:

You are brilliant! A child-development genius!

Did anyone ever tell you that? It’s so true.

Let me tell you what happened, and you will see how helpful your insights were to me.

The other day, my uncle Jasper stopped by.

Jena and I were sitting in the living room, “talking.” As usual, we didn’t have a clue what the other was saying, but we were playing along, both of us trying not to get frustrated by the other’s lack of total comprehension.

Then, when my uncle sat down, Jena looks at him and says, “Assālam ‘alaykum.”

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My uncle smiled and replied, “Wālaikum assalām. Ap kaisi hain?”

“Ap se milker khushi huwi!” she said to him.

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Jasper turned to me and said, “Your baby speaks Urdu.”

“You mean it’s not baby-talk?” I asked.

She started babbling excitedly.

“Well, that’s baby-talk,” my uncle said. “But before, she was definitely speaking Urdu.”

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He went on to say that it was surprising. Urdu is the official language of Pakistan, but it’s an uncommon first language. Punjabi is far more common as the language spoken at home.

“Maybe it has something to do with her being born in the refugee camp,” Jasper said.

But at any rate, we discovered that she does, indeed, speak another language! And my uncle, at least, can comprehend her!

So when you wrote to me, “Toddlers like to repeat things they hear. Jena could be speaking in another language,” you were so right!

Oh, thank you, Mr. Watergate! (Can I call you Chancelor? Do you go by Chance?)

(Ha! That sounds like a joke. “Do you go, by chance?” Never mind. I think I’m getting punchy from toddler-cabin-fever!)

So I’ve been using your other piece of advice, about how toddlers like to repeat things they hear, and I’m using flashcards to help Jena learn English. I keep it simple and fun, like a game (or I try to), so she doesn’t get bored or sad. She still gets sad a lot.

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At first I thought that I should learn Urdu, so she and I could communicate in her language. But I did a little research on language development in bilingual children. The experts agree that kids do best if each adult speaks only one language with the child, rather than mixing and matching. It helps the brain keep everything in the right file drawer, I guess.

So I decided that I will speak English with Jena. Jasper, who’s a retired professor himself, says that he knows all about the research, and he doesn’t go along with formalized prescriptions, so he will be, as he puts it “the rebel granduncle” and speak whatever language he feels like with her, even French.

“That way,” he says, “her mind can file me in the category of Uncle Polyglot.” He’s kind of a nut.

I’m in the process of  finding someone who will speak Urdu with her. I hope, too, to find an Urdu School in San Myshuno, if not closer, so that she can grow up biliterate, in addition to bilingual.

Jasper has friends and neighbors who speak Punjabi and Urdu, and he thinks they would be eager to talk with her.

The other day, I went out for a jog while Jasper was here looking after Jena, and I ran into (well, not literally 🙂 ) someone I’d seen a few times at the refugee center when we were making arrangements for me to adopt Jena.

Karim came from the same camp.

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He seemed a little wary of me at first. But we got to talking. He’s living in Windenburg now, where  he has a technology job as network-server-something. I told him that I’d adopted Jena, and I asked if he’d be willing to visit sometimes, to talk with her.

He said he would.

So, I’m really excited now! It seems like Jena will have someone to communicate with, while she learns English at the same time! Isn’t that exciting?

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I also really enjoyed your insights about toddlers being very emotional. I’d never thought about toddler hormones!

But I guess it makes sense. I’ll have to do some research on toddler brain chemistry and development and the connection with emotional states.

That helps me relax so much to know that at least some of this is a natural process: it’s not all the result of a traumatic first few years or of lingering grief.

She does often seem very happy.

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And she and I are enjoying our conversations more than ever!

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Goodness! This whole letter has been all about me and Jena and Uncle Jasper! I haven’t even mentioned how much I enjoyed the photos you sent of you and your beautiful daughter. She has your smile!

I have to admit to feeling envy when I see how close the two of you are. There’s always a physical distance between Jena and me that mirrors the emotional distance that lingers between us. I hope at some point that we achieve the easy bond that you seem to have with your daughter. Are you that close with all your daughters?

It’s not for me that I want this attachment (I’m emotionally satisfied by my close ties with my uncle and my brother), but for Jena. I want her to experience growing up with healthy attachments so that she’ll be able to form close relationships throughout her life.

Maybe some day.

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Please write me more about you and your daughters and your wife! I’d love to hear all about your life and your secrets for creating happy, healthy family!

Thank you again for your wisdom.

Much love,

Meadow

p.s. Your idea of a play date for our two littlies is so tempting! At present, I’m limiting my social life to the essential. I want to keep my life as simple as possible so that I’m able to give Jena the attention she needs. Maybe later, once she’s better adjusted, we can think about letting our children play together. I must admit, it would be so fun to talk with you in person! I’d love to hear your words of wisdom straight from your lips!

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Lenora 1

A reply to: A Letter from Lenora

lenora101

 

 

Dear Leonora,

How happy I was to get your letter!

You’ve raised five little ones! Oh, my! The Mama-Goddesses must be looking after me to send you to me as a pen pal!

I need help! And so does my little Jena.

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I’m so grateful that you’ve had experiences with orphans. How old were your children when you adopted them?

Had they come from hardship? Well, I suppose all orphans have, or they wouldn’t be orphans. Imagine–losing a parent, or two. Or a family. Or a whole tribe.

No wonder little Jena feels so sad and lost so often.

I fear that she experienced trauma at the camp in Turkey. She’s Pakistani, but the refugee camp where she was sent was in Turkey. I read online that a Pakistani refugee said he’d go “anywhere but Turkey.”

I guess it’s really terrible there–not just the living conditions, but the treatment.

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I try to give Jena as much comfort as I can.

She has moments when she’s content.

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When I watch her playing with her dolls, I feel hope that it’s not too late. Maybe she came to me soon enough that she’ll still be able to form healthy attachments.

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Her pediatrician says she’s healthy. She was in a hospital here in Windenburg before she came to live with me, and the parasites and infectious diseases were removed. She got all her vaccinations.

But I worry. I’m a mom now, and I guess that comes with the territory.

She has nightmares. She hardly ever sleeps the night through.

Most nights, around 2 a.m., I hear her calling me, and I come downstairs to see her with a look of fear on her face.

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I comfort her as best I can. I try to remember all the lullabies my mom sang to me. Usually, I’ll just sing some silly pop song.

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And then, we’ll spend the rest of the night eating snacks and “talking.”

I’ll tell her anything. She listens to everything! Sometimes, she’s quiet and just listens, and sometimes she “talks” and I have no idea what she’s saying.

But it’s time together, and that counts, right?

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Oh, I make it sound like it’s so hard and terrible. And sometimes it is, but then we have a golden moment and hope flames up in my chest!

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Until the difficult moments return.

She rejects me sometimes. Is that normal? I wonder if that’s a trauma response. Do you think it’s a sign of something troubling that she would push me away?

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I did something terrible the other day. I hope you don’t think I’m an awful person, Lenora. You seem so kind, that I know that even if I did mess up, you’ll help me figure it out and learn how to do better.

The other day when she pushed me away, I scolded her. “I was only trying to help!” I said. “How can I help if you push me away?”

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I felt so badly afterwards. Who knows what she’s going through, and that’s how I responded?

I let her be for a while. I went and painted. Then, she picked up a plate of mac and cheese I’d set out for her, sat on her favorite chair, and stared at me, wearing the biggest pout.

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After a few moments of silence, she said, “Ap kaisi hain. Ap kaisi hain? Kaisi hain?”

Over and over. I played along.

I sat with her and talked about the painting I was doing. I told her about space and distance and form and color. She smiled and laughed.

“Kafi weqt se ap ko dekha nehin!” she said.

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She followed me into the kitchen while I ate my snack, and she danced. So I think she forgave me. Do you think so?

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Oh, goodness! This whole letter has been about me and Jena, and I didn’t even get to your question about how Jena came to be with me! Well, I’ll have to save that for another day, for I can hear her waking up from her nap now. Time for snack, bath, and play time!

Lenora, thank you so much for finding my profile and for letting me bore you with all my new-mommy stories! I appreciate you so much already! Please tell me all about yourself, your life, and a typical day in the life of Lenora Landgraab in your next letter! 🙂

Lots of love–and a world of gratitude!

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow-Dove 1

A reply to: Dove Singer’s Profile

dove102

Dear Dove,

I saw your profile at the Pen Pal Project, and I wanted to write you immediately!

(Doesn’t it seem that a Meadow and a Dove belong together? 🙂 )

You look so beautiful! I hope you don’t mind me saying that. I tend to be very shy in person, but there’s just something about writing. It’s like an immediate conduit opens to my heart, and I just have to type out what I feel, as I feel it!

How do you like living in San Myshuno? Isn’t it a beautiful place? My uncle lives in the Spice District, and when I visit him, I love to hang out in the square to take in all the colors and flavors!

I don’t get much chance to visit my uncle these days, though he does often come to see me, because I’ve recently adopted a baby, a two-year-old Pakistani refugee. Such a sad story, and if we become pen pals, maybe I can tell you more later. But for now, I’ll just say that she’s healthy and keeping me on my toes!

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You and I seem to have a background in science in common–I am not a scientist, but my father was and my brother is. My dad was a physicist, and he was devoted to sustainable energy. He installed the first wind farms here in Windenburg, and now my brother Norman manages the business, including the facilities and R & D.

I could have gone into the family business, too, but I chose to study the humanities. My degree is in cultural studies, with a focus in folklore. I’m hoping my knowledge of folk and fairy tales of the world will help me entertain little Jena!

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I have to tell you, it feels like such an indulgence to write to an adult! Now and then, I can sneak in a little computer time or a little time behind the canvas (I love to paint), but most of my waking hours are devoted to keeping house, cooking, and caring for this incomprehensible being with whom I now share my life.

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So, at any rate, what a joy to write to you about things other than tantrums, animal crackers, and nursery rhymes!

Oh, that reminds me of a nursery rhyme I can’t get out of my head ever since I saw your name!

The dove says coo, coo, what shall I do?
I can scarce maintain two.
Pooh, pooh! says the wren, I’ve got ten,
And keep them all like gentlemen.

I hope you feel that we would make good pen pal matches! If not, I completely understand. And at any rate, it has been fun to write this letter to you!

Wishing you a happy time in the lab and the city,

(Hopefully) Your new friend,

Meadow

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