Whisper 1.35

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We invite Marigold’s “mutual crush” to one of our parties.

“Mom, I think I’m over it,” Marigold says. “He never talks to me or even looks at me. I sort of want a crush who at least acknowledges I’m alive.”

“Maybe he’s shy,” I say.

But when he takes a spot in the middle of the dance floor and spins a move, I think he’s not shy after all.

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He is very cute. I wonder if he’s showing off for Marigold, hoping that she’ll make the first move.

Bobobo has become a toddler.

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He makes the funniest faces.

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I call Shea now and then to check in and give him updates. I still feel a little unsure of caring for a plant baby, and I want to do the right thing.

“Sometimes he’s cross-eyed,” I tell Shea.

“Always?” Shea asks.

“No, just sometimes.”

“He’s probably messing with you,” Shea says. “No worries!”

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Shea assures me that all he really needs is love and attention.

“Plants are easy,” he says. “Love us and we grow.”

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Marigold takes him from me as I wrap up the phone conversation.

“He’s sleepy, Mom,” she says. “Let me put him down for a nap.” She’s such a good sister.

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I look at our friends gathered at our party. Arkvoodle, dressed like a 19th Century gentleman, reminds me how old we’ve become, this circle of friends and I.

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Every night, I wish on the first star that I’ll make it until Bobobo enters school and Marigold graduates, and longer, if possible. But at least if I make it until then, she won’t be strapped caring for a toddler while still in high school. Mara Nix has agreed to be the children’s guardian, if anything happens to me before then, but I know Marigold. She would take the bulk of the family responsibilities–that’s just how she is.

I look up from my revery to see Frank and Hetal slow-dancing. Now that’s a surprise. Frank still regularly sends me love notes and asks me out, even though he knows I’ll regularly ignore the notes and decline the dates. I think he’s long accepted my decision to be faithful to Dante, in spite of the spark of attraction and deep friendship between Frank and me. I can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy when I see him looking deep into Hetal’s eyes, with the smallest, sweetest smile. But I shake it off. It’s good to see him happy.

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“Thanks for a great party, Mrs. Tea,” says Chet as the guests are leaving.

“It’s Ms. Tea . Or you can call me Cathy,” I say. “Would you like to stay for supper, Chet? It would give you and Marigold a chance to visit.”

“No, thank you, ma’am,” he says. “I best be getting home so I can do my homework. But you thank your daughter for opening up her home for me.”

“Ok, Chet,” I say, thinking what an usual mutual crush this is, indeed.

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Whisper 1.32

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Shea arrives early the next morning in the pouring down rain.

It feels amazing to see him again.

“Shea! You haven’t changed!” I tell him. “Your head leaves are white, sure, but you look as fresh as ever!”

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I feel so excited. Shea is here! After all these years!

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“There’s really nothing I need to tell you about the baby,” he says. “He’s doing great. Anyway, you know, plants don’t really care for their sprouts. That’s what we have gardeners for. You’re a great gardener, so just, you know carry on!”

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“I do love veggies, you know this,” I tell him. “But truthfully, Shea? I never thought that I would be a mother to a life form in the vegetable kingdom.”

“Do you know why I’m smiling?” he asks. “It’s so artistic, like a wish come true. I have to confess, back in college, I always dreamed of you caring for a  little sprout of our own.”

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That night, while Marigold is upstairs doing her homework, before bed, I might add, like we agreed, Shea, Bobobo, and I spend time together in the front room.

“Did you really dream of this?” I ask Shea.

“In my youth, yes,” he says. “Didn’t you?”

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“I never knew what to dream,” I tell him. “I was confused and clueless. I was very much in love with you, and you were my first best friend in college, but I couldn’t understand your feelings for me. I felt it best just to go along with whatever happened.”

“I remember you used to ask me what plants thought of marriage. Do you remember that? I gathered that being faithful was important to you. You know it doesn’t work like that for plants. I was just so afraid of disappointing you. I couldn’t stand that I might break your heart and smash our friendship. But I dreamed of this! Of course, neither of us had white hair and laugh lines in my dream, but it still feels miraculous to me that it’s come to pass.”

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Funny, how I feel so comfortable with him, even after all these years. It’s not the same type of love that I feel for Dante, which is a love that feels like destiny. This feels more like being with kin, or maybe the way I feel so at home in the forest, among the ferns and trees.

“Your daughter is amazing,” he says. “So smart! I guess she’ll be heading off to college!”

“She’s just a freshman in high school,” I tell him. “We still have a few more years at home.”

“Let me know when you’re starting to fill out applications,” he says. “I know a few of the deans there. I can pull some strings.”

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Early the next morning, he’s out raking leaves. Oh, this brings back memories!

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“D0 you remember our squirrel friend?” I ask him.

“eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh?” he says. “Of course I do! You know, his great grand kits are still playing outside our old dorm!”

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“Look at all these leaves,” Marigold says as she comes home from school. “Did you rake these?”

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“Whee!”

And then she tosses them all up into the air, and Shea and I laugh.

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We feel like family, Shea, Marigold, Bobobo and I. What if I had let myself dream, back in those long ago days. If I had, then this would have been my dream, too.

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Whisper 1.31

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Marigold grows into a beautiful teen. Sometimes, I find that I take little sneaking glances at her: she’s just so beautiful to me that it almost hurts to look at her directly.

Do all mothers feel this way? I wonder what her birth mother and father looked like. Who were they? I wish I could let them know who Marigold has become and what a smart, brave, strong, kind, talented miracle she is.

She loves to exercise. Every day, she works out. I’m saving money to buy a home gym. Of course, we’ll need someplace to put it, so I’ve also begun preparations to add on a second story.

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Of course, even miracles have quirks.

One evening, when I come home from a walk, I find Marigold serving tea to a zombie.

I rush over.

“Marigold?” I say. “It’s freezing cold out. Wouldn’t you like to take your tea inside?”

“Oh, no, Mom,” she replies. “Me and my friend here, I didn’t catch your name? We’re having a lovely time here in the moonlight. Care to join us?”

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I head inside and keep an eye on her. The tea party continues in a civilized manner, and then Marigold comes in and goes to sleep.

“Sleep well!” I tell her. “School tomorrow.”

“‘Night, Mom!”

Early the next morning, before dawn, I look out and there she is at the tea table again, in the old sweatshirt she sleeps in and just her undies–no pants, no socks, no shoes. Frost blankets the ground.

“Come inside, get dressed, eat breakfast! The school bus will be here soon, and did you do your homework?”

“Mom,” she calls back. “Everything is under control. Care to join me for a cuppa tea?”

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At ten-thirty in the morning, I think she’s already off at school, when I see her in the front room, doing her homework.

“Marigold!” I say. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at school!”

“Duh! I’m doing my homework! You always say, ‘Do your homework before you go to school,’ so the plan was to do my homework and then go to school! Don’t yell at me.”

“But you missed the school bus! You’re supposed to do your homework in time to catch the school bus!”

“That’s not what you said!”

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She skips school that day and finishes her homework. She’s mad at me, I’m frustrated with her, and mostly, I’m frustrated with myself. It’s that old pattern of not having a reliable schedule coming back to bite us again. What was she doing up drinking tea with a zombie half the night? And then why did she think tea at dawn was a good idea?

I realize that with this new stage she’s at, a little older, a little more independent, a new school, I’ll have to set the boundaries clearly once again.

“OK,” I tell her later, once we’ve both calmed down and are feeling friendly toward each other again. “Here’s the deal. When you can, do your homework as soon as you get home from school. If that doesn’t work, because you’re tired or need a bath or just need to have fun, then do your best to do your homework before bed. If you absolutely can’t do that, then try to get up early enough to do it before the bus comes. Don’t miss the bus. If the bus comes, and you still haven’t done your homework, catch the bus and then finish your homework in homeroom. OK? Does that sound like a plan?”

She gets it.

“I’m sorry , Mom. I was being literal. I know that. I think I can be responsible without being a brat about it.”

I still feel badly. I know I brought a little bit of confusion on us by having been so lax when she was a little toddler. Schedules. There’s something to say for schedules.

While I reflect on this, I notice that the strange fruit I’ve been growing looks ready to pick.

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Without even finishing the weeding, I harvest the plant.

The tuberous root feels heavier than usual, and the root nodules look like a little face. Now this is something for the State Fair! Or maybe Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

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But it seems the root nodules are not roots at all.

It is a tiny nose. A little mouth. Two eyes.

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I free it from the plant membranes, and it is a little plant baby! A boy!

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“What are you?” I ask the little baby.

“Bobobo,” he says.

“Mom, who are you talking to?” Marigold asks.

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“Mari, you’re not going to believe this,” I say. “You know how you wanted a puppy and we got Zoey, and everybody’s happy? Well. What are your thoughts about a baby brother?”

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What do we do with a plant baby? How do we care for it? Do we need to return it to somebody, like to a tree? Do we take it to the forest?

I know someone who will know the answers.

I pick up the phone.

“Shea,” I say when he answers. “How have you been?”

It is so good to hear his voice.

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Shea informs me that the baby is mine: Gardener’s Gift, it’s called. He assures me that plant babies are simple to care for. “Just give talk to him, give him lots of love, like all plants need.”

Though he tells me the baby has no special needs, I still feel nervous, caring for a little green thing, come to our lives so unexpectedly.

“I’d feel better if you were here,” I tell Shea. He agrees to visit and stay for a while. He can get here tomorrow morning!

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Earlier, I’d promised Marigold that we could go to the Fall Festival that evening. Shea said it’s good for plant babies to get outside, especially in the rain, so after supper, I put the baby in Marigold’s old stroller and we head out.

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The baby reaches for the rain drops, laughing.

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“Look, Mom!” Marigold says. “Bobobo is playing!”

“What did you call him?”

“Bobobo. That’s his name.”

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He laughs and spreads his arms to embrace the rain. I notice for the first time that he is beautiful.

Marigold gets her face painted, but the artist messes up and the flower on her cheek looks like a squished spider.

“Take that!” she yells, hammering at the gnomes that pop up on the whacking game.

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“Are you mad?” I ask her on the way home.

“Mad?” she says. “No! What for?”

“The way you were whacking those gnomes,” I say.

“Mom! That’s the game! It’s Whack-a-Gnome, not ‘Ooochy, goochy, goo-goo.'”

We laugh. When she heads up to bed, she tells me that she’s happy to have a new brother.

“Surprises are cool, Mom. Just watch and see. This is gonna be great.”

I wonder. I was an older mom when I adopted Marigold, and I counted myself lucky to still be around to see her reach her teen years. I’m hoping to see her become an adult. But I have no illusions. I’m of the age to be a grandma, and not a young grandma, either. What am I doing with this little sprout? Will I have the energy to care for him when he’s an active toddler? And who will guide him into his teen years and beyond?

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