Whisper 2.32

Dear Mom,

It’s been a while since I’ve written you, hasn’t it? Do you feel when I think of you every day? Sometimes, I feel that warmth of home you always brought me, and then I know you’re still around in spirit.

Tonight was Patches and Bo’s first prom.

Do you remember how excited I was for my first prom? I felt like I was splitting in two from grinning so hard! Man, it feels like a lifetime ago. I suppose it was, for it was back when Bo was a baby, and now he’s a teen, going to his own prom.

Patches didn’t look excited. She said she was nervous. There’s this girl she likes in her class, and she was hoping she might be there.

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Bo looked a little scared, actually, when he raced out to the limo.

“Your shoes!” I called to him.

“Naw!” He called back. “I wanna dance in my bare leaf!”

“You mean barefeet?”

“Ugh!”

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I poked my head in through the limo window to wish them well.

“Have a great time, Patches,” I said. “You look lovely. Remember, if you like someone, it’s perfectly OK to tell them so!”

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Bo climbed into the furthest back seat.

“You ready, Bo?” I asked.

“Not really,” he said. “I think Ethan will be there. I hope so. What if he doesn’t notice me?”

“Bo. You’re the handsomest, coolest guy there. He’ll notice you.”

“I’m not so sure,” he said.

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Both of the kids were sitting there, lost in their own worries and thoughts. I tried to think of something you’d say, Mom, to boost their confidence and spirits. I mean, this was their prom!

All I could think of was “Have fun!”

Neither looked like “fun” was on the horizon.

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When I came back in, I found Riley sitting at the table, looking pensive and wistful, like she often does. Once again, I regretted that she never got a chance to meet you, Mom. I’ve got a feeling that, with your own quiet, gentle heart, you’d be able to understand her.

I have a hard time understanding her depths. She’s always thinking, and she seems to notice so much.

“What’s up, Ri?” I asked as I came back inside.

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“I’m just thinking about families,” she said.

“What about them?”

“Their shapes,” she said. “The shape of ours is really quite traditional, in terms of dynamics. You and me, we’re like the parents. Bo and Patches are the kids. Even their fights are the kinds of fights that siblings would have.”

I asked her if she liked it like this, like a regular family.

She said she did. She’s a home-body and tuned in to family by nature, and she said that this way, she could do what she does best and still be useful.

“That’s all I really want,” she added, “to be useful to others.”

Do you think a life can be made out of that, Mom? Out of service?

I like taking care of everyone myself, but I also feel I need to do things for me, too, like going back to school when I wanted that second degree.

“Isn’t there anything you want for you?” I asked her.

“Honestly?” she replied. “I want to feel good inside. And being useful to you and the kids is the best way I know to do that.”

I told her she should try petting Hatbox because, since this cat came to live with us, I get all sorts of happiness from that cat.

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Riley and I talked until the kids finally came home.

“How was it?” I asked Bo.

He growled.

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Then he started cackling.

“I was coronated,” he said.

“A flower crown?”

“No,” he replied. “Cardboard. But I’m the King! His Royal Highness the Prom King!”

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Mom, I guess you know. Bo is weird.

Patches came in looking a little scattered.

“How was it?” I asked.

“Oh,” she replied, “it was great, I guess. I got named Prom Queen, and Bo King. And I got into two fights, and Bo got into one. And I sort of got together with that girl I like, and Bo watched Ethan dance all night. I don’t know. Did we have fun, Bo?”

He just cackled.

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I guess some things never change. My own first prom was a lot like that, remember, Mom?

I remember how you told me that my prom night was just like me: beautiful, wild, crazy, lovely, and magical.

What would you tell Bo and Patches about their prom night? Is it just like them?

I think you would tell them it’s just like life: full of friendship and enmity, triumph and conflict, excitement and boredom.

Maybe you’d tell Bo not to get too full of himself and to take his success in stride. That high times and low times are both part of life, and if he’s up now, to remember tonight the next time he’s down. And that now, it might not hurt to remember the times when he hasn’t been the winner. A little moderation! Wouldn’t it be something if we could teach that to Bo? Especially since moderation has never been my strong suit!

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And what would you tell me, Mom, if you were somehow around and able to talk to me?

I hope you’d tell me that me and Riley are doing a good job with these two kids. I know we’re not perfect on everything, but we’re trying hard. We’re trying to think about them and what they need to be able to grow up strong, resilient, and kind. I’ve got a feeling that’s the kind of people you’d want them to be, and so Riley and I are doing our best to raise them to be kids you’d be proud of.

I hope we make you happy.

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Miss you,

Marigold

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Whisper 1.37

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One afternoon, in early spring, the sun comes out. The valley is brighter than I’ve ever seen it. I hear geese honking and I look up to see a V flying west. I remember that afternoon back in college, a whole lifetime ago, when a flock of geese flew in formation through a rainbow. That was a moment when I felt connected to everything and life fell together for me. Remembering that moment, reflecting on how much life I’ve lived in between then and now, it all comes together again. I feel, just for this very moment, in step with destiny.

When I come inside, Bobobo marches through the bedroom. He leaves a trail of flowers, but he has a scowl on his face.

“What’s wrong, little sprout?” I ask him.

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“I want Dino Croc!” he says.

I follow him into the living room where he grabs his crocodile dinosaur toy and tackles it in a squeeze of a hug.

“Baby!” he says.

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Later, I find him playing with blocks at the activity table.

“Green!” he squeals, rolling the green block between his palms. “Green, green, only every green!”

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When he plays the xylophone, I notice that he mostly hits the green note. Every time he does, he laughs and calls out “Green!” But on the rare occasions that he hits red or blue, he says, “No! Bad red! Bad blue!”

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That afternoon, while Zoey watches Marigold finish her homework, Bobobo plays with the peg box toy. Once again, he favors the green blocks.

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While we’re reading, I point out all the colors. “Look, it’s a red cat. There’s an orange house. See the pink flower?”

“Stupid,” he says. “Green is best.”

“What do you like about green?” I ask.

“Plant!” he replies.

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In the morning, we see that the snow has melted overnight. It’s raining, and the air smells fresh. After Marigold goes to school, Bobobo and I take a trip to the bookstore. He laughs at the rain. “Grow! Grow!” he giggles.

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“Look!” I say. “There’s Arkvoodle’s space ship!”

“Arkvoodle green!” says Bobobo. “Arkvoodle is good.”

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“Mom,” Marigold says while she’s working out. “I think my brother is obsessed.”

“You mean with green things?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says. “He’s nuts.”

“It’s normal for smart children to have strong interests and preferences,” I say. “Do you remember how you felt about Lamber?”

“But that’s different!” she says. “Lamber is a lamb! Lambs are cool! What’s so good about green?”

“Plants!” says Bobobo.

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We laugh.

“OK, Sprout,” says Marigold. “You’ve got a point there! And just to show I agree, I’m doing my homework outside. In the garden. With the plants. Because, you know, plants are smart.”

“Yup,” he says. “Grow smart, green!”

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It’s the night of Spring Prom. After Marigold finishes her homework, she puts Bobobo to sleep.

“I’ve got to go out, little brother,” I hear her say, “so you be good for our mom, OK?”

Marigold has started looking out for me, helping out more around the house and encouraging me not to work too hard.

“I’m not decrepit,” I protest.

“No,” she replies, “but you’re ancient. And I want you to become even ancienter.”

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She grumbles when the limo pulls up. “I really did petition for a Prius after last prom,” she says. “I’ll be riding the bike back again when it’s over.”

“Call me when it’s done. And we’re expecting snow again, so ride safe!”

“OK, Mom,” she says.

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The baby’s asleep, Marigold is out, and Dante comes.

“How’s your day, sweet?” he asks.

“Good,” I say, “and even better now.”

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We talk about the weather. It’s snowing again.

He looks at me with tender concern.

“What’s wrong?” he asks. “Are you tired?”

I know that I can’t cheat fate, and that there’s a timing to everything, but I admit that I’ve got a special wish.

“Bobobo and Marigold, I want them to be able to stay kids as long as they can. I’m worried that if I leave soon, they’ll have to grow up and they won’t get real childhoods. I’m getting old, Dante.”

“You’re right that fate has its own calendar,” Dante says. “I never expected to go when I did. I can’t say that I regret it, though, when I think about what’s come to pass. With you, and everything, here at your home.”

“Our home,” I say.

“Our home.” When we finish talking, he takes out the trash and looks around to see if there’s anything else that needs doing.

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Bobobo wakes.

“Story!” he shouts from his crib.

“Which one?” I ask.

“Giants!” he says.

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Marigold calls as we finish the Giant book.

“I’m on my way home!” she says.

“It’s icy!” I say. “Ride safe!”

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We’re on the alphabet book when she comes home.

“How was the dance?” I ask.

“Same old,” she says. “Chet ignored me, I got rejected for a dance, I got in a fight, I got voted Prom Queen. Everybody looked really great all dressed up, though!”

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We look at her prom photo.

“You look like some kind of kung fu Prom Queen,” I say.

Everybody was kung fu dancing!” she sings.

“Magic Sissy!” says Bobobo. We look again and agree. She does look like a sorceress casting a spell.

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The children are asleep when I wake early the next morning. The ground is blanketed in snow, and the mountains to the south begin to glow with the sun’s rosy light. It’s dawn, on a snowy spring morning. I feel young inside, the same way I did when I was a child, and I feel hopeful. Every shard of hope brings a slice of pain–what if the hope doesn’t hold?

But as I gaze over the valley, in the silence of the predawn moments, peace descends, and it’s a peace that stills the chatter of hope and its promises, leaving behind something more real: acceptance. Fate is greater than the boldest hope. And in this long life, I’ve learned that fate, or destiny, or that-what-is, when met with acceptance, leads to the mystery which contains the seed of joy. Let it be, whatever it will be.

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Whisper 1.33

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On prom night, a long white stretch limo pulls up for Marigold.

She’s out playing with Zoey in the pouring rain, jumping in puddles.

“Marigold!” I call. “It’s time! Get cleaned up and dressed for the dance! Your ride is here!”

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And a few short minutes later, she races out to the limo, looking like a young rock star.

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I lean in through the window.

“Have a great time, dear heart.”

“I will, Mom,” she says. “How much gas do you think this monstrosity will burn on the ride over there? Couldn’t they have just sent a Prius?”

“Try to enjoy the ride, Bunny,” I tell her.

“Would you?” she asks. She knows I wouldn’t.

“Don’t let it ruin your evening!”

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She calls me hours later, after the dance is over.

“Mom!” she says over the phone. “I remembered that I left my bike here this afternoon when I took the bus! I’m gonna ride home. I sent that silly limo back to the garage or wherever it came from. I’ll be home soon!”

“Be safe,” I tell her. She’s such a girl after my own heart, riding home in the middle of the night in the pouring down rain.

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“Mom! I’m home!” she calls when she makes it back.

“I’m putting Bobobo to bed,” I call from the baby’s room. “I’ll be out shortly and you can tell me all about it!”

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Once Bobobo is asleep, I look out the window and see her drinking tea.

“Mari!” I call. “Come tell me about your evening!”

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She comes inside.

“So how was it?” I ask.

“It was both the best night of my life and the worst!” she says. “Which do you want to hear about first?”

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“Tell it like a sandwich! Start with the good, then in the middle the worst, then finish with another slice of good.”

“The worst in the middle? Like liverwurst, huh?”

We laugh.

“So the first best part is that I have a boyfriend!”

“A boyfriend!”

“Well, not really. But a guy that likes me and I like him back. But he’s not really my boyfriend. Just. I don’t know what you call it when you like each other and you both know it.”

“Like a romantic interest?”

“That’s it!” she says. “Or maybe like a mutual crush. His name is Chet.”

I remember Chet from her third grade class. I’ve always liked him and his mom.

“Ready for the slice of worst?” she asks. I nod. “I asked this really cute guy if he’d dance with me. Don’t worry! It was OK. Chet was dancing with this really cute girl. Anyway, the cute guy said no. Oh. I felt so humiliated.”

“That’s OK,” I say. “That happens to everybody sometime.”

“That’s not all,” she says. “Then, this girl came up to me and said, ‘Don’t you dare ask him to dance. He’s with me,’ and I say, ‘It’s free world, dingleberry,’ and she pushes me, and I push her back, and we have a big fight.”

“Oh, man!” I say. “That’s awful! It looks like you didn’t get hurt. Did she?”

“Oh, yeah!” she says. “I really hurt her… PRIDE!” Marigold laughs. “She’s OK. She just got mad and madder. And then everybody started laughing. But that’s not all.”

“Oh, dear. What else?”

“So when we stop fighting I turn around to leave, but somebody spilled some coke and I slip and fall. On. My. Face!”

“Oh, no,” I say. “Are you OK?”

“Total humiliation. But that’s the liverwurst! Ready for the final slice of best?”

I am so ready.

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“They voted me Prom Queen,” she beams. “Even though I’m a freshman and all that bad stuff happened. They still voted me queen. And I got a photo, too.”

She pulls out her prom photo.

“Look at you!” I say. “You’re adorable! No wonder you were voted Queen!”

We find a frame and hang the photo on her bedroom wall. I hope she will always remember this spirit: strong, happy, brave, independent, full of confidence and life, ready for the world. That’s Marigold Tea.

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