Three Rivers 19.1

Nineteenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

19. All day long we found tadpoles


Serena’s niece Sylvia wasn’t sure how she felt about spending the summer way out in the country with her aunt.

“I was supposed to do piano lessons,” Sylvia said.

“I’ve got a piano,” said Serena. “And I’ll be happy to teach you.”

“It won’t be the same,” said Sylvia.


“Of course not,” said Serena.

Sylvia’s mother had been assigned an extra teaching load at the university this summer, and, as she was also wrapping up her Ph.D. thesis, she wasn’t sure what to do with Sylvia. She was too little to be left alone in the city all day, and too big to tag along at the university.

“Let her spend the summer with me,” Serena volunteered. “There’s plenty of room for her to run outside, and she can come with me to the island on the days I work at the Villareals’.”

So Sylvia arrived at Serena’s cottage out in the countryside with her suitcase full of frilly dresses.

“Oh, these won’t do,” said Serena.

“What do you mean?” asked Sylvia.

“How can you climb trees and chase frogs in a dress?”

Serena asked her friend and neighbor Mila Munch, the mother of three boys, if she had any hand-me-downs that they might borrow until they had time to go to town to buy more appropriate play clothes.

“More than enough!” said Mila, and she insisted, bringing over a box full of hats, jeans, overalls, and t-shirts that her boys had outgrown, that Serena and Sylvia keep them.

The next morning, Saturday, while Serena read with a cup of coffee, Sylvia asked if she might explore.

“Of course,” said Serena. “Come home when you’re hungry!”


Sylvia ran down the hill to the fork in the road at the bottom, and there she found a wide meadow.


Stalks of blue flowers grew taller than her, and grasshoppers jumped out of her path.


She played a game of jump-hop with the grasshoppers. They won, of course, and Sylvia thought she had never played a more fun game.

A thrush sang from the branches of an old oak. Sylvia thought that she had never heard better music.


On Sunday afternoon, too, Sylvia roamed.

“Come back by sunset,” said Serena, who sat happily playing the piano.

Sylvia crossed a stone bridge, and there, at the edge of the meadow, flowed a small waterfall.


She had never seen a waterfall before, unless one counted the fountains at her mother’s university as a waterfall. But this was different.

This roared.


She felt the spray on her face, and the cascading water shouted her name: Sylvia! Sylvia!


Serena had told her that there was a tall waterfall at the old mill, and Sylvia, now that she’d seen the little falls, wanted to find the tall one.

A lady with binoculars and a funny hat made of straw pointed the way to her. She had to run through a very large meadow to get there. Her whole neighborhood in the city would fit in this meadow, she thought, but she was so glad that it was full only with birches, grasshoppers, sparrows, and wrens.


All the songs of the meadow fell away as the tall waterfall roared. It must have said every name that ever was and ever will be, all at once, not just “Sylvia!” but an entire cacophony of a roll-call!

Maybe this was the river of life!


The sun began to set, and Sylvia remembered that she had to be home. She had such a long way to go! She hoped she remembered which way to turn when she came to the road.


As it grew dark, she found herself by a house she didn’t recognize.

“What’s a little one like you doing on the road?” asked a man who talked in a low, funny voice.


“My cottage disappeared,” she said.

He laughed. “Cottages tend to do that.”

They talked of waterfalls and meadows. Sylvia learned that he lived in the woods near an old orchard, not in a house at all. When at last he discovered that she was Serena’s niece he pointed her in the right direction.

“You’ll be home before the moon!” he said.


Before breakfast the next day, Serena packed a basket of books, paper, and paints for Sylvia.

“This should keep you busy!” she said.

“But I don’t want to be busy,” said Sylvia. “I want to be in the meadows!”

“But I won’t be here,” said Serena. “I have to go to my work at the Villareals’. You’ll like it. You can play in the woods near their house, and we’ll bring plenty of projects for you to do, while I work.”

“I want to stay here. If I can’t stay alone, let me stay with the funny man.”

“What man is that?” asked Serena.

“He lives in the woods, by the orchard. I don’t know his name, but he knows you. He calls you Se-Se!”

“You must mean Sebastian,” Serena said. “No, you can’t stay alone with Sebastian all day while I am at the Villareals’.”

So that day, Sylvia went with Serena to the island. She played on the beach and drew pictures and read books. It was fun, but it was nothing like the meadows. She missed the grasshoppers, the thrush, the sparrows and wrens, and most of all, she missed the brook and the waterfalls.

“Can’t I please stay home tomorrow?” she asked Serena, on the ferry ride back at the end of the day.

“Don’t you like the ferry?” asked Serena.

“I do. But I would like to stay home tomorrow, please?”

When they got back to the cottage, Serena called her friend and neighbor.

“Of course, she can spend the day with us!” said Mila. “Lucas will love to have a little friend to explore with!”

So all the next day, Lucas and Sylvia roved.

“I know where tadpoles are,” said Lucas.


Sylvia had never seen tadpoles before.

“Not even pollywogs?” Lucas asked.

Not even pollywogs.

They ran through an old garden at a forgotten estate. There in a broken fountain filled with green water swam brown tadpoles, bigger than her fist!


“They’ll be bullfrogs when they get their legs,” said Lucas.


They found a maze made of hedges.

“Race you!” cried Sylvia, and she ran down the narrow path that twisted and turned, and not once did she get lost!


“Which way?” called Lucas.

“Follow your nose!” said Sylvia.


Sylvia came out in an opening, thick with mist from a nearby waterfall.

She saw something move from out of the corner of her eye, and she turned just in time to see a huge bullfrog leap from the rock into the pond below.

“It was this big!” she told Lucas, measuring a span with her hands.


They couldn’t scale the rocks to get to the pond below, so they lay on their bellies and looked down into the clear water, where large brown tadpoles swam with small black pollywogs and tiny little fish.

Next it was back to the meadows where the tall flowers grew and another game of jump-hop with the grasshoppers. It was more fun with two.


As the sun reached low and the long shadows stretched, Sylvia and Lucas found themselves beside a quiet still pond where ducks foraged.


“This is a good tadpole hole,” said Lucas. They waded in the water and waited quietly while the tadpoles swam over their toes, then, they darted their hands in quickly and each caught one!

“It tickles!” said Sylvia.

“Happy summer,” whispered Lucas to the tadpole in his hand, and then he gently let it go.

They watched their tadpoles swim away and settle into the thick dark mud.

“When we come back tomorrow, they might start to be having legs,” said Lucas.

“I think we should come back every day,” said Sylvia. “Forever and always.”


Three Rivers 18.1

Eighteenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: Haley Salinas is a former NPC gardener whom I moved into a lovely home built by pronterus.

18. A toad sings in summer rains


Each day, when Haley Salinas returned home from work, she stood before the boxwood and impatiens in the front border and whispered thanks. She had so much, and the memories of the time when she had nothing smack in the middle of nowhere lurked in the shadows, too keen and just a trigger away.

Over the years, the demarcation between everything and nothing had become a source of safety. The sharper she drew the line, the safer it felt.


She invented rituals to keep the line in place: the whispered prayer of gratitude; the three strides across the front porch; the glass of water before she changed out of her work clothes.


She had learned, through the years, to check in with herself. Most days, she could laugh. She had so much.


Some days, when she checked in, she found her nose against the line, with nothing staring her down from the other side. On those days, she’d drink another glass of water or brew a pot of coffee and then she’d do something: paint, garden, swim, go for a walk, go to a meeting.

Those days weren’t often, and this was another reason for thanks.

One evening, arriving home from work, she met Janet outside.


“What are you doing here, so far from home?” she asked.

“Canvasing,” replied Janet. “Your next-door neighbor?” she said, gesturing towards Hank Merril’s house. “He’s a registered Green. But we’ve never seen him at any of the events. You know him?”

Haley had to admit they’d never met. “I see him coming and going,” she replied, “but I don’t even know his name.”

Haley wasn’t sure she wanted to know her neighbors. She found comfort in anonymity–and she suspected her next-door neighbor felt the same way.

Haley remembered her manners and invited Janet in. Doing so, she forgot the moment of gratitude, forgot to count the strides across the porch, forgot the glass of water.


“Your home is lovely,” Janet said, “beautiful and comfortable.”

All at once, the gratitude, the strides, the waiting glass of water rushed in upon Haley, and she breathed out, “Thanks!”

There’s more than one way to keep a line drawn, she realized.

“Have you been following the Three Rivers council meetings?” Janet asked, as they sat in the living room.

She hadn’t.

“The budget talk for next year is looking scary already. They’re talking about cutting funding for community projects.”

“Oh, they’re always saying that,” said Haley.

“This time gardens are on the list,” said Janet.

“They wouldn’t dare! Community gardens? Do they realize how many low-income families our gardens feed?”


“That’s one of the reasons the fall elections are so important,” Janet said. “That’s why we’re trying so hard to reach out to each voter. Now’s the time we can use the help, too, while we’re organizing the campaign.”

It didn’t take long for Janet to persuade Haley to help out more, including convincing her to reach out to Hank Merril.


That’s how Haley found herself on Saturday afternoon fixing supper for her next-door neighbor. She had to smile, thinking that they’d lived next to each other for nearly six months without speaking a word. But the moment she introduced herself, they fell into that deep type of conversation that sometimes happens upon first acquaintanceship. He could be a friend, Haley thought. Or maybe even something more.


She’d brought home fresh tomatoes from the Willow Creek gardens, which she’d worked at the day before. All that humidity in Willow Creek created tomatoes that were so sweet, so juicy!


Over supper, she and Hank fell into an easy conversation. He knew a lot about gardening from a horticultural point of view, talking about the genetics of sweeter tomatoes and little known organic compounds in heirloom carrots.


More than once, she found him gazing at her. She had to work hard to find a way to describe his expression without using the word “puppy dog.” She finally settled for tender. He looked at her with a tender smile and soft laughing eyes.


“I haven’t seen anyone since becoming sober,” he said.  And with that, she understood the familiarity she felt with him.

“How long has that been?” she asked.

“Six months and fourteen days,” he replied.


“Ten years for me,” she replied. She showed him her ten-year medallion. “Ten years, two months, and twelve days.”

“That’s a lot of ones and twos,” he said.

So that was that. You don’t 13th Step a Beginner, she reminded herself, not that she needed reminding. She’d had it drilled into her, along with, “two sickies do not make a wellie.”

She was working on her own wellness. Most days, she had it. But there was that thin line, and on the other side, nothing always waited. For Hank, she knew the line was even sharper.


“Cup of coffee?” she asked, as she cleared her salad bowl.

“Sure. Got any honey? I like it with honey and soy milk.”


She looked at him from kitchen archway. All that baggage. She could see it clearly now, for she carried her own matching set. She kept trying to put it down, and next thing she knew, she was carrying it still.


Rain began to fall, summer rain, carrying with it the scent of creosote bushes and mesquite pods: bitter and sweet. He watched the rain fall out the dining room window.

“Can you hear them?” he said as she pouring the coffee. “The spadefoot toads. Singing for their mates.”

It was like notes in an arpeggio.

“I’d better go,” he said, when the rain let up.

She woke early the next morning and sat on the back porch. The toads in the pond still sang–three of them, from what she could hear.


Once the sun rose, she’d venture down to the edge of the pond to find the clear jelly filled with black eggs lining the rocks and rushes. By afternoon, the jelly will have dissolved and each egg will have unfurled into a tadpole with a strong black tail.