Skill U: 8.7

Honey Walker | Van Windenburg Estate

Week Eight, Day Seven – Senior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

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It’s graduation day. Mom and Dad have arrived to hear me deliver the valedictorian address. Before the ceremony, they took me out to lunch at the restaurant on the island.

“I always wanted to ride a ferry,” Mom said. But the way she was looking at me, I knew that the words she spoke didn’t come close to expressing the thoughts she was thinking or the emotions she was feeling.

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I felt all sorts of things, too. This day was such a culmination! I felt very nervous–that, most of all. In a few short hours, I’d have to deliver the speech!

I felt sad, too. I’d be leaving soon, saying goodbye to the Villareals, this island, and to Windenburg. I’d received an offer to play for the San Myshuno Symphony Orchestra, and I didn’t feel I could pass it up. Positions for violinists with a major symphony are so rare.

I felt excited, too, about the new life that was waiting for me. A violinist with an orchestra! And living in the city! I was just finishing college, but I still had so much to learn, so many experiences waiting for me.

It had been a few years since I’d seen Mom and Dad, so on top of all the other feelings, I felt that crazy mix of comfort and unease that I always feel with my parents, increased ten-fold after such a long time away from them.

I can always read my parents, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve seen them–so in addition to my own feelings, I felt theirs, too.

Dad looked so proud. My graduation had been his dream, too.

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“So,” I teased him over lunch, “daughter graduating from college. One more thing you can cross off your bucket list!”

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“That’s your Dad,” Mom joked back, “the family dreamer!”

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“I take my work as the family dreamer seriously,” Dad said. “It’s a big responsibility.”

He talked about all the dreams he’d had: a house for Mom, a garden for himself, a dog for me, and always time for us to spend together. Then, he said something that made me blush.

“You can dream. Well, I can. I can dream. But you know what? I can only dream so far. I can only dream what I can imagine. And so what happens when a guy like me has a daughter that’s more wonderful, talented, beautiful, and amazing than I can dream? That’s when I give over the dreaming duties to the whole universe. That’s why, Honey, you’re not my dream. You’re the universe’s.”

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When Mom left to powder her nose, Dad asked to hear some of my speech.

“What for?” I asked him. “You’ll be there to listen.”

“I won’t be able to hear right. All the people and noise. Plus, I can’t concentrate when I’m bawling my eyes out.”

I shared the opening with him:

“College begins with a dream. Maybe it’s your dream. Maybe it’s the dream of those who love you. Maybe it’s society’s dream. But along the way, the dream begins to morph. It becomes reality. And that’s when you’re put to the test.”

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He was quiet.

I couldn’t tell if he was thinking, if he was bothered, or if he was just feeling a lot.

“What do you think, Dad? Is it OK?”

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He told me a story about when he’d been in the Marines. It was a story I’d heard many times before, and it usually ended up with him getting back to base safely, after completing some kind of crazy mission, and writing a letter to me and Mom.

“Do you know what?” he told me. “I never told you the real ending of that story. I did write you and Mom, whenever I made it back safe, but never first. I wrote you later. After I wrote that other girl.”

I knew which other girl he meant.

“Why are you telling me this, Dad?”

“I never sent the letter, of course. I just wrote it and stuck it in a box. It’s just that she was a dream I never gave up on. Reality, that I’ve got. And it’s cool. It’s got your Mom in it. And sometimes it’s really hard, and sometimes it’s a piece of cake. But for me, whenever I had trials, I always went inside to where that first dream of mine was. That smart, beautiful girl. It’s like I tucked her away inside of me. Listening to you talk, the smart things you say, I feel like what I tucked away has somehow become real right here for me.”

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“Dad, that’s really weird.”

He laughed. “I know it! You don’t need to tell me! But I kinda believe in miracles. Like the stuff of our feelings–somehow that can come out and make something real.”

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Mom joined us.

“So do you think I should take out the part about the dream morphing, becoming real, and putting us to the test?” I asked Dad.

“Hell, no! That’s the good part!”

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The speech went well.

I got a big applause at the ending, after I said this:

“During the first year, you feel that college is a pole with you at one end, and success at the other. But by the time you stand here at the end of the pole, you see that it’s become a plane, and it’s possible that the whole journey is no longer about success. Maybe, the whole journey is simply about this: discovering that you stand here in an open meadow, able to see all the way around you. And now is when you can venture out, in any direction, even without a path, into the surrounding field of possibility.”

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Whisper 1.42

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Marigold takes over the bedtime story routine.

“I love it, Mom!” she says. “It’s so fun to read these stories that I loved so much as a kid.”

“It’s not boring to you?” I ask.

“If it is, I just make up a new story.”

I hear her with Patches.

“They always tell you to dream. To live! They say ‘magic is in your heart!’ I’m here to tell you that magic is all around us, and dreams are OK, but what’s more important are the feelings they evoke. Rather than ‘follow your dreams,’ I say, ‘follow your feelings.’ Love, inspiration, peace, enthusiasm–let these be your guides! Then your life will be rich.”

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It’s her valedictorian speech. I’ve heard it a hundred times already, as she walks through the house practicing.

“Do you like the message?” she asks me.

“Very much,” I say, reflecting that it took me a lifetime to learn that lesson. I imagine the students sitting in the auditorium. Will they listen to her? Or will they each be so wrapped in the membrane of their own dreams that their ears close while their eyes follow the chimera of all they hope to make real?

The night before graduation, we celebrate Marigold’s birthday. Though frost lies on the ground, she wants to have the party outside.

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We’re all there to celebrate: Annie and Mara Nix, Pip, Bobobo, Patches, Gator Wolff, and more friends.

“Let me go change,” Marigold says. She runs inside and when she returns, she’s dressed like a go-go Greek goddess. “All set!” she says.

And we cheer.

I have lived to see this bunny become a young woman. I exhale the breath that I’ve been holding these past five years. Wish granted.

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That night, I read Patches her story. I don’t know how many more chances I’ll have for bedtime stories.

“Is it true that feelings are more important than dreams?” she asks me.

“They’re both important,” I say. “Feelings lie at the deeper level, at the core. And the dreams, they’re just one of many pointers to the feelings. You can follow the dreams or follow the feelings, Little Patches, whichever feels right to you. Just don’t mistake the pointers for the real thing, OK?”

“Like the moon story?” she asks. I look at her quizzically. “The finger isn’t the moon.”

“Exactly,” I say.

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I live to see my daughter walk out of our house wearing her cap and gown. This is the valedictorian, top of her class. She’s been rehearsing her speech all morning.

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I feel tears of gratitude, pride, and relief as I head out to the cab. This is what I’ve prayed for, that I would live to see Marigold graduate. I’ve accomplished what I set out to all those years ago when she was brought to me, a funny little bunny in a basket, and now, she is a young woman, ready to inspire and lead others. What a miracle.

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I tell Marigold that I’m proud of her, and then we fall into the silence of our thoughts as we wait for Patches and Bobobo to join us in the cab.

I realize that it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the whispering voice.

Maybe you have integrated it into yourself, so there’s no longer a need to hear it as if from without.

Maybe so.

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Patches and I follow the trail of daisies that Bobobo leads into the auditorium.

“Think I’ll graduate one day?” Patches asks me.

“Absolutely,” I say.

“Will you be proud of me?” she asks.

“I’m proud of you already, Patches,” I say, “and nothing will ever change that.”

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Marigold’s speech is received with cheers and a standing ovation. Her classmates vote her “Most likely to take over the world.” Bobobo looks at me and says, “How’d she get that job? That’s supposed to me mine!”

When we get home, Marigold and Patches play chess, and I look out the window, watching Bobobo as he rides his rocking horse, deep in concentration. I will not see him graduate and become a young man, this I know. But I’ve seen him grow into a young sprout, and with his sister, I can trust that he’ll receive the guidance that he needs. She’s got more strength and wisdom than I could ever muster. He’ll be in good hands.

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