Every day in parenting is an adventure.. and a lot of work, too. Some days it seemed too much work, but I always felt rewarded at the end of the day, no matter how tired I was.
Just yesterday, I spent all day harvesting our Chrysanthemums for sale at the farmer’s market in town, cleaning and repairing the bathroom, and spending time teaching Ryder the skills he will need as he grows.
Unfortunately, all of this work didn’t distract my mind from a dawning realization. With high school starting in a few days, it was time for Caleb to learn about his inheritance. I didn’t want to just spring it on him, I wanted him to be able to be prepared for the difficulties he would face. I didn’t know for sure what the contract on him would require (other than building the house, of course) – but I did know that it wouldn’t be easy. It certainly hadn’t been easy for me!
So.. with a heavy heart, I worked my way through Sunday’s chores, and planned to talk to Caleb before bed. Jared agreed to help out with Ryder so Caleb and I could have our talk outside on what I considered “my” bench.
Dinner was a quiet affair, and even Caleb seemed subdued, like he knew something was coming.
After dinner, I took his hand and led him out to the bench.
“I have a story to tell you, Caleb. It’s a good story, but one I’ve never told you before because you just weren’t big enough to understand. It starts out sad but gets so very much better.”
I could see Caleb’s shining green eyes watching me in the approaching dusk.
“You see.. when I was your age, my mother passed away very suddenly. Dad didn’t cope very well, and he became very distant and withdrawn. I had school, and my friends.. but I never really felt that I “had” my dad anymore. I went through high school almost on auto-pilot. I never really sat down and thought about what I wanted out of life. Somehow, I let everything just pass me by until it was too late. Just before I graduated, Dad died, too. I’m sure he felt that, since I was going to be grown up and move on with my life, that he had nothing left to live for. It just wasn’t true. I missed the dad I’d had in my childhood.. and I wished I had had the guts to say so while he was still alive.”
Caleb’s eyes had clouded and a frown touched his mouth.
“I tell you that.. to try and show you how hopeless I felt at the time. Nothing had gone right in my life for what seemed like a very long time. Then, everything changed. One night, while sitting around in the apartment I could no longer afford to live in, I saw a news featurette about a government program in Simsville. Apparently, the entire town had been decimated by tornadoes and flash flooding. Everyone who lived there had been forced to re-locate. The only thing left standing was a small restaurant.. almost like a beacon of hope. The town government had decided to try to sponsor people to move back in. They would provide the land and the contractors if someone would be willing to take the gamble on moving into what was, almost literally.. a ghost town. Since I had nothing to my name except my clothes and my high school diploma.. I felt that this could be a new start for me. Someplace fresh.. where people wouldn’t look at me with pity, knowing what had happened to my family.”
“So you moved?” Caleb broke into the story.
“Yes. I moved. Just me, the bits of survival gear the company gave me, a cellphone and a packet of information also from them.. and my suitcase. When I got here, all that there was was this bench, that mailbox.. and me.”
Caleb’s face had lit up. “What an adventure!” he crowed.
“Yes, it was that. I learned to fish, and garden, and finally, to dream. I built this house and this family from those moments out here in the desert, and I would do it again. But here’s where you come into the story.”
Sighing deeply, I braced myself for the fact that he might not be glad to get the same chance I had gotten. I thought to the tattered packet of information I had brought with me to this land and had kept in the back of my dresser all these years. There would be one of those waiting for Caleb, too. And it was time for me to find out whether he was willing to carry the dream forward.
“Caleb… this house was not built for you. Your destiny lies in building your own house, in taking the plunge to your own adventure.”
He merely looked confused, and I felt like I was completely flubbing the whole talk. Sighing again.. I tried to start over.
“You see, there’s a packet of information – a contract – waiting for you, as my firstborn. When you graduate high school, you are to move out like I did, following the guidelines in your information packet, and build your dream. Your firstborn will do the same thing.”
“Ewww.. kids. That means I have to find a girl, right mom?”
“Yes, I suppose it does. But you have a good many years before that happens. What do you think?”
“I think it’s awesome! I like being outdoors, and maybe you can start teaching me about the gardening and fishing, right? Do you think I could live here, like across the street? That would be way cool.”
I slowly let out the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.
“Well, yes, I suppose I could start teaching you those things. At least the basics. And – Caleb, I have no idea where the land that’s meant for you is. There are other neighborhoods that need houses in them, too. One that I know of is as green as this place is brown. There’s also a city.. and even rumors of a dark place.. with monsters.”
Caleb’s eyes lit up at that comment… “Monsters?!? Really? Could we go see them??”
Again, I had to laugh.
“No, I don’t think it’s the type of place you go to visit. I’m just saying… there’s more in this town than just this deserted street. Your land could be anywhere. But the best part is that it will be yours alone. Yours to dream up a house, yours to raise your family on. I made this choice to come here, knowing that the legacy I leave you with is a good one. You have a chance.. one that I thought I would never have.. but that, unbelievably, I was given. I don’t know what happens should you choose not to take the packet of information, but I doubt it’s a good thing.”
Concerned, I watched Caleb’s face. He thought about it for a long moment.
“Mom, I don’t know why I would be so silly as to not take it. I’ve heard rumors all the time in school about how you’re the hero this town was looking for. How nobody else was brave enough or crazy enough to try to build a house here.. but you did it. This is the best house, ever. Especially my monkey bars. You should be proud. I know I am! I don’t know how I’ll build a house like you did. But I do know that I’ll try. Wherever my land is.. ” he trailed off, watching my worried face.
“Don’t worry, Mom. I love a good adventure, and that’s what this is. Wait until my classmates hear that I get to build a house just like you!” He paused for a moment, then glanced towards the house.
“But…” He paused, thought for another moment, and then continued, “How come Ryder doesn’t get to build a house?” he asked, looking down.
“Because someone has to take care of this house.” I replied. “Although, if he chooses, he could take one of those contracts, too, I suppose. As far as I know, they never found anyone else to help build this town. This house could be sold just as easily for someone else to come live in… if anyone still wants to move back here.”
He thought about it, then said, “Well, that makes sense. I hope Ryder stays here. It would be cool to have him as a neighbor, I think, instead of some other smelly sim.” Caleb grinned at the thought. “When Ryder gets bigger, can I be the one to tell him he has to take care of this house? .. And tell him the story of you fishing and gardening your way to building it?”
I looked at him in surprise, “If you want to. I suppose you could be the one to tell him. But he doesn’t have to stay here, you know.”
“I know, Mom. But I want him to. Maybe if I asked nicely. Do you think?”
Again, I chuckled. The things this child came up with….
“Yes, I think if you asked he might stay. Just remember, he’s allowed to make his own choice just like you are. I’ll support you two no matter what you two decide.”
“There’s nothing to decide for me. I’m going to get my own adventure! And there might even be monsters!! Wait until I tell my friends…”
Quickly, before he could run off, I caught him into a big hug. He hugged me back, then squirmed away.
“I have to get ready for bed, Mom.” He cocked his head, listening to crying coming from our house. “And I think Ryder needs a bedtime story. I’ve already had mine!”
With a grin, he took off for the house.
I sat there for a while longer, just watching the moon rise. Then, hearing Ryder crying again, I got up to get back to the business of mothering. That had gone well… maybe too well. Perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned the monsters. Laughing briefly, I headed back into the house to read my youngest son to sleep.
To Be Continued…