7. Caleb’s Application for a Pen Pal < | >
Sometimes things happen for a reason. Other times, it seems completely random. I hadn’t quite decided what this pen pal project was going to be, but Caleb was so excited about it, he couldn’t even sit still.
Bright and early Monday morning, Caleb painstakingly filled out the questionnaire and folded it carefully into the front of his school planner. I tried to be as excited as he was, but a large part of me still worried. What if this all came to naught? How would Caleb take the let down if something went wrong?
Pasting a smile on my face, I packed Caleb’s and Ryder’s lunches and even remembered to give them to the correct kid before the two of them left for school. Ryder would have been confused by the extra sandwich I always packed for Caleb. That boy sure could eat, and he was ALWAYS hungry… so I made sure I kept lots of leftovers in the fridge, or I’m sure he would have burned the house down before now. I wondered what he was going to do for food once it was his turn to be the hero of the town. I knew he’d manage – just how many meals he would burn before he figured out how to cook was the part I didn’t know. I had tried to sit him down in front of the Cooking Channel, but his immediate thought was “food” .. not “how do I make it?” So that didn’t work out too well. He was just going to have to learn the hard way.
Again, with very little to do, I cleaned stuff that still didn’t need cleaning, and browsed on the web some (since the boys weren’t home to monopolize the computer, and Jared was napping). Finally, I gave up and went out collecting, even though we didn’t need the money. The garden easily supported our bills and then some. I could be comforted knowing I would leave a nice little nest egg for Ryder, even though none could go to Caleb. With the government contract, all he was allowed to start with are himself, his very important mailbox, a small survival kit, and his clothes.
For a while, I let myself think back to my start with just those things.. it had certainly been a rude shock. But then, I didn’t have much to begin with, and just having my own land had been so very inspirational to me. Having something that was mine and mine alone. I turned from my digging up yet another crystal and peered across the street at my house. Without me, that house wouldn’t exist. Without me or Jared, the kids wouldn’t be here. Had I made the right choice for my family? Only time would tell for sure.. but I felt that I’d done the best I could with what I’d been given. Hopefully Caleb would end up saying the same thing when he was my age.
I cut my gathering short as I noticed the school bus coming over around the bend in the road. Caleb and Ryder were, once again and always, the only kids on the bus, being that nobody else actually lived in the town. The next town over is where they went to school, bused each day miles down the road through varying picturesque countrysides. Both Ryder and Caleb bounced off the bus and headed indoors, not noticing that I was across the street. The bus driver waved, and I waved back politely. He drove off with a smile, and I crossed the road to get home.
“How did it go, Caleb?” I asked after pushing through the front door.
“Great! I was one of the only ones to sign up, so I should get matched pretty easily. I just have to wait for my first letter to arrive and then I get to write back as soon as I can. I wouldn’t want my pen pal to have to wait too long!” His sentences practically ran together he was talking so fast.
I smiled, and was about to say something else when he turned abruptly and headed towards the fridge. I knew that meant the conversation was over, at least for now, unless I wanted to try to decode “food in mouth” talk. Minding his manners would probably not occur to him with as excited as he was, so I avoided the issue and went out to start on the garden.
After his snack, Caleb joined me.. and not far behind him was Ryder, although he was more interested in the monkey bars than the plants. I thanked Caleb for helping again, and he smiled back.
“I’d better learn now, right? Before long I’ll be growing my own garden. Although I plan to be growing food, not flowers.” He said, wrinkling his nose at the Chrysanthemums I had made my living growing.
“That certainly makes sense. You do like food.” I smiled in reply, and went on weeding.
I tried not to tune him out, but all he could talk about was his new pen pals. Apparently he had signed up for more than one! He went on and on, wondering everything that could possibly be wondered about his new “friends”. I mumbled replies, and I don’t think he ever noticed that I was still hiding my worry over the whole thing. Hopefully Jared was right, and this was a good thing for Caleb. At the very least, it would get him writing. Simlish had never been his favorite class.
As the day drew to a close, I called Ryder back inside to clean up for dinner, and left Caleb with the last little bit of gardening. Dinner was a lively affair, as usual, with lots of jokes tossed back and forth between the boys. I approved a movie for the two of them, so long as they did their homework right after. Before I knew it, it was bedtime… and then the next day.. and the next.
Waiting had never been Caleb’s strong suit. Every day, he checked his email and the mailbox, never seeming sure where the letters might show up. Every day, his face looked more and more worried. I tried to tell him to be patient, that his pen pals might be very far away, but he still fretted. I guess I couldn’t blame him, but I tried to keep him positive. Secretly, I wondered if the whole thing had just fallen through. The mailbox remained, stubbornly, empty, and I hoped the letters were coming in their own time.. for Caleb’s sake.
.. To be continued..