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Archive for May, 2010

Things just weren’t the same around the Foliage home after Reed died. First, all the fish suddenly died.

Following that, the family started receiving bills again. Apparently, Reed’s fame as a musician, business owner, and community leader had led companies to provide their services for free, happy to be associated with the celebrity. Zoysia was now in charge, and she was not as well known. Iris carefully went over the bills with her and made sure to mail the payments on time.

Iris also spent some time helping Zoysia, Violet, and Camellia take care of the garden. She was sure that the young seedlings would be in good hands, but she was concerned about their human counterparts.

None of the girls had a steady boyfriend, and she resolved to do something about that. As soon as enough time had passed for it to be appropriate, she threw a party and invited half the neighborhood, including every young man she knew.

Camellia was always conscious of being younger than her twin cousins, and she tried to dress in sophisticated styles. She longed to be like her favorite fictional character, Edith Prescott, and she styled her hair accordingly. She would love to be a private investigator, but there were no jobs like that available in Legacy Valley. She did enjoy working at the Science Center. Gardening and fishing felt more like fun than work. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t get promoted more quickly though.

One evening she ran into her boss while walking on the beach. They had a long chat about work and gardening and a little bit of everything, and after that things seemed to go better.

Violet had made oodles of friends at the party, even though she didn’t stay the whole time before running off to work.

Zoysia, on the other hand, hadn’t really hit it off with any of the guys there. There was one special person who wouldn’t stay out of her thoughts, though, and she finally called him up and asked him over for another chess game, this time on friendly terms.

She hadn’t forgotten Kurtis Ryan since their chess match. The conversation had rolled along so easily, and he seemed very pleased that she had invited him over. Had he been thinking of her? Zoysia knew she wanted to go out with him, and they began seeing a lot of each other.

Zoysia and Kurtis played a lot of chess, had dinner together, and had lots of long talks. Zoysia explained to him her responsibilities in the household, a little bit nervous about what he would think. Kurtis replied that he was very family-oriented, and he thought it was a touching and honorable way to carry on the family. That left Zoysia with only one thing to do.

When Zoysia told Iris about the engagement, Iris encouraged her to get married sooner rather than later. She was thinking about children and how fast time goes by.

The ladies of the house dove into wedding plans – Rogelio made a sour face every time he heard them talking about bouquets of flowers, color themes, or exchanging vows. Violet started reading through magazines like Simarvelous Weddings and SIMply Bridal to look for ideas.

Zoysia was a little nervous that Violet would decide that a pool theme would make for a great wedding, but when the big day came, Zoysia was so pleased!

Foliage weddings traditionally took place in or overlooking the garden, and she had desperately wanted to honor that. However, she knew that being outdoors for the length of the ceremony and party would only increase her wedding day jitters. She was thrilled with the solution that her Aunt Iris, Violet, and Camellia had found.

The new pavillion was perfect! With its huge windows, it overlooked the garden and the pond while offering an expansive view of the ocean and the lighthouse.  Zoysia was thrilled, and her enthusiasm spilled over as she greeted the most important invitee.

Everyone gathered in the pavillion, and Zoysia and Kurtis took their places. They looked deep into each other’s eyes as they promised to love, honor, and cherish each other as long as they lived.

The guests cheered as the happy couple exchanged rings, but they only heard each other.

After the ceremony, everyone chatted and danced. Iris spoke with a nice young man from the James family, and she noticed he kept cutting his eyes over toward Camellia, who was talking with Oscar Huerta. Blossom let Iris know she didn’t have a very high opinion of the James boy.

The party was a great success overall, despite these minor personality conflicts. A dreamy state seemed to settle over the household, presided over by the newlyweds. Kurtis and Zoysia spent hours talking, sharing secrets from their childhood on up through the present. Kurtis confessed to Zoysia that he had always dreamed of  being a rock star, and he broke into a big smile when Zoysia took him seriously and encouraged him to go for it. The next day, Kurtis got an appropriate makeover, and he began a career in music.

That night, he and Zoysia celebrated.

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Reed knew he had to make the decision. He stared out at the sky and wished he could talk to Maebe or his mother. He knew his girls well, but the job of carrying on the Foliage family legacy was a complicated mix of gardener, parent, teacher, community leader, business manager, and ambassador. He wanted to make the best choice, not just for the family as a whole, but also for each of his girls.

The funeral for Maebe had been heart-wrenching at first, but ultimately somewhat healing. Several people from around town had come, including the Duprees who lived next door and cousin Blossom and her boyfriend.

Since then, the family had been trying to get on with life again, but Zoysia and Violet were about to graduate and become young adults. That meant even more decisions and possibly upheaval.

Zoysia had developed a love of the game of chess and wanted to reach the top competitive ranking. Violet had developed, well… Violet had developed a love and hatred of many things. Her interests were so diverse that she informed her Aunt Iris that she wanted to work in four different careers! She talked animatedly about the possibilities, and then, just as suddenly, she thought of something that made her mad, and her hot-headed nature took over, making her stomp off. It was a puzzle.

Camellia was not to be ignored during all this. She had taken her father’s talk about the importance of going out on the town to heart, and she took advantage of the employee specials the spa offered in the evenings to get a massage and a manicure. She walked out of the spa feeling refreshed and pampered, only to have her elated mood crash at the sound of a police siren at the curb. She was caught!

The night got worse when her father actually yelled at her when she got out of the police car and walked in the door. But she relaxed a little when he relented and said that he was glad she was living a little, but that he didn’t mean for her to get caught! He told her he was proud that she had listened to him and decided to live a little. He even noticed her manicured nails and told her how pretty they looked. She had never felt such a shower of attention from her dad, and she decided that the whole tumultuous evening had been worth it just for that.

.

Iris worried about Camellia. Was she pouring enough of the right life lessons into her precious girl?

But even as she doubted her own effectiveness as a parent, Iris loved that her nieces felt free to come to her and ask about anything. Zoysia surprised her one afternoon by asking if she would share some gardening tips!

Reed and Iris talked about the twins’ upcoming birthday, and even though it had not been long since Maebe’s death, they decided that their passage into adulthood deserved a celebration. Iris had an additional motive, which she didn’t share with her brother: she wanted to invite several young men from the neighborhood to see if a romance might spark.

A crowd of guests arrived for the party, and they gathered around with noisemakers as the girls – no, young women! – blew out their candles.

Iris enjoyed her piece of cake outside at a table by the pool, enjoying the company of some other mature neighbors. It was a lovely night. She knew Reed was inside playing the good host.

Violet and Zoysia couldn’t stop talking about the party the next day. Their conversation was made up of “Wasn’t Dad rockin’ out on his guitar last night?” and “Did you hear what Moises Dupree is doing for a living now?” and “Did you see that cute new guy? He never talks that much at school!” They both knew that their dad was working through a decision that involved them, but they didn’t want to talk about it.

Violet jogged off to the stadium to look for a job in athletics, and Zoysia made plans to meet a couple of friends and her second cousin Blossom at the Bistro for dinner al fresco as part of her ongoing outdoor therapy. She still had issues with insects.

Both Violet and Zoysia were helping their dad with the garden more than ever. Reed watched them, noticing how Violet sometimes growled at the weeds as she pulled them out and how Zoysia stayed as close to the house or fence as she could while she worked. He also noticed how proud both of them were to pluck a perfect potato or cluster of grapes from the vine. Yes, it was a tough decision, but he was coming closer to a conclusion.

Violet made him proud when she told him the Science Lab had asked her to bring them some of the fruits of the Foliage garden for testing.

Zoysia had some exciting news of her own. The Chess League had accepted her request to enter the competition circuit, and her first opponent was coming by for their challenge match.

Zoysia made short work of him, while family life carried on around her. Violet was working out to the stereo in her customarily odd choice in outfit, but there was no distracting Zoysia!

Violet decided to ask her Uncle Rogelio to help her train for her new career, and they went outside while Zoysia was greeting her next chess opponent.

Zoysia was excited about this match. She knew when they shook hands that there was something uncommon about Kurtis Ryan. They played for hours, each having the upper hand at some point, before Zoysia won. She knew then and there that she wanted to play him again. She did take the opportunity to invite him to Camellia’s birthday party that weekend.

Camellia was glad to be joining her cousins in adulthood. Iris was happy for her, although she was a little bit wistful for the days when she was first married and Camellia was learning to toddle around. It seemed like just yesterday…

After Camellia’s birthday, Reed knew he couldn’t put off the decision any longer. But first, he had one thing he had to do. The diner had called asking him to bring in some eggs and cheese in return for some new kinds of seeds. Curious, he rushed off to the diner.

Reed shook his head slightly as he bent down to plant the seed. He thought the man at the diner had called these “steak seeds” but surely he meant that Reed should stake the plants when they started to grow. Maybe his hearing was beginning to go.

Reed went into the house, washed up, and called up a platter of hamburgers from his grandmother’s recipe generator. It was his favorite meal, and after dinner he was going to talk with the daughter he had chosen. He had already informed Iris of his decision, and she approved.

It had been a challenging decision, but he was confident he had chosen the right daughter to carry on the family tradition. He was also confident that the other daughter would be happy in her freedom. He walked into the living room and asked her for a few minutes.

Reed told Zoysia the story of the Foliage family. She had heard pieces of it through the years, but never the whole story from her great-great-grandmother’s childhood in the orphanage up until now. She listened with a growing pride as Reed told her how each generation had been led by one member of the family who tended the family, tended the garden, and achieved new accomplishments. Surprise, honor, and excitement ran through her when he finally said, “Zoysia, I’ve been watching you and the way you consciously challenge yourself to overcome your fear of the outdoors to work beside me and even by yourself in the garden and do what you need to do in life. Your sister is energetic and has a diverse assortment of interests, and I admire her unique ways of expressing herself, but you are my choice to lead the family into the future. I know you will do the family proud.”

Zoysia threw her arms around her dad and hugged him close. “Thank you, Dad. I won’t let you down! You’ll see!”

Reed smiled softly at her and said, “I know, Z. Now let me give you a few tips… oh!” Reed suddenly felt a slight pain go through him. He looked at Zoysia, but there were little flashing lights in front of his eyes and he couldn’t seem to see her very well. “Zoysia?”

“Dad! Aunt Iris!” Somebody help!” Zoysia called, and Iris came running. Camellia came too, and called Violet at work.

Zoysia and Iris eased Reed into a soft chair. They held onto him as tightly as they could, but no human hand can hold the soul. Reed slipped away from them with a smile, saying “Do you hear music?”

Violet hurried home as fast as she could, but it was too late. She cried with Camellia, and Zoysia suddenly felt the weight of the day’s events fall onto her.

The next day passed in a blur, and after the funeral, Zoysia found herself alone in the family cemetery. She thought over all that her father had told her in their last conversation, and dabbed at her eyes.

Before, she had been happy for herself to be chosen. Now, she was happy to carry out her father’s wish. She sniffled and let the switch in emphasis soak in. She could watch over the family, the home, the garden… she could live up to her father’s expectations, for him. She took a deep breath and set off determinedly toward the house to take her place.

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The Foliage spouses, Maebe and Rogelio, had spent a fair amount of time at home on the Foliage estate since marrying into the family. Rogelio, not being the father of twins, had found more opportunities than Maebe to go out on the town, but Maebe liked to venture out too sometimes. Since she retired and the girls grew older, she was taking more of an interest in the family garden, and one of the new neighbors, the Duprees, who had moved in next door asked if she would bring her some fresh vegetables for a special dish she was making. Maebe was more than happy to oblige.

Rogelio also had occasion to go visiting, but it was for a more somber reason. His father passed away, and he went to be with his many brothers and sisters in their time of grief.

They seemed stunned, simply standing there looking at each other. Rogelio finally reached the point where he couldn’t take the sadness anymore, and he started a game of tag to try to break his brothers and sisters out of their despondency.

Maebe occasionally took her guitar on outings around town. She drew crowds everywhere, even outside the diner. The people of Legacy Valley were music lovers. Soon she became known for what they called her “golden tongue and golden fingers.”

Iris enjoyed a friendly (well, mostly) game of chess in the park. Over time she built her skills so much that she received official recognition from the Logic Society. She hung the certificate they mailed her right next to the one from the Tinkerers’ Club.

Reed was the only one currently working a regular job, although at the top of his career, he enjoyed very flexible hours. Actually, Camellia had a job too – it was part-time work at the spa after school. She found it more stressful than she had expected, and when she got home, she liked to throw a line into the pond and let her stress dissolve with the ripples in the water.

She tried to get a jump on things one morning before school by having a swim before breakfast. When she got to the table, she saw that her father had made hamburgers for the morning meal! Violet didn’t seem to see anything strange about it.

And then Rogelio followed her to the door and kept talking to her about the importance of living it up while she was young and going out at night. It was not exactly the kind of fatherly talk her friends at school described having with their dads.

Zoysia shook her head as she walked past them and out the door to the bus. Didn’t her uncle know that Cam was having a hard time getting her homework done as it was?

Iris overhead the conversation too, and she went straight to her husband after the girls had gone to school. “Don’t you think maybe you should be more interested in our nightlife, hmmm?” She gazed into his eyes hopefully.

He didn’t.

That evening, Zoysia challenged Iris to a game of chess, while Camellia most definitely did not go out, but stayed home and watched the cooking channel with her father. Zoysia had become truly passionate about chess and wanted to learn all she could. She planned to enter the tournament circuit.

Meanwhile, Reed chatted with Violet in the kitchen. They talked about school, choosing a career, the Dupree boys who had come over after school one day, and gardening. Violet showed an interest in everything, but a preference for nothing that Reed could see.

Reed studied both of his daughters during their high school years. He knew them better than most fathers know their daughters, yet he was still surprised when he saw Zoysia through the dining room window.

His daughter who was unnerved by the mere act of stepping out the door was actually out in the garden with something in her hand! As Reed watched in wonder, Zoysia moved along the fence and then knelt in the corner of the garden. Her hands moved in the earth, shallowing out a little spot and carefully placing a tomato seed inside. Reed’s eyes followed her as she smoothed the little mound of earth over the seed, stood up, and looked around the garden before nodding and going back inside.

Reed had a lot to think about over the next several weeks, and it was not all about his daughters. His little sister had a birthday coming up, and he and Maebe were planning a big party for her. On the afternoon of the party, Maebe tuned up her guitar to play a brand new song for the occasion.

Maebe entertained some of the guests inside, while several more gathered outside around the pool. They swam, ate, talked and danced until late in the day.

Zoysia enjoyed the chance to talk to her second cousin Blossom and her boyfriend.

Finally, it was time to gather around the cake. Iris smiled around the room at all her friends and blew the candles out.

Amid the cheers and cake slicing, Violet noticed her parents going all lovey dovey. They were always holding hands and locking lips. She wouldn’t be surprised if they even wrote love letters to each other.

After the party, Iris closed herself in the bathroom with lots of bottles and tubes and creams to give herself a beauty treatment. She was very pleased with the results and was eager to show Rogelio.

She was disappointed with his reaction.

He ended up going to the kitchen to make a batch of cookies. And lick the bowl.

Soon the family saw another significant event: Zoysia won her first match against a ranked opponent!

Reed offered her a trip to the spa in celebration, and she was so excited she even dressed up for the event. He was surprised that she was so excited about going out, and she explained to her father that she knew if she put her mind to it, she could find a way to get over her fear. She had placed some of her Great Aunt Poppy’s landscapes in her room, so she could get used to being surrounded by rolling hills and wide open skies while in the safety of her room.

Zoysia and Violet were nearing graduation, and they were excited when the big day came. They walked out of the school building that Friday afternoon with big expectations for their futures.

Reed was getting the camera ready to take graduation day pictures of his girls. He and Maebe found themselves getting emotional as was practicing working the new zoom lens and taking a few pictures of his beloved. Although they were happy emotions, at Maebe’s advanced age, they were just too much, and this was the last snapshot of Maebe, taken just before she died at the age of 91. She had lived a very happy life, loved her husband passionately, excelled at her hobbies, and raised two girls who were well prepared to meet the future.

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