Gizmo doesn’t make us wait for long before showing up for a visit. He is deeply miffed that his food bowl is empty. He knew he was returning, and we should have known, too.
Since I’m out fishing, it’s Daniel who extends the invitation that Gizmo gladly accepts. This is where he belongs and we all know it. It could never have been any other way.
Next morning he gleefully reacquaints himself with the trash can.
Reinvigorated, I press on at work.
Too soon, the boys are ready to become perfect little gentlemen. Identical, they have their father’s bronze skin and my hair and eyes, raising them to the almost mythical status of redheads with nice tans. Devilishly handsome, both of them. They can’t help but spread hope and exhaustion wherever they go.
Myron, with the longer hair, seems to immediately pick up on his father’s love for music, and enlists both of his parents to teach him to dance.
Andres mimics his mother’s sense of adventure and toddles all the way outside to the tent that still sits on the lawn, a monument to harder times, and crawls inside for a nap.
We enlist as much help as possible immediately. I re-summon my skeletal assistant, who sets to work right away cleaning up dishes and mopping potty spills.
Andres is angelic, and has no trouble speaking to our spectral housekeeper, while inquisitive Myron is a bit more standoffish.
He becomes fast friends with Nanny Parikh, however, who is astoundingly spry for her age.
Daniel begins the process of providing our required emotional paintings. The berries from the Tree of Emotion prove vital. It’s little things like these that reassure me that my first few weeks as a jungle explorer were not entirely selfish and wasted. Now that the boys are here I’m frequently plagued by guilt for not preparing our home better for them.
But, then again, Boneita makes a very fine Caprese salad, so perhaps I’ve readied our household well enough in the end. I’ll just feel better once there’s paint on the walls.
And she makes our boys forget their troubles long enough to concentrate on learning the potty. I pray she never leaves us in the same breath that I acknowledge that all things in this life are ephemeral. She will know when her times comes to move on.
There are no anger-flavored berries, so Daniel attempts to pick a fight with Nanny Parikh to get himself in the correct mood for his next work. He only succeeds in angering her, though, not himself, so I attempt to help out . . .
My criticisms of his woohoo techniques hit a little too close to home for my beloved, however, and while an angry painting is produced, our relationship is considerably damaged, and I find I must spend many hours reassuring him that it was all in service of the legacy, and nothing at all personal.
I am doing my best, but somehow I always seem to put a foot wrong.
We run into trouble again with the sad painting, when the tragic clown summoned appears elegantly dressed and incapable of giving the blues to anyone but herself.
I come to the rescue again with fake bad news for Daniel.
Both Daniel and the clown seem to feel I’ve crossed a line and they form a stony, judgmental alliance. Balancing the requirements of my chosen path with the needs and emotions of my loved ones is a constant, heart-rending struggle.
In the end, we resort to the panda hat. It’s inelegant, but at least does no further damage to my marriage.
All too soon, the boys grow into children. Myron, on the right, is a Genius with the Whiz Kid aspiration. Andres is Good, and begins with Artistic Prodigy.
In moments of doubt, I’m able to retreat to my archaeology table. Every few days I receive authentication work which, when completed, brings in thousands of dollars that can be translated into floorboards, wallpaper, and even a few small decorative domestic comforts. The walls gradually start to look like walls, the house like a home. I’m able to give Daniel a beautiful kitchen in which to work, and better lighting by which to see his brushstrokes.
The emotional paintings complete, and his skill raised to the required level 8, Daniel is able to begin more pleasant work himself in painting my portrait and his own. I take a photo of him to use as reference. A picture of which I instantly become deeply fond.
The boys are inseparable (with Gizmo their ever-present guardian), and often skill together. Andres initially progresses quicker than his brother, as Myron is stalled with Whiz Kid until school begins and he can achieve an A, but once he catches up the boys keep pace with each other, both eventually completing three childhood aspirations.
We even emerge from our familial cocoon on occasion to take group outings. The view from the docks at Whiskerman’s Wharf is similar to that from our private beach, but different enough to provide some much-needed perspective.
Reinvigorated, we press on.