The next in a series of stories written for my children to read to my grandchildren.  Artwork courtesy Mrs. Sharon Dahl.

 

When Stephanie was very young (as young as Joshua was before he got to be so grown up), she was fairly curious.

She never thought of herself as curious; she may not even have known what the word curious meant.  But she knew, and her mother certainly knew, that she liked to ask questions.

“Mommy, why is the sky blue?” Stephanie asked.

“So that you can see the yellow sun better,” her mother said, washing the dishes.

“Mommy, why is my hair green?” Stephanie asked.

“So that people will notice your pretty brown eyes more,” her mother said, still washing the dishes.

“Mommy, why don’t I have a daddy?” Stephanie asked.

Her mother stopped washing the dishes.  She picked up a little towel and dried her hands very slowly.  “Why do you ask?” she said in that special voice that mothers use when there is a problem but they want to pretend that everything is all right. 

I’m sure that Emilie would have recognized that there really was a problem, but Stephanie was fairly young and fairly busy, so she didn’t notice that her mother was unhappy.  She was juggling three acorns and didn’t look up as she answered.

“I was just thinking about the birds and the bees,” she said, dropping two of the acorns.  “Oh, nuts,” she muttered, bending over to pick them up.

Her mother acted like she had a hiccup stuck in her throat, but she managed to repeat her daughter’s words.  “The birds and the bees?”

“Yes,” said Stephanie as she stacked the acorns in the corner of their little home under the maple tree.  “The birds have daddies, but the bees don’t.  I don’t think I’m sweet enough to be a bee.”

“No, honey, you’re not,” said her mother with a sigh.

“And I’m not flighty enough to a bird, even if I did have a daddy,” Stephanie continued, flapping her fairly small wings.

“That question is still up in the air,” her mother replied, taking Stephanie by the hand and walking with her into the living room to have a seat on the couch.  “But you do have a daddy.  He just doesn’t live here.” 

“Why not?”  Stephanie asked, poking at a spot on the wall of their tree house.

“He lives far away, like Grammie and Poppa, and it’s not easy for him to come and see us.”

“Does that mean we’re not a close family?” Stephanie asked.

“I guess that’s open for discussion,” said her mother.  “People can live far away and still be close.  Farness is measured in miles, but closeness is measured in smiles.”

“Hey—that rhymes!” Stephanie exclaimed, smiling broadly.

“And when we count the smiles, I’d say we’re a very close family.  Your daddy loves you very much; you just don’t remember him because you were so young when we moved here.”

So Stephanie’s mother told her (with a few fairly curious interruptions) about how she had won the lottery (“What’s a lottery?”) and had gone to Ireland (“What’s Ireland?”) where she met and fell in love with a leprechaun (“What’s a leprechaun?”) and they got married and had twins (“What’s twins?”) named Stephanie and Winston.

At that point Stephanie’s interruption was very curious.  “You mean I have a daddy AND a sister?”

So her mother had to explain that Winston was a boy, so technically he couldn’t be her sister.

“Oh, brother,” Stephanie said.

And her mother told her how she had gotten so homesick that she brought Stephanie with her and came back to her home in the New World.  “And that’s the story, from the ground up,” she concluded.

Stephanie scrunched up her fairly cute face and started a new series of questions.  “Why don’t they ever call us?”

“Because we don’t have a telephone.”

“Why don’t they ever Skype us?”

“Because we don’t have a computer.”

“Why don’t we have any pictures of them?”

“We do.  That picture on the wall over the fireplace is them.  I know it’s a little blurry, but let me tell you clearly that those are your daddy and your brother.”

Stephanie got up and stepped over to the fireplace to examine the photo.  “I always thought they were pirates, or Jedi knights, or something.”

Her mother frowned.  “Why would a have a picture of pirates or Jedi knights over my fireplace?”

“Maybe because you knew I like pirates or Jedi knights?”

“No, I have it there because I love your daddy and your brother.”

Now if Dawson were here, he would probably try to make a joke about the man in the picture saying in a deep, dark Jedi voice, “Look—I am your father,” but Stephanie wasn’t old enough to get the joke.  Instead, she sat down on a toadstool and continued her list of questions.

“Why don’t they ever write to me?”

“Because you can’t read or write.”

“That’s just wrong.  Why don’t they ever write to you?”

“They do,” her mother answered, “but it takes a long time to get here by snail mail.  The snails get seasick crossing the ocean, you know.”

Stephanie made a face, “I don’t want to be sick OR see sick,” she said.  But then, after being thoughtful for a minute (which was a new record for her), she said, “So a family can be close even if they’re far away.”

Her mother smiled.  “That’s right.  That’s exactly right.”

“Then maybe we should call it close away instead of far away.”

“That’s a fairly good idea.  Our family is close away,” said her mother, still smiling.

Then Stephanie asked, “Can I write them a letter?”

(Obviously Stephanie didn’t know the story, or she would remember that she couldn’t write.  Duh!)

Her mother just smiled and suggested, “Why don’t you tell me what you want to say, and I’ll write it for you.”

“And then,” Stephanie excitedly, “maybe we can get a rabbit to take it to them by hare mail.  That should go fast!”

“Now, honey, how would a rabbit get across the ocean?” her mother asked, sensibly.

“You’re right—he would probably flounder in the waves, and somebody would have to fish him out.  But maybe he could get a ride on a sailfish.  I heard they’re cheap.”

Her mother smiled again.  (She smiled a lot, if you haven’t noticed.)  “Now you’re just being silly.  But let me get some paper from the drawer and a pencil from the pen, and we’ll get started on your very first letter.”

“A-OK, Mom, but I have a question,” Stephanie said.  “Who was born first?”

“Well, if we go all the way back there was Abel, then Cain…”

(I know, it should be easy to make a joke about Abel’s name, but I just can’t do it.)

“No—seriously.  In our family, who was born first?”  Stephanie insisted.

“Let me see,” said her mother, putting on her glasses.  “There was your father, then me, then you, and then Winston.”

Stephanie smiled.  “That’s good.  I always wanted a little brother.”

And Stephanie was fairly contented with her new, close away, family.

Now if the ice cream doesn’t fall out of the freezer and melt all over the cat, then next time I will tell you the story of Stephanie and the Fairly Bad Pet.

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