Posted: Mar 25, 2012
They were seven across, Rafi and Rick on the ends, Antonio and Johann between their parents and Sofie in the middle. They were walking down the path on the first day of school.
"First grade already." Maia said. "Didn't we just make them in Denmark not too long ago?"
"Six years a couple weeks ago," Elke replied. "We've had so much fun with them time has just flown by."
They waved to Jeannine and Libby who were drinking coffee outside the office.
"When will Sven and Heidi be back?' asked Rafi.
"Sunday. Heidi starts school on Tuesday. They got permission for Abby and Mikkel to start a few days late so they could have a full three weeks off. It's been years since Heidi saw her brother, and who knows when they will get back to Australia."
"People are going to start coming for the long weekend next week. Will they be ready?" asked Rick.
"Jeannine has everything under control. Libby has been working her butt off as the new assistant manager. Everyone else has just done what they are supposed to do."
As they got to the connecting path, they met Karl and Katie.
"Hey, little girl, is this your first day of school too?" asked Elke.
"Yes it is, and I have someone holding my hand too," she replied.
"Children," Maia said. "This is Ms. Svenson and she will be one of your teachers."
"It's Katie, and I will be reading stories and helping you write."
"So, kids," Elke, said. "Have you settled into your new house after the honeymoon?"
"We are still in honeymoon mode," Karl said. "I am still moving around furniture to get it where we like it best. Gramps comes by every day to make sure everything works. Our moms are always bringing food so we won't starve. We're very grateful, but how do we let them know when we are busy." Katie blushed.
"We have all been married a long time, and they still check up on us. I hang a 'Beware of the Dog' sign on the door. Marta puts a carving of Boris Badenov in the window, although you can usually hear her."
Katie whispered something in Karl's ear. He grinned and nodded.
"Got it. We bought a pair of stuffed rabbits in Chicago. We'll put them in the window and send everyone an email."
"Does Polly still call?"
"Yup, she's very thoughtful."
They arrived at the school, now eight full grades and expanding to twelve. Reed and Tara were there with the teachers to welcome them. Hugs were exchanged.
Reed said, "You all know what the school looks like. Why not say your goodbyes here and we can get them familiar with the routine. Tara will give them their towels and show them where to put their shoes. Then we will bring them into the main room."
The children quickly kissed their parents and followed their cousins in, as their parents shed a few tears.
Elke called back Reed.
"Do you know when the movie screening is going to be?"
"Middle of October, I think. Mom wasn't happy with some of the editing. She, Polly and Dora will be flying to Los Angeles next week to fight it out with the director. You know she wants Edna's story to come out the way she would want it."
She thanked him. As they walked back, Elke commented, "The director better listen. Edna will rise from the dead to haunt him if he doesn't."
It had taken Romy, Dora and Polly a year and a half to get all the information sorted out and checked. The most interesting period was right after WW II. Men had come home expecting the world to pick up right where it had left off when they left. The women on the other hand had earned their own money, made decisions on their own and had gained some measure of independence.
Edna and Cordelia, as teacher and librarian, were the least affected. Their positions were considered "women's work". However, Ophelia was demoted back to the society pages from writing hard news and editing at the newspaper and Portia, as an attorney was pushed back to doing wills and probate instead of criminal defense and contracts.
"They were basically thanked and told to go home and get married and have babies and sit in the corner and be obedient now that the men were back to run things." Polly told them. "A lot of them just went along with the program. They got their men and created their nests with houses built under the GI Bill. They had a car; a TV set, joined the PTO and went to
parties at the Legion Hall."
Edna and the others weren't buying into it. They argued that they had proven themselves as capable as men and deserved the same consideration for employment. They argued airplanes would not have been built or weapons made if it wasn't for women. They were told the war was over.
The war had just begun. Edna would listen to children and their parents about issues that concerned them. Cordelia ordered periodicals and newspapers from all over the country to keep abreast of new developments.
Ophelia would add little news items in her weekly column to raise awareness
of what she considered to be important issues. Portia's revenge was the sweetest. She became a top-notch divorce attorney.
Dora asked, "Polly, you saw all this as it unfolded. How did all this affect the Farm and what happened to get people in town to call them the
Posted: Mar 28, 2012
|"It's a long story, but let me put the pieces together for you. Ophelia worked for the newspaper and she and the owner had gotten on so well, they got married. He was a widower and quite a bit older then she was. He felt bad about having to demote her, but gave her a lot of latitude in the women's page.|
She would pick up information and insert it into her gossip column. One example. She kept hearing about men getting sick working at the lumber mills. So she went there to allegedly write a human-interest story about the work, and found all kinds of dangerous chemicals in open barrels dumping into the ground. She took pictures.
It took over ten years to get EPA to come in and cite them and have them declared as a Superfund site. The other lumber mill, the one that is still here, was scared straight and cleaned up their act. The other one, after losing numerous lawsuits for unsafe working conditions and health and environmental hazards, closed down in the 90s."
"Was it the unions that were responsible as well?" asked Romy. "I hear rumors they came in to agitate."
"Nope," replied Polly. "They were sympathetic, but didn't get involved. Ophelia got the women to get their husbands to file complaints. The company fired them, of course, but the ones who were able went to work at the other lumber mill or got other jobs. The wives went to work to help tide the families over and help pay the bills."
"What happened over time is that statewide and national papers picked up the story. Even one of those old Sunday news programs did something."
"Cordelia would keep abreast of national events and send over items she thought relevant to the town. It kept the paper interesting."
"Didn't she have a family?" asked Dora.
"Yes, a son, but he died in Vietnam and her husband died of grief a couple years later. She took over the paper and retired not long before you came, Romy."
"So the paper became her life."
"Yes. She was in her early 40s, attractive, smart and tough as nails.
It fit her perfectly. She was called a witch because she was able to find things people tried to hide. No magic. People would call her, give her information, she'd run the story if it checked out. Or she'd float a little subtle hint in her weekly gossip column."
Romy had another question.
"Is there any truth to the story about her nailing someone in the rear with a shotgun?"
"Urban legend. It was on a rack behind her desk, but it was her husband's. She had a .22 pistol, and if she'd fired it, the person would have been dead."
"So what were you doing all this time?"
"I'd do errands, pick up gossip at the restaurant where I worked after school, went to college for two years, was married and stayed. We worked in real estate so we were able to keep an eye on what was going on all over town. I also helped out Portia."
"You mean you spied on people for her?"
"In a sense. She’d send me out to check on license plates at certain places and I would report back if they were. Had a can full of nickels for the pay phone in my pickup. More of it was checking out the new housing developments making sure they were following the rules and building the houses right."
"Things seemed to have worked out all right."
"We caught them trying to build on swamps or building septic systems that ran into streams fed the reservoir. Using 3/8 plywood when they were supposed to use 1/2 inch. They were screwing over veterans and they did it just to make a few extra bucks."
"Not much has changed over the years. Some businessmen just can't make an honest living. They have to cheat." Romy said.
"Human nature," Polly responded. "There will always be those who are dishonest. Portia would get injunctions to stop the work. Ophelia put it in the paper. After the dust cleared, the building inspector went to jail,
the projects were scaled down or dropped and the town set up the planning department to make sure things were done right."
"Needed bureaucracy. The average person doesn't know anything about building codes or zoning. But everyone deserves a safe home and clean water. We aren't talking about rare species of worms or anything. Just keeping waste and chemicals out of the water that comes out of your faucet, and a house that won't leak or fall down."
"What about her divorce practice? Was she an early feminist?"
"Not at all. She believed that if the marriage wasn't working, you would go to your pastor or talk it out. There was no group therapy or marriage counseling back then. Divorced people in those days were regarded as second-class citizens and failures. She hated adulterers and abusers,
both male and female. She hated Heidi's father, you know. He always had
a girl friend at work, usually young ones. When he got drunk, he would go home and beat Eileen. She was ready to leave just before the accident because she found him in Heidi's room one night."
"So when they got killed, you kept a special eye on Heidi just in case her
father had molested her."
"We didn't know how she would react. Thankfully, Sven came to the rescue.
Still, she has those erratic periods and has to be called in for a talk."
"Portia never got married. Any reason?"
"Oh, you didn't know that Cordelia was the love of her life?"
Posted: Mar 29, 2012
|Dora said, "No idea. I knew they were friends, but ...."|
"They were very private about it. In those days, being gay was grounds for losing your job and being ostracized from the community. They just told people they had never found the right men."
"So how did they get together?"
"You read about their trips to see plays or concerts or shopping in Foggy City. They did all those things, but they were romantic jaunts as well. They went on vacation together, "for protection", and no one batted an eye. They were so bright and career oriented that few men could have kept up with them intellectually anyway."
Romy said, "You've told us all this, but what about Edna? We've seen the movies of all the women at the Pond during the war, of families there and at various nudist clubs afterwards, plus
films of some meetings. Edna was just a school teacher, but she ran everything."
"No, she didn't run it she just coordinated it. She got advice from everyone and would work with the other three for a plan of action the whole group could agree to." Polly said.
"Let me explain. In those days, they didn't have PTOs like they do now. The town was small enough so teachers would visit every family at home. Heidi, Madison Snowe and a few others still do this, even though it isn't required by contract."
"Edna didn't have to work. She had more money than she needed, as you found out when you uncovered all her little stashes. She wanted to give back and help people. Because she was smart, she figured teaching was the best route. She was genuinely interested in people. They would confide in her. All she would ask of them was that they let her know if they saw or heard something unusual. Over time, she visited or was invited to nearly every home in town. Any information she shared with the group was confidential."
"So this is how the food deliveries and packages were delivered to people in need. How people who had had trouble finding work all of a sudden got a job offer. They didn't have government agencies then to do all this because a lot of folks actually looked after each other and tried to help those down on their luck."
Romy said, "We are lucky here. A lot of places I have visited, people don't even know who their neighbors are, and don't want to."
She continued. "So the women of the group knew everything going on in town, what people wanted and needed and had a great deal of influence behind the scenes in the political arena."
Polly replied. "Exactly. Most of the council members had full time jobs and didn't have the time. The mayor had a staff of two, and his department heads were mostly political hacks unqualified for their jobs. There was definitely a lack of brainpower. The group was the counterbalance to the special interests, who wanted the public to remain obedient and blissfully ignorant."
"The lumber companies, the paper mill, the banks, real estate speculators and developers, to name a few."
"All right. We have the basics and lots of examples about the political influence. Now how did they get their witch name tag and how did Uncle Bix fit in to all of this?"
"The witches’ thing is easy. After another night at the town council when the four of them had defeated another hare brained proposal with a boatload of information, one of their opponents made a comment about them.
It went something like this:
'How did they find out about all those secret deals we had made and what we had planned even before we submitted it? Those women can't be that smart, they have to be witches or something.'"
"Now Portia had a twisted sense of humor. She overheard them and replied, 'Better believe we are witches. You try to pull anything like that in this town again and we will dance naked around our cauldron and cast a spell on you.'"
"The man turned ash white. By lunchtime the next day, the whole town knew what was said. Some people actually believed they had magical powers. Portia and Cordelia were very good at playing practical jokes on people and that added to the legend. Mostly though, the men had to make excuses for being continually taken to the woodshed."
"As for your Uncle, he probably helped acceptance of social nudity here more than anyone, just by being himself."
Posted: Mar 29, 2012
|Romy said, "You must have been in your early teens when Uncle Bix came to town. When did you meet him?"|
Polly replied, "He came to the property in October and started doing all kinds of work. He had paid for the 160 acres and cabin in cash, eight dollars an acre for the land and seventy five hundred for the cabin. Told people he got three squares, clothes and a bed from the army, so he sent most of his money home."
"The first warm weekend, my friends and I rode our bikes out to see what was going on. He had built what is now Sand Trap Pond to keep the brook
from overflowing, built a road to the cabin by putting in a culvert, then dredged out the Pond to make it deeper. He reinforced the dam at the Pond and installed a culvert to prevent overflow. It's under the walking path at the waterfall."
"Well, we had to try it out. The mud was gone, the water clean and we were having a grand old time when we heard someone whistling on the other side of the rise. We froze."
"All of a sudden, this young guy appears, wearing a hat, carrying a towel and nothing else on."
He said, "Hi, I'm Bix Svenson and I'm the new owner. Nothing like a swim to cool off on a hot day."
He dropped his towel and hat, dove in and talked with us like he'd known us forever. Treated us like grownups. Afterwards we asked him about being in the war and what he wanted to do with the property. He asked us about how the town worked. When we got ready to leave, he told us,
'Tell everybody they can come like before. Only two rules. Clean up your trash. I'll leave a couple barrels down here for that. The other one is no suits, which I see you are already following. One more thing. Anyone here know a lady named Edna?'"
"I raised my hand and introduced myself. He asked me to relay a message that she could come see him any time as long as she called first and gave me the phone number."
"They met and Women's Wednesdays started that summer."
Romy sat there thinking. "I have more than enough information to write my dissertation from just what went on in town. I'll use the Pond peripherally just like in my Master's Thesis.
While Edna may have been kidding at the time, I think this would make a great movie. Do we know anyone who can help us write a screenplay that can fit everything in two hours?"
They advertised on their web site and eventually found someone who set it up as a memoir told by Edna in flashback form.
Posted: Mar 31, 2012
|Karl and Jud were taking their morning stroll. |
"In a month, I will be officially retired. Sven will be taking over." Karl said.
"Now we can just be old busybodies and complain like everyone else," laughed Jud.
"We have enough to do. You will be having your first grandchild soon. How is Bix doing, by the way?"
"He is in good spirits. He has had a good year in AA and is going to AAA next year. If he doesn't get called up in September, he will be home for Labor Day."
"His house should be almost ready to move in by then. Right next to Karl and Katie."
"Too bad about Truman. At least he lived long enough to see them get married. He knew he wasn't going to be around to see grandchildren. How is Em doing?"
"She's fine. He lived ten years longer than anyone thought he would. She was very thankful for that."
"Now what about Marta? I know Peter is not doing well, and she is very strong, but it must be taking a toll on her."
Karl's eyes watered. "I thought I would be the first one to go. The doctors told Eric and Marta he has a year at most. There is nothing they can do about the leukemia. He is such a brave little boy. Told me not to be sad, that he was just leaving early so he could find a good place for all of us when it was our turn."
"As far as Marta is concerned, her biggest supporter is Tara."
"But they fight."
"All the time. Tara went to see Peter in the hospital and saw all the kids with no hair. She told Marta to cut hers so they could make wigs for them. That's where all her hair went."
"I wondered why it was short. Thought maybe a new style for girls this year."
"As if style would dictate anything Tara does. She told her mother she was sucking it up for all the kids and the least she could do was act like a
grownup when she went to visit her brother, instead of spending half the time sobbing in the hall."
"She's always been direct. Sometimes fresh, but always direct."
"It worked. They have extended their no fight times from just swimming to cooking and cleaning. Marta told me that she is a big help."
"How is Reed coping with all that movie stuff Romy is doing? You ready to go see the premiere about Edna and friends next month?" asked Jud.
"A two hour movie will never do them justice. Reed is doing well. He has always been supportive. He and Romy will be relieved when all the hoopla is over."
"So what is your son Karl going to do now that he left his non-profit job?"
"He will still be a consultant, but for the most part he and Em are starting an in-house acting group to do little routines. Nothing serious.
Skits, maybe a few humorous PSAs about nudism on internet broadcasting stations. Satire news. Infomercials about naturism/nudism like Sally did with her exercise programs. Em will be the star. Karl says she's always been a star, but now it's time for everyone else to see how good she is."
Jud agreed. "By the way, I saw Elke up on the tree platform the other day with Maia, Johann and the twins. Is she carrying them up or are they already climbing?"
"They're climbing. She makes them wear safety belts tied to her in case they slip, but she wants them not to be afraid to explore. She wants them to learn and have fun like she did."
Karl's phone rang. It was Inga.
"Coffee and pie in half an hour. Polly's back."
Posted: Apr 3, 2012
|"I wouldn't hold my breath about an October premiere," Polly said. It was a wasted meeting."|
"How far are they apart?" asked Inga.
"Let me tell what they agree on. It's easier. The story line beginning with the Pearl Harbor announcement all the way to the death of Edna's first husband is wonderful. Shows how the women went to work sold War Bonds and how, regardless of background were partners in a common cause."
"How did they do the nude part?" asked Sally.
"Easy. Heat wave. Kids just stripped off their clothes and dove in, then the teenagers and finally the grownups. A few women kept their suits on, but the fadeout scene was nude and clothed people playing in the Pond as if it was a normal thing to do."
"The character development is also good. The four of them would be proud for the most part. How they worked together, how they helped people when they could, all good stuff."
"The piece with people going at dusk to watch Sputnik and Explorer zipping through the sky outside Bix's cabin was also really good."
"Seems all right so far," said Jud, "Where are the problems?"
"The director edited it so all the men seemed either evil or buffoons. There were some bad people, but without the support of the old mayor and businessmen in town, all the work they did could have been flushed down the toilet. They also did silly things, but more from trying to charm and entertain, not because they were stupid. Romy wants it more balanced."
"The big thing is that they want to expand it to when Edna was dying, not stopping in the 60s before the hippies and counterculture started.
Romy told them if the first part was reasonably successful, they could start a sequel after the JFK assassination and run it from there. Show how Vietnam drove people apart instead and how it took a long time for our town to accept differences instead of vilifying them a lot sooner than the rest of the country."
"That makes sense," said Karl. "So how did they fit in Bix into all this?"
"He was part of a short piece saying that while many still came to the Pond, others chose to go to nudist clubs, which had more activities. A minute or two just to show that nude living wasn't just a wartime aberration. They changed him a bit. Made him a beatnik type, who liked jazz and folk singers instead of country and of course he had to marry a beautiful stranger instead of a girl he met at church."
"They wanted a piece about Edna and Portia saving some kid from juvenile delinquency, and wanted to drop Cordelia's and Portia's 'friendship'. Juvenile delinquency here was putting a bag of cow manure at a front door and lighting it on fire, small potatoes. Romy asked them if they wanted an honest story of life in the 50s or a modern version of 'Ozzie and Harriet'. Since she has creative control written into her contract, and a financial stake, everything is on hold until they make peace."
"The movie people just thought Romy was a naive writer who would be awe struck by Hollywood and wouldn't dare challenge them." Inga said. "She is soft spoken and quiet, but has an iron will. Edna would be proud of her."
Back in Los Angeles, some things had been hammered out. The movie would end with the death of Edna's second husband in 1962. Portia and Cordelia's friendship would neither be ignored nor made explicit. Romy liked a subtle touch. The sequence with the two women working together ended with them dressed to the nines walking into a Foggy City first run movie house holding hands.
"All you have to do now is figure out how to make the men act real instead of like Elmer Fudd or Judge Doom. When that's done, we can show it to the people."
Posted: Apr 3, 2012
|Many other things had taken place from the time Elke's twins turned one until they went to school.|
Jack divided his time between Heartland and The Farm. That summer, he began his training of Cheyenne who had passed her CPA exam and would eventually take over the reins at The Farm.
Heather, unfortunately, did not fare well. After years of substance abuse, her liver failed and she had passed away the previous winter.
Jeff and Angie's twins were at college, one studying web design, the other optometry. Jade and Ruby Greywolf went off to nursing school. They dated exclusively, but the girls hadn't figured out which twin they wanted to marry.
Mo Saunders started college in New England. The last her mother heard from her she was living in an artist’s commune in New York with a man thirty years her senior. Jeannine's son Jacques was a mechanic in town. Her daughter Francine had just graduated high school and was working with Ruthie in the gardens. Lilith Elder finished college and had returned to work at the non-profit as a social worker. Her older brother Larry was living in Arizona, while the two youngest were still at home. She lived Edna's. Olga's daughter Gretchen was at Worthington, while son Ivan had gained early admission to MIT in physics at age 16.
Bekka had finally married her man from Heartland, lived six months there and six months at The Farm. Naomi was happily single, a licensed relationship therapist who had plenty of love in her life. Dora, approaching forty, had finally found the balance between intellect and libido. A psychic had recently told her she would have a partner in her life very soon. Dora was skeptical.
Of the Svenson children, Karl and Em's Christine had survived high school. She played softball and swam, had lots of boyfriends and walked the tightrope between playful and mischievous. She had made it into state college and had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. Sven and Heidi's Abby and Mikkel were at Montessori. She liked watching birds, butterflies and taking pictures. He liked anything with a motor. Eric Jr. was in high school and loved computers. He transferred to a high school close to Granite Lake to be closer to his dying brother. Reed's sister Bethany, at six was showing signs of superior musical talent. She could play simple pieces on the piano, and told her father that she wanted to play the saxophone when she got bigger. "Just like that old guy who used to be president." she said.
Labor Day week was approaching and everyone came home for that. The topic of conversation was Bix's new wife. Who she was, what was she like, and above all, would Cheyenne be able to deal with it.
Bix had met her years ago and had confided in her after the breakup with Cheyenne. She was a good listener, made no demands, offering gentle friendly advice. She went to college in Arizona, not far from Bix. They went out and Bix found himself getting more and more comfortable in her presence. He had dated other girls, including Mo and Lilith, so he knew she wasn't a rebound friend. She also understood the difference between personal life and the social obligations ball players had with the fans.
When he signed his contract after two years at college, he asked if she would be exclusive with him. She agreed. He asked her to marry him during spring training, and they were married two Julys later at The Farm.
Cheyenne was invited, but chose instead to go on a nude beach weekend with the Young Nudists.
She returned home to pack her belongings for the trip west. Jud and Sally had sent her pictures of her new home that she and Bix had designed together. She was excited and happy, ready for the next chapter of her life. It was under these circumstances that Molly TwoEagles, nee Greer, drove from Heartland to join the man she loved.
Posted: Apr 9, 2012
Karl had kept his word about over booking events. The volleyball tournament, now in July, would be moved to Memorial Day weekend. In its place, the tennis tournament and special children's activities would be held, along with the arts show. Labor Day week was softball and the Car Show on Sunday.
The traditional sixteen-team tournament for the 18-30 teams still stood. However, Mac and Elke had added a few wrinkles. With three fields, the games now were starting on Wednesday, with only the four group winners advancing. They listened to feedback, which revealed that the younger girls
felt left out, and that the older women wanted to play, but not the grueling tournament schedule.
What was agreed on was unique. The young players signed up in advance, and were randomly picked by computer, by position. They were assigned by the color of hat they would receive upon arrival.
The older women agreed on four teams. The younger crowd would play each other twice each, with their final an hour after the adults. Finally, the tournament final would be after lunch, followed by mud ball before the medal presentations. In this way, no one would miss a final game because of a scheduling conflict, which made both children and parents happy.
Karl was also smart enough to share the wealth. Sun n' Fun had their swimming weekend because they had more pools. The junior Farm team, the Kowgirls, had made the trip to Kansas to play in the Bluebell tournament at Paradise on the Plains. The soccer tournament went to a club in Oregon.
Libby had also had a brainstorm. "Why not combine Farm and Town players?
We both have enough for one team of our own, but not enough for two. It's not like the women don't know each other. They go to school, socialize, and work together. Why not play softball as well?"
"How do we choose who goes where?" asked Mac.
"We'll let them decide."
The women who had children made up the merged team. "Our spouses can watch the kids while we play," said Elke, "The others like kids, but right now they like them better after they go home."
Sven, Heidi and the children returned on Sunday morning.
"The weather was warm there for August," Sven said, "It is like February here, but it was in the 70s the whole time. Wait till you see Heidi and the kids," he told Jeannine. "They went to the nude beach for a while every morning and in late afternoon with Allan's children, who are about the same age and have lots of friends. I was surprised, but Heidi chilled out and would just soak up the sun and people watch instead of running around like she usually does."
"So what did you do?" Jeannine asked. "As if I didn't know."
"Kept up with things here. Did a little ocean fishing. Took afternoon
naps with Heidi. Did some tourist stuff."
"And you were up in the middle of the night asking me if there were any problems. I would have told you everything was fine even if the office had burned down. Besides, Libby, Karl and Inga helped me out."
Sven gave her a kiss on the forehead. "You are wonderful, you know. Have I ever told you that?"
"All the time." She appreciated it more than he realized.
Abby and Mikkel bounded into the office. Abby, now thirteen, was short like her mother. Her hair had blond streaks and her eyebrows were bleached from the Australian sun. Mikkel, at eight, was thin and constantly on the go like his mother.
"Hey, mate." he said to Jeannine.
"Sorry, Jeannine. I forgot I wasn't in Perth anymore."
"Hi, Jeannine." said Abby. "We had a wonderful time. Mom and Dad should take you with us next time. You'd really love it. Dad, when are the Bluebells coming and what team am I on for softball?"
"You are on the Blue team. Rock, Lexxie and Toto's Girls will be here around suppertime. You will be able to tell when Rock starts throwing steaks on the grill. The rest of their caravan won't be here until early Wednesday. Tomorrow will be very busy. I want you to help Libby and Mac
put up signs in the morning and work with Reed, Karl and Jud in the afternoon getting people where they are supposed to be after their vehicles are parked."
"They are so old and slow," said Mikkel. "Abby, you will be miserable.
At least I get to pick vegetables with Tosh and Moonie. They make me laugh."
"They are very good and helpful, especially to the new people. Besides, Reed, Tara and Tanya TwoEagles are helping too . We have to make sure they don't get too tired."
Jeannine told them. "Remember, if anyone is sick or hurt, send them to the clinic right away. Sick pets, send to Brigitte. The Cafe, store and diner will be open till nine Monday through Wednesday until the food booths are running full steam. Remember all that?"
"If I don't, Reed will. By the way, any change in Peter?"
Sven shook his head. Abby made a sad face and sighed. "He is such a nice little boy. Why can't just mean people get sick like that? I'm off to find Mac and see if I can help. See you at supper."
Posted: Apr 10, 2012
|Missy came to visit Marta on Tuesday. She asked about Peter.|
"He is not good. I am leaving next Monday to be with him."
"Is he well enough to travel? We can keep him comfortable here if you want to bring him home. We have four nurses on the grounds, plus Rosie and Dawn. I can get more if we need them."
"His last set of treatments will be done by the end of September. After that, they said all they can do is make sure he has no pain. Selfishly, I'd like him here with us for one more Christmas. Anyway, why do you want to go through all this agony?"
"If it weren’t for you, I wouldn't have a husband, a beautiful daughter and a wonderful place to live. I wouldn't be standing here in my 60s, nothing on but shoes and loving it. Olga feels the same way, as do the other women. We owe you more than any money we could ever give you. We want to help."
Marta hugged her, kissed her cheeks and began to cry. "I really would like to bring him home. I would rather have him spend his last days watching the birds and the animals and us instead of staring at a hospital ceiling surrounded by strangers."
"So do we. For all of you. For him. Dr. Yoshi said he would be available to help and we already have Doc Elder and Maia."
"Let me talk with Eric and the doctors. If we can move him, we will. Thank you, all of you, for this. Momma and Poppa will appreciate it as much as I do."
Molly arrived at the gate just after sunrise on Tuesday. She slid in the card and slowly drove in. She saw a white haired woman, playing ball with a dog, slowed down and rolled down the window.
"Hi, I hope you can help me. I'm Molly, Bix' wife. Where can I park the van?"
"I'm Polly and this is Sunshine. You drove here all alone? Where are your parents?"
"They are working and couldn't take the time off. You know how lawyers are."
Polly did and she didn't have much use for them.
"Jud and Sally are early birds. I'll text them and let them know you are here. Park in back of the diner. The showers are in back of the office if you need to clean up."
"Thanks that would be good. I'd like coffee too. Do I need to grab some clothes to go into the diner?"
"Nope. Just grab a towel to sit on and something on your feet. The dog and I will join you."
She took her travel kit with her and headed off. Polly laughed when she saw Molly dump her old cutoffs and shirt in the trash barrel. She texted Sally. "Daughter in law here. Meet us at the diner. Don't think she's eaten a real meal since she left Heartland."
Molly emerged smelling of soap and shampoo. "Much better. You look like
my grandma. How old are you, Sixty-five?"
"You flatter me. I turned 88 on the 4th of July. I exercise, eat right,
and keep myself busy. Got a little arthritis, but that's to be expected.
The doctors tell me the rest of me is just well used and not broken."
"So how long have you been here?"
"Longer than anyone. I grew up here."
"Wow. Then you have known Bix forever."
"Yes. He's a fine young man. May I make a suggestion?"
"He loves dogs. You should get one soon, a puppy so it gets to know both of you together. Go see the vet, Dr. Paul, when you get settled. He'll know what to do. Besides, it will be good company when Bix isn't home."
Polly went into the diner and put up one hand and a thumb. "Six coffees.
They come black. You add what you want," she explained.
There were a few regulars at the counter, dressed for work.
"Don't they mind?" Molly asked.
"No. We all get along, and accept each other as we are. Those two on the end live here. The other two don't mind, but feel uncomfortable being nude in large groups."
The arrival of Jud, Sally, Karl and Inga ended the discussion.
After hugs and handshakes, Jud said, "Glad you got here early. I've got a crew coming in an hour to help you unload. We'll have about two hours before people start checking in."
Just before seven, Moonie and Cheyenne were walking to work. There was a
buzz around the office.
"What's going on?" Moonie asked. "Early arrivals?"
"Just one. Bix's wife just arrived with all her stuff and we are helping her unload. There's a big assembly line set up so it shouldn't take too long." said Heidi. "Want a ride to go see?"
Moonie hopped in. "Coming?" she asked her daughter.
"No." she scowled darkly. "I have work to do."
"Suit yourself, Cheyenne. All you are doing is making things worse."
Cheyenne turned into the office, shut the blinds and turned on the music.
Posted: Apr 12, 2012
|"Now that looks really nice," said Molly.|
Lemon yellow curtains had just been hung to offset the rust brown walls and hunter green living room set. Jud and Karl had just finished putting the king sized bed together and Sally was making the bed with blue sheets to match the wall coloring and the white vertical blinds.
Molly looked in the fridge. Both it and the freezer were packed.
"Bix told us what you liked and we stocked it. Don't worry about cooking for the next few days. People will be bringing things when they drop by to say hello, and the food court this weekend has all kinds of goodies you can take home." Sally said.
"Anything else you need?" asked Inga. She looked at the clock. "It's nearly two thirty. Let’s take a break and watch the kids on their way home from school."
Marta had come with beer, food and soft drinks. They sat on blankets, ate drank and relaxed in the afternoon sun.
"Reed and Tara get out at 2. They are already helping the new arrivals get situated. The Kansas crowd is all settled, Wyoming is here and half of the Oregon team. One of their vans got a flat and won't be here for a few more hours."
"Where's Romy? I thought she would be here," asked Inga.
"Apparently, the movie studio reshot a few scenes and sent them here for her approval. Things must have been done right. She said she would be coming by after she got her daughter at school. Said she'd rather tell everyone at once."
At that moment, a black and white figure flew through the fields, zigzagging downhill towards the school.
"What was that?" asked Molly.
"My baby sister Elke's dog, Lil' Mike. Runs like a fool down to the school. Stands on hind legs, looks in the windows and yips when he sees the twins and Johann. Then runs around the school looking for a way in until he hears the bell ring. Then he herds them to the top of the hill where Elke, Rafi or Maia meets them."
Jud and Karl had left the house party and were returning to help Reed, Libby and Sven park the visitors. Jud got beeped. He read the text and frowned.
"Bix got spiked last night. The doctor checked him and rather than have him
play, the big club decided to send him home. Only three games left and they
aren't going to make the playoffs. Guess they didn't want to risk him aggravating it. Too bad though. He only needed one more stolen base to hit 50."
"You going to tell Sally?"
"He asked me not to. Not Molly either. He wants it to be a surprise. He'll
be here tomorrow."
They spent the rest of the afternoon directing visitors to their sites.
Elke rounded up the children and dog and headed to check out the commotion.
"Hey, Momma, how's it going?"
"Very well. You're cooking tonight. The rest of us are too tired."
"Maia and I are cooking. Rafi is making sure nothing burns. Rick went to get a keg and soft drinks. We are set up so you can eat at the picnic tables or inside. Sevenish after softball practice for dinner. Snacks
at five thirty. Is that ok with you and Poppa?"
"We may eat early inside. Your father and Jud will be exhausted and we want to make sure they don't overdo it. Reed either. They are not young roosters anymore."
"We have to make sure they have enough energy to keep their hens happy
"Elke, you are fresh, but yes." Inga laughed.
Elke reminded Katie about practice, and without thinking, said it would be fine for her to bring Molly along.
"After practice, we shower and eat. Molly needs a break. She and Bix have all winter to rearrange the furniture."
Cheyenne had finished work, showered, had a snack, grabbed her glove, and headed out towards the field. Playing softball helped her relax and she loved her team. Win or lose, Labor Day weekend had always been fun. She spotted someone as she turned down the cart path.
"No, no, no. Please don't let that be her."
Posted: Apr 14, 2012
|Elke was hitting fungoes to the outfield when she saw Cheyenne drop her glove, scream and start running towards third base, where Molly was taking relays. She intercepted her, put her over her shoulder and carried her deep into the outfield.|
"Have you lost your mind?" Elke said.
"Why is SHE here?"
"She plays ball too or don't you remember telling me how good she was."
"That was in high school. She steals Bix, now she is on the team, I have nothing now."
"You know that is not true. We need you more than ever now that Melody retired and I am catching. As shortstop, you are my second in command. Molly is only playing third because Muffin has to work late tonight."
"Why does she have to be here at all?"
"Because she lives here now, Katie invited her and we always need players. You better stop acting like a crazy woman. You are only going to hurt yourself."
"I don't care."
"We do. You are excused from practice. Go home. I'll be over after supper to speak with you. This has to stop. I'll bring your glove when I come."
Cheyenne respected Elke more than anyone outside her family and she complied. Elke watched her go slowly across the field towards the Pond.
When she turned back towards the field, the team was milling around.
"You aren't going to get sharp walking in circles. Katie, run infield.
Molly, a word."
Molly didn't know what to think. "I'll leave if it will make things better."
"No. Stop feeling sorry for her. Cheyenne is broken. Instead of coddling or avoiding her, we have to try and fix her. Get your glove and go back in the field. I have to think."
After practice, she swore the team to secrecy. After she ate, she brought a plate to Cheyenne, who was curled up on the couch. It was obvious she had been crying.
"You need to eat. Then you can tell me what else is bothering you."
Cheyenne picked at her food and began to talk. "My father has always joked that the last one at home would have to stay to take care of them when they get old. When the twins got engaged, he said it directly to me, and that he was serious."
"We had a big fight. I mean he and Mom aren't even fifty, and they are very healthy. He said you never know when something might happen, and that he would make sure I would stay."
"So that's why you were so protective and clingy with Bix, because you didn't want to be the one left behind."
"Part of it. The other was I wasn't really ready for an intimate relationship. We would have been better staying friends, but I forced the issue. The twins were way ahead of me."
"Tell me about it. Mine are only six and they scare me already. Why didn't you tell Bix? He would have understood."
"By that time, it was too late. He would have thought I was just trying another trick to get him back. I know he will always love me. As bad as I was, when he got his signing bonus, he bought me a car and that amulet I had always wanted, because he had promised me when he was eleven."
"He takes his promises seriously."
"And he has never lied to me, in spite of my jealousy."
"I will try and help you. But you are going to have to apologize to Molly,
one on one and in front of the team. I meant it when I said I need you on the field. By the way, no one else knows what happened. I wanted to give you a chance to redeem yourself."
"Don't confront my parents. They will deny it, and then make my life hell at home. Last argument we had, Dad kept waking me up at two in the morning to get him a drink of ice water, even though the carafe was right next to him."
"I won't unless I have to. Now go wash your face. Your makeup is running."
The following morning Cheyenne walked down to Molly's and apologized. Then to the team. The team was still a bit uneasy, but they thrashed their first opponent. Molly went in as a substitute in the late innings with a temporary owl tattoo.
During the break, Elke went to speak with Romy and Jen.
Posted: Apr 16, 2012
|Lisa, Romy and Jen were sipping wine with cotton between their toes.|
"They do a good job," Romy said. "Nice and even and no crazy colors except for the sparkles on the big toe."
"Misha and Freya are very good. Of course they have us to practice on." Jen said.
"They are growing up. You will be grandmothers before you know it."
"More kids to spoil. I hope we have enough energy." Lisa mused.
"At least you will be together to see it. I don't know if Reed will make it."
"Romy, look at him. Nice and brown, he walks, swims and gets away from the computer to do things. Remember how he wheezed, coughed, and was pasty white when he first came here. If you hadn't taken such good care of him, he wouldn't be here now."
"He takes very good care of me. It's a mutual adoration relationship."
"You look lots better too. I bet you haven't gained ten pounds since I first met you."
"Eight. You have put on a little weight, both of you, but you look very content."
"You mean we look fat? I'm gonna go get dressed." Jen laughed.
"Nope, just right. Plus living nude we don't have to worry about how many sizes of clothes we have in the closet." Romy replied.
"We still need some clothes." Lisa said. "See how far you get running around nude outside when it's ten below."
Elke arrived with a serious look on her face.
"Don't tell me you lost?" Romy said.
"Nope. Just want to bounce something off you. Jen, how is your Dad doing keeping up with the work?"
"Jack does well, but he is slowing down. It is a good thing he saves everything on the computer because he is starting to forget. Why do you ask?"
Elke explained Cheyenne's situation. "I know Jack goes to Florida as soon as it gets cold. Maybe Cheyenne could go with him. He could get her up to speed on the accounting, and she could keep an eye on him. She won't get better until she gets away for a while. She can go back with you after the holidays. You are coming to Jeff and Angie’s?"
"Yes, cooking with Angie and Maddy makes Christmas easier for me since Heather is gone. That sounds like a plan. I'll have Nikki find her a place to stay." Jen said.
Elke sighed with relief. "That was easy. Poppa, I mean Sven, is going to have to find another accountant for here then."
"Have you seen my son?" asked Romy.
"Yes, he and Tara are eating ice cream and waiting to play volleyball. Strange how they are so different and get along so well. Gotta go, have to give someone good news. See you at the oyster bar at six."
"So, how is the movie battle going?" asked Lisa.
"It is a little better. They reshot scenes we wanted with the mayor being
one who incorporated Edna's group's ideas into his long-range vision for the town. From a personal view, I took the old mayor, the one that was here when we got here and used his personality for the character. There is a good sequence where it goes back and forth with the women giving what they saw as needs for the town and then the mayor bouncing it off the male business community. Replacing the old cast iron stoves and ice boxes with new appliances in the general store, for instance."
"Like they did with the music and record store a few years ago, replacing it with the electronic sound systems and computer and vid music stuff."
"Right and moving all the old stuff to the antique stores for those who
needed spare parts or were into a retro look for man caves or other retail shops. Like the Wurlitzer jukebox at the diner. A dinosaur by modern standards, but still pretty cool." said Romy.
Their conversation was interrupted by Reed, Bethany, Tara, Misha and Freya
spraying them with water guns.
"Do you still have those water pistols?" asked Jen.
"Yup. Let's get them and give them a taste of their own medicine."
Children and grownups spent the rest of the afternoon chasing each other across the grounds.
Posted: Apr 18, 2012
|That afternoon, Mac had finished giving final instructions to the youth teams at the soccer field.|
One girl stood up. "We think this is a great idea, letting us all get to know each other while we play. But why can't boys play too?"
Mac was stuck. Libby came to the rescue and replied, "We never thought of it and no one has ever mentioned it before. What do you have in mind?"
"Why not find out who wants to play and divide them up. No one who plays on a school team. No catchers, because they are kinda vulnerable playing nude. Most of us have played on mixed dressed teams at home, so it wouldn't be something new."
Mac smiled. "What I will do is send people around to find out who wants to play and have them sign up at the Cafe. We will have a draft at supper, and they will join your teams for tomorrow's games."
The girls and a few boys who had tagged along cheered.
"If anyone has a problem with this, please see me after the assembly. Players, remember this is an experiment. How well it works and whether it will continue into the future is entirely up to you."
One or two of the teams objected one because they didn't want to disrupt
the team chemistry, another because they simply believed that athletics should be gender separate.
"We are worried about distractions, injuries and teenage hormones. We will play, but will pass at the draft."
Mac agreed. The great Co-Ed Softball experiment had begun.
Eric had spoken with the doctors and Peter would be coming home in stages, first stopping at the Mayo Clinic for a few days before flying back to The Farm. He would be home for Thanksgiving. Eric Jr. would stay at Granite Lake and return for the holidays. He was doing well in school and loved
the change of seasons in New England.
"The first Svenson who loved winter," his mother joked. "He made backup goalie on the hockey team, and is doing very well in school. My in-laws have someone to spoil full time. It will help them to have him around."
Jud picked up Bix at the train station after sunset. Bix saw the worry on his father's face when he saw the bandage wrapped around his leg and said, "Dad, it's ok. No worse than when you cut your leg on the plow blade and not as deep. You can look when I go see Maia to get the dressing changed."
They went to see Sally and his sister first. His mother thought he had grown and gotten more muscular. His sister teased him for having tan lines. They fussed over his injury.
Bix undressed and started to throw his clothes in the laundry basket.
"Oops. Wrong house." He winked and put them in his laundry bag.
Jud took him to Maia's and she quickly examined the wound, and saw it was healing normally.
"I see no need to rewrap it now. If it starts seeping or looks infected, come back right away. You have antibiotics and as long as you are careful, you should be fine."
He got off the table and Maia gave him a hug.
"Welcome back. We miss you. Come see us soon. Now go home and surprise your wife."
Bix and Jud walked until the path separated. They hugged and shook hands.
"Breakfast at Marta's seven sharp. See you then."
Bix walked to his new home and knocked on the door.
"Who is it?" Molly asked
"Special delivery, ma'am," he said in a deep voice.
She opened the door, said, “You are a really special delivery.”, and wrapped herself around him.
"Molly, this is very nice, but don't you think we should close the door before we go any further?"
She pushed it shut with her foot. "Good?"
Posted: Apr 21, 2012
|Polly was sitting on the porch, eating scrambled eggs and melon while feeding Sunshine sliced carrots and peppers. Karl and Jud had finished their oatmeal, now working on fresh apple muffins and sipping their second cup of coffee.|
Jud looked at the clock as Bix and Molly trotted down the path.
"Three minutes to spare," he said. "The leg mustn't be too bad. He was running easily. Where will they be today?"
"Bix will help Mac, and Molly volunteered to help anywhere she was needed when she doesn't have a game. I'll move her around so she gets to experience all the weekend activities."
Molly gave everyone hugs and Bix shook hands with the men,picked up Polly and swung her around before he went in for breakfast.
"Whooo, he sure knows how to make a girl feel wanted," Polly laughed.
Everyone inside was lined up at the buffet. Elke said to Molly. "Nine thirty, Montessori field."
Marta scolded, "No business until after eating. You know the rules. Bix, get over here so I can give you a big squeeze."
Heidi was nagging Sven about overeating. Reed and Romy were feeding each other in between kisses.
"What's with them?" someone asked.
"They woke up that way," Bethany said. "Mom said they have a case of silly love this morning." She was eating at a small table with Sofie, Antonio, and Johann.
Inga and Sally thought it sweet. Em whispered something in Karl's ear and made him blush.
Abby, young Reed, Tara and Christine were washing pots and pans, cleaning the stove and clearing tables. Mikkel was putting dishes in the dishwasher.
"Is it always this way?" Molly asked Katie as she drank her juice.
"Pretty much. Jud's daughter Tasha will help Marta and Sally set up at the Food Court, so that is why she is relaxing. We all had our chores at breakfast when we were their age." Karl told her. "Just like our parents before us. When everyone is done eating, Gramps comes and gives us our duties for the day."
It was nearly eight when Karl came in.
"Thank you to all the cooks for a wonderful breakfast. Now we have enough fuel to get us through the morning."
"Heidi, go with Polly and get the children settled at the Pond. You are in charge when she and Sunshine go on their tours. Karl and Em will help Jeannine. The cleanup crew will go help Ruthie pick veggies and deliver them. She already has the list. When you finish, the rest of the day is yours."
"All the softball players will work with Romy and Elke making sure all the athletes have snacks and drinks. Bix, you are helping Mac. Molly, I want you to help Marta and Sally this morning at the Food Court. This afternoon, you will work with Jeannine while Karl and Em conduct the walking tours. Jud and Reed will be with me. We will be setting up for the Car Show after we get our RV guests situated. My love Inga will be making our guests feel at home as she always does."
"As long as we can go 'fishing' later,"
"I hope all of you still love fishing as much as we do when you get to be our age," Karl laughed.
"We will meet back here for lunch at noon."
By eight o'clock, the cabin was nearly empty.
Inga said to the remaining women, "One more cup of coffee before we leave. Molly, Katie, load up the carts for us, then go to your game. The vegetables should be there by the time you are done. Salad for three hundred means a lot of slicing and chopping."
Posted: Apr 23, 2012
|Elke was apprehensive as she drove the equipment cart to the field. She wondered if her talk with Cheyenne had had any effect. She need not have worried. Cheyenne had apologized in front of the team and hugged Molly. As Elke drove over the rise, she saw the team having a group hug. The tension left her body. |
The team bonding improved the play of the Owls. They beat a very good team from Colorado easily. Elke tried to keep the team grounded.
"You played like stars today. We need to stay focused. Four games in the next two days in order to make the medal round. I hear Toto's Girls are even better this year, and the team from Oregon with the bright green shoes is outstanding. Don't forget Libby's team either. Their defense is amazing and Alice can still hit the ball halfway to town."
Rima Ostreyko, the star pitcher said, "They will be playing after lunch. Our game isn't until five. We should go check them out."
"Now go help Mac and Bix with deliveries. This way you can scout all the teams. We are playing at Owl field this afternoon. Be there by four thirty."
She found Lil' Mike chasing birds around the Galt's barn. He hopped in the cart. They went to visit Rafi in his studio.
No one had been allowed in the studio for months. When Elke walked in, she gasped.
"They look alive. Spectacular. Are they done?"
There were three sculptures, life sized. One was of Polly, wearing her fishing hat, sandals and nothing else, hand extended.
"I hope the measurements were right. I want that hand to fit right on Mikie's shoulder when we set it."
"It will. You only checked it nine times. Now the other two are just as I remember them when I was little."
Karl and Inga were holding hands. Inga was laughing and Karl was looking at her in the same loving way he had for nearly fifty years.
"You have outdone yourself. World class nudes." She closed the curtains and put the "Artist at Work: Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.
"We have an hour until lunch. Time for your reward."
Karl, Jud and Reed were chatting with Reuben Galt as they waited for the latest visitors to check in.
"I finally got it restored. I'll bring that old tractor you've been pestering me about over to the show. 1947 John Deere, they don't make them like that anymore. What's this I hear you've got Earnhart and Petty race cars coming?"
"Yup. One of our Arizona visitors bought them at Barret-Jackson in January. Thought it would be fun to show them off here."
"Outstanding. By the way, what's on the menu tonight? I get sick of eating my own cooking since the missus died and I hate imposing on my sons."
"Russian potpourri, lasagna and eggplant parmesan along with meatballs, sausage and pasta, salad and an oyster bar." Reed said.
"Lunch is chicken in a salad, Hungarian goulash, fish and chips, and a few Chinese dishes. By tomorrow, there will be about thirty food booths up and running, so you can stock your fridge."
"Sounds good. Mind if I walk with you? We can eat, swap tall tales and play cribbage until I go watch Alice play."
Romy was getting cranky from all the tweets she was getting from the studio. They were asking questions about issues that had been decided months ago. Finally, she tweeted back, "Put it together and schedule a preview for here on the 19th before public release. Will see after how much more work you have to do. I am working and advise you do same."
The co-ed experiment was working well, she thought. The kids were having fun. Of course, there was flirting, but nothing inappropriate. There would be a few weekend romances of course, but that was natural for clothed teenagers as well as nude ones.
She approached the Food Court and saw that lunch was almost ready. She asked Polly, "Queen of the Raft today?"
"One performance. Either the kids are getting bigger or I am getting weaker. I just don't have the stamina I used to."
The electronic gong went off and people began to line up for their meal.
Posted: Apr 25, 2012
|With all the activity, no one paid attention to Melody's cart traveling back and forth to the garage. |
She had prepared the storage area all summer before she filled the space. When she was finished, she stopped at Dora's.
"Come to the house. There is something I want you to see."
When Dora entered, she found that every trace of her late husband was gone. All that was left was the kitchen set she had bought herself.
"Katie and Molly are coming to the garage tomorrow to see if they want anything. Otherwise, the furniture bank is picking everything up on Tuesday. I've repainted the whole place. The new bedroom set arrives Saturday. The dog and I are sharing blankets and a bedroll until then."
"Rafi is installing new bookcases and shelving. The living room set will be a big difference, earthy colors instead of bordello black and red. It’s time for me to start living again."
Dora was shocked. "You sure?"
"No, that's why everything is going. I don't want to have a moment of weakness and drag everything back."
"What about all the pictures and stuff?"
"I sent a bunch to his sister, have a few albums in the garage. Only thing here is a framed nude shot of us on our honeymoon. It's in the closet."
As they moved outside, the older women were wandering down to the softball field to play their game.
"Wanna play?" one asked. "We have plenty of gloves, designated runners and we'll sub for you if you need a rest for an inning or two."
"Let me get my glove," Melody said. "Dora, can you watch the dog? Oh, and if you have any extra men hanging around, send a few to me."
"I'll send them all. I've changed my criteria. No more Prince Charming’s or bad boys. They spend too much time in the mirror, they usually don't have a job and they lie. I want someone more like me."
"You mean sexy, flirty, smart as a whip and sweet?"
"Smart and sweet would be fine. Have fun playing. See you later."
She headed towards the Pond.
Tara was helping her mother clean up after lunch.
"Reed and I are going to climb the platform so we can see everything that is going on. Then we are going to play volleyball with the other kids when the court is shaded. This way we will be close to the food when supper is ready."
"Why aren't you hanging around with the other kids? You see Reed every day."
"Look at me. I am like you were before you bloomed. Fat. Some of the kids are mean and tease me but Reed never does. He tells me his mother said you looked the same way, and you became gorgeous. You still are."
"Thank you, Tara." Marta said. "I was a little butterball too and in one year I sprouted and bloomed. I don't think it will be long for you. Reed
is good to be so supportive."
"We watch each other’s backs. No one is gonna mess with us." She gave a terrible Tara look, giggled, and then ran off to Romy's.
“That’s not an idle threat," said Inga. "It doesn't matter what path their lives take. They combine their strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses."
"Then I won't have to worry about Tara the teenager, Momma?"
"I didn't say that. She will be a handful. Like you were. But they will be anchors for each other so they don't drift too far off course."
Posted: Apr 29, 2012
|Elke was proud of the team she had assembled. Katie was in left field, Lola Castro, who had moved from Florida, was in center, and Michelle Hayes, the daughter of Luther and Allison, one of the African American families at the Farm was in right. Tabitha O'Brien at third, Cheyenne at short, Jennifer Huang at second and the six foot two first baseman, Lisa Montrose, one of her former students now living here with her husband. Rima pitched, and Gretchen Stein was the rover. A United Nations team, all in their twenties, who played with the same edge and spirit as she did.|
She wouldn't be playing much longer, she thought. At 35, she had lost a step and her bat wasn't as fast as it once was. Players calling her an old lady and grandma only added to the intensity with which she played. The first round had been an easy one and Elke was able to substitute freely. It gave the subs a chance to play and the starters to rest in the 90+-degree heat.
In the semifinal round against a team from Colorado, Elke was flying around third base when she felt a twinge in her ankle. She thought it was a normal stretching, but by the sixth inning, she was having trouble squatting behind the plate.
"Just a little sprain, ladies. We're far enough ahead so I can take myself out. I'll ice it down and be good as new tomorrow."
The team withstood a furious rally and pulled the game out by one run.
Back at home, Maia took a look and gave her a look. "For someone who is supposed to be so smart, you are an idiot. Why didn't you go to the hospital and get it checked out? It is more swollen than when you were pregnant. You know it is more than a sprain."
"I'll ice it down and you are going to wrap it tight tomorrow so I can play. I'll switch with Lisa and play first so I don't have to squat. I’ll go to the hospital after they unveil Momma and Poppa's statues Sunday at the award ceremony."
"I should make you go now, but you are too stubborn. I want the ankle elevated, ice on and off every twenty minutes. I'll wrap it so you don't have to hobble to dinner. I will tell Rafi to make sure you do what you are told."
"Maia, you are a mean doctor."
"No. I'm being honest. I'm concerned that you may have damaged your Achilles tendon. If it is bad, your physical activity may be sharply curtailed for a year. I know how miserable that would make you. I am your best friend, not just your doctor."
Elke hugged her. "I know you have my best interests at heart. Don't tell Rafi. He is putting the finishing touches on the statues. It is very important to him to have them perfect. I promise to behave."
Their opponent the next day was an old rival, Toto's Girls. With their
junior program tutored by former players, they had won the tournament
twice in the last five years while Elke's Owls had only been to the finals once.
"We win today and we will be even at three championships each," said Elke.
"A good way to finish my full time playing career."
"They are bigger and faster than we were, or are we just getting slower?"
replied Sammi. "I think maybe a little of both. So what's that bandage for?
Looking for sympathy? You won't get any until after the game."
"A little sprain, that’s all. I'll be fine."
"Right. It looks like a football with toes under that wrap. Good luck. I'll bring my husband and daughter over afterwards when I come to get my victory beer."
They hugged and went off to huddle with their teams.
It was a tight game, as it always was when the two rivals played. In the seventh, tied at one, Elke hit a screaming liner to right center. Ordinarily it would have been a triple or homer. Elke barely made it to second. She called time and took herself out of the game for a pinch runner. She gathered the team around her.
"Ladies, I can't take a chance of causing permanent damage. Don't give up.
Remember all the things we have taught you and how good you have become.
There is no 'I' in team. Work together and you can win. Now please get me some ice."
With the temperature approaching 100, the game continued, tied at two in the tenth, three in the fourteenth and finally into the seventeenth, the longest championship game in tournament history. Elke propped herself up with a bat to give signals and move fielders.
In the bottom of the seventeenth, she approached Cheyenne.
"Look, everyone is exhausted. The field has dried out and is hard as a rock. Can you chop one down so it bounces over the third baseman's head?"
Cheyenne chopped it high in the air and didn't stop running until she reached second base. She took off her shoes and threw them to the bench.
Gretchen hit a dribbler to second while Cheyenne moved to third.
Katie was up next. She hit a lazy fly to the rover. Cheyenne tagged and
sprinted home. Her bare foot hit the catcher's glove as she slid into
home. Her hand touched the plate as the ball bounced to the ground.
The sprinklers were turned on as the celebration began.
Sammi walked over to congratulate Elke. "I thought they would cave after
you came out, but they gutted it out. Great game."
They sat and watched mud ball, then rode back together talking of how their lives had changed since they had first met.
Posted: May 4, 2012
When Polly let Sunshine out, she saw what had been done overnight. She sat down on a bench to catch her breath. Those bratty kids had set a statue of her next to Mikie. She had her hand on his shoulders as she always did when they stopped to talk with people. They remembered those old boats shoes she wore when they first arrived, and the twine around her waist with the pouch on the side where she kept doggie treats.
"I had forgotten that old sack," she thought.
"Well, what do you think, Sunshine? Good or bad?"
Sunshine sniffed the new item, lifted his leg and christened it. Polly clapped her hands and laughed.
"I take that as a sign of approval. I can't wait to see the looks on their faces when I tell them at breakfast." she cackled.
Everyone waited to see how Rafi would react.
"The art is for Polly. If she doesn't have a problem with it, neither do I."
Elke was eating quietly.
"My wife is not her usual self because they medicated her at the hospital. Sammi was good enough to take her for x-rays and other pictures.
No bones are broken; however, she has a severe sprain and tendinitis in her Achilles tendon. Thankfully, no surgery, but she will need rest,
therapy and until it is healed, she will have to wear shoes outside."
"Does that mean Mommy can't climb trees with us?" asked Antonio.
"Not until spring at the earliest. She may even have to cut back on softball."
"You will have to put me in a full body cast to do that," Elke snapped. "Nor are you going to stop me from tromping around doing field research.
You think Marta gets evil? Try treating me like an invalid."
Romy intervened. "Rafi, I know you are concerned and trying to be protective, but just think for a minute. Suppose a chisel slipped and sliced open your hand, and Elke told you, you could never sculpt again even after the hand healed. How would you feel?"
Rafi hit his head with the palm of his hand. Then kissed his wife.
"I'm sorry, it's just ..."
"I know." She gently grabbed his goatee and kissed him back. "Everything will be fine."
Heidi was also quiet, cooking; serving and helping the children clean up. She ignored Sven. Inga started to say something. Heidi put a finger to her lips and shook her head. This was Labor Day weekend, a happy fun time. Her news could wait.
"Almost everyone is still here," said Karl. "I guess they want one last good meal before they go home."
"The people at the Food Court don't want to take much back home with them, so there will be enough variety to satisfy even the pickiest eater." replied Inga. "So what is on today's schedule?"
"The older women are going to play softball this morning. At lunch, the kids will trade stuff with each other and take some final pictures. For those who are left for supper, hamburgs at the volleyball court or brats and sauerkraut by Rock and the Hanlons, chicken and salad bar at the Cafe."
Marta informed them. "Tomorrow we have to start cooking for ourselves again."
"Any word on Peter?" asked Polly.
"The two Eric’s and Peter spoke with Tara and I this morning. They are hopeful he will be home in a month." Marta replied.
"We are finished eating so we can talk business," Sven said. "Turnout was
about the same as last year, maybe a few more for the car show. Gate receipts are down because of the group discounts. I recommend they be eliminated next year. Biggest store sales were Farm tees and quality
print paper for pictures. We can make more money if we sell a lower grade paper next year."
"Sven, did we lose money?" his father asked
"No, we made a good profit. But we could make more."
"Did we have to withdraw interest on our investments or have any new loans?" young Karl inquired.
"No. But we could pay it off faster if we raised the annual fees across the board."
"So people like Maddy and Al and others who are on fixed income and have been living here for years would have to move out. Or young people who are just starting out would have to sell. You know first time home buyers have little wiggle room when they first get a mortgage." Em replied,
"We're running a business here, not a charity. The seniors can sell and move into town. If we cater to an older crowd, we can sell the houses for a higher price. Speaking of that, if we restrict the number of children, it will probably save on grounds maintenance. One more thing, a monthly pet charge to take care of the damage they do."
The room fell silent. Romy rose and spoke slowly. "Are you insane? You want to destroy Mom and Dad's dream of a unified naturist community and treat it simply as a business. First thing, because part of this is a non-profit, you have to spend most of the new fees on The Farm; it can't all go to your salary. Second, we don't need the money.
Except for the first year, we have made a profit even adjusting for inflation. The only outstanding debt we have is for the upgrades in the Wellness Center and the school, which we are ahead of schedule repaying."
Karl added, "Jud also told me you want to raise the employees pay ten percent but eliminate health care. Is that true?"
"They can go to the clinic or the Wellness Center for basic services. Eliminates a lot of paperwork here."
Karl looked angry and unhappy. "In that case, I am going to recommend against you taking my place."
"I already have the votes. You can't stop me."
"I can. We recommended you at the last meeting, but we can reconsider. We have the final say. Will everyone who is with me raise your hand?"
It was unanimous.
Heidi spoke last. "I didn't want to do this, but since my husband has ruined your day, I'll finish it."
She threw papers across the table. "I'm filing for divorce."
Posted: May 8, 2012
|There was an eerie silence.|
Sven's jaw dropped and his eyes widened.
"I finally got a reaction from you. I've been trying to talk to you for the last six months and you have kept putting me off.' Heidi said.
"But I haven't done anything," Sven replied.
"That's the point. You haven't done anything. You wake up, get your goodies from me, go to work, come home, and fall asleep in the chair. You missed Abby's eighth grade graduation and Mikkel's Science Fair project, which won a ribbon.
As for me, did you know I have won two teacher awards the last three years and you claimed you were too busy to come to the awards dinner.”?
"I was busy."
"Jeannine can run the place without you. Don't tell me you couldn't spare an hour or two for your family. Everyone else is busy and they make the time for their spouses and children."
"Do you want me to move out?"
"No. I'd prefer we work this out. But I won't stop the process until you make a commitment to rebuild our marriage."
"Why haven't you said anything before?" Sven asked.
"She has, Daddy," said Abby. "Lots of times. I guess you just weren't listening."
"We hear people talking and they say you care more about money than us." Mikkel said. "One of the kids told us his parents heard that if you could make more money, you would change it so we couldn't live nude anymore."
"Who was that, or are you making it up?" barked Sven.
"Mr. Skyler. He is building all those big houses near the highway and the apartment houses the next town over."
Karl looked at Romy.
"Dad, it's true. Two of the group members wondered why Sven was having lunch with him at the country club. They asked me if we had any new projects in the works."
Inga said later that she had never seen Karl that
"Sven, effective immediately, Jeannine is in charge of the day to day operation. I will ask Libby if she will take the deputy position temporarily. You will work for them. Your salary
will be half what it is now."
"I won't do it. I built up the business."
"How far do you think you would have gotten without our contacts, your wife's help and hard work, even to the point of getting herself in trouble, and Jeannine's dedication and devotion to you? Not to mention all Polly has done."
"Now if you were misguided, took bad advice or were merely floating ideas, please let us know now," Elke said. "Otherwise we have no choice but to go along with Poppa."
Young Karl offered a compromise. "Sven, why don't you take some time off to work out things with Heidi? However long it takes. You have become so immersed in the job you have forgotten how to live."
"I'd rather take the time."
"On one condition," Karl said. "You still have to work. I don't care if it is on the grounds crew, the garage or the gardens. You aren't going to lock yourself in the house like you do at the office."
"What do I get paid?"
"The same as everyone else, with benefits."
"Can I have until the end of the week to decide? I am a bit overwhelmed right now."
"Saturday breakfast. Until then you are on vacation. Spend the time wisely."
Posted: May 10, 2012
|People quietly left Marta's cabin.|
"I don't think this is a good day for your parents' surprise," Rafi said.
"No, it isn't. Let me talk to Polly. She can spread the word. I'm sorry there won't be a big crowd to see your beautiful work, though."
"The crowd doesn't matter. All that is important is that they like it. But I need to put them somewhere. I have another commission and need the space in the studio."
"Give me a day or two. I'll come up with a plan."
Romy and Reed were watching the children run towards the Pond.
"Surprised?" Romy asked.
"No, not really. I'm surprised it has taken this long for the explosion. Heidi has a wide range of interests, loves people, likes to travel and even when she makes mistakes, has the best interests of The Farm at heart. Sven is a homebody, likes people, but keeps his distance, and has devoted all his energy to becoming very good at one thing. I remember at one time he was a very good photographer. I never see him with his camera now."
"His political career got him contacts in town. I suppose it is a break from here, where everything
is work related."
"True, but he could get the same sort of break if he took the family on vacation. Heidi took the kids to the Cape and Granite Lake the last three times without him. It took her five years of begging to get him to go to Australia. He's acting like an old man and he isn't even forty yet."
"Speaking of that, after the movie premiere, we should start planning vacations, one with the kids and one just for us. Any ideas?"
"I saw that piece Tina did about the self-sufficient village in Brazil. I also think we should block out some time for Heartland. We also haven't been East in a while. Finally, I'd like to take the children to Europe while my health is still good."
"Maia said you were in great shape, but I agree. We must make the most of our time together. By the way, I hear you are thinking about taking on another project, a big one."
"Yes, and I want you to be involved. I promised you after Florida I'd never do something on that scale alone again, and I meant it. That will be our winter project."
"One last thing, my dear," Romy said. "We have to keep Marta in mind. With Peter coming home, we will have to be flexible."
"Of course. Now let's go do something cheerful. I have lots of ideas."
"I bet you do. You have such a fertile imagination." Romy replied.
Em asked Karl if he was all right as they walked back home.
"I'm fine. We got a wake up call today that we can never be complacent. Mom and Dad won't be here forever and the rest of us have to make sure we keep their dream alive and growing. Sven has lost his way and none of us really paid attention."
"I think we should get more involved. I know you were disappointed when your father decided to name your brother CEO, and we basically went and hid ourselves with the theater group. We can still do that, but I think we should get ourselves more involved here at The Farm." Em answered.
"I don't know exactly. Maybe you can work more with Jud and I can give Romy a hand. Now don't give me your worried look. We'll figure something out. We always have."
She leaned against him and whispered, "You are a very special man."
Karl held her and said, "You are an incredible woman. Want a piggy back ride home?"
She squealed, jumped on his back and they laughed all the way home.
Posted: May 16, 2012
|Sven stumbled into his office, clutching the divorce papers. He didn't know how he had gotten there or how long it had taken him. He opened a drawer on his desk, unwrapped a chocolate bar and sat down.|
He was frightened and angry. His father and siblings had rejected his financial plan. Then his wife had further humiliated him by serving him in front of the whole family.
"They just don't see it.," he thought. "And my wife, after all I have done for her, now wants to throw me out. I wonder who she is sleeping with."
Jeannine popped her head in and saw him.
"What happened? You look like you've been run over by a tank."
He told her.
Jeannine listened, and then replied.
"Heidi is very busy as you know. Teaching, activities with the group. Abby has started high school in town and is playing soccer. Mikkel has guitar and karate classes. The spare time she has, she would like to spend with you, but for the last year or so, you have basically blown her off.
You even worked while you were on vacation in Australia. I can prove it because I kept track."
"So you are against me too?"
"Sven, you know better. I do think, however, that you are being manipulated and misled by people who are only thinking of themselves. I care about you a lot, but I don't like the new you. Everything revolves around money. It isn't making you happy either. You eat junk, lock yourself in the office and snap at the customers. What's really bothering you?"
"I think Heidi has been cheating on me."
"You are a dope. Maybe she had a few flings before the children were born, spur of the moment lapses in judgment. Since then, she has toed the line. She still loves you, and will always love you, but she wants more out of life and you have ignored her."
"How do you know all this?" Sven asked.
"We talk all the time. She even said that if anything happened to her, I should marry you." Jeannine replied.
"Not now. You have to dig deep and find where the man I care about and respect went. No one can help you until you help yourself."
"Jeannine thanks. You've always been straight with me. Give me a few minutes to get it together and I'll help you with all the departures."
He had five days to respond to his father. He wished he knew what his answer would be. He threw the half-finished candy bar in the trash and went out to help Jeannine.
The cabin had quickly cleared out, leaving Heidi with Marta and Elke.
"I know you have been having problems, but why divorce? We all have arguments with our husbands." Elke said.
"I've tried to talk with him, but he has either changed the subject or sweet talked me, and you know how I melt when he does that. I've had the papers for over a week. I was just going to rip them up. When he started on his greed rant, I finally found the courage to do it."
"He lurched out of here like he had been shot," Marta said. "Probably went right to Jeannine for kind words."
"I don't think so," Heidi answered. "She is upset with him as well. But I think she will be able to reach inside him better than I can."
"Because they are so much alike?"
"In a sense. She is so much more structured than I. Except for teaching; I am probably the most disorganized person in the world. I run into a situation and just do. Sometimes I make bad choices and get taken to the woodshed by Polly or Romy."
"Not as often, though." Marta laughed.
"Once I understood they were trying to give me structure and loved me, and weren't just yelling at me to be mean, I listened. I still mess up though."
"Only because you want to do good things." Marta told her. "We all make mistakes. The hardest thing to do sometimes is forgive ourselves."
"I hope you two can resolve things, but we will love you even if they don't. Sven, too." Elke told her. "Now because of all this ruckus, I need
some help on what to do with those statues of Momma and Poppa before we have an official unveiling. Any ideas?"
Posted: May 24, 2012
|No one could remember exactly what happened the rest of the weekend. Life went on.|
Elke had to travel by train until she healed enough to drive. Maia would drive her to the station in and whoever was in town would pick her up the morning after her hospital shift, a college shuttle got her back and forth from the station and her office, and either Polly or Rafi would get her back home. She hated being dependent.
"Four months of this?" she whined at Maia. "I like being pampered and waited on but it is eventually going to get annoying."
"You won't always be this limited," Maia replied."Jeff will work with you on rehab therapy after the swelling subsides and it starts to heal."
"True. I can finish those articles I've been editing forever. When can I drive? Not the car, around here. If I don't go check on the owls every few days, they get worried."
"Ask Molly. She has been looking for something to do."
"Good thought. Thanks."
Reed, Romy and Marta had been called in for a conference with the principal of the Montessori school.
"Don't worry. Nothing is wrong," the woman told them. "Both the children are doing well. But the other teachers and I think it is time for them to attend at least some classes at the high school in town. We don't have the facilities they need to fulfill their graduation requirements. Tara has always been interested in science, and needs lab time in chemistry and physics. Reed needs one of the two. They both need to socialize more with people their own age, get involved in activities, and just expand their universe."
They all agreed. Romy then asked a question.
"Any reason why our two and not others?"
"Besides the fact, they are very bright? They are friends and they watch out for each other. Being the new kids in school can be tough."
As they walked back home, Marta said, "Tara won't be happy. She is still self-conscious about her body image. She hasn't bloomed yet. I keep telling her it will happen, but she wants to wake up one morning and be
magically transformed. I remember going through the same thing, and I was miserable."
"Maybe that's why you two are getting along better," said Romy. "Reed told me you showed them some of your pictures too."
"Reed will keep her out of trouble. I don't want her to use her martial arts training to obliterate some poor kid that makes fun of her. If you don't mind, though, I'd rather they start next semester. Peter will be home soon and it will be stressful. I don't want to pile too much on her plate."
"Then that is what we will tell the school." Reed said.
"By the way, is the movie premiere still on for the end of the month?"
"Yes, good, bad or ugly, we will have it and be done with it. The Hollywood experience was fun, but once in a lifetime is enough for me."Romy said. "I have to finish with the rest of the material and review it with Polly while her memory is still sharp."
"We never think of her not being around." Marta said.
"She is in better shape than any of the old witches were at her age," Romy told her. "She will with us for a while."
Posted: May 31, 2012
|Sven had spent his time off assessing his situation.|
His financial position was good, but Heidi's was better. Except for the money spent for her first house, she had barely touched the trust fund set up when her parents died. In twenty years, the value had tripled. When she sold her house after the new one was built, she paid off a substantial portion of the mortgage. She and the children could live comfortably on her salary alone. There
was no way he could buy her or anyone else out.
He thought of leaving The Farm and wandering until he found a place he liked. But he had no idea where to go. Heidi had always planned their trips. Heidi had done almost everything. He hated leaving his comfort zone.
Besides, he couldn't leave now. He had to stay for Marta.
He thought of where he wanted to work. He had always liked riding the mower, and now that Elke was hurt, someone had to pick up the slack. He could also use help on the landscaping crew. He would be outside, get to know people again, and get some exercise.
He wondered if he and Heidi could ever get back together. As he walked to Marta's for breakfast,
he felt rudderless. He was approaching forty, and felt he was starting all over again.
There was the normal buzz of conversation as he walked in. Everyone said hello, shook hands and hugged him as if nothing had happened the week before. He only had one serving today. He definitely needed to lose weight. There was no hiding it when you weren't wearing clothes.
When the table was cleared, he told Karl what he wanted to do.
His father replied, "I already have someone for the rider mowing. Bix and Molly will be taking that duty over, and Elke will be healed and replace Bix when he goes off to spring training.
However, I like the idea of your doing the house-to-house work. You will get reacquainted with everyone. They will become more than names on a ledger sheet, which is good. There's a lot to do, so you will work up a sweat. I also decided I was a little hasty in throwing you out of the office. You will be helping Cheyenne with the financials half a day a week. Otherwise, you will be outdoors."
"What if Jeannine needs help?"
"Em will be Jeannine's new assistant. She and your brother have decided to become more involved to take weight off your shoulders. Karl will be working with me at the farm co-op and in town."
Heidi passed him a note. "We have a meeting with Ursula at her house next Wednesday. I hope you can make it."
Karl finished. "You can start at Melody's and work your way back to the main area. Add Reuben Galt to your list. His wife always mowed and he won't touch her machine. Alice does it when she can, but she has her work and Billy to deal with.
You can start this morning or on Monday."
"No problem. The Galts are practically family. I may do that today and lead off with Melody on
"Sounds like a plan. Anyone have any other issues or concerns?"
"Is it almost time for us to go out and play?" asked Sofie.
"Yes, you can go now." All the youngsters grabbed their towels and ran out the door. "Romy and Elke,
your mother and I would like to speak with you. The rest of you can get on with your day. It was a nice breakfast this morning."
Posted: Jun 7, 2012
|Inga poured coffee while the three sisters sat around the kitchen table.|
Karl began. "I want to start by thanking all of you for all your hard work in making The Farm what it is today. Romy, you were with us at the beginning. Without you and Jen, we would not have developed such a beautiful little village here.
You've also become quite involved in Edna's foundation, the women's group, and now your movie.
Marta, your work with the swimmers, the artistic community and keeping an eye on us has made it much easier for all of us."
"But I'm not a big brain like those two," Marta
replied. "I'm just a mom who likes to swim and do creative things. Momma and Poppa are just fine."
"That's a big job," Elke said. "Just knowing you are here to keep an eye on them makes our lives much easier and we really do appreciate it. You
also help Momma with the cooking and cleaning now, which gives her more time to do things she enjoys."
Karl responded. "Marta, never sell yourself short.
You do more than you realize and we are very grateful."
"What about me?" asked Elke.
"You are our ecosystem expert. You let us know of any changes in the life that lives on our land. Romy and you have created protective barriers so that humans can enjoy everything without disturbing the balance. But now we need you to step up and take on more responsibility."
"What do you want me to do?"
"I would like you to take over the supervision of the grounds and the growing area. Jud won't retire until someone he trusts takes over. I want someone to make sure our blueberry operation continues to prosper. Ruthie needs to spend less time on paperwork and meetings and more on the day-to-day operation. She, Tosh and Moonstone are
wonderful assistants, but they need to train more staff. Business has been that good."
"I don't have a problem with that. I need something to keep me occupied while my ankle heals."
Inga smiled. "I'm glad that's settled. Of course, Marta, any help you need comes first."
Marta replied quickly. "It's ok. I have a huge team of volunteers who want to help. That will allow me to spend more time with Eric. He has been wonderful, but this is affecting him a lot more than he shows. Eric Jr. is a big help to his grandparents back east, Tara and all you are my rocks. I have to be the same for him."
Karl stood up. "We are all on the same page. Good.
Your mother and I are going fishing and will be back for supper." he and Inga left smiling and holding hands.
"Married almost fifty years and they still love fooling around." Marta laughed.
"Don't we all," Elke giggled.
"No wonder we smile a lot," replied Romy.
They finished their coffee.
Romy asked, "Where are the statues?"
Elke said. "Today they are at Bix and Molly's.
Tomorrow they are visiting Karl and Katie. By
next Saturday, they will be at the entrance to the Pond path. Then we will surprise them."
"Cool. Once the movie thing is over, I want both of you to come visit Edna's with me to see what
Rosie and Dawn Angel have done with the place. You will be amazed." Romy said.
"Before you go, I want to talk about Sven." Marta said. "I think we should keep our distance. We can be supportive but he has to conquer his demons alone. We also can't take sides between him and Heidi. We love both of them. They will both still be here whether they divorce.
I can't see Heidi leaving her teaching job, nor do I see our brother going very far."
"This has been great," said Elke. "Can we have lunch, just the three of us, every couple of weeks, rotate houses or maybe in town on shopping day?"
"Yes." said Marta. "We need that."
Elke got up and asked."Can you two walk me to my cart, please? Hopping on one leg isn't much fun."
Posted: Jun 23, 2012
The day of the movie premiere finally arrived. The official showing would be in town followed by a reception at the Blues Barn, hosted by Rick and Maia. A second showing would be the following evening at The Farm because of the limited seating.
The Svenson women bought new outfits with red shoes. Elke found a red walking boot.
"I have to wear pants to hide it, but I'm not going to make a spectacle of myself with a gown and this ugly thing on my foot. At least I'll have company. Has anyone seen Polly's black leather outfit with red boots? I'll walk with her, and no one will even notice me."
Romy chose a simple short black dress and a pearl necklace.
"All so dignified. Very nice." Inga told her.
Em wore an off the shoulder dress, Heidi a strapless and Marta one which showed ample cleavage. They were short, but as Inga said
"long enough to leave something to the imagination".
"We don't get dressed much and we want to be as comfortable as possible when we do. We also want to be able to wear them again for special occasions." Heidi remarked.
The men wore tuxedos. They piled into a limo provided by the producer and headed into town.
There was a modest crowd with a large media contingent to cover one of the more exciting events the town had had in some time.
"Not like Hollywood," an onlooker said, "Most of these people are friends in real life. No need for them to pretend in front of the cameras. Refreshing actually."
The movie began with the actress playing Edna narrating. By watching videos Romy had taken, she had gotten her voice perfectly, down to the cackles. It took the audience through the origins of the Group, the war years, and the way life changed afterwards.
The matter of fact way nudity was portrayed produced an interesting reaction, oohs when Bix came over the hill nude when the women were sunning, awes when Bix and his wife swam in silhouette at the Pond during their courtship,
laughter when the woman playing Polly was shown playing Queen of the Raft.
After the final scene of the women at Edna's second husband's funeral, the crowd cheered and the credits started to roll.
First, the actors, followed by pictures of their characters in 1941, 1963, and in later life with dates of their passing. The last was Polly, who got a standing ovation and acknowledged it from her perch in the balcony.
The reviews were mixed. A small minority decried the excessive nudity as a "ploy to get viewers to watch a mundane story". Others saw it as revolutionary in its portrayal of women of the last century. “‘Fried Green Tomatoes' without the contrived drama'.’Women's liberation without the political rhetoric' another said. "Real Life People" added, 'If nudity was accepted as it was in the movie, there would be a lot less pornography and inappropriate sexual behavior'.
Most were somewhere in between. Romy wasn't surprised, but Dora had to be restrained from
confronting on of those who had given a less than stellar review.
"His tighty whities must have been giving him a wedgie and cut off oxygen to his brain," she said. "How can he see nudity here as being offensive?"
"Because he is sitting on his brain," Elke quipped. "No matter what, some people aren't going to get it or like something. We can only feel sorry for them."
Romy added, "Tomorrow will be more fun. We will be showing outtakes at The Farm, which the locals will really appreciate. Aaaaand, we don't have to get dressed up. For once, our husbands will appreciate that more than we do. Look at them. They look great, but their faces say they are very uncomfortable."
The crowd wandered over to the Blues Barn for more media attention, food and music. Rick and Maia were wonderful hosts, very patient with the rudeness and demands of the glitterati. By one, they were on their way to Foggy City for late night partying.
The cast and crew said their good bye.
"A very interesting film," the actress, who played Polly in her thirties said, call me when you want to do one on Polly. I'd be honored."
Romy responded. "Can't till after she's gone. She made us promise. But you can come and visit her any time."
"How much more do I need to know?"
"You have barely scratched the surface. Why not stay for the weekend? Tomorrow will be lots more fun."
"I have to check with my agent. If he doesn't have anything interesting, I may. Just out of curiosity to see what the outtakes are."
Posted: Jul 4, 2012
|Romy was lounging on the couch, her feet propped up on a stool. Bethany had wrapped herself in a quilt and was sound asleep on the other end. Her husband was schmoozing, while her son was helping fold chairs and tables. Others were portioning and wrapping food for people to take home.|
The second showing had gone well, she thought. Far less formal. Good and spontaneous reaction from the crowd. A lot of laughter, oohs, and aaahs. The characters were known, either personally or by word of mouth. No deep cinematic explanation had to be given.
She was most gratified by the group of Polly's friends who had come to her.
"Wonderful. It brought back memories of things I hadn't thought about in decades," one said.
"The outtakes were cute," another woman said. "We have been comfortable with nudity for years. Seeing how it took the actors, a while to adapt reminded us that not everyone considers nudity to just be part of life, with no innuendo. We were that way once, a long time ago."
Romy asked them, "Did I do enough? Did I forget anything?"
"Nothing important," Polly said. "Look over there. The young woman who played me. Remember we practically had to carry her into the Pond? Now she's standing there without a stitch on eating a stick of celery. She laughed harder than anyone when we showed the clip of her first experience
playing Queen of the Raft. So what are you planning now to keep yourself busy?"
"No sequel. At least not for a few years. I'll help here until we find a permanent replacement for Sven, do things with the group, same old boring stuff. During the holidays, we will all go visit Neddy, who can't travel any more. In the meantime, Reed and I are going to be working together on what he calls 'his last adventure'."
"Do that," Polly replied. "Delegate like Edna did. The members will be happy to help. You need a break."
"I need to keep busy, I always have." Romy said.
"Then be busy with your family. You won't be together forever."
That message finally hit home when Peter came home a week later. When Romy saw the stream of medical personnel coming in and out, she realized the same could happen to her at any time. Life didn't have a set plan.
She spoke with Reed. "Why can't we take the children with us on our adventure. We can go away for a year. Our son is well ahead of his class and Bethany can be home schooled. Lessons can be sent nearly everywhere on the planet now."
"What about your duties here?"
"Elke can manage the group. Dora will run research. Ruthie will continue to be Dad's right hand in the farming area, and Karl will work with the co-op in town. Marta can work with Mac Washington in activities. I spoke with Debby Snowe a week ago and she said Mike's contract will be up next year and he wants to live here and help Mac too. The rest I can figure out before we leave."
"After Peter, of course. Have to be here for Marta and her family."
Posted: Jul 7, 2012
|Marta tried to keep things as normal as possible. Peter's hospital bed was in his room, out of sight to visitors. Every day Peter would come out and color or do puzzles and watch TV. He was used to people coming in and out at the hospital, so all the company didn't faze him. He was polite funny and very calm. When he didn't feel well, he would simply tell his mother that he was tired and Marta would walk or carry him to bed.|
No one said anything about his pale skin or thin body. His answer when asked was that the medicine he took made him burn very easily. Polly would
roll him out in his wheelchair in the morning so they could watch the day begin. She would point out birds and animals. They watched the dogs roam through the front fields on their morning jaunt as Marta made breakfast.
By Thanksgiving, he had to be bundled up and by Christmas could only watch from the living room window. The holidays went on with their usual fanfare, nude bodies bustling all over, treating Peter as if nothing was wrong. Peter, for his part, seemed to have stabilized and remained good until after New Year.
By mid-January, he spent nearly all his time in bed, which had now been moved into the living room. He told everyone not to be sad, that he was thankful for all their help and that afterwards he would be looking after them. He left them in mid-February.
It wasn't until after the funeral that things started to sink in for Marta and her family.
Eric Jr. insisted on returning to Granite Lake. "I just can't stay here.
I just feel funny. It's not like I'm gone forever. We will all be together for the holidays and summers. I don't mind the cold or the snow. I'm doing better in school, and I can keep an eye on the cabin and Grandma and grandpa too."
"Eric, you're only sixteen. You can't live there by yourself." Marta said.
"Gaby is there all the time, except when she and her friends go away for the weekend every month or so. Then I stay with Gram and Gramps. Besides,
how much trouble can I get into with Charlie, Josie, Sergeant Al, and everyone else watching? There are more people living there all the time too. Not just old people either."
"Well, you're a teenager, and they should be keeping an eye on you. But I will let you go if your father agrees. I understand about your discomfort, and I'm sorry. Maybe someday you will feel differently and come back to us." Marta said.
She wasn't terribly worried. Eric was like his father, even tempered, a
good if not brilliant student with a subtle dash of her mischief and sense of fun. Her only worry was how he would react when he found out how much the teenage girls liked him. Josie had written about her daughter and her friends talking about Eric, trying to figure out what to do to get his attention.
"Taking their clothes off won't do them any good. He's seen them in all their glory since they were in the wading pool. He's seen lots of other girls develop so that isn't anything new either. They are going to use their brains and charm." Marta laughed.
Josie laughed back. "And they definitely know what boys look like. But they are still teenagers with raging hormones. I will worry about Renee
too. Look at it this way. We were no angels and we have done pretty well for ourselves."
"We'll be coming in May, right after school. I hope I won't need winter clothes."
"Bring a set for each season. It's New England, after all."
On the other hand, she and Tara had started to battle again.
Posted: Jul 14, 2012
|When Peter came home, Tara took over a lot of the household duties. In the mornings, she would make the coffee, prepare breakfast, then put on a baggy sweatshirt, sanitary gloves and boots and help the caretaker get her brother ready for the day. After Polly arrived, she would rouse her mother and they would go swim.|
After school, she would work with Inga on grocery lists and taking care of laundry. After dinner, she would help get Peter ready for sleep.
Unlike her mother, she was not a sound sleeper and would be up and down all night whenever she heard her brother's voice. When Inga heard from Romy and Elke that Tara was falling asleep in school, she intervened.
"Tara, you need your rest and you need to spend time with your friends. I want you to sleep somewhere else."
"Gram, I'm fine."
"No you aren't. You have old lady bags under your eyes and are sleeping in school. Don't give me that 'Tara the Terror' look. Katie took pictures."
"But what about Peter? You know how Momma is when she sleeps. Even Daddy has trouble rousing her sometimes."
"I know. She has always been that way. I'll make a deal with you. You can sleep here during the week. But on weekends, I want you to sleep over at your friends’ houses. Reed, Abby, Jo Saunders,
Ruthie's girls. They all said 'ok'."
"You can come to weekend breakfasts, but that's it. You need rest. You also have to remember you and Reed are going to school in town after lunch
second semester. You need to make a good impression. I'll speak with your mother."
I doubt if it will sink in. She is out of it most of the time."
"That's why you need grownups to help you out. Now tonight is bowling night and I want you to go.
Heidi is driving. By the time you get back, your bed will be ready here."
Things ran smoothly until after Peter's passing.
Tara and Marta started to get in each other’s way.
"Well, you were out of it Momma, and this is the way Gram showed me to do it."
"Well, I'm back and we're going to do it my way."
"Who do you think did all these things the last few months? The Easter Bunny?"
Marta also noticed that her daughter was now as tall as she was that the baby fat had moved from her belly and that she had bloomed.
"I hope you are dressing appropriately when you go to school in town," she said.
Tara responded, "Your old clothes are back in style. I'm the same size you were. Until we can go shopping, I'm wearing them."
Inga laughed when Marta told her. "The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. She's a good girl, but she has a sense of adventure which will
keep you on your toes."
"Payback," Marta sighed.
"Oh, not so bad. We worried, more that you would get hurt than anything else. Let her grow make her own mistakes. Just be there when she needs you. Don't be so hard on her for doing things at home. She did them because she loves you."
Posted: Jul 16, 2012
|It was not all doom and gloom at The Farm.|
Elke was healing well, and with Jeff's therapy was able to wear army boots instead of the medical ones.
She told Jeff she would feel uncomfortable wearing them to the twins wedding.
"I know I can't wear anything with a heel, but I would feel funny wearing combat boots, a hat, and nothing else."
Jeff said, "We are having a meeting with everyone tonight. I'll bring it up to the girls and see if they have any ideas."
The next day Ruby and Jade Greywolf arrived, full of chatter about the wedding, honeymoon plans and their future.
"Cheyenne and Tasha TwoEagles are our bridesmaids. The boys asked two friends from school to be best men."
"Do they know it is a nude wedding and have they been here before?" Elke asked.
"It took a few visits here to convince them, they were worried about erections and everyone having sex in the open all over the grounds, but once they realized we lived the same as they did, except without clothes, they were all right.
Their girl friends came with them to make sure they behaved. I don't know if they will become full time naturists, but at least they will for our happy day."
"What about a honeymoon. I know you work a lot of hours at the hospital."
"Three days at a place near the beach north of Foggy City. The 'rents gave us money to buy land across the reservoir. Now we have to save up for
"Why not here?"
"We want a lot of kids and we don't want Dad barging in all the time to tell us how to live our lives. He has made Cheyenne's life miserable.
We are sad she will be going to Florida, but happy she can do her own thing."
Elke said, "She's only going until late April. Then she will be back to help Jeannine."
"Maybe you should talk to Romy about letting her live at Edna's full time. There is enough land for her too if she gets married and wants to raise
"Sounds good. Hope you will come back to see all of us."
"Of course. When the time comes, we want Romy, Bekka, and all of you to help us with our house. In fact we think your design is just perfect."
"That is for the future. What have you decided about me and my combat boots?"
"Jeff says in another two weeks you should be able to wear a less restrictive shoe. All you have to promise is that during the reception you sit and keep the leg elevated. We are wearing ankle high fur-lined boots with no heel. We ordered you a pair."
Elke was touched.
"No problem,” said Jade. "Just promise you will visit us and take all our kids on nature walks."
"By that time, my twins will be able to help out. Don't forget the dogs. There must always be dogs."
"As long as they are part Mikie or Lil’ Mike."
Elke also found out during her recovery that she did not have to take charge all the time that she liked being pampered.
It carried over into her teaching. Every three weeks, she took a class to collect water samples and catch insects and animals to put in a controlled environment before being returned to their natural habitat. Usually she was in the water with the students, directing them as they worked. Jeff and
the doctors however had restricted her to a passive role on shore.
She huddled her students together and said, "Those of you who have taken
my courses before know that I am right there with you during field lab.
I have reconsidered based on my injury and other things that have happened.
As long as you don't get in each other’s way, you can collect anywhere within the designated area. If you have questions, raise your hand and I will hobble over. Dress code is personal preference and comfort."
The older students striped down and slogged into the swamp wearing only rubber boots, whooping and pointing as they found their treasure. Most of the others gradually peeled off as the afternoon got warmer.
"Elke," one student asked. "Why are you letting all the girls go naked?"
Elke responded, "Maybe it is because they feel closer to nature. Maybe they don't want mud and brambles on their clothes. There's nothing wrong or bad about the human body, they are not showing off or trying to give out sexual messages. They are doing it because it is right for them."
"But what does this have to do with class?"
"While the collection procedure is standard, how one goes about getting the job done is an individual choice. Some choose to follow the safe path because they don't want to make waves; it is what everyone else does. Others choose different approaches because they see it as the best route to their goal and happiness. Understand?"
"Sort of. I am like halfway in between. I'm just a little scared of going outside the box."
"Do what is right for you. How you dress won't affect your grade."
The young woman thought for a minute and said, "Maybe a layer at a time."
By the end of the day, those who were not nude were down to tops and boots. Everyone had their samples. They were chatting and teasing as they wandered barefoot back to The Farm.
"Boots too squishy. Next time I'll try barefoot."
"You mean you get to feel the slimy mud between your toes."
"That way I can feel the little fishes nibbling on my toes. The top will probably go too. The mud stinks."
Everyone laughed. Elke was pleased.
Posted: Jul 24, 2012
|It was the morning before the twins wedding. It was windy and cool at first light. Elke put on her green cape and new black fur boots and took Lil’ Mike out for his morning run.|
She headed towards her parents and saw Polly driving up with Sunshine Too. She hopped out and followed Lil’ Mike out into the fields to flush the geese.
"I'll take her with me and bring her back for breakfast."
"She'll love it. I only have the energy to let her run once a day. "
"No problem. I see Tara in the window. Your coffee must be ready. I'll be back in a while."
Elke headed towards the Pond and heard splashing and laughter. Reuben Galt and Melody were having a grand time all by themselves.
After Reuben's wife died, he went through the usual mourning process, and then began to feel lost without his best friend of the last fifty plus years. Melody, recently liberated from her grief, saw the signs. She made a point to stop and chat with him every morning as she walked Heinz. Soon she was invited in for coffee, where she was delighted to discover the elderly man shared her love of books. Coffee led to dinner, then to morning walks together and now to their morning frolic in the Pond.
"Hi, Elke," Reuben said. "We're just having some fun before everyone gets up. No sense feeling sorry for myself. The old missus wouldn't approve."
"Guess what?" Melody said. "I'm going to move in with him to keep him out of trouble. Billy and Alice will be moving down to the corner to my house."
"Alice checks on me like a mother hen, but she needs a life of her own. She's busy enough. The extra time should go to Billy, not an old fossil like me."
Melody laughed. "He's pretty lively." as she swam over and kissed him on the cheek.
"Let me take Heinz and Jeremiah with the other dogs. I'm headed down to the school and will drop them off on the way back."
She walked down the path, past the courts, between the garages, over the parking lot and into the backfield. A burnt circle was in front of the blueberry orchard. The wedding ceremony would take place inside. The ground was purified according to a Native American tradition by burning the circle seven consecutive days.
She waved at Alice, who was loading milk containers onto the back of Billy's truck. He would drop them off at the dairy on his way to work.
The dogs were now ranging through the fields joined by Bix's Geronimo and Katie's Belle, children of Lil’ Mike. She saw her dog stop, then bound after something moving through the grass. A chipmunk or maybe a rabbit she thought. A few minutes later, he returned, covered with blood, with a large woodchuck in his jaws. He dropped it at her feet. To her relief, he only had a scratch on one ear. A small price to pay for catching the
monster who had been feasting on Ruthie's vegetables.
"Good boy," Elke told him. "Now we have to go see Dr. Paul to get you patched up."
On the way, she saw Dora and her new boyfriend sitting out drinking coffee. She had traveled halfway around the world looking for love. She had found it had been there the whole time hiding in the stacks of the library.
"Hi, Ted, Dora. Have a busy night?"
"We always have busy nights," Dora giggled.
Brigitte answered Elke's knock and brought the dog into the clinic after he dropped his prize at the front door. She cleaned him off and said,
"He also has a small scratch on his nose, but none of them need stitches. He had his last rabies shot a month ago, so there shouldn't be a problem there. Ruthie will be happy though. She caught all the small chucks and relocated them, but this one was too big and too smart to get into the traps. It's a good thing your dog is so quick and caught him from behind. I've seen other dogs ripped to shreds by the sharp claws."
In twenty minutes, the dog was ready to go.
"I gave him an antibiotic. Once he gets home, he will probably sleep most of the day. In a day or two, he will be speeding around normally."
People were starting to stir as the dog led her home. She saw Sven with a cart full of garden tools heading toward the school. She waved at him. He drove by without acknowledging her.
Posted: Jul 31, 2012
|On the day of the wedding, Elke was touched to see the rest of the Svenson women dressed in fur lined boots.|
"It was tough for me," Heidi said. "You know I love my four inch heels because I am short, but we didn't want you to feel out of place."
Inga was counting noses and noticed someone was missing. She spoke with Heidi, then Marta. She reported to Karl that Sven was not there because he was watching Peter.
"He knows Marta loves weddings, the socializing, eating and dancing that goes with it. He has also been at the house every day since Peter came home,
helping Marta. You know that."
Karl was not pleased but understood. Sven had shut out everyone but Marta and Peter since the events on Labor Day weekend.
"He feels Marta understands him, and he will do anything to help her out. I think they are the only reason he is still here."
"As long as he makes an appearance later."
"Hush, and stop grumbling. The wedding is about to start."
The two couples entered the ceremonial circle dressed in blue blankets. The elders stood at the north end of the circle, the couples at the south.
The guests surrounded the circle, the young on the east side and the older ones on the west.
Blessings were given to the sky their father and the earth as their mother. The trees and vegetation were blessed for welcoming them.
Sages or blessings were given and the twins were sprinkled with the herb as they entered the circle. Gifts of corn, stones and feathers were exchanged, representing fertility, strength and loyalty.
The best men and maids of honor offered blessings, as did Jud, the oldest Native American at The Farm.
Vows were exchanged. Ursula then entered the circle to perform the civil ceremony.
At the end of the ceremony, the blue blankets were removed, knotted, folded and given to Moonstone until the marriage was consummated.
The two couples were each wrapped in a white blanket to symbolize their union. They then left the circle in the white blanket to demonstrate their rebirth as one into the tribal community.
"Thankfully we didn't have to wear anything under the blankets," Ruby said. "They were soooo hot."
"We won't be wearing them at the reception," Jade added. "Good thing we have three hours until the reception starts at noon. Mom, you can probably
bring the blue blankets over when you come to escort us to the reception. Don't think we can wait until later."
Moonie blushed. "You have to keep the white blankets on until you get back to the bridal cabin. Max and Jud will be very upset if you don't."
"We promise. We may be silly and sassy, but tradition is very important to all of us."
The happy couples headed off.
Two large tents had been erected in front of the main building. There were
Native American dancers, which performed during the meal. After the toasts
were made, the bouquets thrown and garters flung, the dancing began.
Maia, Marta, Jen and Heidi loved to dance. They taught the young ones the old steps and quickly picked up on the new ones. Soon Romy, Lisa, and finally the men joined in.
"I had forgotten how much fun this is," Romy told Marta. "I love the slow songs with Reed, but the fast dancing is cool, especially with all of us together."
"Maia and Heidi go to Rick's nearly every week. Maybe we can drop off the kids at bowling and go there for a couple hours to unwind every once in a while."
"Before you ask, Sven will be here after the second shift nurse comes.
Peter will be sleeping then. I told him I would resurrect Evil Marta if he didn't. I need to talk to you about him. Next time you stop by. Now let's go talk to the VJ before someone starts requesting 'Hokey Pokie' and 'The Chicken Song'."
Sven arrived, ate, socialized and helped break down tables as the reception wound down. He was polite but distant to his family except for Marta. When the crowd had dwindled, he said his good-byes and went home alone. He shut the door of the guest room, put on his headphones, turned on the TV and fell asleep.
Posted: Aug 4, 2012
|The three sisters were having lunch together. They had begun after Labor Day and every other week they spent Friday afternoons together.|
"This is great," Marta told Romy as she ate her meal. "Elke, remember when Ro was such a bad cook even Mikie wouldn't eat her food."
"I've had a lot of good teachers over the years.Jen and Maia are great cooks, and it just rubbed off. As long as I keep it simple."
"Nothing wrong with simple," said Elke.
"Now I have something to tell both of you about Sven," said Marta.
She proceeded to tell them that Sven felt boxed in all those years stuck in the office. As a result, he buried himself in financial matters and had forgotten how to enjoy life.
"I asked him about his photography and the great times he and Heidi had when they went out together. He told me it was a combination of his obsession with the job and Heidi's inability to keep to a schedule. She'd tell him to be ready at one, and something would distract her and she would get there at three. Other than school and her wedding, she has never been on time for anything, as you both know. They had big arguments. After a while, they just stopped doing things together."
"So is the divorce going to go through or what?" asked Elke.
"They will always love each other, but their lives are going in very different directions. Heidi is becoming the new Polly. She was born here, knows everyone in town, and gets information from a lot of people. I think Polly always had her in mind to take her place, which is why she has been so hard on her at times."
"But she likes to go places. A month at the Cape and Granite Lake, trips to Australia to see her brother. She even mentioned a trip to Europe with the children," replied Romy.
"Don't have to be here all the time any more with all the communications we have at our disposal."
"So what about our brother?"
"I think he will not be here after Peter leaves us. He feels if he stays he will fall back into the same old rut again. He will have enough money. Heidi is buying him out on the house, she agreed to let him have the camper, and he has his own stash."
"Any idea on where he wants to go?"
"Nope and neither does he. Wants to explore on his own without having all of us looking over his shoulder."
"We only do it because we love him," said Romy.
"He knows that, but at times he feels smothered. If he needs us, he knows how to find us."
"True. Now what about you, Marta? What are your plans?"
"I think I will stay here until after the volleyball tournament. Tara will be playing on the under 18 team. Then I will go to Granite Lake while the cabin is being refurbished. Tara will come back for school and stay with Momma and Poppa. My in-laws have been really good during Peter's illness. Everything from lining up doctors to getting A Wish Come True to find a suite we could buy for Peter to see a Red Sox game. I'll come back for Christmas with them.
Now Romy, what's this about you leaving here for a year? Who is going to keep an eye on everything?"
"We aren't going to be gone that long. That rumor started when Reed and Tara were having a disagreement about something and he asked her what she would do if he was gone for a whole year. In truth, we will be going to see Neddy between Christmas and New Years first. When school lets out, we will be traveling the whole vacation. The itinerary isn't final. Reed is still working on it."
Marta responded. "That makes more sense. Reed and Tara will be going to high school in town starting in January. You wouldn't want to disrupt that."
"No, they are going to have to learn how to coexist with the textile world.
It is better they start in familiar surroundings instead of dealing with it when they go off to college.
As far as who runs the place, Karl and Dad will take care of the agricultural part with Ruthie, Jeannine the day to day operations, Dora
the Group and Edna's house. Em got bored with retirement and is Naomi's new
assistant/social worker. Sally will be taking over from Ursula at Harmony House. If there are any major problems, you can reach me."
"What do I do?" asked Elke.
"You will be representing me while we are gone. You know how everything works. You are more sociable. People will approach you."
Elke laughed. "People see you as the new Edna. They like you and respect you, but because you are so smart, sometimes they are afraid of you."
Posted: Aug 7, 2012
Romy thought about her perceived role as the new Edna. She was awed by the fact people considered her capable of filling the shoes of a woman who had done so much for people and the town. On the other hand, she wanted to expand her horizons, not only for herself, but also for her children.
Reed would not live forever, and she would need to stay occupied in order to fill the huge void his absence would create. She would not cling to her children. They had their own lives to lead.
She was looking forward to the trips. New places, people and adventures. Reed was happily planning the itinerary. He would ask her places she wanted to see, and which sites would be age appropriate for Bethany, who would only be seven.
"She isn't at the point where she can handle large doses of museums and historic sites. We have to mix it in with music and play days for both she and Reed."
"Since it will be summer, we can go to Piggy's bed and breakfast between La Sabliere and Montalivet, or Maia's parents or any other place that strikes our fancy. None of us are used to wearing clothes for long periods of time."
"I forgot Piggy, Libby's friend. Libby is a very smart woman. Overqualified for her present job. Maybe you could invite her to dinner when she comes back from her trip."
Romy gave him a puzzled look.
"Most of my associates are either dead or long retired. They have all trained people to replace them except me. I have you, and Reed, but I want someone besides family involved. Libby also speaks several languages and knows cultural protocols. I would like to ask her if she would come with us to be a language tutor for the children and a liaison for us.
I know you and your father have been talking about the future. He wants you to lead, like he does. He has a plan, then delegates.
"He has been delegating forever."
"He has been weaning himself from day to day supervision over the last ten years or so. You have picked up most of the slack. He wants you to start doing the same thing, but at an earlier age. One of his few regrets is that while he was creating his dream here, he didn't spend enough time with
"Enough about me, back to our trip. What do we bring Neddy when we go to Florida?"
They decided on blueberry jam and walnuts.
Two days after New Year's, Reed and Romy were eating bagels with Neddy while the children had gone out to explore the grounds.
"I asked you to come here because I have made some inquiries about the business end here. I have also made some personal ones." Neddy began.
"As you know, the Senor passed away peacefully last fall. His wife and children have decided to stay here temporarily. Senora likes the naturist lifestyle, as do the children, but not the hustle and bustle of a resort.
The gentleman from Tokyo has turned over most of his business interests to his son. However, he left his share here and cash to his daughter. She went to college here, and is engaged to a nice man who treats her as an equal."
"Does he have a job?" Romy asked.
"Works in the family business. They train horses."
"Now what have all of you been cooking up?"
"Emiko wants to live less lavishly. She also wants a house with the Japanese pools used for communal bathing. No room here. The Senora Lucia is planning for the future. Wants a smaller house with guest cottages she can rent or use when she has visitors. As for the children, they like it here."
"Your point?" asked Reed.
"Sorry, getting old makes me ramble. But you are right to make me focus.
They want to buy some land and build a smaller community. Neither likes
the unpredictability of the weather. They like the change of seasons. They have asked me if I would join them."
"What about the operation here?"
"We would still own our property here. However, Lucia would transfer ownership to the children, Emiko would set up a trust for future children she might have. Lisa and Jen are doing the same for the twins."
"I am an old lady and have to think in the short term. My will makes Bethany and Reed my heirs. You two will administer the estate. The weather
here is tough on all my old papers and library. Between the humidity and the bugs, they are under constant attack. For their sake, I will be going
north with the others."
"Any idea where?"
"Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia are the frontrunners. Somewhere with space for horses, water, and mild winters. I have also approached Jen
about co-coordinating the design efforts, and would like Romy to be on board
for the environmental and engineering portion. Am I being too pre-emptive?"
"Not at all. You are simply thinking like a chess player, eight moves ahead," replied Reed.
"I was worried you would be upset. Then again, you aren't a bad chess player yourself."
Bethany rushed in all excited. "Senora Lucia is having a piñata party
and asked if I could come. Can I?"
"Yes, of course. Have you seen your brother? He was supposed to be keeping
an eye on you."
"He is right behind me, but he is a slowpoke. He is talking with some giggly girl."
Posted: Aug 20, 2012
|The girl followed Reed onto the patio, hair straggly, dripping wet, wearing only a towel around her shoulders.|
"Peta Brandt, go dry yourself off before you turn blue. The pool may be heated but sixty in Florida is cold. Bethany, show her where the bathroom is and throw a big towel in the dryer. It will keep her warm on the way home."
"Who is she and why did she follow me here?" asked Reed.
"Peta lives with her grandparents. Her parents are divorced and her mother is an airline hostess. She knew you were coming and is checking you out."
"Does she always giggle?"
"Only when she finds something or someone interesting and hasn't figured it out yet. If she was this curious in school, she would be on the Honor Roll. She does just enough to get by and stay out of trouble. Tells us, 'the old people’, she calls us, that it's boring." Neddy explained.
Peta came out, rosy cheeked and wrapped from head to toe. "I feel much better," she said. "Now don't forget about the party. I'll see you all tonight." She grabbed an apple and headed out the door.
While Reed and Bethany were eating poppy cake in the kitchen, the adults continued their discussion.
"Send her to me when she comes back from visiting her friend in Uruguay,"
Neddy said. "If she is as good as you say she is it will be excellent.
Her knowledge of cultural nuances as well as languages will be very useful. Romy, what do you think?"
"I also think she will be a good guide for the children in helping them meet people from other cultures. Up to now, they have met them on home ground, so to speak. They must learn how to act when they are in uniform in the outside world."
"True. Enough business. Let's go sit in the hot tub before we go to the children's party. There will be plenty of food and drink there. The good thing is that it is over by ten. Just about my bed time."
The party was totally for the children. Games, piñata bashing, finger food
and low sugar drinks. There were perhaps three dozen there between seven and thirteen.
"Not a lot of parents here because some of them work and others have infants at home. We have a shuttle here and start driving the younger ones home at nine. The tweeners then have an hour to themselves before they have to leave. It has worked well over the years."
"What about the parents?" asked Romy.
"We eat, chat and relax. My children and Emiko and their friends keep everything moving and make sure no one feels left out. Besides, they
have a lot better idea of what they like."
Reed was watching Peta leading Bethany and his son around, introducing them to everyone. When Bethany had found a group of younger kids who
were headed to bash the piñata, she left her brother. Peta then jumped into
the pool to play water dodge ball. Young Reed hesitated a moment, then followed and joined in the game.
"Good. He didn't cling to Peta, but he didn't ignore her either." When they got cold, they sat in a circle, chatting and gobbling down their food.
Just like at home.
Libby was sitting on a beach outside Montivideo. Her friend Tina had offered her free airfare and hotel if she would do voice-overs on
some of the film she had shot for the Nude World Network. A poetry reading on the beach. A visit to a Brazilian naturist village and one under construction in Argentina. Soccer and petanque, lazy sunbathers, and half a dozen interviews. In German, Russian and Chinese.
Tina was buzzing around trying to line up people for future shows.
"I don't want the same faces. Naturism should be seen as something growing and attractive to everyone, not just a few eccentrics."
Libby got up and dragged her into the surf.
"This is not a vacation watching you work. It is mid-summer here and people are on holiday. You should be too."
Tina sputtered. "How can I? People are just coming up to me wanting to talk, have pictures taken of them doing things, and inviting me either to their club or their homes."
When Libby returned to her towel, there was a text message. She read it and
said, "You and I are going to Florida. Reed's friend Neddy wants to talk with me. Two days, no more than an hour or two a day. It may be a little
chilly, in the 60s, but we are Kansas girls and that is warm for us in January. And no one knows us."
"But I am on TV?"
"Color your hair and wear sunglasses. When we are done, we'll come back
and go out with those nice men we met the other day. Who knows what will happen?"
Neddy gave Reed the good news.
"Excellent. Let me know what you think. If all goes well, we will be back
on our way to Europe in May."
Posted: Aug 23, 2012
|Reed had returned with his parents and he and Tara began high school in town every afternoon. They adapted well. Tara joined the swimming team, while Reed chose tennis. Socially, many of their classmates, they already knew from The Farm, bowling or the fitness center in town. They dealt|
with the teasing and rude comments by ignoring them.
Meanwhile, Neddy and Libby huddled together for two days, while Tina played golf. She had cut her hair short and streaked it with a henna dye that was popular in Uruguay. No one recognized her.
At the last meeting, Neddy cautioned Libby. "There are things that you can only discuss with one person, the one who will keep your confidences. I know from visiting The Farm you have many loyal friends. Choose wisely whom you will confide in."
"I have a person in mind. I will give you all my final decision when I come back in May."
Neddy relayed the news to Reed. "More impressive than I believed. Keeps things close to the vest. Quick to respond when necessary, primarily a student of human behavior and analytical with data. Accents flawless. The trip will answer the rest of your questions."
After Peter's passing, there was no reason for Sven to stay. In mid- March, he sat down with Heidi, Abby and Mikkel.
"Easter is early this year. The day after, I will be leaving. All I know is that one of my first stops will be where I grew up. Other than that, I have no planned itinerary. I love you all, but I have to do this to make things better among us."
He packed the RV, picked up a Siamese cat at the shelter the week before, and drove out the gate at sunrise on Easter Monday.
Heidi had picked up the slack of portrait photography for Sven. One day she was in the meadow when she stepped in a hole and broke a heel. She couldn't get a steady shot on one leg, and kicked off her shoes. Surprisingly, the grass on her bare feet felt comforting and she found it
easier to move around to shoot at different angles.
While she was cleaning closets after Sven left, she counted her shoes. Three hundred and twenty pair.
"I need some for school, for dress up, and for nature walks. Other than that, the rest can go. I'll ask Abby if she wants any. Poor girl is
going to be a short cake with small feet like her mother."
Abby was a lot like her mother.
"I love not having to wear anything, but when I play dress up, I want to look nice. Shoes are important." She took a dozen pair she liked, and then said to her mother, "It's annoying hearing your clack-clack all day and all night. I want a no shoes rule in the house from now on."
She pointed to the pile. "I'll help you pick out thirty or so pair we think you really look good in, so you can go a whole month without having to wear the same pair twice. We will sell the rest at the flea market and use the money for our vacations. Mikkel has agreed to get rid of some of his toys and I have a lot of stuff I can add."
"We don't need the money, really."
"You are just making excuses not to get rid of them. You told me how much easier it has been for you to take pictures barefoot. You even forgot to
put shoes back on last week, remember?"
"Think of it as a new start. By keeping some we don't forget the past, but we also are moving forward."
"You're pretty smart for a teenager. Besides, you didn't say I couldn't buy new ones."
"Moooom, let's just do it."
Two hundred and seventy one pairs were sold. They made nearly four thousand dollars for their vacation, counting the toys and dolls. The
bonding helped them cope with Sven's absence.
Posted: Aug 25, 2012
|Elke's recovery sped along. She was walking without a stick, but had to pace herself to avoid swelling.|
She loved the therapy and the full body massages at Harmony House. Rafi's increased attentiveness didn't hurt either.
She loved the extra time she spent with the children. She found that Sofie had the same effect on the owls that she did. They would ride in the cart down to their nest and enjoy their swooping and perching on the safety bar. They would not come out to play if Antonio was with them.
"I don't know what it is. The first owl I met is long gone, but there must be some owl folklore that links them to us. Bad science, but it is the only way I can explain it."
"Mommy, you were their friend and helped them when they were hurt. It's like the story they told us in school about the little boy pulling the thorn out of the lion's paw. Animals know who their friends are."
The owls finished their visit and flew off to hunt, as it grew dark.
"Would you and the boys like it if Auntie Maia and I had a body painting party for you and the boys and all your friends?"
"Mommy that would be fun. Can we paint you and Auntie after we are done?"
"Can we have a water balloon fight after to help wash the paint off?"
"Only if you help us clean up the broken pieces afterwards."
"Of course. We don’t like trash on the ground."
The final test for Elke came on Christmas morning. She woke the children at daybreak, and quietly led them down the path to the platform tree.
"We are going to climb up and find out where Santa left all the presents," she said.
Antonio, Johann and Sofie scurried up a few rungs at a time, waiting for Elke to catch up. They reached the summit, spread a blanket and watched
the morning unfurl. Carts full of wrapped gifts were being hauled from the garages; parents were assembling toys in the front yard.
"Where are Dad and Rick?" asked Johann.
"They are probably making breakfast for us. Your mom will be home from the hospital in an hour and will be hungry." In reality, Rick and Rafi were inside assembling three bicycles. Maia’s mother would be there shortly with enough food for a week's breakfasts.
Antonio pointed toward the field. "Look, there's Ursula. I wonder who she is waiting for."
They four of them watched as Dora and Ted, Melody and Reuben approached her. Then Elke remembered what Melody had said at Thanksgiving. Reuben had told her he felt uncomfortable about 'living in sin', as he described it.
"He is a bit old fashioned, but in an honorable and loving way. We will get married, no frills, and no fuss."
They watched as the two couples stood before Ursula.
"If we hurry, we can give them hugs and wish them Merry Christmas," Sofie suggested.
The children slid down the rope and ran off. Elke went last, running after them. When she caught up with them, she realized she had run nearly half a mile with no pain.
"I don't need any presents this year," she thought. "Being healthy again is enough."
A decision by the county would pique Elke's interest as spring approached.
They would be closing a section of Reservoir Road to traffic from a half mile east of the soccer fields to where it connected with Towne Road two
miles beyond Polly Benson to protect the watershed. Most of the asphalt would be removed. Elke went to the planning office to ask if she could map out the wetlands on the other side of the road and collect specimens as part of an ecological assessment. They were interested, but stated that
there were no funds currently available for the research. Elke applied for a research grant through Worthington and received seed money as long as
students were involved in the project. She also used some of her own funds
to buy equipment.
She and Lil’ Mike had new places to play and work. Along with two students and a Worthington graduate who had moved to The Farm, she began exploring.
Posted: Aug 28, 2012
|Marta went through a roller coaster of emotion after Peter died. Crying jags, temper tantrums, and a feeling of emptiness and exhaustion made it difficult to focus. In order to maintain her sanity, she kept to her routine. She swam every morning, longer than usual to unwind. She took on decorating projects, modeled for Rafi and Rex Saunders, and worked with Barry on the plans to renovate the cabin. |
She and Tara still fought, but more about her daughter's growing social life than anything personal.
"Mom, you had a lot of fun and you turned out just fine. Why do you worry so much? Besides, if any boy tries to make me do something I don't want to, I'll just use my martial art training.
Then I will tell Reed, and he will take care of it."
"Remember, Reed will be away all summer and won't have your back."
"We will either be at the beach or Granite Lake until our house is done. I promise to be reasonably good as long as you don't worry too much and nag. Besides, Eric has a lot of girl friends, and you need to keep an eye on him too."
"I'll always worry, but I will try not to nag."
The day after school ended, Marta and Tara headed east to be with the two Eric’s. They came back for Volleyball weekend, in which Tara's team finished third, and flew back the following Monday. Tara returned in August to begin school and lived with Karl and Inga. Marta did not return until the house was finished in October.
Em had become a homebody. After spending the first part of her life moving from place to place as her father searched for the perfect post office, she loved having roots. She and Karl went on vacations, but after two weeks, she was ready to come home.
She helped Jeannine in the office, and had small parts in summer stock as Karl worked behind the scenes. However, what finally piqued her interest
was helping out Naomi.
She had found Naomi overwhelmed by her clientele. After going through the files, she found that many of the patients simply needed advice more than intense counseling. She offered to organize the paperwork and screen clients.
"I'm a social worker and I'm used to all the paperwork. I helped people solve their problems by themselves with a little guidance. You need to concentrate on your group and individual sessions. You are so disorganized you have no time to yourself."
The partnership worked well. Soon Naomi went to the Fitness center and occasionally to bowling because she wasn't buried in work.
Karl kept himself busy. He served as a consultant for the non-profit on housing development for a dollar a year. He helped with the mowing, worked
as a laborer on renovations to Edna's and Marta's property.
They kept their distance from Karl and Katie. They had dinner together once a week, as well as weekend family breakfasts now held at Elke's when Marta was not there.
"We are here if you need us," he told his son," but we aren't going to micromanage. I imagine Missy and Barry are doing the same."
"Yes, dad, we know and are grateful you are here for us. By the way, Christine invited us to watch her nude surf at that beach she goes to. Think you can pry Mom away from here?"
Karl smiled. "Do you think a three day romantic weekend could entice her?"
His son laughed. "Mom has a dreamy look on her face for days after one of those. Just like Katie."
"Women like being spoiled, especially when you do a little extra. You'll find it helps you get through hard times, and makes the good times even better."
"By the way, Dad. Gramps wants me to start going into town with him when he goes there on business. I hope you won't get upset."
"Not at all. I don't have the vision your grandfather does. I see the job at hand, make sure it is done well, and go to the next one. Your Auntie Romy describes it like this: 'I build beautiful rooms, but don't see the house as a whole until everything is done.' I think your grandfather wants you to see the big picture so you and the other kids can carry on his vision and adapt it to what the future holds."
Posted: Sep 1, 2012
|Romy was sipping tea with Polly outside on the veranda.|
"Things have sorted themselves out, haven't they.”?
"Of course, they have. Olga's husband the teacher will be helping Jud with the grounds and the summer staff. Jack and Cheyenne will be back next week after they meet with you in Florida to take care of the finances. Except for the week at Paradise, Elke will be here."
"I hear you will be going with them."
"Yes. I'll ride the bus with Sunshine."
"How long will you stay?"
"Maybe a month. Rock and Lexxie are pretty much retired and the children run everything now. They spend most of the summer at Paradise with the younger grandchildren. This year they want to bring the kids here in mid-July as a treat. I'll come back then."
"The change of pace will be good for you."
"Most of my old cronies are gone and the Hanlons are like my second family after you."
"I worried at first. Like early withdrawal pains. When I saw the children getting excited and the twinkle in my husband's eyes, however, I got caught up in the rush. I can't wait."
"Did you finally decide on an itinerary?"
"We have an outline. A few days in Spain, then a stop in Eze the week after the Monaco Grand Prix. Florence and one other stop before Vienna. Three days there before we go into Eastern Europe. Reed has it mapped out there but told all of us where was a surprise. A couple days in Berlin, then off to relax at Maia's parents. We will stop in Paris, then camp at La Sabliere. We end up the trip at Libby's friend Piggy's place a couple kilometers from the naturist beaches at Montalivet."
"I hope you left some flexibility."
"Definitely. Only Eze and Vienna are on a tight schedule. The rest depends on what we find interesting and fun."
Polly polished off her pie. "Heidi dropped this off. She stops by nearly every day."
"I also see that Mikkel finished refurbishing your cart."
"Reupholstered it, painted it black with racing stripes and that Springer decal on the front. Talented kid. Abby comes by too, we chat and she dusts and vacuums the places that I miss."
"I've found Heidi more relaxed and the kids having a lot more fun since my brother left." Romy said.
"Heidi has put on weight, which she needed to, and is not as frantic."
"I hope she doesn't feel as if she has to stay here all summer. She has always wanted to spend a few weeks away from here with the children."
"End of July she will be going to Granite Lake and the Cape with off site visits on rainy days."
"Good for them. You are going to be busy with the vacation map, keeping track of all of us."
"And be up half the night watching all your vid messages. That's fine. We old ladies don't need long periods of sleep. We catnap." Polly cackled.
Sven was blissfully unaware of all the happenings back home. Because the
Northwest was still enveloped by drizzle and fog, and the Northern Plains
snow covered, he headed south. He briefly considered heading south through
Mexico to visit the Mestizos. However, the ongoing drug wars, and the fact he was traveling alone would make him an easy target for criminals. After stopping at a few southern California clubs, he headed east through Arizona and New Mexico, and zigzagged through Texas. While he found the scenery beautiful and the people friendly, there wasn't enough greenery or
water for his liking. He found a club in Oklahoma which looked promising and headed north. He needed a place to stay and relax while he considered his options.
He didn't want to stay permanently in his mobile home. He could either sign a long term lease or buy a place he could use to plan and recharge his batteries. Then he could buy a small truck for shorter trips. He found from his visits that almost everyone collected something. Coins, stamps, music, or novelty stuff that piqued their interest. He offered to keep his eyes open along the way, collecting names and contact information. He found a few things, sending some back, and selling the rest to pickers who had permanent retail establishments. He traveled one week a month for the rest of the summer, meeting new people and making contacts.
He joined the club. He tread softly at first; people were suspicious because he was from the west coast and single. When he told them he had grown up only a few hundred miles away and milked cows as a boy, they warmed up. He swam in the pool, played volleyball and cards. he even helped out with a pot luck supper, things he rarely had time to do working
the hours he had at The Farm.
He would send messages to his mother once a week, and a monthly photo in front of the van showing he was evenly tanned and in good health to her and his children. He never asked about Heidi.
Posted: Sep 4, 2012
|They rode the midnight train into Foggy City to catch their morning flight to Florida. They arrived at dusk, where a shuttle brought them to The Oasis.|
"We will eat, and then relax. Tomorrow we will have lunch with Neddy, Jack and Cheyenne. Otherwise, we are free. Our flight to Spain leaves the following evening. We should be there for breakfast." Reed said.
Packing had been a challenge. Romy had stuffed a steamer trunk and several bags. Reed shook his head.
"We only need three sets of clothes and a couple pair of shoes each. Sundries are available everywhere. We can carry our iPads and phones in our pockets. Put knapsacks and our clothes in one large suitcase. We can buy or rent towels when we are not in a hotel. Remember that at least half the time we won't be wearing anything."
"You know I want to do some shopping."
"Yes, you can. We can ship most of the stuff home from the shops so we don't have to lug it around or risk having it stolen. Remember, we are traveling as regular people."
Libby agreed. "I see people spending so much time worrying about their luggage; they waste half their time packing, unpacking and doing inventory.
I'm traveling light. Birks, a pair of heels, 2 sundresses, gym shorts, tees, a few other things.
I iron the dresses, hand wash everything, even though I could pay to get it done." She pointed at a small bag. "It's all in there. I have a bigger bag at Piggy's to bring home, if I need it. I'll leave this one there."
Reed spent the following morning tweaking the itinerary. Libby, Romy and Bethany went out to the pool, swimming and lolling in the sun before it got too warm. Peta had knocked at the door at eight, asking for young Reed.
"Tour guide for young Reed," she sang.
Reed looked at his mother, who tried hard not to laugh. It was obvious to everyone that Peta had a huge crush on him. Reed knew she liked him, but had no clue how to deal with the adoration.
"Off you go," said his mother. "Peta, lunch is at two. Please bring him back by one. Neddy gets cranky when people are late."
They made it back at 1:45. "We were playing water polo and had to finish the game." Reed said. "It's as much my fault as Peta's. We were having fun."
Neddy made a face, and then laughed. Lunch was light and cheerful. Jack and Cheyenne were excited about returning home.
"Rosie and Dawn Angel have finished the new rooms in the carriage house. I can jump out the window into the pool." Cheyenne laughed.
"I am looking forward to see what my grandsons and their new wives have done on their property," said Jack. "Max has already drilled the well.
Romy, any movement on your end?"
"Bekka will be handling that for me. I want things to move forward while we are away. Hopefully, the house construction will start by the end of the summer."
After lunch, the children went off to play; Neddy took a nap, while the others discussed business and exchanged news during the afternoon thunderstorm.
"If you have any problems, contact Polly. Heidi will do all the legwork for her. My nephew Karl does the same for my father. Everyone else is pitching in to keep things running smoothly. When Heidi is away, go to Elke." Romy told them.
"Our flight is leaving tonight. Have a good trip and enjoy yourselves.
The Farm will be in good hands." Jack said.
The following day, they said their goodbyes and headed to the airport.
Reed got a big hug and kiss from Peta, who told him to be safe and that he'd better come back to visit.
They landed in Madrid. Libby had prepared a short list of places to visit. They stayed at a modest hotel, feasted on tapas, and visited two museums. They rented a van and made the six hour drive to Malaga.
It was a naturist resort set on fifteen acres, filled with fruit trees,
and flower gardens.
"The beach is only ten minutes away. We can go there early or in late afternoon when it is quiet with few gawkers." Libby said. "I can take the children so you can have time to yourselves."
Reed replied. "You are here as a colleague and guide, not as a nanny. You don't have to do that."
"No problem at all. I like kids. Besides, being with them keeps a lot of the perverts and trophy hunters at bay. It's a win-win situation for everyone."
In the afternoons, they would all go together. It was early in the season, so it wasn't wall-to-wall people during the week, except on Wednesdays when
school was a half day.
The resort was a mix of expatriates, retirees and tourists. It was enjoyable meeting people from all over the world, sharing information and
telling a few tall stories over drinks and meals without worrying about
what to wear.
On Monday, they loaded the van and headed for France. En route, they received the first message that would change their itinerary.
"TJ Snowe is being transferred from Naples to Hawaii in late July.
They want us to visit them before they leave." Romy said.
They flew out of Nice and met TJ at the airport in Naples.
"We reserved you some rooms at the resort near us in Calabria.”It is reasonable, as it is not yet high season. We will be there as well. The movers are packing us up."
Posted: Sep 6, 2012
|They met TJ's wife Lucia and their three children.|
Reed and Bethany quickly stripped off. The youngsters ran off to the beach.
"I was so looking forward to seeing your house."
"You can," replied Lucia. "They will be done with everything but the beds tomorrow. We will eat at the patio table, which came with the house until we leave next week. In a way, I am glad we are moving. With the children getting older, thirteen, eleven and nine, it gets a little crowded at times."
Reed asked, "How do you feel about relocating after spending you whole career in the Mediterranean?"
"It will be different. From one of the major crossroads of civilization to an island in the middle of the planet's largest ocean."
Lucia made a face. "For three years."
"You could always visit The Farm." Reed offered.
"It would be nice to stay there for a while. When we have been on leave, TJ's parents have come to us. Madison will be house hunting with me in Hawaii. Hopefully, we will get there soon."
Food was served. The waiter was Polish; wine was brought by a woman from Finland, food delivered by a married couple who lived locally.
"The chef is Belgian and the owners Dutch and a silent Italian group, who didn't want to get excommunicated by the archbishop when they first opened the place."
When they finished, the women went off to swim and find their children and TJ had to return to
the base to finish paperwork. Reed went on the phone. First to Libby.
"You got to Firenze. Good. Sorry about Eze. I know you liked it there."
"With you side tracking; we can do Firenze or Venice but not both properly. If you don't need me to tutor Reed, I can meet those people in Venice and get it over with in one day. I hate those birds near St. Mark's."
"Firenze it is then. This way we can take our time getting to Vienna. Are we all set for our
visit to the place on Lake Balaton? "
"Yes, and the one in the north of the Czech Republic as well. I have made contact with a
family in Berlin who is willing to host us if it is mid-week. That should get us to Denmark by the last week in July. I will be ready for two weeks rest at Piggy's before we go home. Remember, I have a softball tournament to play."
"I will try. However, we need to meet everyone on the list."
"There is no need to get impatient. We will be done in Vienna by the end of June. A week each in Hungary, the Czech Republic. There is also a place in southern Poland if we need it, but that brings us to the last week of July for Berlin
and visiting Maia's parents in Denmark."
"If we need to, we can turn in the van in Copenhagen and fly to Bordeaux so we have time to discuss everything at Piggy's and clear our minds before we return home. La Sabliere might have to wait until next year."
"I agree that because of the age and the health of our hosts, we had to concentrate on the East. You have to be careful though. You have a long bucket list and are putting a lot of pressure on yourself."
"But I don't know how much time I have left."
"You'll have less if you don't chill. By the way, get a bumper sticker from that resort."
"I have ones from Spain and one in France. If we aren't dressed in the van, people will know why. Not like in the States where the moral police are alive and vicious."
Posted: Sep 8, 2012
|Young Reed was getting an education of his own. Unprotected from the cocoon of life at home, he had to watch and listen more carefully.|
In Italy, he had help with TJ's kids guiding him, pointing out local customs and helping him with his Italian when they went into town.
"Even if you don't get all the pronunciations and grammar right, you get better treatment and more respect if you at least try to speak the language. Most will even take a minute to teach you the right way to say something," the eldest Snowe boy told him. "See how fast we got our gelato. The other American kids screaming for ice cream had to wait."
He learned in Italy he couldn't rush from one place to another. You had to at least wave or exchange pleasantries while you walked. One or two you had to stop and talk to, if only for a minute.
"I hope you don't mind being touched. They hug; they kiss or pinch your cheeks. They offer you food so you won't get hungry on the way home, even if you are five houses down. They aren't being pervy, it is just their way."
He had just gotten used to this when the family had to leave. Florence was fun, but they spent a lot of time in museums and lived in a hotel. Libby was a very good guide. An hour or two of museums, then a snack, then just walking around. When the women went off shopping, he and his father roamed freely, taking care not to wander too far off the main streets.
"One thing you have to learn is to not put yourself at risk. Being adventurous is one thing. However, it is better to travel with someone, and better yet to find someone local to show you good places off the beaten track."
"Like people on the Farm website?"
"That is a start. However, this trip and the ones we will be taking the next few summers are to introduce you to people and families I have known over the years whom you can trust. We will meet the first group of people at the naturist club outside Vienna."
"Why at a club and not at the hotel?"
"At the hotel, everyone has to assume their real life status. It will make free conversation more difficult. At the club, no one wears anything. You judge them as people, not by their occupation. One thing to remember. I know you will have lots of questions. Don't interrupt a conversation. Just listen and take mental notes. Go afterwards and speak with them privately. Tell them you want to practice your German. Most will be glad to spend a few minutes with you."
He listened. It began with men his father's age or older, then with the next generation of men and women his mother's age. He listened to them exchange old stories, many of which he had already heard, but it was interesting to hear different versions of the same events. Food and beer was delivered.
After two hours, the wives returned, scolding their spouses for not introducing Reed and his family to everyone. A bald rotund man stood.
"We know how we stand. We are only the boss when our wives allow us to be.
Kommen, Reed. My wife is leading everyone to the beach. Hear the drum? We will meet everyone, swim, relax and then eat again." He put his arm around Reed's shoulder. "It has been too long, my friend. But I see from your family why you have been distracted."
Reed told his son he could go exploring."There will be more talk later. Now we are just old men repeating the same stories we have for years.
It is more fun today because we are together. And the beer is flowing."
Reed left the men to their memories. He saw his sister watching a group of musicians playing Mozart, enthralled by the violins. His mother and Libby were chatting with the women next to them, in English and German. Every once in a while Romy would whisper something in Libby's ear, and Libby would whisper back, explaining the first time in German to the other women that Romy understood the language, but not all the idioms, and was not being rude.
He didn't see the ball in the air, and it bounced off his head. He was stunned for a moment, then picked it up and looked around. A crowd of people were yelling for him to kick it or throw it back in the water.
"Or, if you want to play, put on a bathing cap to pick your team."
He grabbed a red one, kicked the ball, and ran into the lake to play.
Posted: Sep 9, 2012
|Reed had finished the game and was speaking with the other players. One asked if he was from Berlin, because his accent was different from theirs. He told them his tutor was, but that he was from America.|
"Most Americans don't even speak English well,” one said. "Your German is a bit formal, but we can teach you the slang, but you have to promise not to tell your parents everything. You will get us into trouble," a teenage boy laughed.
"With us too," said a girl with hands on hips, "Only the slang that says we girls are smart, pretty and funny is allowed. Now can we practice our English? Fair is fair. You got a chance to use your German."
It started out as practice. Before long, it was a hodgepodge of both languages, while they sat, chased each other, swam and laughed a lot.
Bethany had tired of the classical music and was splashing around in the children's section under the supervision of a large middle-aged woman with a whistle. Whenever someone got too far out of line, the whistle blew and a long finger was pointed to what was called "the penalty box". The offender sat there until the whistle blew again and the finger pointed to the water.
"She is very strict," a girl told Bethany. "You can splash, but not the grownups. No dunking or hair pulling. No cheating during games. Being disrespectful also earns you the box. We have fun. You just have to know what you can get away with."
Bethany played all afternoon with her new friends.
Reed Sr. had joined his wife on the beach. They watched their children enjoying themselves. "Children are the same all over," Reed said. "No
pretenses, no hang-ups about being nude. It is too bad the outside world spoils it for so many when they reach the teen years."
"Reed does well. He carries his towel close because sometimes he gets an involuntary erection. It is a normal thing. During puberty, it can be embarrassing, even if you are a nudist. Has he spoken with you about it?" Romy asked.
"Yes, I told him it wasn't a bad thing, but it could make others uncomfortable, as well as him. He told me he either jumps in the water or puts his towel in front of him, does multiplication tables until it subsides. He was relieved when I said it was temporary, and that while it might happen when he was older, it would be much less frequent."
Libby appeared with a list.
"I contacted some of the Worthington alumnae who live in the east. I found three who speak both Czech and Hungarian. Two are natives. The other
married a local. "
Reed perused the names.
"Not the first one. Their family used to be informants for the KGB, and may still be. Our hosts would not be amused. The transplant is
also not good. Not knowing past history, she may inadvertently say something to the wrong people. Now the last one I like. Family is known and respected, supported Dubcek in the 1968 Prague uprising. They are academics, who get a lot more respect here than they do back home."
"She and her husband want to know if they can bring their children. They have three: eight, thirteen and sixteen. They will be tenting. She
told me she would work for less as long as she didn't have to cook or do dishes."
"The children are fine. Contact the clubs and see if we can help her out."
Posted: Sep 15, 2012
|The visit to Vienna was an enjoyable one. They visited the Hoffburg Museum, and the Spanish Riding School within and people watched at Josefplatz. While the women visited the Central opera House and shopped, Reed and his son started a tour at the Zentralfriedhof, where one of their favorite movies, "The Third Man", appeared both near the beginning and near the end. They found Lime's apartment, and took the sewer tour, which in reality is a covered over section of the Wien River. They ended up on the Ferris wheel in the Prater Amusement Park, where Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten finally met. When they were done, they found Romy and Bethany riding the carousel, while Libby was sitting on a bench with a box of apfelstrudel cakes. |
"Take some please," she said, "We have been eating too many sweets. Dobostorte with our lunch and now this for a snack. Hope I can rent a bike
at our next stop. I can work off all this food riding back and forth between the two clubs."
"We have a meeting tomorrow, and, I am afraid, more pastry. Our hostess makes a wonderful gugelhupf. Thankfully, it washes down easily with coffee."
"We will be able to stay longer at the Hungarian clubs. I just received word that the gentleman from Poland has passed away. We will stay in a bungalow on Lake Balaton and go back and forth to the other naturist venue close by. We will then stop at a club north of Prague a few days, then go to Berlin midweek. A weekend in Denmark, then off to Montalivet. Is that satisfactory?" Reed asked.
"Let's see. Hungary until the fourteenth, Berlin by the twenty-second, Montalivet by the end of July. Back home by the last week in August. That will give me a couple weeks to relax and ten days to get into softball shape. It will also allow you some time to decompress and enjoy yourself
and your family."
"But I am enjoying myself. Old friends, good conversation, spending time with my son, my brain is alive. Look at my wife. She is laughing and having fun, not worrying about things back home."
"Oh, she worries. But she is having fun."
Hungary and the Czech Republic were even more enjoyable. Everyone was in vacation mode. Young Reed had a bit more of a challenge, since he didn't speak the languages. However, through sport and the teen activities, he felt comfortable with his new nude friends. It was so much better than voices or pictures on a screen. After a day or two, he discovered most spoke both German and English.
The women ate, swam and played volleyball. Libby and Romy biked ten miles a day to work off all the food they had eaten.
"Elke tells me we will be able to bike nude next summer after Polly Benson and Reservoir Road are closed off."
"How will people get in?" Libby asked.
"Everyone will get a daily password that opens the gates. Eric has that under control."
"Cool. Now stop talking and peddle. We have four more miles to the bungalow."
At each place, there were hugs, kisses and tears when they left. Reed apologized for the short stay at Borny, but promised to return. In Berlin, their contact never showed up and they spent the two days as tourists, walking the Ku'damm and Friedrichstrasse, visiting the Bahnhorf Zoo, and having a nude picnic in the Grunewald. There were many others doing the same and no one gave them a second look.
Reed was surprised his father had not asked him for his impressions of the people he met. Usually his father would do it right away. It wasn't until they arrived in Denmark that they sat down for a chat.
"Well, what did you learn?" Reed asked his son.
"I found that people's perceptions and experiences of the same events are different, depending on where they were. For example, in Austria, no one lived through WWII. Even the oldest only remember the country being rebuilt. While there have been ups and downs, life has been fairly stable. On the other hand, in Hungary and Czech Republic, they still remember the Russian presence. Austrians and Germans accept naturism as a way of life.
In the East, some remember having to go to Greece or the old Yugoslavia for nude vacations. They are very happy they can practice in their own countries now. Plus I noticed a lot more young people there."
"That is true. Now what about the people. Anyone you took an immediate liking or dislike to?"
"I tried to be fair. I thought some asked too many questions beyond what was polite. Others are just wary of Americans. Most just accept4ed me as another nude person having fun. I would need to come back again and see who stays in touch over time to make firmer decisions."
"Yes. First impressions are usually but not always correct. Life experiences also change people. Anything else?"
"The food was good. The cottage here smells like Elke and Maia's house.
One thing. About girls. Sometimes they are distracting. How do you deal with that?"
"Men have been trying to find those answers since the beginning of time.
They have good and bad qualities, like men. They come in various shapes and sizes. Be truthful without being hurtful. Treat them as people, not
objects or trophies. Realize that nothing stays fixed in time and everyone evolves differently."
The boy nodded. He watched his mother building sand castles on the beach with Bethany and other children.
"She is having a lot of fun. Her laugh lines make her much prettier than her worry lines."
A group of teens walked by and asked Reed if he wanted to play Frisbee.
His father nodded. Off he went.
Posted: Sep 18, 2012
|They had spent two weeks near Montalivet and had thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They stayed in Piggy's house.|
"It is too big for just me. You can come and go as you please. The restaurant is open for all meals if you don't feel like cooking. Be warned though. My cook offers only four entrees for lunch and dinner, fish, beef, chicken and vegetarian or pasta. Make sure you are on time. He refuses to cook between scheduled meal hours."
"You can either sit by the pool or wander through the grounds. Bicycle or shuttle to the beach. Make sure you have a sticker or badge or you will
have to pay an entry fee. We are not part of the resort complex."
Romy was amazed at Piggy's transformation from the girl with pink hair and bright red behind she had first met years ago. She was brunette this year with an even tan. She kept her own books, was firm with her small staff of four.
"All locals. I pay them well. They get free vegetables and wine from the vineyards, which are lovingly tended by the villagers. I get so many bottles a month, and they get to keep the rest, either to sell or to drink themselves. There is a swimming pond. I don't need a lot of security because they watch it for me. I have minor problems, but that goes with the territory."
Romy also found Piggy's real name on the placard behind the front desk.
"Marguerite Maria Theresa de Rochefort. Too serious. Piggy fits better."
Reed and Romy walked the beach, played with their children, took long afternoon siestas to relax and make love. The children bodysurfed and swam at the ocean beaches. They all tried their hand at petanque and boules. Reed and Bethany meandered through the grounds with the other children. All one could see were towels trailing behind them and hear the echoes of their chatter and laughter. Their nudity didn't concern them, nor did it bother anyone else.
A different Libby emerged. Free from the responsibilities of work, she
swam, went nude parasailing twice a week, ran up and down the beach to keep her legs strong, stopping when the mood struck her to chat or flirt. On Piggy's nights off, the two of them went into town, most evenings returning just before sunrise.
"Piggy is trying to be a matchmaker, but it isn't working," she told Romy. "I will admit though the attempts have been a lot of fun. I feel relaxed and loved."
Romy noted that she seemed content.
"Piggy is my best friend, and you have practically taken me in as family.
While I have been busy, I have also had a lot of fun. Work should always be like this."
"It could be if you wanted to do this full time."
"I mean it wouldn't be full time. I know you have softball and your annual trip home and other things you like to do, but Reed trusts you and he doesn't trust very many people."
"As long as he doesn't try to do six months work in eight weeks. He wanted to finish the rest of Europe next year, and I told him no. England to start, stop here a few days, and then head to Venice, Koversada resort in Croatia, and a week on Mykonos before the youth of the world take over.
Reed has planned meetings there. He feels more will get done on neutral ground."
"That doesn't sound like a light load to me."
"My impression is that he has been to many of these places before. It's more personal than business. Only Britain and Greece are work."
"That only brings us to the end of June. What next?"
"Ah, here's where we get help. Bethany wants to sign up for music camp
at the club in Vienna the first week in July, and Reed thinks he wants
to go back to Hungary. I think a couple young ladies caught his eye and he wants a second look. He mentioned something about coming back for the sports weekend."
"Good. Bethany has her father wrapped around her little finger. It will mostly be grandparents and children during the week. Much more peaceful.
My son is growing up. He was very shy at first, and would speak with Tara
every night about what he should do. Yesterday, I saw him walking on the beach holding hands with TWO girls."
Libby laughed. "He has to grow up sometime. At least he is on the beach and not in a tent with them."
Romy made a face.
"Back to the trip. Maia's parents are visiting The Farm next summer. While I take the children to a small resort in Portugal, the two of you will be spending a few days in Paris. Then back here before we go home. Your husband is quite the romantic, you know. He is always thinking of ways to make you happy. I saw him smile and his eyes twinkle when your son mentioned you were so much prettier with laugh lines."
"I have enjoyed myself and done almost no work. I know reality will set in soon, but I have really loved the person I have been during this trip. It has given me a lot to think about. But not today. Let's have another glass of wine and toast to fun."
Posted: Sep 20, 2012
|The family began looking forward to the annual vacations.|
They enjoyed England, in spite of the weather. The children loved it because of the more open attitude towards naturism since the new king had ascended the throne. His holiday naturism had led to an increase throughout the country, primarily among the younger generation.
"Museums and castles make you feel encrusted with ancient dirt after a while," Reed said. "The royal family needs to wash that off just like we do."
Bethany piped up. "We need to let our bodies breathe and be free. The caretakers at those places have no sense of humor. I need beach."
Bethany also needed music to be happy. Advanced piano at Austrian music camp until she was eleven, when her father bought her the saxophone she had always wanted. Since she read music, once mastering the keys and her breathing, proficiency came quickly. Her instructors were not amused.
"If you prefer the music of the cafes and not the Opera House, there is nothing more we can do for you." they sniffed.
Bethany laughed at them. She had come to prefer jazz piano and her saxophone. While she was grateful for the structure and discipline, they had taught her, it was time to move on. She was a free spirit, and liked the impromptu sessions in Hungary and France a lot better.
Young Reed kept up with his languages, sharpened his listening skills and became more comfortable meeting new people. Matters intellectual were effortless for him. Yet he presented himself in such a way that was neither arrogant nor the voice of a know-it-all.
"My parents know so much more than me and they are still learning. Being bright is a gift. One has to use that gift prudently."
He liked sports, especially ones both boys and girls could play. Volleyball, petanque, Frisbee and biking were his favorites. He enjoyed the rapport and banter as well.
He, like Bethany, enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere in Hungary. It was during the third year that he went from holding hands into a tent with a quiet girl he had met the first time he had visited. They were telling jokes, and then laughing, and one thing led to another. While it never became permanent, they always remained friends. He would visit there every year he was in Europe.
He would also stay at Piggy's. She made visiting fun for everyone, always thinking up new ways to make her customers visits enjoyable.
After the third year, a pattern developed. Two new places, two weeks in Hungary, two weeks at Piggy's, and the rest up for grabs. Libby and Romy made sure Reed did not overexert himself.
"People can come to you from now on. You have visited everyone you needed to on their own turf. No business in Hungary or at Piggy's. We can't enjoy ourselves if we have to keep an eye on you all the time."
Reed knew they were right. He was eighty. The meetings tired him. He now preferred to communicate by Vpod, the latest evolution of the IPod. Libby now represented him in many cases.
His son was making contacts of his own, under the watchful eye of his colleagues. As long as he kept a proper balance between his studies and his love life, he would be fine.
He took Romy's hand. "Our children are old enough to be left to themselves for an hour or two. Shall we go enjoy the afternoon together indoors? It is
warm out here in the afternoon."
"It will be even warmer inside very soon," Romy laughed.
"Promise?" He grinned.
"Yes, and you know I always keep my promises."
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