Posted: Sep 22, 2012
While Reed and his family crisscrossed the globe, the other Svenson children and their friends were moving on with their lives as well.
Bix got called up to the majors on his first anniversary. Jud, Sally,
his sister Tanya, Karl, Inga and Molly all flew to Cincinnati to watch him get a single and play flawlessly in a quick two-hour 1-0 win.
"Sorry it wasn't against the Cubs or Yankees, Pop," he said to Jud. "Cubs were last week and being in the National League, we aren't scheduled to play in New York until next year."
"Doesn't matter, son. We are all so proud of your hard work. Just do your job and I am sure we will see you play there as well."
Molly was ecstatic. "Can we make babies now? You said we had to wait until you made the big club. I want your father to see grandchildren running nude through the fields chasing a big dog like you did. I want your mother to be one of my midwives. I love them and you so much."
Bix had heard from many people how his wife had fallen in love with the farm and its people. Karl and Jud had been skeptical, thinking she would be a pampered city girl. She proved them wrong. She mowed, weeded, delivered veggies and fruit, and mucked out the barns. She even helped Alice with a breech birth one of the cows was having.
"She was covered with all that gook," Reuben told the men. "She didn't bat an eye. She was just happy the mother and calf were alive and well."
Karl was impressed. One day in August, he had Inga invite her for mid-morning coffee.
"Jud tells me you are very happy here."
"People are so nice, the children have so much fun and are so well behaved, and they take being clothes free as being natural and normal.
There is lots to do. If someone needs help, I help. If I need to relax or want to read, I can go to Harmony House or the library. If I want to work on my muscles, I go shovel manure,” she laughed.
Karl smiled. "All I hear is good things about you. I invited you
today because I wanted to throw out something for you to think about.
Bix told me you are very bright and got a 3.8 or something in college.
I also know your parents are attorneys and thought you would follow in their footsteps. I wondered if you would ever consider going to law school?"
"I never thought about it, and I really didn't like all the hours my parents were away from home."
"My thought was that you become the attorney for us, The Farm. No traveling, you could practice here, do wills, simple contracts and the like, and represent our interests on the larger level. You wouldn't need to chase ambulances or vid-advertise to make a living."
"Um, does this have to be right away?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Remember when we were in Cincinnati?"
"So do I. Bix and I made a baby. I'm two months pregnant. I like your idea, but I won't be able to start until next fall. Is that ok? I just told Jud and Sally this morning."
That afternoon Jud went down to see Doctor Paul. Just before Christmas,
he brought an early present to Bix and Molly.
"This is a huge puppy," Molly said. "I'm five one. How will I control him?
And will he hurt the baby?"
Tears were rolling down Bix's face.
Jud told him, "His name will also be Cochise. I will show you how I trained
your old friend. This dog comes from his seed. He will be fearless, strong and powerful. He will protect your children as old Cochise protected you and your sister. You will teach your children these lessons when the time comes."
The dog walked over and sat at Molly's feet, tail wagging.
"His instinct is good." Jud said. "You have nothing to worry about," he told Molly.
Jud and Cochise paced outside the delivery room as Alice and Sally,
with help from Missy, delivered Adam Bix on the Ides of March. Immediately
afterwards, Cochise posted himself on the floor between the bed and the crib. He did not allow anyone to go near Adam unless Molly or Bix said it was ok.
Molly began law school the following fall. By that time, Cochise had accepted Sally and Jud as family, and LilMike and his kids as welcome visitors.
Three years later, Eve arrived at the end of July.
Bix performed well on the field, was gracious with the media, respected by fans and teammates for his work ethic and hustle.
Jud finally got to Yankee Stadium. Bix posed with Derek Jeter, who was now managing the pinstripes, after a stellar career and election to the
Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bix said later it was a good thing the picture was taken before the game.
The young man hit a triple, a double and stole two bases as his team beat
the Yankees, 11-3.
Posted: Sep 23, 2012
|While Bix got a lot of publicity, Jud and Sally were no less proud of their daughter Tanya.|
She was short like her mother, with her blue eyes. Luckily, Sally said, she inherited her father's flesh tones, which didn't burn, and had darker hair that she let, grow long.
Six years younger than Bix, she was athletic and played field hockey. However, she was more studious and serious than her brother about academics. She was a math whiz.
"Listening to Dad and Karl whipping around baseball statistics off the top of their heads fascinated me."
She won math prizes throughout elementary school, and added a chemistry award as a sophomore.
"If you remember the numbers for experiments, you don't blow up the lab or stink up the building." she laughed.
Her passion though, was Native American culture.
"I'm an American through and through, but I like a lot of the old traditions. I thought what the twins did at their wedding was wonderful."
She played field hockey with Jo Saunders, and was part of the Gang of Eight, which also included Tara, Abby, Tasha Washington, Ruthie's 2 daughters and Erin Li, whose family had moved to The Farm when she was eight.
They went to each other’s games and meets, bowled together, shopped together, and went on date’s together, discussing love, life, boys and the future.
Tanya loved to eat. When she found that the food did not make her grow
taller, but only rounder, she got self-conscious about her body and wore
a t-shirt to hide herself.
Her mother picked up on it and took out an old dusty photo album. She showed shots of a chubby blond woman next to Jud, Inga and Karl.
"That was me. I was very self-conscious after Bix was born. I would even
hide when people I didn't know came to visit."
"Wow, Mom, how did you get over that? You certainly aren't shy now."
"When your father had his hip replaced, he had to walk and I walked with him. I didn't care who saw me. All I wanted was for him to get well. I started off wearing a shirt like you do, but it got so hot and scratchy on my skin, I took it off and just brought a towel with me. I got into shape
for your father and have never looked back."
"That sounds like a plan. I can bring the towel and drape it when I feel ugly. Cool."
"Let me suggest something. Find an exercise or activity you like and can do with your friends or alone. Something that will help you relax and keep
your legs in shape for field hockey."
Tanya came up with rollerblading. At first, she just skated around the circular drive in the center of The Farm. After the roads near the reservoir were blocked off, she got braver and ventured out on the street
on her daily skates. By the time, Tara returned from Granite Lake, the
escapades of the seven, wearing only helmets, goggles and kneepads, were the talk of The Farm.
"You aren't the only one with all the bright ideas. I thought this one up
all by myself." Tanya laughed. Tara stuck out her tongue and said, "Riding
a bike gets boring. This is fun. Great idea."
By the following spring, Tanya's baby fat was nearly gone. The big towel stayed a bit longer, like Linus' security blanket.
She and Molly became great friends. She helped with the babies, and
they discussed what she should do about college.
"Mom and Dad never went, my brother did all right, but he is an athlete, not an academic. He studied and kept his grades up so he could play ball. I've spoken with Elke. She tells me Worthington is a good school, but not strong in math or chemistry. MIT is too cold and too far away."
"There are two really good colleges in California, if you want to be close to home. Otherwise, you would have to go near the Chicago area. The winters there can be brutal, though. Heartland is about a five-hour drive away.'' Molly explained. "I grew up there and it is a nice place."
In her junior year, she went to Chicago with her family to see Bix play against the Cubs and make school visits. It was cold and drizzly the entire time and her feet felt like blocks of ice. She eventually chose Cal-Berkeley.
Her grads were good. She got a part-time job tutoring math in Chinatown.
At first, she would come home every other weekend to see her boy friend.
By Christmas break, it was clear they were going in different directions and they tearfully broke up.
She lived with two other girls in a typically crowded freshman dorm suite.
They accepted her being nude in the room. The rooms were warm. Even with open windows, without air conditioning, the heat became stifling. Clothes were banned on those days.
One day, one mentioned being curious about a nude beach not far away.
"I wonder what it is like. I hope people aren't having sex under their towels or even out in the open. "
Tonya replied.”That behavior is unacceptable, just like it would be on
a beach where everyone wore suits. They do pretty much the same things.
You just don't have to worry about any straps or sand scratching you inside your suit on the ride home."
"Nothing worse than a cold clammy suit full of sand."
They went to the beach and had a great time. From her towel near the Frisbee golf game, Tonya spied someone familiar, long blond hair with blue streaks matted onto her nude body, carrying a surf board out of the ocean. It was Christine.
Posted: Sep 26, 2012
|Christine had originally gone to college with the idea of becoming a teacher and joining her sister-in-law Katie at The Farm's Montessori school.|
Two things happened to change her mind. The first was the reality check she got when she took her first education classes. The Methods course was
totally different than the way she was taught. When she tried to explain the differences, she was told that they didn't care how they were taught in her town, this was the right way. When she showed them the student test scores far above the state average, they were not impressed.
"If you want a teaching certification, you will have to do it our way when you student teach."
She told them they could put their certification where the sun didn't shine and transferred out to General Studies.
The second thing that happened was that she found she loved the beach. Her boy friend at the time was a surfer and gave her lessons. The boy friend faded, but not Christine's love of surfing. She was good but not great, and chose to surf at places of medium difficulty.
"I do this because it is relaxing and challenging at the same time. I don't have to wear a suit unless the water is too cold, and beach people don't talk about school all the time."
When she met Tanya at the beach, she was a fifth year senior. She had switched her major to marine biology, and would finally graduate in December.
She was also looking for a place to live close to the city.
"I love The Farm, and will eventually move back. But I love all the activity in the city. So much to see, do and eat."
Tonya asked what kind of place she was looking for.
"Actually, someone showed me a place last week and I'm waiting for Grampa and Bekka to come down and take a look at it. Let me show it to you on the way back to school and you can give me feedback."
Christine led them to a tree lined street in an outlying suburb. She pulled into a parking area next to a square brick building with over sized
opaque windows on the first floor.
“C’mon, I've got the lock box combination."
Once inside, Tonya was confused. On the right was an empty Olympic sized swimming pool flanked by a shallow one, a tired volleyball net sagging across the center. To the right was an open area with a court suitable for tennis, volleyball or basketball. Walking down the corridor, she saw what appeared to be handball courts.
"It was a health club at one time. The owners refinanced with an adjustable rate mortgage and they couldn't make enough money to keep
open after the third bump. It's been sitting here for a long time."
Christine pointed at a calendar from a nightclub, which had burned down when
she was a freshman.
"Down here is just the gravy. What piqued my interest is upstairs."
They rode the elevator. When the door opened, they saw it was wide open
with wooden floors.
"This was originally a factory. They cut out the flooring where the pools
are but it still leaves over 10,000 square feet for other uses."
Tonya looked over the rail down at the pool. "That would be one huge dive if you put a board up here."
"I was thinking of putting up a wall with a lot of glass, so you could watch from up here and not do anything stupid after a few glasses of wine.
I was thinking of putting apartments here, no more than five or six, and either selling them or renting them out. Clothes free of course. One thing you didn't notice. The windows around the pool are one way. No one from the street can see in."
"Who gave you this idea?" asked Tonya's friend.
"Sometimes looking like a ditzy blonde has its advantages. People were
whining at the beach one day about how small apartments were for the rent they were charged. I met Leah Elder and her son a few months ago at the beach, and she has a two bedroom shoebox she pays almost fifteen hundred for, without utilities."
"How did you find out about this place?"
I was out one night and we were all talking about places to go when
it was too cold for the beach. A guy mentioned this place. I drove by,
called the realtor and she showed me around. I loved it, but I'm not a designer or a numbers cruncher."
"Well, if you can pull it off, I'd be interested in living here," said
the room mate, whose name was Bonnie. "I like The Farm, but I am a city girl. I only go half the time because our other suite mate has her boyfriend over and their moaning and groaning under the covers makes me uncomfortable."
Christine said, "They will be here next week. Why don't you two come with me? Leah will be here too. I need all the moral support I can get."
Posted: Sep 28, 2012
|Christine had rolled out a large plastic tablecloth on the floor and circled it with sitting pillows.|
She had removed all the Chinese and Mexican food from their containers and put them in serving dishes so they could be quickly reheated. She checked the extra fridge. Plenty of beer. She stopped by the neighborhood pizza place, ordered two large veggie specials and two jugs of house wine for six o'clock delivery.
They were waiting for her. Her brother Karl was with them.
"What a surprise," she said. "Now you can help me convince Gramps this is a good idea."
"You know he will indulge you to a point, but he hasn't built what he has by losing money."
"But he never would have built it if he hadn't taken a few risks."
Karl interrupted them.
"You are both right. Christine, please open the door so we can take a look. Bekka knows what to do. Karl, I want you to walk around, take pictures and make notes."
Bekka called Christine over. "I read what you wrote in the email, but I need you to show me what you have in mind."
They went through the second floor. Bekka liked the idea of closing in the opening above the pool.
"Safety of course, but not everyone likes the smell of chlorine when they step out the door every morning. You will need a roof exhaust system as well."
They went on the roof. Bekka made a face. It had to be replaced.
As they continued the tour, Christine saw page after page of notes being written and her stomach was tied in knots. Finally, it was over.
"I see you have written a short novel about this place. Does it have a happy ending?" Christine asked.
"Let me give you the good news first. The two Karl’s were good enough to look at the heating and cooling systems, as well as the pumps and underbelly of the pool. They are new and appear to be in good working order. If we sign a purchase and sales agreement, I will ask the realtor to have the pools filled for the structural inspections. Because there is a permanent dehumidifier downstairs, everything is dry with no evidence of mold. The first floor area appears to be in excellent condition."
"Now for the bad news. The current roof must go. There are cracks in the roof drainpipes. The stairwell has to be rebuilt, and a fire door put on the end opposite the elevator. Some of the floorboards have to be replaced. Only one second floor window can be opened ...”
"I know a lot has to be done, but can you make it work?" Christine asked.
"You can put five units comfortably upstairs. One thing I noticed downstairs is that there is no office in the front of the building. You might have to sacrifice the handball courts. Karl, did they even have an office?"
"There was a desk with towels and nets stacked on top with a file cabinet next to it in the back corner."
"Christine, I like your idea and this building may have a future. Nonetheless, we have to go back and run the numbers on how much it would cost to fix it. Based on that, we can then make an offer to the realtor."
"Karl, if I have access to a laptop, I can plug numbers into a program I run for other projects. Too big to download on a vpad.
Tonya never went anywhere without her laptop.
Christine said, "My place is fifteen minutes away. The pizza is coming in an hour. We can get out of these clothes, clean up and eat while we are waiting."
Posted: Sep 29, 2012
|Bekka was running numbers through her program. Women were running in and out of the shower, and then pitching in to get plates and utensils out of the dishwasher after they dried off.|
Karl had showered off and was checking out the house.
"There is a lot of room here, but it looks like you are the only one here all the time. Is that safe?"
"Most of the people work and come here on their days off. In the summer, it is wall-to-wall people. Wednesdays I am the only one here. I clean and order supplies for the weekend. There is a burglar alarm system, and a watchdog, which is at a friend's for the night."
"I know you are careful, but I'm your grandfather and I worry." Karl said.
She got on tiptoe and kissed his forehead. "I love you too, Gramps."
The doorbell rang. Christine ran to the door without bothering to cover up.
"Hi, Scotty. Did they make them the way I like them?"
"Of course. Here are the pies. Let me go get the wine."
She dropped the boxes on the floor, went into her bedroom, pulled out some bills and rushed back.
"You bringing Lola and the kids this weekend?"
"I have an audition Saturday morning but we should be there after the kids have their naps."
"Cool. Thanks a million. See you then."
They attacked the food. Young Karl, last out of the shower, slid between them.
"Leah, pass the ribs and the dirty rice. Katie never lets me eat quality junk food at home."
"Poor baby. You look really neglected," she teased, holding the platter as he dished food onto his plate.
He paused for a moment, and then asked, "Bekka, do we have any preliminary figures?"
Bekka replied. "It's going to be expensive, but I think it can work. Too bad your Uncle Sven isn't here. He could run the figures in his head and spout out a mental spreadsheet in minutes."
"I can call Jeannine and have her forward the program he used for his estimates. If she is still in the office, we can get a rough idea tonight."
Jeannine was and she did. Bekka merged the files, and poured herself another glass of wine. "I'm not driving. I deserve this and I'm going to have another one afterwards. I'm stoked. I want this to work."
Karl finally saw his opening.
"I'd like to propose a toast. To my sister's project, to Bekka and to all of you. I would also like to propose a toast to Katie. She passed a
threshold last week. She made it through her four month. We are finally going to have a baby."
Only Bekka saw old Karl tear up. He put a finger to his lips and shook his head. "Not a word. You can tell everyone when the child is born. Today,
only happy things."
Bekka wrinkled her nose. "Of course, you old softie. I just looked at the numbers. If we sell them for this (she showed him a figure), you will only
have to borrow a quarter long term. How quickly you pay that off depends on
how dedicated Christine will be to making the recreational facility on the first floor profitable."
"It can't be a drop-in center like this place is, where you throw money
in the pot if you want to or have it." Karl noted. "I'll ask her before we leave."
"One more thing. With Romy being away all summer, I will be flying back and forth between here and the new mid-South community. Neddy's place is
all done. She is cheerfully organizing her archive. The rest are in various stages of completion."
"First things first. We have to actually buy the place, then check for any
zoning issues. I doubt if there will be any, with the tax dollars it will bring in, but every contingency has to be dealt with."
"Who deals with that now that Sven is gone?"
"My son Karl. He has a lot of experience from his days at the non-profit."
"Cool. I can concentrate on writing specs and lining up contractors when you give me the green light. I'm done for now. I need to eat. Why don't you
give them the details? They pay attention when you talk with them."
Posted: Oct 1, 2012
|Karl made the presentation.|
When he finished, he asked Christine, "This is a lot of responsibility. Are you committed to following this through for the next several years?"
"Yes. I am. I love The Farm, but my heart is here, near the city and the ocean. One thing, though. I am good at running events and cleaning, but I will need someone more organized who can handle the financial end of things."
"You will need an office manager for both the residential and recreational areas. Jack can set you up. Cheyenne can do your taxes and pay the bills. Unless you plan on doing all the cleaning yourself, maintenance staff is needed. If you are going to rent any of the units, you need screening criteria."
"Will you set this up under the farm umbrella?"
"No, I think we are going into new territory here. Urban Naturist Opportunities or something like that. One last thing, for your manager, you need someone who isn't afraid to be the bad guy from time to time."
"With five brothers and sisters, and the oldest, I had to be the bad guy lots of times," Leah said. "I'm willing to do this part-time until this is fully operational."
"If you like my work, I would go full time. One thing though, you have to make this child friendly. I won't do it if it is adults only."
Karl replied, "I forget you have a son. Nice boy. Christine, is that agreeable?"
That summer, Karl created a non-profit corporation and bought the building. Christine contributed a portion of her trust fund as seed money. Romy and Bekka wove through the bureaucratic maze to gain approval for six units. The highlight of the presentation was Bekka's model for a rooftop urban garden.
Work would begin in the fall.
All this was far from Karl's mind as he drove home that evening. His grandfather and Bekka were asleep in the back as he sped through the darkness.
He was reviewing his marriage. With few exceptions, it had been fun.
He loved watching Katie run off to teach, dark hair blowing in the breeze. She wore only sandals, except for cool days when she threw a red cape around her shoulders. Occasionally, she carried socks in case her feet got cold.
Katie wanted children early, before her parents became too old to really enjoy them. When Molly got pregnant, they decided to try as well. With the first positive test, they were overjoyed. In the third month, she miscarried. It happened twice more, all in the third month. The doctors
couldn't find anything wrong physically.
Katie appreciated Karl's quiet comforting manner. She went on with work and life, publicly shrugging it off and telling people, "It just wasn't to be this time."
Yet she had days when she went to her mother and sobbed and asked why
she was being punished or what's really wrong with me that you aren't telling. What made it even worse was when she saw other women having perfectly happy healthy babies. Alice, delivering the first girl Galt in two generations. The twins had been really busy. Alternating pregnancies, Jade and Ruby had delivered a set of twins and a single child each, for a total of six, three boys, three girls. The day care and kiddy pool were full.
Missy tried to explain things from a nurse's point of view. Her heart ached watching her daughter's pain.
Karl kept her focused. "We just have to keep trying. Remember, you're the one that told me that other than teaching, there is nothing else you'd rather do."
This last time she hadn't told anyone. When Karl asked if her belly bump
meant anything, she told him it was gas. Three days ago, she came to him and told him she was now in the beginning of her fifth month, that Maia
had run tests and their daughter was healthy. When Karl asked why she hadn't told him earlier, she said she didn't want to disappoint him again.
She developed a craving for Polly's blueberry pie, egg rolls and hot fudge sundaes with strawberry ice cream. She spent most of the summer at The Pond with the other young mothers, not far from a bathroom. When Karl had business in town with Christine's project, he would take Katie with him. While he worked, Christine would take her to the beach, where she would walk or sit and watch the goings on. The summer passed uneventfully.
Colleen arrived just before Labor Day, healthy and screaming.
Posted: Oct 3, 2012
The deep sadness over his brother Peter's death had finally lifted from Eric Desrosiers. He could at least visit The Farm now, though he wouldn't sleep in his old house, preferring instead to stay at his grandmother's next door.
Marta had done a masterful job, he thought. She had widened and enclosed the porch, and built a ramp on the side for Polly. There was a long bench in front for drinking coffee outdoors. The room was bright. Marta said it was great because Tara could bring all her friends over without disrupting the whole house. Tara had her own bathroom now; the old computer station in the living room was now in the spare bedroom so his father could work at home. After Peter's death, he sold much of the media component
to the International Naturist Network. The Farm Channel remained, with a small staff, including Tina, doing travelogues and informational videos.
He kept the hardware and software ends of the business, turned it over to the accountants and went back to doing what he loved most, developing new and better ways of communication. He and Marta traveled together now, more for fun than for work.
He enjoyed spending time with them summers and during the winter holidays, but for all practical purposes, he had become part of the Granite Lake community.
He had lived in his grandparent's house until he was sixteen, and then moved to the family cabin. It wasn't like he was alone. Sergeant Al had retired after 25 years on the force, and had taken over management of the club from Charlie. Gaby Snowe lived in the old cottage, ran the arts and media shop with Zelda, and had a studio in Brimfield, where she modeled and made pottery. Ike, the only one of the old policemen still around, would check on him daily.
With the completion of all the residential cabins, there were now over sixty living on the grounds full time. The school bus now stopped at the end of the service road.
He had gotten a fair amount of teasing the first winter he spent there. He froze, hated the snow and the cold of the winter and the damp drizzly springs. Yet he found two advantages. Staying inside allowed him to concentrate on his studies. His grades improved. The second thing he found that if you hibernated all winter, you had extra pounds to lose in the spring. He wasn't a swimmer like his mother and sister, but he loved nude volleyball. All winter he played in the pool and at the fitness center.
Many winter week nights, nearly the entire community was at one place or the other, riding their snowmobiles or walking, stripping off
multiple layers of clothes, and enjoying playing and socializing nude, the wind chill outside below zero.
He was affable in a shy sort of way. People were drawn to him by his easy manner. He didn't hide where he lived, inviting classmates and their families to come and visit, to see if they liked it.
"If it makes you uncomfortable, I can understand. Just come to an open house. Ask your moms to go to Ladies Lunch, or just come and meet my grandmother and grandfather. If you still feel that way, it's ok. We can't be close friends because this is the way I want to live my life. But it doesn't mean I won't like you as a person."
Girl friends came and went throughout high school. He played on the young men's volleyball team. He found the co-ed teams too much of a distraction,
especially when Al and Josie's daughters were playing.
They competed for his attention. Foolishly, he went out with both of them.
Josie told him, "Until they sort this out, please don't go out with them. Life at home is a living hell when they think you pay more attention to one than the other."
He wisely followed her advice. They remained friends, kept an eye out for each other, especially during the weeks they spent at the Cape.
Posted: Oct 5, 2012
|Even as a youngster, Eric was picking up trash. He believed that the earth should not be littered with junk. Jud created a system where paper was shredded, baled and sold. Glass and bottles were picked up and sold to a local recycling plant. The income earned lowered dumpster costs and provided extra cash for equipment replacement. Eric sold this idea at Granite Lake. The cash there was used to buy athletic equipment for the teens and young adults.|
He continued this practice on his weeks at the Cape. Early every morning he would ride his bicycle to clean up the roadside and the trails leading to the beaches. In time, he picked up a small metal detector to detect items under the surface. He kept half what he earned and put the rest in a community jar reserved for pizza and ice cream.
When he turned eighteen, he became part of the beach patrol, and stayed the whole summer.
The year after, one year of college under his belt, he was walking a beach trail, wearing only a towel, mindlessly waving his detector back and forth. In the morning fog, he could see figures running in and out of the surf. He couldn't determine whether they were nude or not. When saw three or four towels on the edge of the dunes, with bikini parts and trunks holding them down, he smiled.
He would go down the path every other day. Some days they were there, others not. One day, he heard a voice through the fog, "Hey, trash man. You work too hard. Come in and play for a while. The water's great."
This was not an official nude beach. He thought for a moment and looked at the empty suits. "Why not?" he thought. He put down his detector, laid the towel on top and ran towards the beckoning figures.
When he got to the shoreline, all he saw were four heads bobbing in the waves.
"Looks like we got another one, Marcy. Do we keep him or throw him back?"
"He hasn't stopped to gawk. He just follows his metal detector and minds his own business, Ginny. That's one good thing."
A younger voice piped up, "He has an all over tan too. Must go to the nude beach down the road. At least he isn't chicken like the rest of you. If I were older, I wouldn't mind being his summer girl friend."
"I'm older and I saw him first, April," replied one whose feet were also visible.
Even on the hottest days, New England waters are cool. Eric had learned it was best just to dive right in. When he rose to the surface, he was surrounded by the four heads.
"How old are you, trash man?" asked the feet.
"Nineteen. And how old are you, red toenails?"
"The same. My name is Joolie, two 'o's', by the way. The older one with the red hair is my Aunt Marcy. The little brat is my cousin April and
the cute one next to her is her sister Ginny."
They chatted for a while until Marcy interrupted them.
"It's almost nine. If you want to eat before I go to work, time to get a move on."
Eric found out that Marcy tended bar in P'town. She looked the part.
Muscled arms and legs, a lot of body art and pale skin.
"I can't stay out in the sun with this skin. Half an hour out here is about as much exposure I can take without burning. I can't find a suit that fits, so I don't wear one. The locals don't care and the tourists don't come to the beach till the fog burns off."
"What about them?" Eric asked, pointing to the girls.
"We've been here for years. Joolie used to come for a couple weeks. She got a work permit at fifteen, and found she could make more money here and still have a lot of beach time. They wear suits because of peer pressure.
Afraid to go to the nude beach because some old fossils around here have narrow minds and big mouths. Teenage boys also make stupid assumptions
that being nude at the beach means you are easy."
"They are pains as it is at the Dairy Queen we work at," Ginny said.
"We don't need more aggravation."
Eric turned to Joolie. "You work there too?"
"Nope, at the Chowdah Locker next to the Post Office. Two lunches, Friday all day and Saturday night. We are here every morning unless it is really stormy."
Posted: Oct 9, 2012
|Eric adjusted his schedule to meet up with his new acquaintances. When they left their cottage, one of the girls would text him a message. Eric would finish his route and meet them. |
When he told his mother, she laughed.
"Every day there are at least two dozen young women on our beach, over a hundred on weekends. There are new ones every week, yet you find someone you like on your trash route?"
"That's the problem, Ma, there are too many. Four is just the right speed."
"Tell them all they are welcome here any time. That Marcy must be exhausted. Bet they haven't had a good home cooked meal in ages."
The first to arrive was April. At fifteen, she could only work so many hours, two-day shifts and one weekend shift. She borrowed a bicycle, following Eric's directions until she reached the cottage with the whale mailbox.
She went to the door and met a woman with long auburn hair wearing a pareu.
"Is Eric here?"
"No, he's working at the beach. Are you one of those girls who have been picking on him about keeping the beach clean?"
April was speechless.
Marta laughed, and then stretched out her arms to give the young girl a hug.
"You must be April. Eric said you would be here first. Go shower. I'll rustle up a clean tee for you, and we can go together."
Marta introduced her. To her surprise, April found three of her classmates were there. Within a week, her tan lines were gone. In two, she had found a summer boy friend.
She went up to Eric one day and said, "Just because I have a boy friend doesn't mean I don't want to go out with you. I'll just have to wait a couple more years."
"The other girls don't like me?"
"Oh, they like you well enough, but my sister has lots of boyfriends and Jools worries too much about paying for college to get too involved with anyone."
It took a week of unusually hot weather with no fog to get the rest of the family down to the beach. Marcy tweeted Eric one morning, "Ask your mother
if she has room for four more at breakfast."
It wasn't even six. Marta was just about to leave for her morning swim.
"Tweet them back. Tell them breakfast is at eight. No trash pickup today.
You are their host. Now let's go and enjoy the ocean in peace before
everyone else wakes up."
Fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, pancakes, home fried potatoes, toast and jam,
with plenty of juice, milk and coffee to go round, a standard Farm breakfast. Maia and Elke's kids were there that week and were enlisted to
set the table and clean up afterwards.
Marta and Eric had showered outside and were sitting on the porch when they arrived. Neither bothered to cover up.
"Take a load off and your clothes too. It's 84 already."
They hesitated. Marta said, "There's a private path from the back of the house to the beach. All you need is sunscreen and a towel. Marcy, there
is a tent set up down there for people with fair skin. You can hang out without worrying about getting fried."
Marcy wore her work shoes, the rest went barefoot into the house. After breakfast, Ginny said, "I'm stuffed. I need to walk this off or I'll sink to the bottom when I go swim."
They spent the day at the beach. Ginny and Jools got a little pink,
but did not burn. Marcy left in mid-afternoon for work. Eric got to
drive the other three home after supper.
"Now that wasn't so bad, was it?"
"It was great, but can we please still so swimming at our place.
We like it when we have you to ourselves," said Jools.
Eric liked the quiet time as well. The morning swims continued.
When he got home, he asked his mother what she thought of them.
"Nice people. They work hard, and need to relax more. The girls
are nice. The older one likes to flirt, the middle one really likes you,
and the little one will either adore you or break your heart. Maybe at the same time."
"All I know is we enjoy each other’s company."
"Its summer, time to have fun. Just be careful."
Posted: Oct 13, 2012
|The following week, he met Marcy coming out of the water as he arrived.|
"The girls were wondering when you were going to ask one of them out. It's the fourth next week."
"I don't know which one and I don't want to cause hard feelings." He explained his difficulties with Josie's daughters. "We have so much fun here and the other beach. I don't want to ruin that."
"So that's why. Explain that to them, and see what happens."
He ran out into the waves and frolicked with the young women. He brought up the issue as they were walking back to get their towels.\
"That's it?" said Jools.
"We both have to work today, but I am off tomorrow. Jools is off the next day. Now you have two dates and we are both happy." Ginny told him.
He found out from Ginny that Marcy was not her biological mother, who had died when April was two.
"She babysat for us when we were little. Dad eventually married her. He is a longshoreman, works out of Boston and hates the beach. After the Fourth, Mom will be going to spend her day off with him. She will feel better if she knows you will be keeping an eye on us."
Eric discovered she wanted to be a home caterer.
"I've cooked for weddings and parties, and made decent money. Being Italian helps. You have lots of relatives. I'd like to go off on my own, but don't want to have to go to a godfather for the money."
They saw a matinee in Dennis, ate in Harwich, and kissed in the car. They finished off the day with a nude swim and a long walk down the beach before he took her home.
They kissed at the door until Jools flipped the outside light on and off.
"Either come in or get a room," she laughed.
Jools didn't want to go anywhere except the beach.
"My feet are tired. I want them liberated from shoes. I want the sun on my body, the ocean spray on my skin and I want us to get to know each other."
Her mother was a receptionist for a roofing company and her father a fireman. "Half Italian, half German."
She went to a state college an hour from Granite Lake. "I haven't decided on a major, but I want something interesting and steady for a career. I'm ok with people, but not as social as my cousins are. I'd like to show you on my laptop, there is something wrong with it. The vphone will have to do."
Eric offered to check her laptop, found that she hadn't defragmented it, and that the spam block and antivirus had expired. He fixed that, and made a call to get the signal turned on ("My way of saying thank you to all of you").
He found that Jools had created some very funny animations as well as some interesting graphic designs.
"You have been hiding this from everyone?"
"No, just from you." She stuck out her tongue.
The good night kisses were heated. Ginny rang the bell outside the door. "I don't know if there is a bell in wrestling but Round One is over."
He went out with both women that summer and the following one. They developed a routine where they would collect trash and search for metal
together, allowing for more private beach time.
Ginny worked for a caterer in Chatham, while April and Jools worked as lifeguards at the beach. They made twice the money they had that first summer.
Jools and Ginny both visited Eric at Granite Lake. They loved the place, were hated by Josie's daughters, and made a good impression on his grandparents.
"We love it there," Ginny told him, "But in summertime, you know as well as we do that the beach is the place to be."
Marta was pleased. Eric had made some new friends, and she secretly
thought, found a life partner. By the beginning of the third summer, it became clear to almost everyone that Eric's friendship with Joolie
was deepening. April was pleased. When someone asked Ginny about it,
she replied, "I love both of them. I hope Eric will be part of our family forever."
Marta worried about Tara's reaction. She knew Joolie and Tara had
conversed over the internet, but had never met in person. Tara loved
her big brother and would do anything to protect him. Right after Memorial Day, she told Eric.
"Tara and her gang are driving to Paradise for the softball tournament. Then here for two weeks. Finally, Granite Lake until after the Art Show."
"If you need the room, I can stay at Marcy's."
"Good idea. You will be safe there."
"Yes. Eight women on their first unsupervised road trip. I remember my first road trip with Ruthie and the swim team girls. It was a lot of fun. To this day, we only talk about it among ourselves."
"You were naughty?" he laughed. "I can believe that."
She swatted him with a towel, and then gave him a big hug.
"Just help me with Tara. I don't want us to fight and ruin her trip."
Posted: Oct 14, 2012
|When Tara first heard about Ginny and Joolie, it was from Josie's daughter Renee.|
"Your brother is hanging out with these girls, and I don't like them. They are wait staff and look like gold diggers to me."
"Is this maybe because you and your sister have made asses of yourselves fighting over him?"
"Oh, no we're over that. We just want what's best for your brother."
She asked Eric about it. He told her they were very nice, that they had fun together, and that they weren't the village sluts that Renee thought they
"They all work lots of hours. They don't have much time for a social life,
but they have been coming here for years and know everyone. Renee thinks if
your family doesn't have a lot of money or works at a job she thinks is beneath her, then you are no good."
"Funny she thinks that way. Josie worked raking the beach and running the Snack Shack until Charlie took it over after he retired. She liked
working there. She got to meet everybody."
When she spoke with her mother, she got equally good reviews.
"Ginny works and wants to be a caterer. Joolie is very talented and funny. Check out her comic strip. On the serious side, she has a good graphic sense as far as site design is concerned. Your Aunt Romy looked at it and thinks she's good. You know she doesn't impress easily."
"All right, Mom," she said one winter day."After graduation, all the girls are going on a road trip. It will be the last time we will be together for a whole summer. We are going to Kansas because Abby plays softball, and we
can help Alice and Libby. Then we go to the beach to check out this new chickie. By the way, did I tell you we volunteered our services to Granite Lake in exchange for lodging?"
"Till after the Art Show. Then some of the girls have to go home to get ready for college. I'll leave with you when we go back for Labor Day."
"Speaking of that, have you heard from Reed?"
"Yes, yesterday. I know he has been going away for the summer the last three years, but I still hate him for it."
"He asked you to come along, you know."
"It wouldn't be the same. I just feel it."
"I'm not going to fight with you about it. The two of you have to work that out between yourselves."
Tara thought back about the first summer Reed was gone. It wasn't so bad because she was extremely busy. Her mother had invited all the kids to stay with her at Granite Lake and at the beach. Tara felt it was to fill the void left by Peter, and in that sense, it worked. There was no time to
think. Elke and Maia's three, Bekka's two, a couple of Galts, as well as
babysitting the kids at the club.
Tara had to help with meals, naps and bathing. Her conversations with Reed during naptime were the most exciting part of her day. The subsequent summers Tara had remained behind at the farm to help out and be with her friends. Reed had always been with the other boys and his absence left a big gap in Tara's life.
"You're my best friend and you have abandoned me for exotic women in faraway places. I have no one to play chess with or talk to when I am
sad. Or happy. Or bored. I also don't have anyone to calm me down when Tara the Terror crawls out of her pit and takes control."
She knew she was being unfair. For years, she had spent months at
Granite Lake and left Reed to fend for himself. But he had been so
supportive during her Fatso Blimpo stage, seemingly always there when she
needed him that she now felt lost at times when he wasn't physically present.
The Gang of Eight became her new support group. They had fun together,
and did the normal things high school girls did, except they weren't
overly keen on clothes shopping.
"Accessories, yes. Shoes, yes. The other stuff, just for school cuz
otherwise we don't need to wear anything."
The Grand Tour was something they had been talking about since freshman year. At first, they wanted to do it after college, but it seemed too far
"Who knows who will get married or get a job far away right after college?
Let's do it sooner."
Some of the girls hadn't yet graduated. Ruthie's youngest, Faith, Abby
and Tasha Washington played on the junior softball team that went to Kansas every June.
The rest decided they would go as cheerleaders, help out Alice, Libby
and Elke, and then head right to the Cape. Tara wangled a deal, where they
would get lodging in exchange for helping out on the grounds. Charlie
suggested that eight young people volunteer to live and work at The Farm
for a month. They needed a lottery with all the applications they received.
They left a week before the tournament with a list of places to visit from
Polly, the Hanlon family teenagers, and Paradise.
Posted: Oct 15, 2012
|They visited familiar spots ... the farm in western Wyoming where Alice had helped deliver a calf. They stopped in northern Colorado and|
swam at a nude friendly swimming hole on a farm. Their last stop was in Colorado where they saw pictures of Polly and old Mikie sitting on the
back of a caboose.
The director of the museum remembered them.
"Such a nice woman and that dog was the smartest I've ever seen. Never had to be spoken to, the two of them were so tuned into each other. I know the
dog is probably gone, but is she still with us?"
Tara explained that Polly was well, still had a dog and was out and about every day.
"Her new passion is a three wheeled big bicycle. She puts the dog in the front basket or it runs along beside her depending on where they're going.
She is sharp as a tack. Not bad for almost 91."
"Saw her a few years back with the Hanlons from down in Kansas. Nice family. Does she still visit?"
"Every year. Romana comes to get her and Rock and Lexxie bring her back. After reports of dogs dying in airline cargo bays, she won't fly. We're headed to the Hanlons next. We'll give them your regards."
They had wanted to visit more places, but were sick of being cooped up in the RV. When they parked at the Hanlon's, they flew out and kissed
the ground. When they were done being silly, they met Rock and Lexxie.
"Our kids are out at work, but our grandchildren are here to show you around." Seven young men and one young woman emerged from the house.
They hadn't bothered to get dressed for company.
"We'll be glad to show you around. Who wants to see our greenhouses?"
Faith and Hope White, whose ambition was to expand and improve on what Ruthie had begun, followed two of the boys.
Abby and Tanya went to check out the livestock, Tasha and Eileen went on a tractor tour, which lasted until dinner.
That left Tara, Jo Saunders, and the remaining boy and girl.
"What do you want to do?"
Jo replied, "Swim, eat and lay out in the sun. Have my picture taken with everyone. Think up fun things we can do here and at Paradise."
"Like what?" asked the girl, whose name was Rose.
"Body painting us and anyone else we can convince. Practicing our cheerleading. We have pompoms in the RV. Do you have any ideas?"
"Well, what about a mini-circus? We have the animals, some of them do tricks." the boy, Ike suggested.
"Grandma and grandpa have a whole bunch of clown stuff in some trunks out back."
"We don't want to get dressed, though. Only the noses, hats, fright wigs, horns and funny shoes."
When they brought up the idea at dinner, Rock got animated. The next few days were spent mixing and matching until everyone was satisfied with their character. Even oldest son George got with the program.
"You are a wonderful clown," his wife Billie told him. "But you are so serious in public; I'm usually the only one that see it."
When the caravan arrived at Paradise, nearly two dozen nude clowns emerged from RVs, pickup trucks, and vans. Accompanying them as they ran through the grounds were dogs and pigs in clown attire.
Tara watched all this with great amusement. Dressed in a blue wig, pirate hat, a feather belt around her waist, and a red nose, she felt silly in a good way. No shoes though.
"Bare feet for me."
She ran along with them, whooping it up, happy to see smiling faces and hear the laughter. She gave her pirate hat to a little boy, her feather belt to a grandmother, her blue wig to a girl about twelve. The nose went in the pool, chased after by a dozen youngsters.
She washed the paint off her face and went to check her messages.
Posted: Oct 16, 2012
|She zipped through the messages. |
"That's done. Now the good ones."
Marta, of course.
Chatty little note, asking what each girl's favorite food was (again), telling her the weather was beautiful, the beach uncrowded, and the regulars were back. She sent along a picture, with a note, "This one is special. Look at your brother."
Tara looked at it. Jools was there, hair all wet, wearing dark rimmed glasses, mustard on her chin, being fed a hot dog by Eric. Ordinarily, girls get upset with candid photos. Jools' eyes were twinkling and she didn't even blink. She checked out her brother.
"Uh oh, he's a goner. Gotta make sure she's for real or Eric will get really hurt."
She responded, "Ma, we are here in one piece. The list of foods is in your inbox. Remember, teenage girls play with their food a lot. Don’t go crazy. Keep an eye on that girl until I get there."
She sent a picture in her clown getup.
The second message was from Eric. Very short. "Hi, glad you and the marauders will be here next week. I sent you something J and I did.
Hope you like it."
She opened it up and it was a series of drawings. The first introduced it as a new women superhero strip. All had special powers, but only if they were nude. The remaining panels were of eight women resembling her and her friends. She was portrayed as a martial arts expert who rode a Harley.
She responded. "No Harley.'56 T-Bird like Grandma's. Thanks for the enhancements but make my top the right size. And noooooo Tara the Terror face... ever. Pretty good drawings though. BTW, the gf looks cute with mustard on her chin."
The last one was from Reed. She was going to delete it but something stopped her.
"Libby bringing surprise. Hope you like it.", it read.
She remembered that Libby was flying in for the tournament as she did every year. Alice said she would be here tomorrow. She wondered if it would be the chocolates she liked.
Libby arrived the next afternoon with the chocolates. Tara was reading
a book and asked her to put them on the night stand.
"He wanted to send a ticket for you to go to France after the Art Show,
but he said you would say no."
"If I hadn't gotten myself in so deep with this trip, I might have changed
my mind. Now I'm worrying about my brother. This girl friend looks to be
a serious one. And Momma likes her. Then, drive the RV back so all the girls going to college have time to spend with their families before they leave. Then clean the house and help Grandma get ready for Labor Day until
Mom comes back."
"You tell him that yourself. He will understand. He is your best friend,
"I will. He should be getting up when I'm going to sleep. I'll talk
with him then."
Libby stretched out her hand.
"C'mon. You are missing a lot of fun. The opening ceremony is in an hour.
Before that, I want to introduce you to Hilda."
Posted: Oct 18, 2012
|The weekend flew by. Tara and the girls met Alice and Libby's moms, slept in the open dormitory with the team, and entertained the crowd with their cheerleading routines.|
They took turns traveling with the Hanlon boys to
feed and water the livestock, or staying at Paradise to help serve meals.
On Monday morning, they helped Alice and Elke
pack the bus and van and waved as the team headed home.
"They were good." Jo told Tara.
"Real good. We also found out that Elke has recovered completely from her injury, that Libby
is as good as ever and that, even after having a baby, Alice still crushes the ball."
"We've had fun, but it's time to go. Where are we headed?" asked Hope White.
"Today is Monday. Momma wants us there no later than Friday. We have to be at one of the Cape bridges no later than one a.m. Friday. Sitting
in weekend traffic is nasty."
Libby was having coffee with her mom, Sammi, Tina and Linda.
"How long you staying?" Tara asked.
"Till tomorrow. Then I go see Neddy before I
meet Reed, Romy and the kids in Vienna. You guys leaving today? How do the farm girls feel about that?"
"Eileen is going to college in Colorado, and I suspect she will be visiting. Faith is interested
in some of the new techniques the family has developed to increase yields. She is already
talking with Ruthie about coming back after Labor
Day to have a sit down. Jo has no reason; she just
likes kind men with no tan lines."
"By the way," Libby asked. "Did you see that tall
thin guy with the beard? He had a young woman and baby with him. Stayed to himself, but watched all
your games. Looked familiar, but I couldn't place him. I went to look for him last night, but he had already gone."
Tara and the girls hugged them good-bye they made good time, arriving at a club in Indiana early Tuesday. The spent the day there, then drove through rain to eastern Pennsylvania. Luckily, the club they stopped at had an indoor pool. They ate pizza, swam and napped.
They left at sunset, arriving at Granite Lake
around midnight. They showered and slept in real beds, emptied the refrigerator, and unloaded
items they would be using when they returned from the Cape. Tara visited her grandparents, the girls checked in with Al and Charlie, Gaby and Zelda to let them know they were in New England.
"We have met this girl Jools and her cousin Ginny.
I hope Eric can make up his mind which one is the right one for him."
"I think he has Grand’Mere. I will let you know what I think when we come back on the 6th."
"Your mother, how is she doing?"
"Very well. Dad being home more has helped a lot.
I know you miss him, but Momma really needed him.
Lately, it has been like a second honeymoon with
them. Another thing. I think she is actually
looking forward to being a grandmother some day."
"Much better. I am pleased. Now you behave yourself out there and don't get her upset.
You two look like harpies when you fight."
The girls finally had to get dressed to go food
"Everything is cheaper here. We'll stop in Rhode
Island on the way because there is no bottle deposit. Gas is half a dollar less in Mass. We'll
fill up there. Load up on fresh fruit and veggies, especially strawberries."
They reached the Bourne Bridge by eleven. At
twelve forty, they backed into the parking area. It was pitch black.
Jo grabbed a towel and flashlight.
"Let's go for a swim."
The young women walked gingerly as they followed her down the main path, dropped their towels on the damp sand, and ran into the gentle surf.
Posted: Oct 19, 2012
|When Eric arrived the next morning, the girls were eating breakfast: strawberries with their cereal, muffins, fruit dishes, and slabs of thick wheat bread smeared with peanut butter.|
He was greeted with hugs and questions.
Where is she? When can we meet her? Is she nice?
"Jools is in the lifeguard chair till noon." It was a little after nine.
"You can meet her after. We are having lunch here. I think she's nice. Isn't that enough?"
A chorus of "noooos" followed.
"We have known you all our lives. We want to make sure you aren't being a dope. Just because she's a gamester and cute and Marta likes her means
nothing. You belong to us." Abby said.
Marta shrugged. Eric knew arguing was a hopeless task. He would have to let them learn for themselves. He was touched by their concern, but hoped they wouldn't be unreasonable.
He was sitting on a stool drinking his coffee when Marta and Tara started bickering about cooking duties. When they were face to face, with hands on hips, Eric intervened.
"No fighting. You both promised." He picked up Tara, threw her over his shoulder and headed out the door.
Jools first view of Tara was not the one she expected. She had a perfect view of Tara's backside, and long auburn hair stuck to Eric's back.
"You're gonna get it, Eric." Tara was laughing.
"Only a little further. Anyway, what are you complaining about? I'm showing everyone your best side."
He carried her a dozen yards into the ocean, and then gently dropped her in the water. When she got up, she splashed her brother, gave him a hug, and then dunked him. When he got his footing, he turned to her.
"Hi. Glad you're here."
"Hi to you too. That was fun. Can we do it again tomorrow?'
Before he could answer, Tara spotted a woman climbing down the ladder from the lifeguard chair. She moved quickly out of the water, picked Jools up and mimicked what her brother had done to her.
When Jools surfaced, Tara took her hands and pulled her up.
"Well she's a good sport, she can swim and she's not ugly. Good start. Hi, I'm Tara. You're Jools."
Tara gave her a hug. "You owe me one."
"Rule here is no rough play. Plus you assaulted a lifeguard. For that, you get a fifteen-minute time out under the tent. There are also spare towels because it looks like you forgot yours. Eric can sit in the chair and we can talk."
The two women chatted out of Eric's hearing. They both talked with their
hands and their body language, a little stiff to start, had relaxed as
their conversation continued. So far, so good.
Tara listened intently. There was more "we" in her sentences than "I".
She understood how Eric lost track of time when he got involved in a
project, that he was a terrible cook, but helped with the housework
without complaint, wasn't big on yard work, but didn't mind working
on the house.
"He knows when I am doing my cartoons and graphics, I need space too.
We don't want to lose that train of thought when we are being creative,
and we have our own little signals."
"I found a use for my bikini bottoms since I don't wear them anymore.
I hang it on the line when I am working. He hangs out the top."
Tara found out Jools didn't care where they lived as long as they
were at the beach from mid-May to mid-September. When she asked about
children, Jools told her she would like to raise them the way she and Eric were, in a clothes free environment.
"I hate the cold and snow, so if I can convince Eric to move, I'll bring
him back home. I know everyone, especially your grandparents, would be
very happy with that."
"What about your parents? And the rest of your family?"
"My parents are fine with it. They don't mind the nudity. Mom and Dad
would love to come here more, but with their work, they don't have much free time. My cousins are happy for me, even though either one of them
would have had no problems if Eric had fallen in love with them. He IS
very lovable. They also said they will make my life hell if I am bad to him. They have no worries on that score."
"That goes double for me. Not a threat, just a statement because I love my brother and want him happy. I will also get on his case if he isn't nice to you. Is my time out over? My friends are sitting on the porch waiting for some sort of signal."
"Your time out was over an hour ago. I need to go back in the chair.
I want to speak with your friends too. Help me flesh out their characters
for the strip. Right now, they are based on what your brother has told me."
"Sure. They want to check you out too. There's a lot Eric doesn't know.
We girls have to have some secrets."
Tara took a towel and waved it. The ice had been broken.
Posted: Oct 21, 2012
|Marta stood on the back porch watching the people on the beach. It was Monday, uncrowded because, for vacationers, it was move out day. While there had been over 200 at the beach on Sunday, today there were fewer than half as many. A brief respite in the storm. Tomorrow began peak season. By the Fourth, there would be maybe 500 and 1000 by National Nude Weekend the week after. Thankfully, she would be returning to Granite Lake|
for the Art Show preparations. Enough was enough.
The girls had been a joy. She never knew who they would be bringing home for lunch or dinner. A full house was a happy house. They rotated between sleeping in the RV and in one of the beds in the cottage. Minimal bickering and they all pitched in.
Tonya and Faith White were flying kites with a couple of boys they had met. Tasha, Tara and Jools were playing co-ed volleyball. Eileen, Ginny and Jo were tanning, surrounded by a group of male admirers. Abby was body surfing with a group of children of all ages. Hope and April were walking along the shore picking up shells as they wove in and out of a Frisbee game.
Eric's friends and Tara's had mixed in with each other as if they had known each other for years. Jools made sure her cousins were included in all activities.
"Just because Eric is my boy friend, I'm not going to leave them behind. They are family. We come as a total package."
Marta was especially happy that April had drawn the shy and somewhat wimpy Hope out of her shell. The other night, she had even ridden with April on her moped to get a waffle cone ice cream in Truro.
She thought the world of Ginny. She was a hugger like she was, always helping, either with the kids on the beach, cooking, or cleaning up; she was there, with a hug, a touch and a kind word.
She asked Eric about that.
"Mom, she is a wonderful woman. But I don't need my chin wiped when I dribble food; I can do my own laundry, as it is. She is like you, another mother. Jools is my partner. Can you understand that?"
She could. Her husband came out of the cottage and joined her.
"I don't see Eric."
"He had to go into Hyannis for something this afternoon. He should be back shortly."
"Couldn't it wait? I have to go there tomorrow. I would have been happy to pick it up for him."
Marta whispered in his ear.
"Ooooh. That is something he had to do himself. I’m glad all the kids are getting along and having fun. A couple of them snuck in after two this morning. Wonder what they were doing?"
"Same thing we were doing when we were their age."
Eric laughed. "Except now we do it in the afternoon. Wanna go be a teenager again?"
Marta giggled, snuggling against him as he led her inside. "After all these years," she thought, “our love has gotten even stronger. May our children
be blessed with our good fortune."
The morning of the Fourth, Jools, hat and sunglasses on, towel and sunscreen in hand, headed for the lifeguard chair. There until noon, beach patrol three to five, then the barbecue on the beach, concluding with
fireworks. A busy day.
She was surprised Eric was waiting for her. She wondered if she had forgotten something (again). He had a metal box in one hand. Not unusual. It could be an energy bar, fruit or a forgotten hairbrush.
"Treasure in a tin."
"You always say that."
He stopped for a minute, then spoke.
"I've found a lot of junk as the trash man, and a few treasures. But the most valuable thing I have found here is you."
As he opened the box, Jools saw a diamond ring, just like the one she told him she liked when they went to Hyannis months ago, mounted inside the tin.
Eric didn't get a chance to finish his speech.
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" Tears rolled down her face.
A circle of friends had gathered round and applauded.
She slipped on the ring, hugged Eric tightly, kissed him, and then scurried up the ladder to the chair.
Jools tried to concentrate, but the well-wishers and the balloons being
hung on the chair frame distracted her. She watched the sun make the diamond sparkle. Then she heard a voice. It was one of the other lifeguards.
"Come down and get wet. You'll overheat. You've been up there an hour."
She hopped down and ran into the ocean to cool off. When she came out, she
saw her parents standing in front of the chair. Nude.
"We're sorry we're late, dear, but Dad's shift didn't get off until seven.
We are both very happy for you. You know Eric came to see us and asked our
permission.," her mother said.
"No, but that doesn't surprise me."
"Have you thought of a wedding date"
"No, but I think two years, middle of June, here, would be just fine."
"On the nude beach?"
"Why not. No fuss, no tux, no dresses, no limo. We can have the reception here."
Her father replied. "I'll make a deal with you. The wedding and reception here as long as the bridal shower for the rest of the family is in a clothed setting. Most of the family won't travel this far out anyway, and the ones that will aren't prudes."
"Deal." She hugged them both and ran off to tell Eric. She didn't remember much of the rest of the day, other than she was hugged kissed and congratulated by what seemed everyone on the beach. She went with the flow and had a blast. If she had thought about it, she would have run away, she said later.
Posted: Oct 22, 2012
|Tara was watching the bonfire from the porch. Now that she was satisfied Eric had made a good choice, there was nothing left to do except head to Granite Lake. After two weeks, the same scenery and activities were starting to bore her. |
They left early on the sixth after saying good-bye to everyone the previous evening. Breakfast was still being served and they ate heartily before reporting to Al and Josie.
When they weren't working or playing, the young women went to the Ledges in Vermont, Waterfire in Providence, and shopped in Boston. Only Abby, Tara and Tonya went to see the Red Sox, while the others went to a concert on The Commons. As the summer went on, Tara saw her friends following their own interests more and more and spending less time as a group.
By the time the Art Show had finished, they were all ready to go home. They set a route where there would be clothes free clubs, but only planned to stop when they needed to. On the way, they discussed their dreams for the future.
Tasha was going to college in Vermont. She wanted to find a professional career where she could travel and raise a family like her mom. Eileen,
the youngest, wanted to go to school to be an accountant for the family business. Jo Saunders had no idea what she wanted to be.
"I'll figure that out as I go, you know how I change my mind all the time."
Faith and Hope were going to learn more about growing things. Faith had several pots of plants from her visits to local farms. Hope had visited a fish hatchery and was going to investigate the possibility of starting one back home.
"We have all kinds of water. We can hatch them, and then stock the local lakes and ponds for people to catch, compatible with the local varieties."
Tonya would be starting college outside Foggy City. Abby was going locally to train as a teacher.
"I'll be at Montessori. I'll travel, find a wonderful man and watch my unclad babies run through the fields at The Farm. What about you,
Tara, What do you want?"
"I don't know. I'm not going to college until second semester. I already
have enough advance credits to start as a sophomore. I think The Farm is the perfect place to raise a family, but that is very in the future. I have lots of interests, but no one in particular. There is some serious thinking I have to do. I can't just float along and hope something clicks. One thing I am sure of is this. Whatever happens, I'd like to have a happy and fulfilling life like Karl and Inga have had."
"It's getting too heavy in here," said Abby. "We still have a few more days
of fun before we get home."
They stopped at a nice club in Michigan, then at Heartland to visit Lisa, Jen and the twins. But the magic was gone. From there, they stopped only for gas and to stretch. They had plenty of food and drink, and made it home in
"Next time, no more than two weeks. I don't think I could survive another
seven weeks with you crazies again." Tonya said.
"I don't know about you, but I will be so happy to sleep in my own bed,
with all my stuffed animals," Abby told them.
"It was an adventure. We spent most of it without having to worry about
what to put on. We met some really nice people and some of you had a pretty
wild time. It wasn't perfect, but I wouldn't trade this summer for anything." Jo concluded.
With that, they cleaned out the van and headed home.
The next day, Abby came to see Tara, who was home alone.
"Come stay with us until your parents come back. We have plenty of room."
"No. I told you I needed to think and decide things on my own. Not even
Reed can help me. I take everyone's advice and don't listen to myself."
She smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow morning at the pool. I'll be better
Posted: Oct 23, 2012
Abby meandered up the path after leaving Tara. Everyone was exhausted from the trip and dealt with the return to reality differently.
People knew immediately she was Heidi's. A little taller, but the same build. Nearsighted, they both wore glasses. Hers were tinted. Her hair was longer, her wardrobe 1970's hippie, long skirts, halters and the traditional jeans and psychedelic tops she wore to school. They moved quickly, and adored children.
She had gotten her mother to go barefoot at home; in turn, her mother infected her with a love of shoes for dress up.
She had worked at the day care since she was nine and never wavered in her desire to be a teacher.
"Not the little kids like Mom. But not high school either. The ones in between are my type of kid."
She also didn't want to teach in town. Her mother was a great teacher, but she wanted to forge her own path without being under a microscope all day.
Montessori at The Farm would be expanding with all the new babies arriving. They would need three new teachers when she graduated. Perfect.
When her father left, she felt lost. She was daddy's girl and his absence made her a little wild and rebellious after he left. The she realized the only person she was hurting was herself.
She jumped in the pond and played raft princess for a while, stopped to see Missy at the Wellness Center, then sat outside with Polly and told her of her adventures. The rest of the way home, she stopped to chat with everyone in her path, got veggies from Moonie and finally arrived home.
Heidi was waiting for her.
"You didn't tell me you saw your father?"
"What do you mean? I would have told you."
"Well, what's this?"
She showed him the picture of the bearded man with the young wife and family.
"I met him at Paradise. He watched all our games and took pictures of all the teams. He didn't sound like daddy, his voice was kinda hoarse."
Heidi showed him a red mark on his leg.
"He burned himself with acid in the developing room one night the first summer. My fault. I was licking his ear. It's faded, that's him."
"At least we know he isn't dead and he still cares," said Abby.
Heidi responded, "Now you know you have a half brother and sister as well. He looks better. He has muscles again and has lost a lot of weight. He looks good. He looks happy."
"Are you happy, Mom?"
"Yes, thanks to you, your brother, and the family. I've gotten to know the people I grew up with in town again. I can go out or stay home.
You have made me proud in school and I'm hope you enjoy teaching as much as I have.
Mikkel is great. He’ll never be an academic, but that boy is a wizard when it comes to working on cars. He'll find a nice girl who is mechanically inclined and live a happy, uncomplicated life.
As far as your father goes, I will always love him. After all, he helped make you two. We just went on different paths."
"What about me?"
"You will be just fine. You just have more of a sense of adventure. It will take you a little longer to settle down."
"Should I try and find him?"
"Maybe where he is. But I wouldn't just go and show up at his door. Let him come to you."
Abby entered college with no illusions and high hopes. She did well, met
new people and had one or two romances, which didn't work out. Education
curriculum had evolved. Now there was more practice teaching and less
At the end of sophomore year, she received her first assignment, a school
close to the college. She was looking forward to it.
Mikkel, three years younger, was perfectly happy to work in the vintage
car garage at The Farm or in town with Jeannine's son Jacques.
Everything from twelve cylinder '30s cars to the new hybrid ones. He took pictures of every vehicle he worked on, made drawings of all the
undercarriages and engines and took down the numbers of all the parts.
He called it his 'little black book'.
When he graduated, he planned to go to school for his mechanic's certificates and licenses, and take over the day-to-day operation
at The Farm.
When he wasn't working, he socialized at the Pond, talked sports and history with Jud and his grandfather, and flirted with the girls his age. They liked him, but none seemed to have the passion he did for
automobiles and racing.
The summer before his senior year, his cousin Reed told him he had met someone who shared his passion for cars.
"She loves NASCAR, driving fast and boys. She made the honor roll this year for the first time. As a reward, her parents are letting her come here for two weeks. She's very nice and lots of fun. I think she's a sugar bear."
"That good looking, huh. Girls like that never give me a second look. Once they see me all greasy, they lose interest."
"I'll bring her around just the same. You never know. You might get lucky this time."
It was the week before Labor Day and he was underneath a '55 Pontiac Fire Chief lubing it up and making sure all the bolts were tight. He saw a pair of sandals and leopard print sneakers standing outside.
"I forgot my wrenches. Can you slide them to me?"
A nude blond girl and his toolbox slid underneath. "If we do it together,
we'll get done quicker," she said with a drawl. "Then you can finish giving me the tour."
Peta Schmidt had arrived.
Posted: Oct 24, 2012
|Compared with the other Svenson children, Elke and Maia's lives were uneventful. They went to New Mexico to visit Rafi's friends, to Denmark every other year to visit Maia's parents, but otherwise stayed close to home.|
When Elke began to explore the land on the other side of Polly Benson road, they became part of the adventure. With Lil' Mike and their newest addition Cleo, they romped around like explorers in a new land.
While Elke had to move downstream in hip boots, with power tools and instruments to clear limbs and gather specimens, they climbed trees and wandered down long neglected paths in search of adventure.
The dogs would make circular patterns around them, barking when they found something interesting. Mostly it was small animals they had captured or treed.
One day, Johann heard both of them yipping. He called Sofie and Antonio. They followed the sounds a long way until they finally caught up with them.
From halfway down the rise, they could see an old shack, with a full chicken coop next to it. Around the property was a lot of old metal signs, bathtubs, and toilets and scrap metal.
"Is this a dump?" asked Antonio.
"I don't think so. Somebody must live here; the chickens look nice and fat. The area around the shack looks like it has been swept, and the ground is wet around the well."
They snuck down to investigate. No tire tracks. The trashcans were half-full with fast food bags and metal cans. They stood looking at each other when the door squeaked and a small face emerged.
"Who are you and why aren't you wearing any clothes?" the voice said.
"We never wear clothes when the weather is nice, and here that's almost
all the time," Antonio said. "How come you are inside on this warm sunny
"My brothers and sisters are sick and I have to take care of them,"
"What about your parents?"
"They work all over and aren't here much?"
"What about food and school?"
"Someone drops off canned goods and fast food once a week. As far as
school is concerned, we don't go to school. Our parents told us we can
learn all we need from TV, the computer, and the survival books in the house. I've never hears of any place where people don't wear clothes. Where
do you live?"
"On the other side of the road, past the stream."
"We can't go past the stream or on the other side of the road leading
from here to the main road. Otherwise we get punished." She pointed to
what looked like an old privy.
"We get locked up in there for a day or two if we are bad."
Sofie asked, "How old are you and how sick are they?"
"I'm fourteen. They have stomach aches and can't keep any food down."
Sofie got on the phone and called her mother.
"Do you know you're a mile and a half away?” Elke said. "Now tell me what
is going on. Did one of you get hurt?"
"All right. Send the boys and Cleo down to the end of their driveway.
I'm going to call the Wellness Center and get a van over there right away.
You stay put with Lil' Mike and keep talking to that girl. I'll be there
in a few minutes."
Sofie gave the instructions and the boys headed out. The girl had opened
the door a little more. Heat and a sickly smell gushed out.
"How long have you been here?" Sofia asked.
"Since my littlest brother was born. It was much nicer when my parents
were here all the time. Do all the people where you live go without clothes?"
"Sure, why not? Some of the older girls and grown up women wear bottoms sometimes, but that's it."
"That sure is strange. Is it because people don't have any money?"
"Oh, no. Most everyone has a job, so I know they have money. My mom is
a teacher and my Auntie Maia is a doctor. They wear clothes to work. But
otherwise, they are like us."
"How old are you?"
"We are all nine. My brother, the one with the dark hair, is my twin. The other one is Auntie Maia's. We live in the same house. Our birthdays are all in May. What's your name?"
"Sage. My sister Elf is eight, my brother Pepper is ten and my little
brother Chance, is five or six."
At that moment, Elke appeared. Sage saw an older blonde woman wearing only
hiking boots and a hat.
"See, I told you," said Sofie. "Don't worry. My mom knows everything. She
will take care of everything."
Elke looked around.
"Do you use the water from that well?"
"Yes, for drinking and cooking."
Elke made a call. "Get down here. I need some water tested. We may have a
poisoned well here."
She turned to Sage. "I'm coming in."
"Yes." Elke pushed the door open and gagged.
Posted: Oct 26, 2012
|The smell of sickness combined with the extreme heat made Elke stop until she saw the three children lying on the bed. A widescreen TV blared, yet there was no reaction. |
"You, get one of them and take them outside. If they are sick and it is this hot, they are definitely dehydrated."
Two were brought outside. The next trip brought the last child and a panting, listless dog.
"Sofie, take all the water bottles out of the knapsack and line them up on the ground. Then take Lil' Mike and stay with the boys. The children and dog are covered with fleas and lice. Call Brigitte and get her here."
She turned to Sage. "People are coming to take all of you to the clinic to check you out. Let me ask you something. When you flush the toilet where does that go?"
"Did a truck ever come with a pump? It would have smelled really bad while it was here."
"A long time ago. The guy said he wouldn't come back if he had to climb over all that metal." She pointed to an area in back of the chicken coop.
Sirens announced the arrival of the medical team. EMTs rushed in. They told Elke, "These clothes are so contaminated we are going to have to cut them off. We have johnnies in the van." They checked the vitals, loaded them in, and immediately started IVs.
"You too, young lady. We have to check you out too."
"I'm not taking my clothes off in front of you. Give me something and I will change on the other side of the truck."
A policewoman caught her as she tried to run away. She made her change in the back of the patrol car.
"I think she is scared more than anything else."
"Scared. She tried to bite me."
"They will sedate her as soon as they get some fluids in her. She won't be biting anyone for a while."
The Wellness Center and Fire Department rescue drove off. Brigitte called from the end of the road.
"No, don't bring the kids in. Tell them I said to go back by the road and go home. Too many toxic things in here. By the way, I forgot to tell you.
There's some sad looking chickens in here."
Elke turned to the police officer and said, "I don't know if it is just disgusting or if there are bodies buried under here. Any way we can secure this until we find out what we are dealing with?"
Yellow crime scene tape was wrapped around the shack.
Brigitte, dressed in scrubs, had come with water for the dog to drink and to bathe and cool it off.
"He's pretty weak. I want to take him home, finish rinsing the soap off, and get some food in his belly. At least the fleas are dead. We'll know in a day or two if he will recover."
The police car drove away.
Elke helped load the dog into the back of the van. As they were driving home, Brigitte said, "I'll have someone from our town office get those birds and isolate them. What an awful place. It's been there a while.
Who would know about it?"
"Polly and Reuben Galt. I think I'll invite them to dinner."
They were enjoying beverages after a dinner of roast beef, potato salad and sliced cucumbers mixed with onion, dill and sour cream.
"Terrible thing about those children," Reuben said. "I heard someone say
one of them might not make it."
"It's touch and go," said Maia. "They are underweight, ravaged by the bugs, two of them have ringworm and their insides are poisoned by bad
water. One has gone to the hospital. The other three are at the Wellness
Center for now."
"I asked you here to pick your brains. You've been here the longest and
might be able to piece things together about that place, and the whole other side for that matter." Elke said.
"In the old days," Polly said, "There was no trash pickup like there is today. People would take stuff to the dump and when that got full, they
opened another one in a remote area. After the war, when they started
building new housing developments, the dumps were removed as part of
the site work and taken to the county waste disposal and the metal sold for scrap and hauled out by train."
Reuben added. "Farmers just let the stuff rot next to their barns or
would haul it to places like the one you found."
"What about people?" Rafi asked.
"Lots of wanderers and then hippies in the '60s and '70s. They'd stay for
a while, and when the weather got cold, they'd move south. There's a few
old campsites over there. Can't remember the exact location."
Melody added, "Let me look at the old newspaper files. There might be
something there. Polly, did Bix ever say anything about them? He hunted and fished all over this area from what Reuben has told me."
"I remember him saying he found some Woolworth and Hudson signs out there. That there was a well, and a shack, but nothing more. He thought they
were junk dealers and squatters. He avoided it because he hated anywhere
there might be rats. Funny, wolves, bears, rattlers didn't bother him, but rats freaked him out." Polly replied.
"I don't remember much activity since you folks moved here, and the boys have never mentioned anything. Let me speak with them and I'll get back to you." Reuben said.
Posted: Oct 27, 2012
|Elke visited Sage the following morning.|
She was wearing a bathrobe eating cereal. Her hair had been cut short and she had more color than the previous afternoon.
"I feel much better now. My tummy isn't growling. Tell whoever made the food last night it was delicious. Do you have any more bananas? Why did they cut our hair?"
Elke went into the other room and got a banana. She then explained that the lice and fleas were so bad that they had to cut their hair. She also told her that her brother Pepper was in the hospital in town and was very sick.
"When can I go see him?"
"Not until the doctor says so. Speaking of that, are there any papers at your house that tells who you are?"
"There's a metal box under the bed with papers and other things in it. We were told only to make sure to take it out of the house if there was a fire. Can I see Elf and Chance?"
Elke led her to a small room where the two youngsters were still hooked up to IVs. Missy was there checking their vitals.
"They are weak, but stable. I spoke with the Board last night and we are going to request temporary custody of all the children and pay their medical expenses. I really don't think it is in their best interest to be split up and sent to Social Service group homes. Karl and Inga agree."
"You mean we can't go home?"
"No. It is not safe or healthy." said Elke. "What I would like you to do is come with me and we can bring back a few things for safekeeping."
"There isn't much. The TV, the computer and that box are about it."
They went in a golf cart. Elke put on a Hazmat suit, retrieved the items, removed her suit, and sealed them in a container laced with bug bomb.
"Why did you do that?" Sage asked, still in her bathrobe and clogs.
"They have to be fumigated before they can be checked out. Even the metal box."
On the way back, Sage commented, "I'm getting used to you being without clothes. You're like a creature from another planet with strange customs. Just don't expect me to join you."
"It's up to you, Sage. We don't force people to be nude. A lot of our teenage girls cover up for a time while their bodies are changing. The only exception is when you swim."
"That makes sense. We don't wear suits when we swim in the reservoir. Takes our clothes too long to dry. But it's just us."
Elke stuck out her hand.
Over the next few days, Sofie, Antonio and Johann watched the goings-on
from the top of the ridge. The shack was pulled down so no one could live there, the chicken coop demolished. A crane appeared, then a crew of workers separating scrap metal from items of value.
The town had moved quickly. Money was available from the watershed bond.
The work was so extensive; all the salvage companies on their bid list
were used. The cesspool was eventually pumped and the contaminated soil
was washed and put back. The well was sealed. Other items dumped between
the dump and Polly Benson Road were dragged out and hauled away.
After the initial excitement, the children lost interest and went back to
Missy found that the records in the box were well organized. Birth and marriage certificates, medical records, a few family photos, an address
book, a ledger and some cash.
"It looks like a normal family until a year and a half ago. The medical records all stop when each child reached five. It proves they haven't been to school because the required items aren't here. We'll have to get them up to speed on that, as well as test them for grade level. The little ones
know how to read and do basic math, so they aren't too far behind."
Missy said a week later. "County Social Services granted our request. The Ostreykos are taking them in. Their children are grown, and they are only in their mid-40s. The rest of the Russian community will treat them as family. They will be fine."
"What about their family?" Elke asked.
"I spoke with the police and their only lead is the person who dropped
off their food and the bills. Sage told me the food came on the fourth or fifth of the month, early, because it took her a whole day to carry it all up. The bills are sent to a post office box three towns over."
The phone rang. Missy listened, gasped, and turned to Elke.
"That was the hospital. Pepper didn't make it. Do you want me to tell them?"
"No. I will."
Elke first walked to the Ostreyko's. Elf was helping the grandmother make bread. Chance was being taught how to play chess by another youngster. They were all nude.
"Didn't take them long to join in. A little more food and fresh air and they will be as tan and healthy as the rest of them. How is the other
Elke shook her head. Grandma O. called them together and held them tight.
"I have some bad news for you. Pepper will not be coming back. He didn't
"Sage said he might die. I'm sad, but I'm glad he doesn't hurt any more.
That's what Sage told us. You don't hurt and aren't sad, and everybody loves you." Elf said. Chance hugged Elke's leg, and then returned to snuggle with the older woman.
"Where is Sage?"
"At the cafe. She said she was going to swim and eat lunch."
Elke said, "I don't know about a service. I'll stop by later." She headed toward the Activity Building.
She found Sage eating a peanut butter sandwich. Her hair was wet, and she had a shirt on that reached her knees.
"How was the swim?"
"Great. You don't look right. What's wrong?"
"I'm not used to this sort of thing, but here goes. Your brother didn't
respond to treatment and he passed on a little while ago."
"I thought that might be it. He wasn't awake much, but when he was, he was in a lot of pain. I'm sorry I couldn't do anything for him."
Elke said they would take care of the memorial and if there was anything,
she would like.
Posted: Oct 29, 2012
|Elke went back to work researching the stream.|
Law enforcement caught up with the couple who delivered the food, finding they received money the first of each month for the children's support. They had no clue how their friends had come into the money or where they were located.
The bank account was from a foreign country where rich people often hid their money to avoid taxes.
The children went to the Wellness Center daily to get checked out. It was there they were tested for education level. They were surprised to discover
that the reading and math levels were not far behind; however, the breadth of their knowledge was restricted to internet news and gossip sites.
Missy said, "Based on their history, it would be very difficult to fit them into the public school system. I suggest they attend Montessori here so they can catch up at their own pace."
Within a year, they were all at grade level.
The cleanup went on. The scrap was removed. Items, which had survived, were auctioned off to help recoup expenses. Karl and Jud attended, but passed on the auto carcasses.
"We are too old for projects this size."
They were pleased when Jacques got his hands on the remains of a 1950 Studebaker.
It took three years to get rid of everything. To prevent this from happening again, the town and water district agreed to dismantle the steel and concrete bridge across the stream and replace it with a bicycle and pedestrian one made of environmentally neutral materials.
Sofie, Antonio and Johann continued their exploring with their friends. Sometimes Elf and Chance went with them. Their dog, now fully recovered, went with them.
Sofie liked sitting in the trees watching the creatures of the forest go about their daily business. Antonio looked for evidence of humans. His best find was a rusted Haight Ashbury street sign buried in the leaves. Johann preferred to play hide and seek, or build forts, or just follow the trails to see where they would go.
In the heat of the afternoon, they would hang out at the Pond, swimming, playing ball or playing with their vpads.
Sage spent a lot of time reading paper books, and became a regular borrower at Harmony House. She hung around with the other shy girls who would swim and play nude in the water, but would cover up as soon as they left the pool.
One day just before Christmas, Sage got out of the pool, dried herself off and marched off to the Cafe. She left her shirt on a bench. She had finally joined the 'aliens'.
When Elke asked her about it, Sage told her,
"I don't need my security blanket any more. Life is good. Doing that ends my connection to the past. It's time to get on with life. I finally realized how good the air and sun felt on my skin. I just feel comfortable and free.
At sixteen, Sage began working with Jeannine in the office. She adapted well and handled the pressure of weekend traffic with good humor and
efficiency. Boys started dropping by, on the pretext that they were
checking things out for their parents. When asked about college, she said
"Maybe a course here and there, things that would be helpful to Jeannine.
Not full time. I'd go whacko being cooped up in classrooms all day."
A year later, on a July afternoon, a balding man and well-groomed woman
came in. Sage was in the back office with Cheyenne, helping with the receipts. She went out to register them, but quickly ran back.
"Call the police. Those are my parents."
Cheyenne made the call, sat Sage down and went out to deal with them
as if they were regular customers. She gave them paperwork for first time
visitors and waited. Before they were finished, three squad cars, no sirens arrived. Sage came out, identified them and they were taken away.
Investigation revealed that they had been living in Northern Colombia,
modestly but comfortably. The money had come from a very successful trip to Las Vegas, bankrolled by a modest payoff on a lottery ticket. They explained that they planned to go on vacation and send for the children later, and assumed the delay was for passport difficulties.
When asked why it had taken them three years to return after their
checks had been sent back, they testified that they thought Sage had simply
moved to another location when she turned sixteen.
The jury was shown pictures of the shack, the children when they found by Elke, medical reports and finally pictures of the deceased Pepper. Sage testified briefly about life before and after her parents left.
Guilty verdicts were returned for child abuse, child abandonment and
negligent homicide. They received long sentences. Furthermore, because
of a quirk in the law, he ordered them deported after serving their time,
and not allowed to re-enter the country again.
"Thankfully, the people who found your children have provided for them
what you failed to do. Their lives are relatively normal and you will
not be allowed to cause them any more pain. Court is adjourned."
Sage had no regrets.
Posted: Oct 30, 2012
|At the end of the fifth summer abroad, Reed and his son spent an afternoon discussing the future from the patio overlooking the vineyard.|
"This will be the last summer we will travel together the whole summer. Other than Vienna, we have no other obligations. I am tired. I have done all I can to help you. Your mother will not travel without me, and your sister is quite happy here."
"She has the beach close by. She plays at the clubs and works on her music. She helps in the vineyard."
"And she has Henri. She tells me after she finishes her studies, she will come back here and live happily ever after with him. I believe her."
"So do I. What about Libby. She won't be with us?"
"Only in July and she will stay here. She is preparing for her classes as visiting lecturer at Worthington."
"So I will be on my own."
"It's time. You have made friends and contacts that will be important to you in both your work and your everyday life. You will continue to be an
ambassador for naturism, but you will also become part of the network my colleagues and I began many years ago."
The young man answered, "I understand."
"My one weakness for many years was that I missed a lot by staying in an office and hiding behind a computer screen. You have learned that in person
contact allow you to pick up nuances in human behavior that even vid conferences can hide. You will be better than I."
"I find that hard to believe. You know so very much."
"I find the more I 'know’, the more I have to learn. I'm running out of learning time."
"You'll be around a long time."
"Perhaps. Now do you have any idea what you might do next year? Remember, Eric and Jools are getting married, Christine's condos are opening
in September, your mother and Bekka are going full speed on the Farm Too and renovations to Edna’s ...”
".... And Tara will be finishing junior year abroad in Spain."
"That, too. You will also be graduating, if I calculate correctly."
"Yes, sir. Then three or four years to a doctorate."
"Very good. Now one more thing. If anything happens to me, you are going to have to help your mother. She will have a tendency to bury herself in work to numb the grief. She may also lash out at people and do or say things she may later regret. If you see that, bring her here. With fewer distractions, she will be able to heal. Piggy will make sure she relaxes, and will redirect her energy."
"One more thing. Being alone is a terrible thing. I have told her this, and I want you to as well. Encourage her to find someone. It will make growing old so much easier."
They drank some coffee and chatted about sports and politics.
Reed said, "One question I forgot to ask. How do you plan to organize your
"Western Europe, here as a headquarters, Czech lake clubs in the East.
I feel most comfortable in those two places."
"For the specific Czech club, I would suggest the one where Mrs. Gold is.
She is very knowledgeable."
"Good idea. She ran the summer camp for a number of years after she moved
from her native country."
Their conversation was interrupted by Bethany's arrival. She shook her long blonde hair, sat at the piano and began to play, singing in either French or English, occasionally making up funny lyrics to amuse her audience.
"She is precious. She is one of the few people who have happy clouds around them all the time. She even makes that old sourpuss M. Vachon smile. Do what you can to make sure she stays that way." said Reed.
They shook hands, and then embraced.
Piggy rang the bell for dinner. Everyone headed indoors. The main course was roast chicken. Bethany played a few bars of "The Chicken Dance",
grabbed her towel and followed them in.
Posted: Nov 7, 2012
|Bekka was standing in the middle of a meadow with Ruby, Jade and Angie. Around them were the twins six and Bekka's two children, the youngest on a blanket, the rest running around wearing only shoes. |
"Everyone is finally home." Angie said.
"Labor Day Festival is like a magnet. The women's softball teams are already here, some of the food stations are up and running, and kids’ everywhere." said Bekka. "It's peaceful here."
They heard the sound of a motor. An old red car was crawling up the dirt road.
"She still drives that?" said Ruby. "It's older than I am."
"Runs great. She drives it for short trips, Here, to town, to the station. And never in the rain."
The car stopped. Romy emerged, ran to the passenger side and helped Polly get out. Sunshine Too followed.
"She wanted some peace and quiet. She's also very curious about what you are up to." Romy said.
Bekka began. "The twins bought this when they got married. The house at the end is theirs. The little stucco number is for Jack."
"As nurses, we can take care of our grandfather better than anyone. One of us is always here," said Jade. "He still goes down to the diner for breakfast, checks in on Cheyenne, picks up veggies and comes home. He loves the kids and is happy as a clam."
"No more Florida?"
"Last year was it. He'll help out Cheyenne here if she needs him. Otherwise he is retired."
"He also comes to keep an eye on me," said Angie. "For an old goat, he hasn't lost his interest in women."
Polly replied, "Glad everyone is doing well. Now I know you wouldn't have both of them here if you didn't have some plan cooked up. Blondie over there doesn't stop working unless she is out of the country. Bekka has so many projects she has more frequent flyer miles than the Governor."
Bekka turned around," Only three now. Christine's the one in Georgia and this one. I take on any more and my husband will divorce me."
Jade began. "We don't want a full scale operation like The Farm. Just homes. We like what you and Jen did at Paradise, but we want a swimming area as a centerpiece instead of a ball field. The spring fed swimming hole is big enough, but a quarter mile walk from here, a long trek for
someone with a lot of kids like we have."
Polly asked, "How many? You and your husbands are very busy with work and family. You don't want to bite off more than you can chew."
Romy responded. "Karl and Inga were worried all the kids that grew up at The Farm would have no place to go when they grew up and would move away.
Some already have. The twins are keeping 120 acres for themselves, with the remainder put in a land trust for new people to live here."'
"Any bites?" Polly said.
"Eric and Jools, his wife to be, is one. One or two people we went to school with. Romy, what did you say, maybe twelve to fifteen?"
Romy nodded. "You have good water from your artesian wells. Your father hasn't lost his touch. There's no sewer hookup here. We have to build a septic system. I'd rather build it all at once rather than piece it together as each dwelling is constructed. Cheaper too."
Polly suggested. "Why not put them all in the back near the tree line. That way there will be plenty of room for play and no one's view of the
landscape will be obstructed."
Polly peered out in the distance. She saw the reservoir lakes and the pine forest beyond it. Between it, she saw the large expanse of fields and houses Of The Farm.
"It looks bigger from here. There's also a lot more open space than I thought there was."
Romy stood next to her. "Our little village only takes up about 200 acres. The Galts are farming 160. That leaves nearly two thirds that will never be developed because of wetlands issues and the agreement I made with the town years ago on the number of houses we could build."
"Ninety-nine years, right. Plus a renewal clause that could be invoked every decade. How long now?"
"I forget, four hundred and seventy something. The last time just before Mr. Pettigrew retired."
Romy and Bekka went ahead of them, pacing off distances and tying ribbons on trees.
After an hour, the children were getting antsy. "Mom, can we go swimming now?" one asked Bekka.
"In a few minutes."
Romy interrupted. "We've been out here an hour and a half. Polly needs shade and the kids, including me, need to get wet."
After an hour of cooling off, and Polly's catnap, they rounded up the children for lunch. Romy asked Polly, "You up for one more stop? You
haven't been to Edna's lately."
"Heidi told me they were doing something but you are right. I just haven't felt like going anywhere lately."
"I noticed that. You didn't even go to Kansas this year."
"I'm going, but after Labor Day. I'll drive back with the Hanlons. Faith White and Jo Saunders are coming too. Something about seedlings and one of the Hanlon sons was mentioned. I'll come back with them."
As the car faded from sight, Angie said, "She does well for being over 90. Walks a mile or more every day. I thought she was losing it one day when she was sitting on a bench next to the statue of her old dog and was talking to it. She told me the dog had been her companion for a long time and done a lot together. Talking to him helps her remember."
Jade said, "She keeps her mind active. I hope I remember half what she has when I get close to her age."
Posted: Nov 8, 2012
|They drove to the end of the tree-lined street, and turned into the driveway to park behind the carriage house. New fencing had been installed eight feet high.|
"Those are only temporary," Romy said. "When the shrubbery gets to that height, we'll remove it."
"Edna would like that. She loved her privacy."
They walked to the back gate. Polly made a face.
"What's the matter?" asked Romy.
"Are those male voices I hear?"
"Probably. We were having problems getting women to rent with the strict rules on men on the grounds. They aren't allowed in the living area, but they can come on the grounds and go in the basement common area."
"Edna would come back and burn you at the stake if she knew."
"No, she wouldn't. When she started out, women had no place to go for meetings except church and as auxiliaries to organizations, the men had. There were no domestic abuse centers then. At the beginning, Social Security didn't exist. Edna took women in who were in a bad way and had no place else to go."
"I vaguely remember that. There were also one or two girls who weren't married and got pregnant. Edna took them in too. The sitting room and one of the studies were bedrooms back then." Polly said.
"In time, Portia, Ophelia and Cordelia moved in, alternative services became available. Edna's focus dealt with expanding and consolidating her influence in town through her group after the last husband died. It stayed pretty much the same until she passed on."
"So what are the changes?" Polly asked as she observed two couples and some children playing in and lounging around the pool.
"Just so you don't panic, today Lena Elder invited her co-workers here for a back to school picnic." As they left the pool area, Polly saw a co-ed volleyball game, people tanning and children playing various games. None were dressed.
Rosie was grilling burgers and hot dogs. Dawn Angel came over and gave them hugs.
"Have the changes helped?" Romy asked.
"Muchly. I actually have a waiting list."
"So how long do they usually stay?"
"Polly, Cheyenne and Lena have been here the longest. They share the carriage house. Most of the rest are new in town and are looking for an affordable safe place to stay. We are upfront about being nude. I have two nurses from the hospital, one who works at Hiroshi's Antiques, and one from American Hemp. Most stay a couple years until they get their own place."
"What about boyfriends?" Polly continued.
"They can stay on the grounds, eat dinner downstairs, but the same rules apply. Since the women are nude, they have to be as well. They have to be gone by midnight. The elevator and doors to the upper levels are locked."
"What about the extra expense?" Polly continued.
"There is a basic food allowance included in the rent. They are responsible for any extras."
"See," Romy said. "No shenanigans. Dawn is frugal and Rosie is strict about visitors. The sanctuary is safe. If there are serious problems, we will scale it back. No men allowed on meeting days, including Naomi's 'No Love for Us' group.
"That still exists?"
"She's the last original member, but meetings are always crowded." Dawn said.
Polly had to examine the inside. When she was satisfied, she turned to Romy. "I guess it is all right. Next time, bring me when it is the way it used to be. I just don't feel comfortable with the new."
Labor Day Fest was a great success. Softball was won by a team from Colorado. The Paradise and Farm teams lost in the semifinals. The Farm boys Volleyball team won the bronze medal to everyone's surprise. The indoor "old sci-fi TV shows" marathon, which included all the episodes of Blake's 7,Babylon 5, Farscape, Lost in Space and The Prisoner at two venues was crowded and attended by many who had to be creative to appear in character while nude.
Karl had to import a half truckload of soil for the largest mud ball fight ever. Heidi couldn't count the number of family and friend pictures she took.
Sven watched much of this on his old desktop from the middle of the country. For the first time, he got to see what really went on. He told his wife he was always locked in the office and rarely got to enjoy anything except the food.
He had originally hired Jolene to mind the shop when he was on the road.
She was honest and a good negotiator. In time, they became friends and
eventually married. Two children later, they were regulars at the local nudist club, which was modern and catered to a younger crowd without pushing the older members out the door.
He lived in a modest ranch house at the end of a long dirt road where
the family could live clothes free. A back yard was fenced in for the
children to play and their beagle to run around. A swimming pool was
in the works for next year.
Jolene handed him Aron as she washed Crystal's face. "Are you ever going
to introduce me to your family? I see all they have done and they seem
like nice people. Are you ashamed of me?"
He answered. "No. It's more me than you."
She replied. "I think it is about time you sent your mother at least, pictures of you and your new family, and that you are happy. I'm still
upset you didn't introduce yourself and us to your daughter when we went
to that club in Kansas. If you don't know what to say, I'll send a note along with the pictures."
Inga received the email and attachments a few days later. She showed them
"He looks well. He's lost weight and has a smile on his face. The children are beautiful, and Jolene is attractive, though taller and curvier than Heidi is. Should I show her this?"
Karl nodded. "Just to let her know he is well. It will give her closure."
Posted: Nov 15, 2012
It was mid-October. Marta's house was unusually quiet. Eric was still at Granite Lake helping the club get ready for winter. Tara had left for Spain a month ago. Yet she wasn't lonely.
Her husband was home all but two nights a month. They were having a second honeymoon without having to go anywhere.
"We only have a month before Eric and Jools arrive. We can hibernate together all winter until we have to start getting ready for the wedding. Let's make the most of our alone time. Before we know it, there will be grandchildren crawling under the table."
Eric said, "You will love every minute."
"Of course, I will. So will you. For now, we don't have to act like grownups."
"When have you ever acted like a grownup?" Eric teased.
"Never. And you'd better not let me." She laughed,took his hand and led him inside.
Bix had had his best season and was watching Cochise run through the fields. The children were at Day Care while Molly was at school. She would be graduating Law School in December and taking the bar exam in February. He told people he just played a game and entertained people. It was his wife who would be doing really important things.
He had also found out that his friend Mike Snowe had retired, after a long productive career.
"My arm is going and my legs are gone. Time to help my wife with the kids and do my part around here. Being able to play until I was nearly 40 was a blessing."
TJ had retired from the Navy and was headed back to Italy. "Hawaii was nice but we never got comfortable." He had told Reed that they would be buying a house not far from the naturist resort they had visited years ago. "We'll visit, but that will be home. The boys were very happy there.
The villagers are like family."
Bix saw Cochise spring out of the grass and swat a dove out of the air. He picked it up, sat in front of Bix and dropped it at his feet.
"Good dog. This one is still alive. We’ll let it go." When the dog had gone back in the grass with a treat, Bix threw the bird in the air behind him. The dove managed to get to the clothesline, thankful it had not been ripped to shreds.
He saw Em walking quickly up the path. Ordinarliy, she would stop and chat.
Today she was in a hurry, said "hello" as she approached him and kept on going. "Hope nothing is wrong." he thought.
Something was. Em had always been bothered by migraines. Lately, they had
become more frequent and severe. Naomi made her go see Doc Elder. When the tests came back,the news was not good. There was an aneurism in her brain.
"You could live five years, or be gone tomorrow." Doc said.
"Please don't tell anyone. They will only worry and fuss unnecessarily.
I want to live life to the fullest for as long as I have."
She regretted blowing by Bix but she was preoccupied. She was worried how Karl would cope once he was alone. Karl and Katie would keep an eye on him, but they had their own lives to lead. Christine was a free spirit as she was. She would dutifully look after her father, but she would be very unhappy.
She turned around and went back to Bix, gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I was thinking, but that's no excuse. You're a good man and father and you know we all are proud of you and love you. Don't ever change.We'll chat longer next time. Give Molly and the kids hugs for me."
She continued to keep busy. She worked twenty hours with Naomi, dressed in character for various lessons at Montessori and during the holidays, filled in at her old job when it was busy. People didn't notice any change.
Posted: Nov 16, 2012
|Eric brought Jools to The Farm for the first time for Thanksgiving. Jools drove Eric crazy, asking what she should pack for the trip.|
"The weather is going to be in the 70s during the day with a low in the high 50s. The most you will need during the day are sandals and a hat. At night, a shirt. When we go into town, cutoffs and a blouse, or a nice dress with big girl shoes for a fancy place."
"Suppose I forget something?"
"We have stores here. It's not like we are in the middle of the wilderness."
"I'm just nervous. I love you and want to make a good impression."
"As long as Grandma and Aunt Polly don't eat you, you will be fine. Just be yourself."
Marta met them at the station. They looked at each other and laughed. Jools was wearing cutoffs and a windbreaker, Marta a peasant blouse and wraparound skirt. It was the first time they had seen each other fully dressed.
"I didn't recognize you with clothes on," they said simultaneously.
They got into a restored 1978 GTO convertible. Marta gave a running commentary, pointing out places Eric should take Jools while she was here.
"Ma, she'll be back for New Year's when everything is all lit up for the holidays. We'll see what we can. Besides, aren't you taking her on your Black Friday marauding trip?"
Marta brightened. "Three car loads. We start at 6 AM. We are back in town by 1PM for our ice cream pig-out, and home to unpack and take a nap. The men take care of supper for us. After that, we're ready for the weekend."
They had passed the last light and turned onto Polly Benson. Marta pulled over, pulled off her blouse and said, "Enough of this. I want to feel the breeze on my body the rest of the way." The couple followed suit. When they arrived, Marta whispered, "You two go say hello to Karl and Inga, just so they know you got here safely. Food will be ready when you get back to the house."
It was a light supper. Eric Sr. explained that the next day would be a
series of small meals while the Thanksgiving feast was being prepared.
"It's like an all day tasting contest. The fun of it is we don't know
what order the courses will be served. The one thing we do know is
that Polly and Sally will be here at seven thirty to start peeling potatoes and veggies. Inga is cooking the stuffing next door. Heidi and
Abby will be delivering the hors d'oeuvres mid-morning. Try the stuffed mushrooms. They are to die for. Elke and Maia are in charge of desserts.
They will bring samplers for afternoon coffee."
"Does everybody bring something?" Jools asked.
"It's a family feast and there are a lot of us. We all pitch in. Polly
doesn't cook pies all week, she just makes the filler now. Katie and Molly roll the dough and do the cooking." Eric continued.
Marta added, "Em and Christine make a killer gumbo we will have today. My older sister Romy makes lasagna for Friday. The younger children clean up."
"It seems like so much work." Jools said.
"It is, but it is a lot of fun." Marta said. "I just thought of something.
if you want, you can come swimming with me in the morning. I'll introduce you to a lot of the people you will be seeing over the next few days. It's
much mellower at six AM when no one is totally awake."
Sleep came quickly after the meal. Jools woke up with a start and saw it
was 5:30 already. She roused Eric. They showered. Coffee, fruit and muffins
were on the table when they came out.
Marta said, "Eric, Polly may be here before we come back. You know what to do."
"Yep, whatever she tells me to. Stay out of the kitchen. Will Katie and Molly be coming as well?"
"Yes. With us after swim. Sally and Tasha will set up the work stations
so you and Polly can chat."
The women went off to the pool.
"This is beautiful," said Jools as they walked by the Pond and down the path to the volleyball courts.
"This is just a small part of it. The grounds and buildings are nice, but it is the people who make it so wonderful. We disagree and have our little
snits, yet in the end we are all family."
Jools was nervous. Marta broke the ice by saying, "Good morning, ladies.
I'd like you to meet my future daughter-in-law Jools who is bringing Eric back home."
After a few hugs, a half dozen made a line with Jools in the middle, joined hands and jumped into the pool.
Later, drying off, she was amazed that Marta was still swimming laps.
A short woman with reddish blond hair said, "Twenty laps every day she is here. Thirty the month after the holidays because she loves to eat. I'm
Maia: doctor, wife, mother, cook and general mischief maker."
Jools replied, "So you are the person I'll be seeing when the babies come."
"Ja. I just want you to know my niece in Denmark loves your comic. My parents are coming for Christmas and I was wondering if you might do something for her as my present."
"No problem. Just find out what she wants. I'm surprised it is popular in Europe, Japan and Brazil, but not here."
"Many Americans still equate nudity to sex or porn. Some men still have
the notion that women should be in secondary roles, and it intimidates them when they aren't. We see each other nude every day, and while we still people watch, we aren't overcome by lust to go jump every hot
person we see."
Posted: Nov 20, 2012
|Jools nodded. "At the beach, we have two groups of voyeurs. One group is there hoping to see people engaged in sexual acts so they can report them as being immoral. The other wants to see the same thing because it turns them on. We've invited them to join us, but they either refuse or run away. They don't realize what they are missing. It's not like we all look like movie stars. We just enjoy being nude. To us it is as natural as brushing our teeth."|
"Maybe someday." said Maia. "I have to run. I just got off work and need to help Elke get the kids off to school before I go to sleep. I'll see you about three. I hope you like chocolate."
She went for quick dip. Marta was waiting for her when she climbed out of the pool. "Most of the rest of the family you can chat with over the course of the day as they drop by. There will be more people at the pool tomorrow, and Eric will introduce you around when he takes you on tour."
As they walked back, Marta said, "I know Eric tried to scare you about Inga and Polly. They are direct and no nonsense. It isn't being mean.
They would rather get to the issue than waste time with pointless chat. You will win Momma over in two minutes. Polly will ask a lot of questions
to get a sense of who you are. I hope you like dogs. If you don't, you're dead."
"Dogs like me, but I've never had one of my own. My mother refused. Said it would add to her housework and that they smelled.""
"Her dog Sunshine likes everyone. The test will be if Lil Mike approves."
The work stations were ready. Women were busy preparing vegetables. Jud was hauling peelings out to the compost. Reed was filling large pots with water and placing them on the stove, while Eric was washing the dirty dishes.
"Grab a knife or a peeler," Sally said. "When we get everything done,
we can take a break while it cooks. Reed, is Bethany helping your mother?"
"Yes. Mom is teaching her as she goes, with help from Jen, who is on the wide screen. Dad went to his library to stay out of the way."
"Jools," Em asked, "Are you going shopping with us?"
"Jools replied, "This year will probably be the last one for a while i can go into Boston with my cousins, so I didn't plan on it."
"That's ok. Elke refuses to go. Does all her shopping online. She's done. She'll be out playing in the stream all day." Marta said. "Eric, you can take her on tour tomorrow. One more thing. Alice said our pumpkin pies
would be ready around nine. Can you go pick them up? Reed, you go help him.
We women want to talk for a while."
With the room to themselves, the women began chatting. Inga said to Jools,
"Why don't you tell everyone how you met?"
Jools told the story of teasing him on the beach and inviting him for a swim. "We thought he'd either run away or be a perv, but when he dropped his shorts and walked right in the ocean like our nudity was normal, everything was fine."
"What struck you about him to make you interested?" asked Polly.
"He was friendly but not overly so. He checked us all out but he didn't stare or make rude comments. He also was worried later about hurting Ginny's feelings when he wanted to see me exclusively. Most men don't think of that. They just dump and move on."
Marta asked what made it different from being a traditional summer romance.
"I thought that too, but he wrote back in the fall and asked me out. Because of our schedules, we only saw each other once or twice a month.
He asked to meet my parents after a few months to show he was serious.
We also found out we loved the same kind of movies and music, tho I dance a lot better than he does. He also encouraged my cartooning, and with his
computer brilliance, animated my characters and brought them to life."
"Whose idea was it for the women super heroes.?" asked Abby.
"I was thinking of a woman with a male side kick. Eric gave me the idea about a group. With all the stories he told about you, Tara and the rest,
I had plenty of material."
"Marta, when did Tara say she would be checking in tomorrow? It will be
different without her." asked Inga.
"Tomorrow about three. She gives me heartburn with her mouth and her attitude sometimes, but the house is TOO quiet now."
Polly continued. "Why are you moving back here? I thought with all your
family and Eric's grandparents, you would want to stay close to home."
"First, Eric's aunts and uncles back home have been letting Eric take care of things for their parents instead of helping themselves. It's time they stepped up and got with the program. My family is cool with wherever I live as long as I am happy. Second, I saw that Eric was much happier when he was with family. I wanted him to move back. The fact that the twins started their own little community meant we could live the naturist life but only be a few minutes away from The Farm. Last,I hate being cold in winter and despise snow."
"That's good enough for me." said Polly. "She's also peeled five pounds of potatoes. With all the new mouths to feed, we need the extra hands."
Inga interrupted them. "Time for coffee. We are more than half done.I also hear Lil Mike and Cleo. That means Elke and lunch are almost here."
Elke hauled in two large pots, one chili, the other gumbo. "Rafi made the chili yesterday, it is spicy. Rick made the gumbo. I have more if you need it."
The dogs bounded in. Clio made the rounds, while Lil Mike went right to Polly. She whispered something. He went and sat in front of Jools, who
talked with him and rubbed his chest. That done, he went about sniffing,
finally pressing his nose to her belly. He turned around, sat between her legs and faced Polly.
"Two things we know. He didn't lick your belly, so you aren't pregnant.
You rubbed his chest, and he likes that. You passed the toughest test."
said Polly. "Welcome to the family."
Posted: Dec 12, 2012
|There were nearly forty for Thanksgiving dinner. Inga remembered the first one, when there were only a dozen. Food was served buffet style, with the younger children going first. They would eat on the porch before returning to clear up after everyone was finished eating. Only Sven and Tara were missing. Tara however, had checked in to assure the family she wasn't alone and starving.|
When the connection was made, Tara was sitting on a couch with about a dozen other college students, eating drumsticks and drinking wine.
"We can't party too much," she told her mother."It isn't a holiday here and we all have class tomorrow. I'll be home on the fifteenth or so to help with Christmas."
Marta and Inga were satisfied. Tara looked relaxed and healthy. To make sure, they asked Reed.
"She loves school, the beach, the relaxed atmosphere, and all the new people. No special boy friend, although she does go out. Word has also gotten around that you don't mess with her after she broke the ribs and nose of some man who groped her in a club."
"She didn't get into trouble?" Elke asked.
"No. The bouncer saw the whole thing, said the guy was a pig and deserved what he got."
The family ate quietly, conversing only between courses.
"Must be good. No complaints." said Inga.
The meal was finished. The dishes were rinsed. The dishwasher was humming. The older men had gathered in front of the wide screen on the pretense that they were watching football. In fact, they were all sound asleep, or "resting our eyes", as Jud explained.
Polly. Inga, Missy and Sally were on the porch keeping ears cocked for napping baby sounds. Everyone else was playing a chaotic game of touch football, with no out of bounds or defined field.
Sides were determined by which side of the ball you were on when it was hiked. Most of the time. They were now halfway down the road. Christine had just caught a pass and was wrestled down by Molly.
"It's supposed to be touch," Christine pouted.
"I did touch you," Molly laughed. "you didn't hear me complain when Eric swung me around and dropped me. That was 'touch' too."
Karl grabbed the ball, hiked it to Bix, who threw a spiral to Elke as she headed towards the softball diamond. Rafi picked her up and sat her on the pitcher's mound.
The game continued until Romy picked up a fumble and ran to Sand Trap Pond.
"If you want to play, you better get ready to swim." She jumped in the water.
The game was over. Everyone dove in to cool off.
Jools sat next to Marta as they dried off.
"Is this normal? You just make up rules as you go along?"
"We go with the flow. You'll find out we have a lot of fun doing things
we thought up on a whim. My mother's hat and parasol parade, mudball, Elke's tree climbing. Oh, you can watch another one now."
The sun was starting to go down. They watched a golf cart with Elke and Sofie in it heading down toward the ball field. It stopped. In a moment,
they saw three birds fly out of the trees in a beeline toward the cart.
"What are those? They seem awfully big."
"Owls. Just watch."
They swooped around and one at a time landed on the cart, while the other two continued to fly.
"My sister has had a bond with them since she rescued an owlet when we first moved here. They will swoop the rest of us for fun, but they only
land when Elke's in the cart. Now Sofie has been accepted as well."
"Amazing. Anything else I should know right now?"
"Don't wear a straw hat around Reuben's donkey Jedediah. He will eat it.
If you visit the barn, ask Alice about the animals and their dispositions. Don't get upset if you see the rooster and cat scrapping. They and their predecessors have been fighting for years for control of the barn. It's a stalemate. The rest you'll just learn by watching."
"I have so much to learn. There is so much going on here."
"It's a lot of work, but a lot of fun. Look at my sister Romy. She has
a lot of responsibility here, but you wouldn't know it by the way she is
playing in the water. And she's almost ten years older than I am."
"She keeps herself in shape, lives healthy, and her mind is always working. She and Elke are the brains of the family."
"You are pretty talented. I've seen some of your paintings."
"That's just play. Cooking, painting, modeling, decorating, making love with my husband, all great things but small potatoes compared to them."
"Are you serious?"
"Of course not. We are all important because what each of us do makes life better for everyone."
Posted: Dec 15, 2012
|The following morning, the house was quiet. The shoppers had departed and the men were at the diner for their morning gab session. Jools and Eric took their bikes and rode out the back way. They waved at Reuben and Melody who were drinking coffee in the front yard. Eric pointed out who lived where: Bix and Molly, Katie and Karl, Dora, Bekka, Dr. Paul and Brigitte, the Snowe's, and finally Billy and Alice. They stopped for a minute. Alice was playing catch with her children.|
"If they have your genes, they will be all stars." Eric said. He introduced her to Jools. "Alice hits a softball further than any woman I've ever seen. She is an animal and human midwife, helps out Reuben and Dr. Paul, and help on the farm. She is also one of the sweetest people in the world."
Alice blushed. "I'm just a farm girl. I believe in "do unto others'. By the way, let Inga know Libby had dinner with us. She just came back from Japan and Billy picked her up late Wednesday. She slept, helped me out, for once, just relaxed, and enjoyed herself. She's already up and gone, working on a project with young Reed. She plans on going over this afternoon."
Eric replied, "Grandma was worried, not about her safety, but whether
she'd have enough to eat."
"She ate believe me. Jools, glad to meet you. When the time comes, I will be here for you."
Jools thanked her. As they rode out to the road, she said. "She is nice. A gentle giant."
Eric stopped. "Time to put on the button down shirts we brought. We go on the main road for the next two miles, mostly uphill for the last one."
"Good thing you brought them. I never thought of that."
"Every once in a while, someone complains, usually an outsider. The police said just wear enough to keep with the spirit of the law."
In a quarter hour, they turned into the road and shrugged the shirts off their shoulders. To the left, they saw the log cabin belonging to the twins. In front of them was another house, already framed. Workers were installing clapboard on the exterior.
"You said you wanted something that reminded you of home. There's nothing more New England than a clapboard farmhouse."
Jools got off the bike and hugged Eric so hard he almost fell off.
"It's wonderful," she said. "Let's go see how our home looks up close. Last one there's a rotten egg."
Jools got there first. She saw Barry and Missy sitting on towels draped over a plank. Katie's parents, she remembered from dinner. A blond woman
wearing a hard hat, boots and glasses was reading over blueprints on a makeshift table.
Eric said, "Hi, Jen. What do you think? Where is your better half and the twins?"
"The kids just attacked the twins and got their lazy butts out of bed. Imagine, trying to sleep past eight around here. Lisa just delivered breakfast to Jack. They will all be out in a bit. Isn't this place beautiful?"
"The way they set it up so everyone has a clear view of the reservoir and
the landscape is great. The meadow in front gives all the kids plenty of safe area to play."
"I like your ideas. Three bedrooms on the perimeter with a study loft
on the back wall of the living room. The back bedroom is a takeoff on old
farmhouses, where they added rooms as the family got larger. Romy made the septic system the same size as next door, to accommodate a lot of kids.
Your mother thought you should have oak flooring in the bedrooms, and paid the extra cost. Your father wanted to wire this up for any work you might want to do at home, but I said I'd ask you first."
Eric replied. "The flooring is great, but I don't want to work at home.
Jools gets ideas for her strip at night the loft is for that. Dad can
put all the bells and whistles there for her."
Jen took Jools in and gave her the tour. Missy said, "I've got news for you. Sam and Janet have sold their parents house and will be moving back here the week before Christmas. They are keeping the place at Granite Lake
as a family summer cottage."
"So they are going to help you here? And what about Naomi?"
"Just to supervise. I think Naomi will be moving in with Karl and Em
until a house becomes available at The Farm. They have more than enough room. Their kids are gone."
At that moment, the door opened and six children ran out. They were painted in numerous colors and designs. Then two blonde women flew after them, arms outstretched, swooping up the youngsters and depositing them in the large sand box next to the pool.
"Where are Jade and Ruby?"
"They're working a six to six shift. By the time they get home, the kids
will have just about enough energy to kiss them good night before the Sandman gets them.” said Missy.
Lisa joined them. "I thought twins were tough, but six of them and all like greased piglets with that paint on. Anyone want to take bets on whether the twins go out dancing tonight?"
Jen returned with Jools. "Our babies are going to be asleep by eleven. The two of them are going to find out that after you play with kids, you have to clean them and their messes up. Going out dancing will have to wait until tomorrow."
Eric asked, "How many changes do you have to make?"
Jools said, "Only two. A window in the loft so I can watch you sleep and a convection oven to make you muffins after I get your mother's recipe."
Posted: Dec 16, 2012
|The morning passed. Jack came out with his lawn chair and watched his grandchildren. Jen pointed out where the pool would be.|
"It is either going to be a natural pool that Romy designed or a traditional one with a separate kiddy pool. The swimming hole is fine but it is a bit of a trek for toddlers."
After a short tour, coffee and more small talk, Eric looked at his phone. It was after eleven.
"We promised we would meet Elke near her work site around noon," he told Jen.
"We need to keep working to get this done by your wedding." Jen said. She whispered to Jools, "No worries. The windows will be in, the power on and the solar panels in place by the time you come back for Christmas. I'm glad you like what we have done so far."
"Wonderful. You are all so nice."
"We are like any other extended family. We argue, have snits, act childish at times, but we all care for each other. We work together when we need to, and we come together when there are troubles."
Eric cleared his throat.
"Eric is very patient, but when he tells someone he will meet them, he does not like to be late."
Jools hugged her. "I know. We'll be back before we leave on Monday."
They were so excited, they forgot to put on their safety shirts and flew down the hill, turned on Reservoir Road and sped down to Polly Benson.
"Oops, we forgot to get dressed.” Jools laughed.
"No traffic, no problem." Eric grinned.
A number of nude families and teenagers waved as they rode by them.
"Working off yesterday's food. Seriously, it's great exercise. The families
usually stop at the picnic area next to the school. All of them will end up at the indoor pool for a shower and a quick swim before they go home."
"Now who's gabbing?”
They rode until they saw a golf cart. Two pair of boots were standing at attention. Elke and a woman with long braids were eating cheese and drinking beer from a bottle.
"About time you got here. We have turkey here, and the dogs would have gotten it if you were late," she teased.
Eric looked at the woman. "I know you. Aren't you the person who said she hated working outside, mud, creepy crawly animals and would never take her clothes off?"
"Moira Kelly, that's me." the woman said with a light brogue. "I thought I was being led to perdition by this devil."
"Now I can't get her out of the muck, she lets most of the bugs crawl all over her, and she only gets dressed on Sunday."
"Church, shopping, brunch with the kids and my husband, and the fourth of July parade. Plus the few days a year it gets cold." Moira smiled.
Jools grabbed some cheese and washed it down with water.
"Beer, later. Now I just want a little snack. Tell me about your morning and I'll do the same."
The women began talking, leaving Eric a silent bystander. He was pleased Jools was enjoying herself and happy that she loved the house. Eventually, he got bored and looked for something to amuse himself. He heard rustling
down near the stream. He chuckled, and then whistled. Lil Mike and Cleo emerged soaking wet and covered with mud. They greeted him, ran to Elke, shook themselves off and proceeded to rub and wiggle against all of them.
Elke shook her finger, but she was laughing. "You brat, you didn't know how to ask politely, so you got the dogs to do your dirty work."
Eric grinned. "You know Gramps expects us to stop for lunch. If we hurry,
we will have a couple hours of peace before the shopping caravan gets back."
They were in the hot tub snacking and drinking wine when the caravan rolled in. Laundry baskets and shoe trays were on either side of the porch steps.
The men had adjourned next door to avoid the onslaught.
Polly got out first, helped up the stairs by Sally and Inga. She showered inside because there were safety rails.
They saw Christine next. Threw her top and jeans in the bin, kicked out of her boots, grabbed Molly and Katie by the hand after they were liberated and ran into Sand Trap Pond. Some followed her. Others headed to the outdoor showers.
Refreshed, they headed indoors to eat. Marta stopped by to nibble on some
celery and chips. When Eric left to watch football next door, Heidi hopped in and joined them.
"I'm a shortcake, so you will all have more room. Ooooh, this feels good.
My feet are sore. I'm not used to wearing five inch heels since I go barefoot most of the time now."
"Serves you right. I told you, but you had to be a fashionista," teased
Abby. "I'm going to take our loot home. I'll come back in the golf cart
to chauffeur you home."
The rest of the weekend was a whirlwind. Jools remembered promising Christine she would visit her condo in the city when she came back after Christmas. The thought that the ocean was only a few hours away made the decision to leave the Cape behind easier. She watched the families and the maintenance crew begin decorating. She couldn't wait for the wedding to be over.
It was the rainiest December Polly could remember. People who rarely got dressed were in boot, raincoats and carrying umbrellas. Yet it didn't dampen the upbeat mood of the season.
Molly got her law degree, Christine finally graduated from college, and
Ruthie's daughter Hope got engaged to a Hanlon and would be building her new home at Farm 2.
Inga got news as well. A picture of Sven and his family in Santa hats
looking very happy. She wondered if he would ever return.
Posted: Dec 22, 2012
|The cool rainy weather disappeared on the first day of winter. A warm westerly breeze and temperatures in the 70s replaced the cool northwest winds and chilly 50s.|
On Christmas morning, Maia, Elke and Sofie were sitting on the tree platform drinking cocoa.
"Why did Grandma Sorenson throw us out and why aren't the boys with us?" asked Sofie.
Maia replied, "The boys are with Rafi and Ricky. I think it has something to do with our presents. My mother threw us out so they could work their magic without us being in the way."
"Besides, we like watching everyone on Christmas. The boys get bored up here." Elke added.
They watched the Galts return from sunrise services. Ten minutes later, Alice and Billy were setting up tables for the family feast while the children were chasing a puppy across the soccer field. Reuben and Melody emerged with coffee, heading down to help. Their church clothes had been discarded. Dr. Paul and Brigitte were helping their two learn to ride their tricycles without falling over.
"I'm so glad they finally had children," Maia said. "He is a good man and Brigitte loves all creatures, animal and human."
The watched the Snowe's drive to their parents, golf cart packed with presents, Jud, Sally and Tonya going in the opposite direction on the way to Bix and Molly's.
Below them, Heidi was taking pictures of Abby and Mikkel. Karl, Katie and the baby arrived and were greeted by Christine wearing fur-lined boots, an elf hat and nothing else. Bethany was walking in circles, talking French at warp speed, wearing a silk scarf and a red beret.
"Henri's gifts. I take it she likes them the way she is kissing the phone." Maia laughed.
Reed and Romy were watching with amused looks on their faces.
Young Reed wore a Santa hat, and was loading up the van with presents, which he and Tara would deliver before dinner.
"They have been doing this since they were twelve or thirteen. A lot more stops now, but they enjoy it." Elke said.
A phone rang. "We are allowed to go home now. Good thing. The cocoa is gone." Sofie remarked.
They stood. Sofie at twelve was taller than Maia.
"You're getting big."
"Taller and blooming, but I'm the same loveable Sofie."
At the house, the men were putting the final touches on the packages.
"How come so many presents for girls?" Johann asked. "We all know pretty much what we are getting. Dad will be getting some music and a picture of some musician we never even heard of, Uncle Rafi something for the studio,
Antonio, an addition to his Dr. Who monster collection, and I'll get paints, brushes and canvasses."
Rick answered, "You know Mom likes shoes and hats. Aunt Elke likes earrings and bracelets. They both like waist and ankle jewelry when they are
nude. Sofie is growing up and likes all of these things right now. All of them like being nude when they are here, but when they go out they want to look and feel pretty. Girls just like to dress up more than we guys do."
Antonio said, "Just look how long it takes Maia and Elke to get dressed when they are going out. Dad and Rick are ready to go in ten minutes. It takes them forever."
"Exactly," said Rafi. "They not only want to look nice to other people, but especially for us."
"But you tell them they are beautiful every day."
"Yes we do. They are. When you get girl friends and wives of your own, you will learn as you go because each woman is different."
The women arrived. Their presents were placed in rows with the largest ones
on the coffee table in front of the couch. Elke got hoop earrings, Maia a hat and Sofie a necklace. Then came the shoes, Birks for Elke, modest heels for Sofie and five inch stilettos for Maia. The final boxes were
on the table.
"These are from all of us, though Rafi did most of the work," said Rick.
They opened them up and there were matching necklaces and waist chains
decorated with tiny circles of turquoise embedded in silver.
"This is the reason I was spending so much time in New Mexico. It required a lot of concentration and I couldn't risk one of you popping into my studio and catching me." Rafi said.
"Before we go get ready and model for you, we have one more thing for the children," said Maia. "We are all going to Eric's wedding back east in June. After that, the summer is open. Johann, Zelda has accepted you for
summer youth art class at Granite Lake. She is impressed that you can create without being totally dependent on computer generation. You will be
coming home with Marta after the Art Show."
Elke continued. "Antonio, How would you like to spend the summer with Grandma Sorensen and your cousins in Denmark?"
"Love too. Is Sofie coming too?"
"No. We have other plans for Sofie."
Sofie was standing wearing her new shoes and jewelry, looking very grown up, but her face was that of a confused child.
"Sofie, don't cry. Rick is going on tour with the house band and your father has gallery exhibitions on the coast all summer. You have two
softball tournaments. The good news is that I have no classes this summer.
Your Auntie Maia is reducing her time at the hospital because she will be the doctor in charge starting in August. Doc Elder want to go to part time
so he and Laura can visit all their children. In the meantime, Auntie also has the month of July off."
"So what are we going to do?"
"Go to the beach, and maybe Christine will let you stay with her a few days. Do things you want to do that the boys have no interest in. Come shopping with us. You can even pick one friend to bring with you. We can talk later. Let's try on our stuff before we head out for dinner."
Posted: Dec 26, 2012
|Before dinner, Karl began with the traditional toast, a rendition of "We Wish You a merry Christmas". He sang the first verse. Others added their own wishes, always Marta and Rick because they had the best voices, and now Bethany. A few more sang before Karl picked up his fork, which meant he was ready to eat.|
No one went hungry. Romy was resting between bites and spoke. "Marta, you have made an exceptional feast, as you always have. But it is a lot more work now. More than twice the people as when we moved here. We have all discussed this and want to make a suggestion. To make life easier for you, we would like to rotate holidays among our houses."
Marta made a face.
"Look, the day after Thanksgiving would always be here. You can still cook, but you wouldn't have to worry about the setup and cleaning all the time. Elke and Maia's is big enough for all of us.Karl and Em's, Heidi's and ours are all close together. We could cook in one place and eat in another."
"No. I want at least one here every year. Because I have the wedding back East and a reception here this year, someone can take Thanksgiving. But not Christmas."
A concession had been made. Romy decided not to push further. "Good. Thanksgiving at Elke's. Abby, can you please pass the squash?"
Marta was touched that her siblings had made the offer. But Christmas wasn't going anywhere. She got tired, but she had so much fun it was worth it.
Eric and Jools returned two days later. Christine , Jools and a number of the younger women, including Bethanny and Sofie took the train into town to shop, eat and hang out. They were relaxing around the pool when Christine said, "We could have the grand opening now, but Grandpa wants the reception in the roof garden. My best guess is late April or early May."
Leah and Tosh's roommate had already bought and the other three were rented. Club membership was nearly full. Because of school vacation, the place was packed.
"Lot of student memberships. Seniors who get the same cheap rate as students. Family days and newbie days draw well. And it's a place the beach crowd can come to during cold weather so they don't get depressed." Christine continued.
"Gramps will be impressed. Not just with the income, but that you are providing a safe friendly place for people who enjoy nude activities." Abby said.
"It's also a great way to meet guys safely." Tonya giggled.
"And somewhere to crash when we invade the city." Cheyenne added.
Jools enjoyed herself. Thankfully, she thought, Eric was taking care of things back at The Farm.
Eric was huddled with Karl, his father, Bekka, Barry, Sam and Janet Rosen.
"She came up with the idea a week after Thanksgiving. Then she got an
offer to have her strip published in an online zine for twenty six weeks.
If it goes over well it will be permanent."
"That's great news," said Karl. "Make sure she consults with our attorney before she signs anything. But what does this have to do with us?"
"Jools tells me she needs warmth and sunshine to be able to get it done.
Wants to submit it by the end of April so she can concentrate on the wedding. The other thing is she wants to be closer to the people her characters represent."
Bekka got to the point. "You want to know if we can get the house done early so you can move in."
"Well, at least to the point where we can live there."
Barry looked worried. "The bad weather has put us behind. We have John Moses and Rani Singh, Rick Hanlon and Hope, Elly and Danny Soong's houses to build. The Soongs already have three under five and triplets are on the way. Their apartment can't handle all those people."
Janet spoke. "It's a good thing we moved back. We can contact some of the old crew and finish Eric's so you won't have to peel off any of your help.
I'm sure they would like the extra money. After they are done, we could
get the last project, Nadia Romanov and Ole Pierson's off the ground."
Barry looked relieved.
"Eric, they do great finish work. Do you suppose you can get your mother
to do the painting and decorating?" Bekka asked.
"No problem. She and Jools are going furniture shopping the first week of March."
Eric senior made a note to speak with Rafi about finishing the king size bed and bureaus ahead of schedule.
"Son, did you give Jools a budget?"
"Yes, she is used to living frugally. We don't need everything at once. Her parents have also given her money to help out."
"Your mother doesn't believe in budgets. She will furnish every room if you let her, down to the knicknacks. She means well, but it's going to be your house, not hers."
His son laughed. "Jools gave her a list. That should help a little.I'm just happy the house will be done."
Posted: Dec 29, 2012
|By the time Jools returned, Billy Galt had already mowed and baled hay. The winter rains followed by a warm spell, had made everything sprout up early.|
Reed and the family had just returned from Neddy's memorial service. She had died in her sleep at age 88.
Mikkel had asked if he could come. He and Peta had become friends during her summer visit.
"It's out of respect. I also think my being there would make her feel less sad."
He was right. To break the constant stream of well-wishers, the two of them spent afternoon’s fixing cars.
Neddy's will set up a trust, leaving her house and money to Peta. Her grandparents got a generous lump sum. Reed received her share of The Oasis.
Neddy had written: "My old friend, you may think this too much. I don't. The last part of my life has been very happy. I have you to thank. That is worth more than any worldly goods."
Reed had no interest in taking an active role in The Oasis. He consulted the other partners. Jen and Lisa wanted to remain at Heartland. The others
wanted to stay at the new community.
"The AANR management team is doing a competent job running the resort. My son and his wife are managing the residential section with the Tanaka's
daughter and her husband. Since we still have a controlling interest, we need not do anything unless there are serious problems." Senora said.
Lisa added, "The twins are living there while they are going to college. If need be, they can also help out. All we hear when they come home is how they hate the snow and being cold."
Romy and Jen had coffee every day.
"You have to come visit. Bekka has done a great job with the condo, and the new community where your father and nephews are is coming along."
Jen replied. "Jack came to Heartland for the holidays. Sorry but we couldn't co-ordinate schedules with the twins. We'll all be at the wedding, of course. Hopefully, we can get back to The Farm for Labor Day."
"I miss you, you know. I'm out there working and I turn around to say something half expecting you to be there."
"We worked well together. The timing was right. Then our lives went in different directions. We found our own paths to happiness. But I am glad we became friends again."
Jools and her mother had a running discussion throughout the winter.
"Are you sure you want to live in this place where nobody wears clothes? I mean, the beach is fine, your father and I go to the nude beach, but then we get dressed and go home and live like other people."
"How do you know how other people live? Maybe their shades are drawn because they clean the house and do other things nude and you just don't know about it."
"Well, I don't know ...”
"Look, vovo tells me that in the old country, once a kid was out of diapers, and the weather was warm enough kids didn't wear anything except
to go to church or a feast until they went to school on one of the bigger islands."
"But we didn't have a lot of money to buy suits, or more than one pair of shoes. All that changed when we came to America."
"Being poor had nothing to do with it. It was practical, healthy and nobody cared. Even grownups swam nude. You know that. Besides, vovo said
you never owned a suit in your life. When you came here, you wore shorts and a shirt to swim. When you found the nude beach, you went there and
loved it, met dad and lived happily ever after."
"Well, your father seems to think it is a good thing. I still have concerns. I'm getting flack from some of the family."
"Look, if you are worried, come with me. You can meet everyone, including a little old lady over 90 who is brown all over, very smart, and cute as a button, as you would say. And since when have you cared about what those old prunes say."
Mama went. First, she was going to stay at the hotel near the interstate.
"You're going to spend all that money to stay half hour away? It's off-season. The room is already reserved at The Farm and it is free."
Then she wanted to arrive after dark.
"Mama, what are you going to do when the grandchildren come? Be the vampire granny who only visits after dark? I know you are nervous about
visiting a new place. We'll check in after dark. You can unwind and get unpacked. If you are up to it, we can go get ice cream down the street.
Tomorrow is an easy day. All we are doing is checking the house to see if
we missed anything on the list. Breakfast is at 7:30 after swim."
"Yes. Five thirty to six forty five weekday mornings are women's swim. Marta goes every day before she starts her day. A few other regulars too. Most go for a quick dip and then chat, but Marta swims laps for half an hour."
"What about the men?"
"The younger men are usually on their way to work. The older ones come after they have coffee at the diner."
After Jools got her mother checked in, she went to see Marta.
"Well, she's here and showering. I think she'll be ok after the initial shock. I left a pareu in the room for her."
"Smart. Covers everything, more fashionable than a big towel and easy
to slide off. I'll let the others know she is coming to swim tomorrow and
not to press the issue if she decides to stay dressed. Most of them have gone through this, so they will understand."
Jools replied, "I don't think the pool will be a problem. It's before and after that will take some adjustment. If my father were here, it wouldn't be a problem. She feels secure with him."
"I think you are worrying too much."
When Jools returned to the unit, her mother was already asleep. There was a note on the table. “J. Couldn't keep my eyes open. Ice cream tomorrow.
Like the new wrap. See you in the morning. Mom."
Posted: Dec 30, 2012
|Jool's mother woke at first light. She made coffee and put on the pareu, wrapping it around her waist, planning to pull it up when she went out. She opened the blinds. The first thing she saw was the hairy behind of a man picking up his dog's mess with a pooper-scooper. "I froze." she told Jools and Marta on the way to the pool. "I didn't know whether to scream, cover my breasts or just turn away. I think I made some sound because the man turned around with a sheepish grin, waved and said good morning before he went on his way."|
"From then on, not much could bother me. I watched joggers, more people with dogs, some on bicycles. After a while, I was checking out more what they were doing and what direction they were going in. The nudity wasn't the primary directive."
"Mom, you checked them out. We all do."
"Of course, but not like I was gonna jump them. There were a couple of really buff ones. Then you two showed up wearing nothing but walking shoes and I got nervous again. I was actually going to have to leave the room."
Jools fastened the pareu so it stayed up and they headed towards the pool.
"You can walk behind us if you don't want anyone to see you dressed."
"I'll be fine. Just stay close and grab me if I try to run away."
People knew not to engage Marta until she had swum her laps. They waved and said 'good morning' and went on their way. It was a quick trip and
they were at the pool before Maria, Jools' mother, had time to think.
By the time she had been introduced to everyone and hugged, the pareu was soaking wet.
"I guess it's time for this to go. I'll get a big towel for the trip
back to the room." She dropped the garment, held her nose, and jumped into the pool.
When they were done, Maria started back to her room.
"Eric already got all your stuff and brought it to my house. The bed is bigger, the food is a lot better, and we can get more done."
They went up to the house after lunch. Jools stood by as the older women
made their inspection. She rolled her eyes when Bekka arrived.
"I'm surprised they didn't come with magnifying glasses. I love them both but they are getting to be pests."
"You are an only child and Eric is Marta's first to get married. They want everything to be perfect. Marta has finished painting. The inspector will be here Friday. Hopefully you can move stuff in over the weekend."
They heard noise from the master bedroom.
"They sound like happy noises, but we should investigate."
They saw the reason for the noise. A four-poster king size bed, complete
with mattresses, with a patchwork quilt and down comforter over the sheets.
Two large bureaus southwestern style and two nightstands in southwestern style were also in place. There were many pillows.
"You didn't give me a chance to tell you. Rafi and Rick set up the furniture and Elke and Maia made the bed. The quilt and comforter are
from Rafi's mother and Grandma Desrosiers. There is another of each in the
cedar closet." Bekka said. "More sheets and pillow cases in the bureau."
The set was beautiful. "I guess this is one room we won't have to worry about. Rafi did a marvelous job. As he always does." Marta said.
"Now we can concentrate on the rest of the house. Curtains, wall hangings,
area rugs." said Maria.
"The kitchen stuff is already in the bridal registry." Jools said. "We should check that out before we go shopping."
The rest of the week was spent at furniture stores, linen shops and
in art galleries. In the end, Jools agreed to barrister bookcases,
a medium sized farm table and chairs, and area rugs.
"The home is a work in progress, not one that is going to be finished in two months and stay that way forever. You have both been wonderful. Now
we just have to make sure wedding week has no catastrophes."
Maria still would only be nude at the pool and with women. "I feel my
husband has to be here. Next time I will bring him and it will be better."
"Maria, no problem. Maddy was here for years and she didn't take the plunge
until the grandchildren conned her into it. She's fine with it now, but her late first husband could never accept the lifestyle." Marta said.
Everything was done. The only thing they couldn't find was a living room
"We'll sit on the floor until we find what we want." Jools said.
The older women just shook their heads.
Posted: Jan 4, 2013
Molly passed her law boards and had hung up a shingle outside the office. She had taken the children
to Arizona to stay with Bix during spring training
and to be able to study without other distractions. She left in early March and told Bix she'd see him at the wedding.
"You are in New York that weekend against the Mets. You can fly in after the night game, and
fly back after the wedding. You play in Boston Tuesday, so Monday is for you and me."
She did cartwheels across the field when the results came in, nearly colliding with Jedediah
the mule. She hugged the surprised animal, gave him a kiss, and told him, "I did it, I really did."
Jeannine told Karl that she would be taking at least a month off after the wedding. "I haven't seen my family in almost twenty years. I need a break. Sage is more than capable of taking over
until I get back.
Elke had managed to delay the softball tournament
at Paradise for a week. "Alice will drive them from here. Sofie and I will head there the Monday
after the wedding."
After moving in and getting settled, Eric and Jools returned east in May to help with the preparations. They found out that Ginny had eloped with a truck driver she had met at work.
Tara arrived from Spain in early June.
Maria got Jools through her bridal shower with minimal friction. "They didn't stick up their noses or make rude comments. But I did hear too many 'poor girl, she has to be married nude because she can't afford a trousseau."
Maria said, "I told them you were cheap, and spent the money furnishing your house. They ridiculed your cartoons and now you earn a good living from them. You have a fresh mouth, but that's how you met Eric. You're happy, he's a good boy and he treats you like gold. Be grateful."
Granite Lake had no vacancies during the week before the ceremony. Svensons and Desrosiers were everywhere.
"Thank goodness you will all be heading out as the weekend visitors start coming in. We will have just enough time to clean," said Josie.
Eric had a subdued bachelor party. Gaby and some of the women Eric's age did a naughty cheerleader routine wearing only white socks, sneakers and
hiding themselves with pompoms. It was as funny as it was suggestive.
"We all love you and wish you well, but we had to remind you of who you were leaving behind." Gaby laughed.
In another building, a nude man wearing only a bow tie carried Jools to her seat of honor. Her gifts were delivered by similarly dressed men,
including 80 year old Charlie, who wore a sash with "Eric after the honeymoon" written on it.
A number of people left for the Cape on Wednesday, including Inga, Karl, Eric Sr., Marta and Tara. Jools followed on Thursday, and the rest arrived in shifts by Friday noon.
Saturday morning arrived. All the minor crises had worked themselves out, the sun was shining and guests were starting to arrive. Jools was up with Ginny, April and her mother getting ready.
"Not a whole lot to do. Lip-gloss, run a brush through your hair and you are all set. "Wish it was this easy when I got married," said Maria. "All
the stuff took two hours to put on. You do have to wear one thing though.
The garter belt to throw to the single guys at the reception."
"Got it. And the floral wreath. We'll put them down when we get there."
Jools was so excited she was bouncy.
Back at the cottage, tents were up, tables unfolded, the barbecue pits
ignited. Chairs were set in a horseshoe position.
"This is good. Everyone can see. And the little ones can sit in front on the sand. You have their little confetti buckets?" Inga asked.
"Yes, momma," said Marta. "All safe and easily biodegradable."
The men were on the beach. Katie's Karl, as best man, was practicing his reception speech. Others were helping as Eric Sr. directed. His son was in
"You knew this day was coming and you've both been looking forward to it,"
his grandfather told him. "Today is our celebration for you. Did you pick up the marriage license?"
"Gramps, all set. Momma has it and has it and a duplicate locked up."
"Rings? Escape car?"
"Katie is holding onto the rings for Karl until the ceremony. Reed got the car. We'll be driving into Providence for the night, then up to a bed and
breakfast in Vermont, which is clothes free for a few days. Well come back here until after the Fourth and fly back."
The old man hugged him. "It will be good to have you home again." Eric
was touched. Karl rarely was public was his affection. Except with Inga.
The crowd assembled. The groom and his party took their places. The bride's
maids waited down at the shoreline. In the distance, they could see two
figures, Jools and her father walking down the beach, chatting, stopping to
hug and finally stopping as the waves ran over their bare feet. Ginny adjusted her wreath and they moved forward. Katie gave Karl the rings and squeezed his hand.
The ceremony moved on. At the end, after Eric had kissed the bride, the two of them ran into the ocean. Many attending followed suit. They told
Marta later they knew it wasn't in the script.
"We just looked at each other and did it. We told everyone it was your idea." Jools said. Marta hugged them.
The reception lasted long after the couple left. Marta and Maria were sitting on the steps above the beach as it grew dark having a beer.
"That was fun. But I need a long break before the next one."
"I know what you mean," said Maria, who was nude today, because her
husband was there. "Jools is my last. It takes a while to unwind."
"I have that one down there," pointing to Tara, who was dancing up a
storm. "She's like I was, so it will be a while." They finished their
beer. "Let's go get our husbands. I know you like to dance. They're all
relaxed now that it is over and it will be easy to get them out there."
Jools and Eric arrived on the 10th. In the living room was a replica of Marta's living room set. Inga had found one back where they had lived before. Jen and Lisa picked it up, had it restored.
"Perfect," Jools said. "All we have to do now is break it in."
Posted: Jan 8, 2013
Reed was standing above the reception sipping iced tea. His father was sitting with Jud, Karl and Ike on the edge of the party smoking cigars. Inga had set their chairs downwind so the stench wouldn't bother the rest of the crowd. His mother would chat for a while, and then meander through the dancing area until she felt like chatting again.Bethanny was playing Frisbee and diving in and out of the surf. She told Marta she'd be back when the beat of the music got a little faster.
The bride and groom had escaped an hour ago. One of Jool's friends had caught the bouquet. One of Eric's cousins got the garter. He saw Tara dancing away with Abby, Christine and Ginny. She had just gotten back from Spain and in two days he and the family would be headed to Europe. They
had walked the beach Friday and talked of the past year. Tara laughed about calling him at all hours of the day and night to cry about being homesick and not having anyone to talk with and being silly the first time she overdid it with cheap Spanish wine.
They spoke many times a day the first month. By the time Christmas rolled around, it was once a day. She still annoyed him by forgetting about the time difference, and waking him at three in the morning, but as the second semester went on, he saw a more confident Tara who was enjoying being away and meeting new people.
"It's going to be boring when I go back to regular college. Same old, same old. And I just can't ride my bike and find a nude sunning area close by. Still too many prudes around. Have to take the bus to Christine's or the train home. No matter. I asked dad if he could recommend me to an affiliate of Naturist Broadcast Network. Tina from Paradise is having a baby and wants to stay close to home. With all the Spanish and Portuguese I have been listening to the past year, I could handle it."
"Now this is the same Tara who never wanted to leave home, me, and wanted to give your mother heartburn."
"I will do that, this summer. Had a lot of fun, learned a lot but I need to chill for a bit. Wish you were gonna be there, but you have your first big job after graduation."
"Head facilitator for the Czech naturist youth camps. A woman is actually running all the activities. I'm nowhere near the top of the totem pole. They have a whole other crew that's running the Olympic qualifiers in swimming."
"Yup, the European Sports Association found that times were a lot faster. The only thing is you will only be able to see it on NBN two weeks later or on pay per view. Big networks afraid of boycotts and loss of subscriptions to their channels."
"So when are you coming back?"
"Week before Labor Day. Not starting grad school till January, or maybe even next year, depending on what happens. You'll be here?"
"I'll be back on Friday. First week of classes, and making sure I have a place to live after a year away."
"Better set some time so we can spend time talking in person instead of through a monitor."
"You and I have always been friends and shared everything. We always will be friends. But our lives are different now, and our friendship will continue to evolve."
"Our worlds have gotten bigger." Reed said.
"I know," Tara said. "Sometimes growing up sucks."
Tara waved. He went down to dance. For a few hours, at least, things would be the way they once were.
Posted: Jan 10, 2013
|A week later, Reed was in France, spending his last evening at Piggy's before heading off to his summer assignment.|
The rest of the family would be staying here in France. Bethanny had music lessons and performances locally, and Henri. His mother loved the area and would be doing research on its history. His father would be meeting a few old friends but staying put.
"I'm tired. Last year it took me a month to get back into sync. Too many events, too many places, and fewer old friends to visit. Libby has gone back to school for a graduate degree. We will all miss her, but she needs to do what is best for her."
"She told me she feels like a gypsy wandering from place to place and wants to set roots somewhere." Reed said. "So now I'm off on my own for the summer."
"You'll be busy enough with all that is going on. They won't let you hide in the office with your schedule board. You'll be helping at events and
festivities as well. Enjoy yourself. You've studied hard and done well. You have a degree and graduate credits, but won't be able to legally have a drink in the US until this fall."
"It will be a lot of work."
"But different. It's all fun especially for the youth groups. You enjoy meeting new friends and catching up with old ones. Since we started going there, new naturist recreation spots have popped up all around the lake. The textiles and naturists are tolerant of each other, so you can ride your bike all the way around without bothering to put anything on."
"The other thing is I'll be living in the main compound instead of in the cottages we stayed in. It is going to be much livelier."
"Too lively for me and the beds are too soft for my back. Remember, check in with Mrs. Gold when you get there. She will get you settled."
He took a train, then a bus to arrive at his destination. He was dressed like any other young person going on holiday. At his stop, he loaded
his pack on his back and walked until he saw the sign announcing that he was entering a naturist area. He stopped, stripped off his clothes. He
loved the breeze on his body and the heat drying up the perspiration. He came to the beach and saw families sunning together, people of all ages and sizes swimming and playing along the shoreline. He stopped at the lifeguard station and asked where he could find Mrs. Gold.
The man, speaking in English said, "The Dragon Lady? Down at the end, under the tent. Good luck."
A woman with what he thought were Arabic features was sitting on a bench
with sheets of paper, envelopes and badges arranged in alphabetical order.
She was deeply tanned and had a stern look about her. He wondered if his father had played a trick on him.
"You are?" she asked.
"Sit down right here. Since you are scheduler, you must be organized.
When others arrive, give them their envelope, which has their sleeping
location and payment paperwork, and their badge, which identify the group they will be working with. All right, here comes one now. Here's your first test."
He got the badge but fumbled around with the envelope. The woman sighed.
He spoke in Czech. The woman looked at him as if he came from Mars. The
light bulb went on when he saw the flag on the envelope. He quickly switched to French and sent her happily on her way.
"Nice reaction. You can't always go by last name now. Call me Norah.
It's much more flattering than Dragon lady. And Gold. A story about how
you can't tell where a person comes from by the name. It will also let me
tell you about how I met Mr. Gold and became a nudist many years ago."
"First about the name. You thought the name Gold was perhaps Israeli?
With my looks, perhaps, but Mr. Gold had pasty white skin and reddish brown hair when I met him in Cairo many years ago. I thought so too until he told me the family story. His family has been British Army for generations, back to the time when the sun never set on the British Empire.
In medieval times, his family grew flowers and the lord of the manor named them Marigold. Even though they were more than competent, they rarely rose above the rank of corporal. Around the time of the Franco-Prussian war, one of the staff officers took pity and suggested he change his name.
"As a Sergeant, you will be leading men. You'd get a lot more respect
with something like "Gold". A lot better than being called Sgt. Flower
and having your manhood challenged. The regiment commander approved the
change and had him transferred to Egypt, where he was unknown. The Gold’s
have over a century now as finishing their careers as Staff Sergeants."
"So how did you meet him?"
"I was working as a cryptographer and he was part of the security detail.
He was only a corporal then but he was handsome, and liked puzzles. He used
to sneak me a copy of the Sunday Times every Monday. We got on well. Now when I went on holiday I would go to the nude islands of Greece. I am
Coptic Christian, not Moslem, so it wasn't a crime. But I never mentioned
it to him. He was so limited in his views I was afraid I'd scare him away. And lose my puzzle source."
Another half dozen approached. "Good. They have their flags painted on.
The Polish delegation. Nice kids. They like to practice their English.
I'll finish the story after we send them on their way."
Posted: Jan 10, 2013
|The young people had gotten their material, dropped their belongings and ran into the water to swim.|
"Make a note. At least one of them is going to lose something. We'll see them around dinnertime. They can't eat unless they have a badge. Now where was I?"
"You were going to tell me how Mr. Gold became a nudist."
"Yes. Once a year, his whole regiment used to go on maneuvers out in the desert. They'd dig their little foxholes, play Lawrence of Arabia, and come back a week later with hangovers, stubble and tall tales. One year, Mr. Gold dug his foxhole right in the middle of a sand flea nest. They ate him alive and he returned early bitten from the soles of his feet to top of his head. I visited him in sickbay, and they draped a towel over his middle for modesty. Clothes rubbed the skin raw and he had to stay nude.
"One of the doctors told me sometimes they had to tie him to keep him from scratching. Told me that if he could get a bit of sun every day in the nude, it would help him heal. Well, it was nearly time for my holiday and I spoke with one of the women in the clerical pool who was also a nudist.
She gave me a list of clubs, which had private sunning areas and access to the beach. The cheapest and closest one was the one you and your family stayed at. The cabin had separate bedrooms and sunning areas. To make a long story short, he got medical leave, spent three weeks nude until the scabs healed. It took a week until he would let me enter his sun deck, two until he would walk on the beach with me. The third week it was like he had been a nudist his entire life. One thing. He was a perfect gentleman. Never made an advance and never hugged or kissed me until we were dressed and on the plane back."
"How long did it take for him to ask you to become Mrs. Gold?"
"Things were pretty much normal until the following spring. One day he asked me if I'd be interested in taking holiday at the same place when he had leave."
"He booked the whole month of July. It took him two weeks to give me the ring. Another week to get permission from the regiment commander. By the time, we returned to Cairo, we were husband and wife. Of course, we had to have the C. of E. and Coptic religious ceremonies, but that was just to keep family happy. We traveled all over the world and raised our children, but every year we would come back here. We moved here after the children came, because it had more activities."
"So where is Mr. Gold now?"
"Staff Sgt. Gold, retired, is out directing traffic where all your charges are being delivered. He will be here for tea."
A lifeguard tried to sneak by. "Hey, you. You have ten more minutes to work. No more slacking off or I'll put you on the sunrise shift."
"You need any help with the children?"
"No, no. We have that covered. Most have been here before and have already picked who they want their tent or cabin mates to be. But you can help this one. She has to make sure all the venues are ready. But she is a fussbudget and can't keep track of time."
She motioned to a young woman dismounting from her bike.
"I have someone here who might help you get everything ready on time. Sarah, this is Reed Svenson. Reed, my daughter Sarah."
"I know you. The American tourist. Stayed down in the officer's quarters.
Up here, we work for a living. I hope you are up to the job."
"I can work as hard as you can, if not harder."
"Talk is cheap. We'll see."
"Sarah just finished her studies and got her degree in Youth Sport and Athlete Management in Berlin. She specializes in cycling, kayaking and
distance swimming," her mother said.
"Don't forget about archery and shooting. Just in case you think I am what
you Americans call a "dumb jock", I speak four languages and took courses
in politics and economics."
Reed thought the young woman was controlling and arrogant. She was attractive enough, slim and muscled, with defined curves.
"You may know how to do all these things, but in order to have a season
where all our campers are happy, the logistics have to be right. You have
to know how long it will take two dozen ten and eleven year olds to walk
or bike halfway around the lake to the kayak venue. And have backup plans
for stormy days." Reed told her.
"I suppose. So you are going to stay here and figure that out and tell me
what to do?"
"No. I am going to tour the whole lake in order to get an idea of what we
are dealing with. I need your expertise to explain all the venues and activities. I have to check out the terrain and look for any possible problems. It is, after all, the first year that everyone can cross through
all nudist and textile areas."
"Very well. We don't start our day at noon here. I'll meet you here
after breakfast at seven. We should be back by noon."
"Seven is good. However, I'd pack a lunch if I were you. We will probably be gone all day."
"So you say." Sarah put on her helmet and rode away.
"She's interesting," Reed commented.
"That's an understatement." Mrs. Gold laughed. "Now here's what she likes
Posted: Jan 13, 2013
|Reed had packed extra water and food and was ready to go by 615. He found he got much more work done before people were moving around.|
Sarah arrived at 645, surprised to see him ready to go. "Excellent. If it is all right with you, I'd like to start now."
She sped ahead to each checkpoint, impatiently waiting for him to catch up. Reed was a recreational biker, used to checking the countryside as he rode, or to chat casually with companions if riding in a group. He spoke into his
tablet, making observations and posing questions.
The first few stops were routine. Beach area, outdoor gymnastics venues, the kayak lunch area. Sarah was impatient. "Why are you dawdling around? The venues are straightforward, they are in good condition, and ready for use."
"You estimate time based on your riding or walking. I am compensating for seven and eight year olds with much shorter legs. I do not want their activities cut short because you didn't figure in travel time."
They rode on until Reed stopped her again. "This is a textile religious camp which has a new director and just gave permission for us to cross
through. I also noticed a new activity they listed. We have to pay a visit."
They rode down the path to a settlement of one or two cabins and many tents. The younger children were nude, but everyone else was dressed. Reed stopped a man and asked if they knew where the director was.
"I am." He wore bathing trunks and hiking shoes. "Now to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"
"It's about the baptisms, reverend. I see you have them on your docket, but not a day or time."
"Ah, yes. We have them scheduled for Sundays after services. By immersion. In the lake. Our candidates enter the water in a gown and after they are christened they emerge nude and cleansed from their sins. It may take an hour or two. Not many converts these days, I am afraid."
"Then we will respect your wishes and make the common area you use for your activities off limits on Sundays."
"No need. Until noon would do. It will keep the preaching short. People
are here to relax, not listen to me ramble on."
People were walking by quickly, with their heads down. Reed thanked the man, As he and Sarah turned their bikes around, the man said, "I envy you. Able to live without clothing like you do. Too many think that evil emanates from the flesh, and cover up. We all know evil is born in the mind. Thank you for your consideration and Godspeed."
Sarah stopped at the end of the drive. "Good diplomacy. Now we have half a day we can do things here."
Reed said, "Not just we. I think you can extend an open invitation for them to join us. Doesn't matter if they stay dressed or not. Show we can coexist. Make it fun. Eventually some will realize it is recreation and not a moral issue."
After that, they stopped at every ground to introduce themselves, nudist and textile. At one or two, they were stopped at the gate and left off their information. Most, however, were as affable as the religious gentleman had been.
It was noon and they still had a number of stops to make. Sarah was not happy. Her water was nearly gone and she had eaten her fruit. Reed found a shaded area with picnic tables, sat on his towel and opened the pack he had in his bike basket.
"I have water, cheese, bread, kielbasa, sauerkraut and ham. More than I can eat. Please join me."
"My mother told you my weakness is kielbasa and sauerkraut sandwiches. Delicious and good roughage. Did you bring mustard?"
Posted: Jan 13, 2013
|Reed was drinking a beer while Sarah had iced tea. The remainder of the day had been more enjoyable. They rode together, talking to instead of at each other.|
"Here she comes." Sarah said as her mother wandered over. "She's going to have a lot of questions. Keep your answers short or we will be late for dinner. She has a tendency to go off on tangents."
Reed did well. Only once, in discussing the church camp, did he elaborate. Nora went on a long tirade about his predecessor. Sarah rolled her eyes. From then on, Reed kept to point.
As equipment arrived, Reed helped with the unloading, assembly, and storage. When Sarah began assigning and training staff, Reed continued his liaison work with the camps around the lake, reporting to Nora each evening.
He and Sarah continued their morning bike rides as the camp sessions began. He still found her a little too stiff and bound by regulation. She thought he paid too little attention to detail.
"Why should I check every little thing? You already do that very well. It gives me time to deal with glitches that upset your rigid system and stress you out." Reed said one afternoon.
"True. You can keep the big grownups away so I don't spend half a morning arguing with them why the technique we use for activities now is better than the one they used last century." She sipped on a beer.
Once activities began, they would only see each other on their 6 A.M. bike rides and at dinner. Sarah introduced him to other camp regulars. He introduced her to the new crowd of counselors. Twice a week they ate at the same table.
They both hated meetings. They set one-hour limits on theirs. They got up at five on Monday morning to prepare, print and email their reports to the grand committee. By seven, they were on the road away from the headquarters area.
"Mom, we get one day off. People leave on Sunday. New ones arrive on Tuesday. The ones that stay do what they want with light supervision. Cover for us. They have all the information. If we need to appear, make it at lunchtime. The food is usually good." Sarah said.
They would usually ride with a group, but they continued to ride alone in the early mornings. She spoke of her life as an army brat, living all over
the world. He spoke of life on The Farm, and his recent family travels.
"So you aren't just a bookworm and computer nerd. Your family actually requires you to do physical labor."
"My grandfather believes we should all be fit. He stayed fit by working. He believes if your body is in good shape, your mind will be as well. His
philosophy is homespun, not from any serious study. My father credits his
living this long to living the nudist way. He never would have given up smoking (no pockets) and he never would have met my mother."
"My mother believes clothes are for show. She thinks if the weather is nice, why bother wearing any. My father follows the health, fitness and family recreation line. He has a military mind. Needs rules written down."
"My mom feels the same way as yours. She can dress very fashionably, but is much more relaxed and fun when she doesn't have to."
Reed introduced her to family when he contacted them. Sarah introduced him
to her father, who was formal but not unfriendly.
The summer passed by too quickly. The Olympic trials were a great success,
with times faster than those held at venues where swimmers wore suits. The
youth activities went well, with only minor and expected problems. Relations with the church camp went smoothly, with suited and nude youth
enjoying activities together. A few were even seen in the lake nude in the
early morning hours or near sunset.
The last weekend of camp arrived. There were tearful goodbyes and promises
to keep in touch and plans of next year's activities. Reed was to spend a
few days at Piggy's, while Sarah and her family would be going to England to visit family before her parents returned to Western Australia and she
waited for her next assignment.
On Sunday morning, Reed received an email. "Please contact immediately.
When saw his mother on the screen, he knew something had happened. She looked sadder than he had ever seen her.
"You have to come home. Now. Your Aunt Em is dead and your father has had
a heart attack."
Posted: Jan 15, 2013
|It was a warm August morning. Bethanny had just gone off to school. Romy was airing out the house and Reed was out in the garden trimming the flowers. Em came out. She chatted briefly, then told Reed she was headed to get Naomi's calendar cleared for Labor Day weekend.|
"She schedules clients and forgets about other things. I'll be back in an hour or two."
She gathered up her things and headed down the path. Reed thought she tripped, but when she didn't extend her hands to brace herself from the
fall, he knew something was seriously wrong.
He yelled for Romy to call 911, and rushed over. He turned Em over and began CPR. Then everything went black.
When he awoke, he was in a hospital bed, hooked up to tubes and machines.
He heard a voice say, "The tubes come out today. You will be able to go
home in a day or two. An obstruction we were able to clear surgically. You gave us quite a scare, though. We thought we were going to lose both of you."
Maia had heard the 911 call and sprinted from the clinic. There was nothing she could do for Em. She made sure Reed's breathing was not obstructed, gave him an aspirin and waited.
Marta found Karl and took him to her house. Romy spoke with Reed and went to get Bethanny at school. Heidi contacted Christine, Katie and young
Back in Europe, Reed had made flight arrangements, called Piggy, and was ready to go. He was surprised when Sarah showed up at his cabin, dressed, with a travel bag.
"You leaving too. Have fun in England."
"I'm leaving, but I'm not going with them. I'm going with you."
"You are under a lot of stress. You might miss your connecting flight, and lose valuable time. I'll make sure you don't. It will also be good for you if you have someone you know to talk to. Even if we argue. The car is ready. If you forgot anything, my mother will send it to you. Our flight leaves Prague at three. We have to go."
It took them three days to get back. A pesky tropical storm on the Atlantic
coast rerouted them to Newfoundland and then Detroit. In Detroit, they were detained for eighteen hours by Homeland Security because someone was suspicious of Sarah's appearance. By the time they arrived, Reed's father was home. Reed found him cranky and pale. Romy told him it was the medication.
"His mind isn't working the way he wants it to. He has limits on what he can do. The doctors said he can't go to the funeral. You'd be crabby too."
To Sarah she said, "Thank you for coming. You are a good friend. You both
look and smell terrible. Get cleaned up and get some fresh air. Reed should
be better then."
They showered and walked the grounds. The Labor Day crowd seemed subdued.
Even the softball game noises were muted. They paid their respects to Karl,
who was still under Marta's watchful eye. He was still in a daze, sitting and staring into space.
"Christine and Katie are cleaning the house and young Karl has made all the arrangements. Em had spoken with Molly a couple months ago and had
given specific instructions. Good thing. All Karl has done is eat, sleep
and sit out on the porch."
"Anything we can do to help?" asked Reed.
"Labor Day still has to happen. Go see Jeannine and Cheyenne to see where they need help. Funeral is tomorrow. Service and reception is at Edna's,
burial in the family plot across the street. Sarah, do you have any dress
clothes? If not, Tara can take you into town and get you something appropriate."
The grounds at Edna's were packed. Family, friends, colleagues, and people she had helped over the years came to pay their respects. A common thread
the family heard was of Em's patience, doggedness in solving problems and
sense of fun.
"She loved to have fun, to make people laugh. She had a sense of comedy
and the absurd in a world that is too often humorless." Christine said.
"We will miss her."
Em instructed that the service end in the New Orleans manner. Happy music,
dancing and plenty to eat and drink. Fun stories were told. There was much
laughter and toasts to Em for having made their lives better.
Karl was robotic through the whole process. Maia took Naomi aside and
said, "Keep an eye on him. I don't know how long this mood will last.
Try and get him engaged and keep him busy." To Katie, "Bring your granddaughter to see him every day. She will keep him on his toes."
Molly told young Karl. "We'll view the tape Em made after the weekend
is over. With everything that is going on this weekend, there is no way
we can get the whole family together."
Posted: Jan 16, 2013
|The met at Karl's. Molly read the will. It listed certain items she wanted given to young Karl, Christine and the grandchildren. The remainder went to her husband.|
"I have discs for each of you. Em wanted to give each of you a little piece of her based on time she spent with you. She didn't want you here
all day listening to all her stories. The last disc is for all of you." She pushed the play button.
"Hi, everybody. If you are watching this, it means I am in some other dimension or my ashes are helping something grow. Don't be sad, I’ve had a wonderful life. I've helped people, made people laugh, had fun, loved and been loved. You accepted me, then my family. My parents couldn't have been happier living any place else. I loved working with you to grow The Farm. A day when I could put on my hat and maybe my shoes, and nothing else, was always a good day. I loved the weekend breakfasts, the food on holiday weekends, and playing volleyball with the mad women of the Smooth Mommas. I love each and every one of you. Please celebrate knowing me, and not mourn too long. One last thing.
KARL! Pay Attention!
Karl had zoned out. His head snapped up.
"My dear husband, you have been a wonderful companion and a fantastic father to our children. We had a great time together. I may not be next
to you every night, but I will always watch over you. Do not be a mope. You are young and have lots more to do. Find someone else to share your life with. I love you more than anything in this world and want you to be happy."
She blew him a kiss, turned around and did a sexy walk out of the room as the camera faded out.
Christine offered to stay with him or to take him back to the city. Karl refused.
"You have your own life to lead. I may visit, but I'm a country mouse. The city is too fast and noisy for me."
Katie told Christine she and Abby would keep him occupied by making him guest teach in social studies. "He plays so many characters, and his Lincoln is phenomenal. Gramps will find work for him to do so he just doesn't sit around."
Inga said, "He will attract a lot of attention from the single women. We need to keep an eye on that so no one takes advantage of him."
"By the way, did you know Sven sent a generous contribution to Em's favorite charity, AND a get well card to Reed?"
No one else had noticed. "Maybe from this terrible thing, there may be some good."
Reed was walking back home. "The note surprised me. I am the one that told Inga about it.," he told Romy.
"You might have told me first, but it is ok. It means your brain is working better. Now I have a question. What do you think of Sarah?"
"They challenge each other. There is mutual respect. Sarah gets high marks for staying with him on the trip home, when she could have been relaxing on an English beach. Eventually they will realize they really like each other."
"I have only three things left on my bucket list. Finish the archive. Live to see Polly turn 100. See both of our children marry good people."
"I think Bethanny has already found someone, Henri. Anything else?"
"One more. Find out from the doctor when we can make love again. Tell him snuggling will greatly improve my health."
"Hmmmm, mine too." They walked arm in arm the rest of the way.
Sarah had planned spending a week or two at The Farm. She ended up leaving
the first week in November. She moved her sleeping quarters to Marta's
spare bedroom in order to not infringe on Bethanny's personal space. She worked and learned about The Farm. She climbed trees with Elke, cooked
with Marta, worked in the office with Sage, Jeannine and Cheyenne. She
and Reed spent time planning next summer's events. Sarah was looking for another assignment. Reed was torn between graduate school and taking a year off to work.
In late October, Eric received a message from Tina. She had had a difficult birthing and could not cover the activities in southern Brazil and Uruguay. There was also a new club south of Sao Paolo, which had requested assistance in setting programs to attract new members. Work
would start right after the new year.
"They would prefer two people working as a team." Eric said. Reed was interested, and spoke with his father.
"Son, go for it. This opportunity may never come your way again. Graduate
school can wait. Your mother didn't go back until she was in her thirties.
As for my health, I have your mother, Maia and all the nurses here hovering over me like Mother Superiors, so I can't get away with anything.
Nora Gold tells me you and Sarah work well together. I concur. You get things done, even though your bickering can be annoying. I will be fine.
I promised your mother."
Posted: Jan 20, 2013
|I understand you are leaving us again." Tara said."What's so important about HER that you have to go into some awful jungle with all the bugs and snakes and dangerous plants instead of staying here?"|
"It's not her. There's a job that needs to be done. Sarah is good at organizing sports and games and I'm good at figuring out schedules and setting up a system that makes sense. We work well together."
"I suppose. It's not like anything is going on between you two. She's not a hugger like we are. The only contact I've seen is that occasionally she squeezes your hand."
"It's funny you say I'm leaving. You just spent a year in Europe and you had a great time. Now you are at school and are here one weekend a month."
"But I'm not far away. Everybody we grew up with is leaving. I'm afraid you will leave some day and never come back."
Tara had a point. Mike Snowe had taken a coaching job in Arizona. Rex Saunders moved his artists’ colony to Texas. Larry had gone with him. Jo was
in college. All the Elder children were gone. Lilith, the youngest, was in med school and living with her brother at a clothing optional retreat/spa several hours away. The senior Snowes and Elders had moved to smaller quarters on the other side of the main building. Faith White was in Kansas. Tonya went to school in the city. Tasha Washington was in Vermont.
"Even Jeannine is talking about retiring. And our family. Abby will stay, but that Peta has stolen Mikkel's heart. He may end up on the east coast.
Your sister will be living in France. Christine is in the city. Who knows where Elke and Maia's will end up?"
"Look at it another way. Cheyenne is moving back from Edna's. She bought Mike Snowe's house. Jeannine's Jacques lives in town but spends a lot of time here. Francine isn't going anywhere. Papi Washington is on the Fire Department, has a girl friend and plans on living here. Jo Saunders drags every boy friend she has up here. Sooner or later, she will find one who wants to stay." Reed said.
They waved at Bix and Antonio, who were following all the Springer’s bounding through the meadow.
"Some things never change. All sizes and ages. I just love watching them run and track." Tara said.
"Remember. Gramps said change is good. It keeps a place alive and from going stagnant. Look at all the new people who have moved in. There are little kids all over the place, and that doesn't count all the ones up on the hill."
"You're right. And he always talks to the kids, especially the teens,
asking what kind of stuff they like to do. The activity rooms have seen a lot of changes over the years."
"But there are sacred cows. Labor Day weekend. Softball. The women's volleyball tournament and the kid's swimming event. Mud ball. New Year's Eve and Prom Night. Men's Monday and Women's Wednesday."
"True. So The Farm isn't going to become something else. Now I have a question for you. Have you done anything to let Sarah know that you like her.?"
"Well, I like her and appreciate her, but I don't know how I feel. It's hard to get to know something when people are watching you all the time. Summer camp can be vicious on people who get romantic. Here, I had Dad to
worry about. But I was touched that she came with me and stayed until things stabilized."
"That's the best non-answer answer you've given me in a long time. You two argue like you've been going out for years. You complete each other’s sentences. But there is no affection. What are you afraid of?"
"I dunno. Maybe if we get involved and it doesn't work out, we won't be
able to work together or be friends. What do you think?"
"Dunno yet. I'm like Inga. I have to watch for a while before I make up my mind. The men like her because she works hard, doesn't complain and gets things done. They also think she is cute. Marta told me she is almost as
bad a cook as Romy used to be, but she wants to learn. Heidi and Abby love everyone, so they don't count. Your mother and father like her because she stood by you when you had to come home."
"Dad was impressed."
"Now Elke, who looks at everyone through a microscope, really likes her. The two of them climbed the tree to the platform, the tree mind you, not the steps. She wants to learn cricket. Sarah wants to learn softball. They like plants. They like biking. Elke threw a frog and a snake at her. She caught them."
"What do I do?"
"Stop being so polite and nerdy. It's boring. You are charming, humorous and fun. With all the physical labor and exercise, you have gotten yourself a pretty hot body. Act soon. She won't hang around forever."
Posted: Jan 21, 2013
|Karl was lost. He got himself through the day, found things for himself to do and kept himself occupied. Em had prepared him for this. She told him it could happen at any time. But so soon? Nothing could have prepared him for the void he felt in his soul.|
He performed at the school and in town. His portrayal of Lincoln took on an eerie quality. He projected his emptiness and grief into the
sadness he believed the president felt during his time in office. His vignettes were characterized by loss: Theodore Roosevelt at the loss of his son Quentin in World War I, Arthur Miller after Marilyn's death and Lindbergh after the kidnapping and death of his son.
Inga was worried. "I hope he doesn't become so wrapped in his characters grief that he can't work through his own."
She went to Naomi. "Can you talk with him? You and Em worked together and were friends. You are also in mourning. He will resist if you are too direct. Em was very good with him when he went through a bad patch. She'd snap at him like she did at the will reading, then she'd make him laugh, and would very gently lead him out of his black hole."
"I'll try," said Naomi. "I can't make any promises. Em had a unique way of drawing people out of themselves. That's why she was such a good social worker."
"Do your best," Inga replied. "If it doesn't work we can try something else."
On the other side of the world, Sarah had finished her report to her father.
"Very impressive, this farm place. You did well standing by him. He made you better this past summer, and you him. I also see you billeted
in different places. Good. Don't want people to get ideas of any funny business or ulterior motives. I also see you two are going into the
tropics in the New Year. Guess you won't be at the Swanbourne Beach Olympics this time around. As they say, duty before pleasure, and duty calls you."
"I'll miss it. Don't worry about me too much. I'm sure I'll have some free time to enjoy myself."
The conversation with her mother went much differently.
"All you did was squeeze his hand? You only do that for frightened children in the cinema and little old ladies in retirement homes."
"I didn't want to appear too forward."
"Forward. Girls these days are not shy. Victorian England only exists
in your father's mind. He may think you are pure as lamb's wool, but we both know better. You've had romances since you were in Secondary School
in India. You've had them at camp. Don't tell me you don't like him. We
both know better."
"He just gets too serious. I want someone who can be fun too."
"He isn't serious with the other girls at camp. Maybe he thinks you
are too standoffish. You said yourself when his family tried to hug you,
you initially backed away. At camp, most everybody hugs and kisses as a
greeting. I see you do it all the time."
"Mother, this is different."
"I believe it is. We all have be responsible adults, but we don't have to bottle up our real selves along with it. Just look at your father. Pip, pip,
stiff upper lip and all that. But when he's at home, he is a cream puff and my one and only dirty old man."
"But he hasn't even made a move on me."
"He pays attention to you. You talk. You argue. You do things together. You two are so smart, but you haven't figured out the affection part yet.
I'll tell you what, if I weren't old, soft and married, I'd take him for myself."
Posted: Jan 25, 2013
|After a pleasant weekend with Tina and her family outside Montevideo, Reed and Sarah drove inland. What they found when they arrived was nothing like they had been promised.|
The club was on top of a hill, which had been cleared. The parking area was roughly graded and rutted because of a poor drainage system.
The main concrete building, the natural pond and the in ground pool were done. The communal bathrooms and showers thankfully worked and were clean. One had to remember to shut the doors or one would find a snake or other animal joining them.
The roads had been graded but there were several washouts, which forced them to drive through machete-hewn paths. People were sleeping in large tents with no air conditioning. The dining area was in another. Only the slabs for the rental cottages had been poured.
The owner was apologetic. "I can't get materials in here until the road is fixed. We are still haggling on price because they didn't do it right the first time. For now, staff I hired for other jobs are working with hand tools and light equipment to make the road passable."
They went to work. Unhappily, because of the insects and poisonous plants, they had to stay dressed while working along the road. The heat and humidity made work slow going. A week went by before the road gang appeared. It took another week before large trucks could reach the camp.
Heavy afternoon rains slowed progress, along with the insistence of the crews that a siesta was needed every afternoon.
Reed and Sarah were up at first light. After breakfast, their group would work with the road crew to speed up the process. After siesta in the first week, they mowed out a rough game area, where workers and their families could either sun, play boules, or kick a soccer ball around. It also gave them nude time, which, after being confined by clothing in the morning, made them appreciate it more.
Their set plans were gone. They had to improvise every day. They worked without bickering, knowing they had to make the best of a bad situation.
After a month, the owner came to them and said, "I am sorry you couldn't do what I hired you to do. There is no way we can be up and running the week before Carnival. I am grateful for your hard work. I know you are supposed to be here for two more weeks. I need the cash to pay the permanent staff."
"I have made arrangements with the owner of the next resort you are visiting. He and I are old friends and he owes me a favor or two. You will
get free lodging for two weeks until their summer camp starts. It is the least I can do."
They left the hip boots, mosquito netting, and humidity behind them as they
headed towards the coast. Their bad experiences became hilarious anecdotes during the six-hour drive. The jungle became grassland. They had to stop periodically at livestock crossings. Eventually signs for the club appeared. It was situated on a series of gentle slopes leading to the ocean. They turned into a paved road. Reed stopped at the gate and called
"Take off those clothes, Reed." Sarah said as she stepped out of the van nude to stretch. "I don't think we'll need to wear anything until we go home."
With the exception of a towel that was needed when there was a cool sea breeze at the beach in late afternoon, Sarah was right.
The manager welcomed them warmly. "You had a tough go of it. My friend Pedro's dreams, I am afraid, were much bigger than his budget. He will
"It wasn't all bad. The young children had a good time playing around the pool and the little lake. After a tough day, they were fun to watch."
"Children are our future. We must keep those memories of fun and friends
enjoying themselves in their natural state alive as they get older."
He led them to their cottage. It was air conditioned with large overhead fans, a fridge, a hotel style mini kitchen, wifi, a TV (88 channels
the sign read), a bathroom, two recliners and a king sized bed. Reed and Sarah looked at each other.
"You may think this just comfortable, but this is luxurious compared
to our last month sleeping with thirty other people in a circus tent."
Joao informed them dinner was at six. "Buffet style. We save the eight course meals for special occasions."
After Joao left, they showered and headed for the beach. The beach was public, separated from the club by tall shrubs and a fence. They walked
down a steep path. At the bottom, a man wearing only a hat welcomed them.
"The nude beach goes about 250 meters in each direction from here. It ends at the rock formation to your right and at the signs beyond the volleyball
net on your left."
They went left, put their towels down near the volleyball game and watched a spirited match. When they walked back, Reed put his arm around Sarah.
"I'll put the two chairs together and you can have the bed," he said.
"Tonight. Tomorrow you get the bed. Fair is fair."
"I'm too tired to argue with you right now. Let's check out the grounds
after we eat to see what they have to offer. The schedule is fairly comprehensive, so it looks like we will be working together on activities."
Sarah smiled. "I need a good assistant. You learn quickly and work hard.
I think you'll do." She put her arm around him as they walked back up the hill.
Posted: Jan 27, 2013
|They were so tired they picked at their food. The walk on the grounds became a quick dip in the pool before they headed back to their cabin. Reed got bedding, pushed the chairs together and made up a makeshift bed. In an hour, they were both asleep.|
Reed tossed and turned. He kept pushing the chairs apart so his middle sagged between them. Sarah was out cold.
"At least she doesn't snore," Reed noted as he tried to get comfortable.
They did tour the grounds the following morning. There were a number of cabins, and tents for the youth campers. Joao told them there would be at least a hundred each week.
"We have swimming, beach time, volleyball, crafts, body painting, and dance contests. Ping pong, badminton and tennis."
There were two permanent volleyball courts and one tennis court. Additional courts were set up as needed.
They stopped to chat with the youngsters.
"How do you like summer camp?" Sarah asked.
"It's great. Lots to do and not always the same thing. Plus we get to go on the beach and do what we want." said one.
"But it gets boring," said another. "Ten o'clock every day, aerobics. Eleven thirty, volleyball or tennis. And always the same people in our group. We want to meet everyone and we can't this way."
Reed said, "I think they want to keep you busy so you don't get into trouble."
"We get into more trouble when we are bored," a young teen said. "We keep trying to think how to sneak away to meet cute boys not in our group."
"Girls too," said the boy next to her.
Reed had an idea. "I've been taking pictures during my trip. Suppose we combine a nature walk with photography. You get your exercise, go with different people, and take a few pictures for your photo collection or to send home to your families. Maybe even take some of plants, bugs and animals for school."
"Beach walks too to collect shells and stuff?"
"Not a bad idea. We'll bring it up to Joao."
When they discussed it with Joao, he thought it was a good idea."I'll send my sister-in-law with you. She likes hiking out there. She can set up
trails based on age group and show you around."
"Not bad for your first day," Sarah said that night. "Ok, off to bed with you. I'm taking the chair."
They both slept like logs. On the third night, Sarah woke up to the sound
of Reed hitting the floor after the chairs separated.
"You will be no use to me if you don't get enough rest. The bed is big enough for both of us. Which side do you sleep on?"
"Then I will sleep behind you. Just so you don't get any ideas."
Reed gave her a hug and a big kiss, went to his side and promptly fell
asleep. Sarah watched him for a while. "I better be careful. Once we cross
the line, there is no turning back."
She wrapped herself in the sheet and went to sleep.
The campers started arriving the Thursday before Carnival. Parents who wanted to join the celebrations in the city would not have to worry about
their children being left alone or abandoned by staff eager to join the revelry.
They quickly found about why some of the youngsters wanted mixed age groups
watching beach volleyball.
"The younger ones are shorter and can reach and dig low balls better than
most of the older ones. The older ones get most of the credit, but you can
see from how they treat their juniors, how much their work is appreciated."
Sarah worked on early classes for novice players. Some aerobics classes were moved to the beach. In turn, the youngsters taught Reed and Sarah how to body surf.
Sarah also overheard the comments from several of the women staffers, about
how handsome Reed was and what a catch he would be. Nothing about the kind of person he was: a team player, a friend, someone she could talk to about her plans and frustrations. He was a good liaison, much more diplomatic than she. His calming voice and common sense approach made life much easier for everyone. He kept an eye on her, made sure she didn't forget sunscreen or her shoes. He pulled her out of the mud in the jungle when others were laughing at her predicament. He was very bright, but spoke
with people at their level, while she tended to be a little snotty and
impatient with those who didn't get with the program.
She had to keep him on his toes though. He would get wrapped up in the flow of a game and forget to call penalties, especially in soccer and water polo. He had no sense of time, and had to be reminded that there were schedules that had to be followed. Funny that, since he was the one who usually drew them up. Most important, he treated her like royalty, no matter how impossible or unreasonable she was, or how crabby she was when she was PMSsy. They squabbled sure, but it was more on tactics than on goal.
Reed was learning from Sarah that you had to put all the little pictures
together to get to the big one, without the luxury of sitting back and
watching the panorama unfold. All the little things, towels, extra balls,
sunscreen, first aid kits, tools for the equipment, were needed for a
successful game. Multiply that by the number of activities and he realized
it was a lot more than just playing a game. She made him focus, taught him
subtleties and ways to get her point across that made perfect sense to him.
He simply hadn't thought of it that way. She made him crazy sometimes, but
he did the same to her. They were able to talk about what bothered them and
come up with solutions.
"We are still going to get in each other’s way and do things we disagree with, but at least we understand why. We're different people, but ninety
percent of the time we are very comfortable with each other." Reed said
one night at dinner. "I missed you after you left. It was like part of me was gone."
Posted: Feb 2, 2013
|Sarah stabbed a shrimp from Reed's seafood stew and twirled it on her fork.|
"You're daft," she said.
"That's what I was afraid of," Reed said. "You're teasing me."
"No, You should have told me you missed me. Girls like that."
"We chatted every day. If I didn't care or miss you, I wouldn't have. Everyone wants you to come back to The Farm."
Sarah replied. "Yes, all your family invited me, but not you. I like them. They are interesting and fun. But you are the most important person. You have to say it. If we get more serious, you are the person I will be living with, not them." She chewed her food to give Reed a moment to think.
"All right. I want you to come back to The Farm with me before we head off to camp for the summer. I also think we already are serious about each other. We are friends, and we have both thought about being more than that. If we get into a relationship and it doesn't work out, I know we won't ever be able to be friends again."
He has been thinking about it, Sarah thought to herself.
"We have nearly two months here without being under the watchful eyes of our families. This is a perfect place to see how well we get on. We will
know soon enough. If it doesn't work, we will tell everyone we can't work together any more and go our separate ways."
"Now who's being coy?" Reed said. "You're talking like there is a book of regulations for every situation."
"I'm not like my father. Or my mother. I'm me. You know that. By the way, they like you too. I like you a lot more."
"My father likes you a lot. He was impressed and my mother was touched when you came with me. She usually finds fault with all the girls I go out with. She has said nothing about you."
Sarah said, "Then we don't have to worry about what they will say. So it's settled?"
"Yes. You don't have to wrap yourself up in that sheet any more and you can sleep on whatever side you like." Reed leaned over and gave her a long kiss.
"If I wasn't so brown, I'd be beet red." Sarah laughed. She wrinkled her nose and put her hand on Reed's cheek. "Don't look so worried. It's all good. Our only problem is whether we can make it through pool volleyball without attacking each other."
In public, their relationship remained totally professional, except for the long walks on the beach or on the jungle paths before dinner, where they would walk close and stop to hug and kiss. In private, their new intimacy opened doors where they could talk freely about themselves and what they saw for the future. The intensity of their passion for each other shattered nearly all of their personal barriers.
Reed learned that Sarah wanted a stable home life. As a military child, she had lived on four continents. The only stable element was her summers at camp.
"I've lived in Egypt, England, Australia, India and Canada. I went to school in England and Germany. I loved all the new places, but as soon as
I got really comfortable with one place, it was time to move again. I want roots."
Sarah learned that Reed also wanted a stable family life, but still wanted to travel and learn.
"My trips the last few years have opened my eyes to how other people live and why they think the way they do. You know, we aren't going to be camp
counselors forever. We have to find other ways to fulfill our dreams."
Sarah's response to this was, "Well, your father has more or less groomed you to carry on after him. You can do that. The computer has made communication much easier, but face to face contact is always better. Sport
is a good way of getting people together in a relaxed setting. I have also inherited my mother's love of puzzles. I can help you out."
"Or we can find something else to do. You don't like being cooped up inside."
"Except on rainy days with you." She kissed him. "Even sunny days when we have free time."
"We have to come up with a general plan. We can fill in the blanks as we go."
It was not long before "I love you " became an important part of their vocabulary. Sarah wrote to her mother that she had never been so happy in her life, and that Reed was the most wonderful person on the planet. Reed simply wrote his father that something had clicked between the two of them and they would explain when they came home in April.
His father's response was brief. "The same thing happened to me with your mother. Sarah is a special woman. Looking forward to April."
Sarah had only one worry. How Tara would react. She was the only person she had not spoken with during her visit. Tara had told her they would talk when the time was right.
"I know she is your best friend, that you communicate non-verbally,
and is very protective about you. Should I be concerned?"
"I will speak with Tara."
"No. Tara and I are going to have to work things out between us. I am not giving you up. I want you to stay out of this. The two of us are going to be living in the same place for a very long time. We need to get along."
Posted: Feb 11, 2013
|They were on a night flight departing from Montevideo. Sarah was propped up with pillows in the window seat, her legs stretched across Reed, who was listening to music and reading mail in the middle. Sarah's sandals were on the aisle seat.|
Her nails were painted green with gold flicks representing Brazil. Her hair was streaked blond, and she had gotten herself a navel stud. She wore a necklace of wooden beads Joao's wife had given her. Almost a fashionista, he mused.
Their time at the ocean camp had been a joy. Sarah adapted her rhythmic gymnastic to dance, which was a hit with the campers. Reed for his part, worked mostly with water polo and swimming, leaving volleyball and soccer to counselors far more adept than he.
He loved the nature walks, educating himself on the plants and animals, taking pictures of interesting items in the woodlands and on the beach, sending them off to Elke, Christine and Tara.
Camp ended in early March when most of the children headed back to school. They spent their time working with the pre-schoolers in the mornings, and chatting with the young adults afternoons on the beach, looking for ideas and activities which would keep them coming back, instead of looking for more interesting diversions elsewhere.
"Fads change, activities as well. Joao is reasonable. Speak with him and if there is enough interest, and it's not too expensive he'll try it out." Reed said. "We can make all kinds of suggestions, but you are the ones who know what is cool. Every place is different. We learned a lot from you just by listening."
March was mostly for us to get to know each other better, Reed thought." Our instincts were right, we really are good for each other, we work well as a team and we keep each other on our toes. We've both loosened up. I think the cuddling helped a lot. Life doesn't always have to be serious."
He also realized they had been living in a bubble for most of the last year. They couldn't be camp counselors forever, or at least he couldn't.
Too much to learn, too much to do. A myriad of problems and puzzles to be disentangled and solved. Now with Sarah as a partner, he felt more complete. He finally understood his father's comment about Romy making him
better at what he did.
Sarah, for her part, felt completely relaxed and safe in Reed's company. She was ready to break out of the comfort zone that being in a controlled environment offered. She was a jock, but there was more to life than training and competition. Spoiling herself was one. She had always thought that spending the day at a spa was a waste of time. Now after experiencing a day of being pampered, massaged, groomed coiffed, and trimmed, she found it was a way of decompressing and socializing with other women in a non-competitive way. Of course, the compliments and attention she got from Reed afterwards didn't hurt either.
The one thing that she knew she would have to work on was her "I don't need help, I'd can do it myself, thank you" attitude. Teamwork was important, especially in a relationship. "Your father and I don't always see eye to eye but we work out the things we can and make allowances for
the rest. We have our own interests and we disagree, but we have had a wonderful life together."
Sarah smiled. Reed had nodded off. She bent over and kissed his cheek.
It wouldn't be easy, but their life would be wonderful too.
They were relieved to be on land again as they rode the train back towards The Farm. They could see Ricky's club as the train pulled into the station,
and the farmer's co-op across the street. They retrieved their bags, saw The Farm van, and headed across the parking lot. They heard a door shut
and a voice shout out, "About time you lovebirds got back. We all thought you had taken a detour to Vegas and eloped."
Tara was standing there in her long tee and flip flops with a big grin on her face. She hugged and kissed both of them and said, "I've got lots of news, but I need to squeeze you first."
Posted: Feb 18, 2013
|"That was good, but you are waaaay overdressed. I know it's a little cooler than the tropics here, but 70 isn't freezing. Reed, you drive. Sarah and I will sit in the back."|
Tara was a non-stop gossip machine. Marta was going to be a grandmother. Jools was pregnant. Cheyenne had gone to a retreat with Leah, and they had both met someone special. Jeannine had hired a young man from town to be Sage's assistant, and was only working two days a week and until noon on
weekends. Polly finally broke down and got bifocals, instead of using a magnifying glass to read.
"Most important, though, is about Uncle Karl. About a month ago, he snapped out of his gloom.We wondered what had happened to change him and we
found out he had asked Naomi out to dinner in town. Remember, when Sam and Janet moved back, Naomi got displaced. She opened her office in town and moved into Edna's. Karl would stop in and they would talk about Em. Whatever they talked about must have worked. They have both lost that vacant look people get when someone close to them passes on."
"Well, that's good. Now what about you?"
"Nobody yet. Mom and I agree it's too early for me to settle down. She said I'd know when I was ready."
Reed drove on, hearing whispers and laughter from the back. When he stopped at the turn onto Polly Benson Road, he turned around. Sarah and Tara were nude.
"What, you expected we were going to stay dressed the whole way?" said Sarah. "I felt like I couldn't breathe with all these layers of cloth on my body. Besides, it's easier for us girls to talk when we both have on the same outfits, just our skin."
Tara laughed. "You expected we were going to fight? That I was going to be mean? Sarah and I have a lot to talk about before you two run off
to summer camp. But I don't mess with love."
Reed dropped Tara off. She and Sarah had already made plans to go street skating later in the day. He and Sarah stopped to let Karl and Inga know they were home before heading to see his parents.
He noticed his father's grip was stronger and his hug a little longer than when he had left. Romy looked more relaxed, and gave both of them long hugs. Sarah and Reed senior looked at each other for a moment. Reed then moved forward to give her a hug as well.
"You may not be used to this, but we show our affection here, at least at home. I'm not a big hugger or kisser in public except with my favorite wife." he said.
Romy stuck out her tongue at him, then blew him a kiss. Reed blew one back.
"By the way," Reed said, "I hope you didn't send anything too exotic from South America. Boxes have been arriving for the last week."
"No creatures that I know of, just presents and requests for things from people here. I'll unpack and deliver everything when Sarah and Tara go out skating."
On Mother's Day, Naomi, Jools and Sarah appeared in the family portrait for the first time. Elke tutored Sarah in softball. She was amazed at the fluidity of the Owls, their teamwork, and how far Alice could hit the ball.
Everywhere she went there was something new to learn. she was excited at the prospect of making The Farm her home.
She and Tara spent many hours talking about life, The Farm, the family and Reed. What it came down to was this: If Reed is happy, Tara will be happy.
If he isn't, Terrible Tara will fly out of the sky seeking retribution.
"Don't flinch. It goes both ways. If he's being a dork, I'll jump on his case too. Don't worry too much. Something happened between you two out there. Something good and special. I have only one request. I want to be the godmother to your children."
What Tara didn't tell her was that Reed had asked her to find out her ring size.
"When is this going to happen?" she asked Reed.
"End of the summer over there. Why? Because I don't want her parents to feel left out and I want her friends from there to be part of this too.
Don't worry. We'll be back before Labor Day."
Reed spoke to his parents about what he wanted to do. "I'll be going back to school in September. After that, we will only spend a month with the Czechs because we will have to visit Piggy and Bethanny as well. Haven't decided how we will fit in visiting her parents in Australia."
"The first thing you can do is to invite them here for Christmas." Romy said. "They are going to be family and we have room here and over at the
"I have an idea of what you want to do after school is done. But we can
discuss that later." his father said. "One more thing. Have you been to see Polly?"
"We've stopped by for tea, and walked with her and the dog. What do we say?"
"There is no script. But I might suggest bringing her some lasagna if she
would be kind enough to make one of her famous pies."
They brought enough lasagna to fill half Polly's freezer afterwards.
"I'll make that last for a month or two. Don't want to get fat," Polly said as she ate her second piece of pie. "As far as the pie is concerned,
I only make them every once in a while. Used to bake them by the dozen. This is a special occasion so I can have two pieces."
She told stories of Reed as a boy and asked Sarah what appeared to be unrelated questions. When she finished, she said, "I'm an old lady and need to sleep after Sunshine and I take our stroll. Never used to get tired. I am throwing you out now. I hope I live long enough to be at your wedding. It was nice to see you working together to clean up after dinner.
That's a good sign."
Reed bought the ring but waited until he could ask permission from Sarah's parents in person. They approved. Reed got up early one morning and tied
the box with a note on the handlebars of her bicycle. He pretended to be occupied while he watched her untie the ribbon and open up her 'surprise'.
He heard her gasp, then watched her walk to him, trying to keep a straight
face. She handed him the box. Reed turned ashen.
"I don't need this any more." she showed him the ring on her finger, then
said, "You have to say it."
"Will you marry me?"
"Of course. Now you're stuck with me. You won't regret it."
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