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Too many questions and too few answers, Amelia thought as she stared at the homework sheet in front of her.

Since when did math require an essay?

She glanced at her eldest. “Did I miss you doing these?”

He shook his head. “No. Benny’s older sister said they would have helped for her college tests, though.”

“Primary grades are too early to start that kind of prep. Your sister got all of the answers right. So, why-?”

“Because she has to explain how she got them right.”

“That’s what ‘show your work’ is for, not words. I’ve half a mind to let that teacher have it and-.”

He pushed a small bowl of ice cream her way. “Mom, you asked me to remind you not to ‘Hulk out.’ Don’t worry, we can help her in the morning. Good news is that she loves math.”

Amelia nodded. “So, do we introduce her to Yahtzee or cribbage first?”

Pedals and Postcards

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Amelia took the window seat at the coffee shop and watched the tourists enter and exit the bike rental shop. It wasn’t the routes taken that interested her. (She had ridden and walked every possible route in the area.)

It was listening to the stories afterward, the journey taken and destinations still to go. Some of the storytellers were sketchers, others ramblers, and some, successful suspense spinners. She didn’t admit to jotting down possible vacation ideas on napkins later pocketed then shared with her children.

Some days, her eldest enjoyed looking through the guestbook on the counter of the bike shop and hearing bits of trivia from the owner. Her youngest asked if there was anything she could keep. One summer, in her neatest penmanship of crayon on paper, her youngest wrote a request: “Pleaz send me a postcard when you get home. Thank you.”

Amelia didn’t know what to make of that idea at first. On the one hand, she prepared for disappointment and the need for comforting. On the other, would strangers send cards *to* a place they visited versus from?


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‘When one door closes, another one opens. Usually. If not, make your own door.’

Amelia read the last line of the letter a few times. Leave it to her parents to find the right thing to say when she needed to hear it most. She saw how some folks in her circle handled divorce. Most of it wasn’t pretty.

Brie said it best – some folks chose to drown their sorrows in alcohol, others, anger. Both quickly killed the soul.

Maybe that was why Amelia found herself staring at the collection of books from her great-uncle’s wooden chest. There was something there that she could, and probably would, boldly consider. Maybe her own ‘door’ was found buried in these old treasures.


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Amelia hadn’t gone through her great-uncle’s music box in ages. Some sheets were damaged by the fire. A puzzle she had always put on the ‘for later’ shelf presented itself to her now, with time on her hands.

There was a mambo, a waltz and a concerto to choose from. Then there was the singe-bordered piece that cried ‘mystery’ as the meter and starting notes were gone.

Music notebook and pencil in hand, Amelia sketched the first possible notes.


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“Maybe it’s worth looking at all of the possible options then going one step further,” Amelia told her guest. “If a desired path has come to an end, you create a new one.”

Kai Addison sighed. “You make it sound so easy.”

“Why can’t we create a job that best uses our talents? Sure, health benefits and a steady paycheck might come in handy, but why should we limit ourselves to what’s on some arbitrary list?”

“Is that what you did?”

Amelia shook her head. “No. It’s something I’m about to do.”


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“Kittens? No. Oh, why do you want more pets, dear?” Amelia sighed. She had enough to keep the roof over their heads, and other basic needs.

“We’ll do better and the kitten can play with It.” Her youngest held out a jar of coins.


“They’re so cute, though.”


“I’ll do my chores for a month!”

Amelia shook her head. “Try a stronger argument. The answer’s still ‘no.'”

Just Kidding

Octopus at the Aquarium

“Just kidding!”

Amelia sighed as she followed her children running down a (thankfully) empty hallway.

“I was kidding! An octopus would never eat you, sis!”

Amelia sat down and let herself be cooled by the breeze coming off from the water. Nowhere else for them to run to, the end of the pier. She knew it would happen sooner or later. Would have expected it to be spiders or snakes, the same way her brother taunted her. No, it had to be a squid.

“Mom, I wanna go, now!” Her youngest stood before her, arms crossed, keeping her back to her brother. “I want to go eat sushi!”

Amelia sucked in her lower lip. There were only three rolls her youngest ordered, and she was not going to explain the third one. She leveled her oldest with a look. Thankfully he had the sense enough to know when to keep silent.

Granted, Amelia had a culinary ace up her sleeve regarding one of his favorite foods. She told him the truth once and he stared. ‘Just kidding,’ she told him, certain she’d have to try again in a couple of years. Maybe today would be a good day to…

Imagine That

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“Imagine that,” Amelia said, pulling out a mesh bag of muck. “I found your crayons and they found their way into the dryer.

“Sorry, Mom.” Her youngest held out a hand for the bag. “I can help buy a new machine.”

“No, I can clean this. Not all is lost.” She turned on her heel. “You want a puzzle? How can you create different colors with what you can find outside?”

“Anywhere outside?”

“Anywhere except the garage and shed. Get an empty egg carton from under the sink and see what you can fill it with.”

As one child skipped out, another stepped in. “What’s that about, Mom?”

“It’ll keep her occupied for the amount of time I’m going to need to scrub this clean.”

“Good plan.”

“You’re not off the hook, young man. You told me you checked the pockets of everything before you started the laundry.”

“Um, I-.”

She held up some damp bills. “Consider this my cleaner’s fee. Want to help your sister? Find some new materials you both can paint or color on. Same parameters, anything outside, sans garage and shed.”

Her son shook his head on the way out the the door. “Imagine that.”


“Do we have to move, Mom?”

Amelia gestured for her eldest to set the table. “Not for a long time, dear. Unless you want to move and don’t mind if I cash in all of our college funds to do it.”

He laughed. “Just checking. Mickey’s parents are getting a divorce so they’re leaving before school starts.”

“Given everything put into this place, I intend to hold on to it as long as I can.”

“Hey, Mom? Did you know the guy down the road never owned a house before? In fact, this is the first time he’s staying put.”

Amelia set the hot dishes down on the table. “How’d you learn that?”

“I overheard him and his sister talking. She told him it was about time he grounded himself.”

“Not everyone defines their homes in the same way. Who knows? Maybe you and your sister will go in opposite directions or-.”

“And leave you? Not like him. No.”

Amelia took a deep breath then let it out slowly. “What’s between me and your father is between me and your father. Don’t rush to be a grown-up so soon. Trust me, there’s plenty of time for that.”



“Do you sometimes wish you were home, back where you grew up, I mean?”

“No!” She shook her head. “I mean, no. Go get your sister. She’s probably still playing with the new doll house you made her.”

Games People Play

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“What if everything falls down,” Amelia’s youngest asked, reaching for the last of the mini chocolates from the bowl.

“Then we get right back up,” she said.

“What if people cheat?”

“Then we play by the rules.” Amelia scooped the chocolates away.

“What if…there are more cheaters than us,” her youngest persisted.

“Impossible. There are more good people in the world than bad, sweetheart.”

“What if…?”

“Just make a move already, huh,” the eldest complained. “For the thousandth time, by my rules, no one is ever allowed to pick on you. Ever.”

Amelia tried not to smile. “And you two remember my rules. Stalling this game does not get you to stay up past bedtime.”