Secret of the Family Tree: Digging Up Old Roots

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Chapter 6: Aunt Mayra Explains

“Knock, knock. Can I come in?”

Recognizing the voice on the other side of her bedroom door, Samantha leaped from her bed and threw herself into the arms of her mom’s younger sister. “Aunt Sam!”

“Let me take a look at you,” her aunt said. “Zen is going to be absolutely jealous. He’s been complaining he hasn’t grown at all, and here you’ve grown a full inch or two since we last saw you.” Alexzender or Zen, for short, is Samantha’s older cousin, by just thirteen months.

“Here, sit next to me,” Sam said, making herself comfortable in Samantha’s bed.

“When did you get in from Hawaii?” Samantha asked.

“About two hours ago. It’s nearly 10 a.m.”

“Gosh, I better hurry. I haven’t even thought about what I should wear.”

“Don’t worry, the service isn’t until noon. I actually came up to help you get ready, and see my old room. So, do you think you’ll like living here?”

“Oh yeah, I think it’ll be great.” She felt she wouldn’t tell her aunt about her strange experience last night. In the light of day, she agreed with her dad that she was just overly tired. “Does it look the same as when you and mom slept in here?”

“I think so. I was so young when we left.”

“Do you ever wish you had grown up in this house instead of moving away to New York?”

“It was an adjustment, but Aunt Mayra made it into an adventure. We’d catch a plane, sometimes in the middle of the night, and just travel off to different places. It was great fun for me as a kid. It was because of a visit to Hawaii that I decided to attend collage there, and eventually settle. But, my best memories are of Hearthshire as a child. Here is where I remember, Mom.”

Samantha thought Aunt Sam sounded just like her mom when she talked about her childhood home.

“Dad always told me and Anna that if we held onto the happy memories of Mom, she’d be with us always, wherever we made our home. I hope you do that today, Samantha, as we say good-bye to your grandpa Innis. He would only want you to think of the happy times with him.”

“I will.”

“Now, let’s get you dressed.”

Studying her aunt, Samantha admired how she never bothered to tame her wild hair, and the way she mixed and matched her clothes. Like now, she wore black and white wool stockings with a snowflake design, under a knit gold dress with an interlocking green and blue square pattern. The most daring item of clothing Samantha owned was a pair of purple high-top converse sneakers, with an “All Star” emblem on the sides.

“I really like your stockings,” Samantha said.

“I’ll send you a pair.”

As they made their way into the kitchen, Samantha made sure the white pearl buttons on her pink cardigan sweater all lined up and the ribbing at the bottom nicely hit the top of her plaid pink and purple wool skirt.

“Here’s our sleeping beauty,” Craig called out from the kitchen table. Samantha thought her dad looked quite handsome in black dress pants and black crewneck sweater. He was sharing tea with her Uncle Junzo, Aunt Sam’s husband, who got up to give Samantha a hug.

“I think all that sleeping has made you taller,” Junzo said, as he gently stretched out one of her curls that her aunt had piled high on top of her head with a pink ribbon. “Or maybe it’s the hair that’s giving you height.”

Junzo wore his straight black hair a little past his shoulders. He was an artist, and because he was an artist, Samantha supposed he had to wear his hair long, and a goatee. Most of the time he also wore a mustache, but not today, his upper lip was clean-shaven. Besides being the illustrator of his wife’s books, he also taught art classes at the local high school in Oahu, Hawaii.

“Now, don’t tease you guys,” Sam said. “I told her there was no rush. Besides, I wanted to have some private time with my favorite niece.”

“Uh, Mom, Samantha’s your only niece,” said Zen, coming into the kitchen. “It’s about time you got up, Samantha. We thought you were going to sleep forever.”

“I’m still catching up from our long flight,” she said, giving him a playful shove. She was glad Zen was here, someone her own age to talk with. Both she and Zen were homeschooled, but unlike Samantha, Zen didn’t pack up and travel every year. He had opportunities to make friends in his own neighborhood.

“I was just kidding. So, it’s gonna be weird not having Grandpa around, isn’t it?” Zen said.

“Yeah, I’m really going to miss him.”

“It seemed like he’d live forever, you know, he just never seemed old to me.”

Samantha realized this was the first time she’d seen Zen in anything other than boardshorts with a surfboard tucked under his arm. “You’re just like Mowgli from the Jungle Book,” she always kidded him. She took a good look at him now all dressed up in long pants and a dark blue sweater, and he’d even combed his thick, black wavy hair. Boy, this sure is a different look for Zen!

“Samantha,” Anna said, “this is your great aunt Mayra.”

“Hello, Samantha.”

Beaming from the kitchen doorway stood a small woman with dimpled round brown cheeks. Just looking at her, Samantha guessed this is where her aunt Sam got her fashion sense. Mayra was dressed in a silk royal blue top, over silk purple pants, and a pair of flat metallic gold shoes sparkled on her feet. Her hair was pulled back into a bun, where Samantha could see that she did have on a pair of earrings, but they didn’t match. This made Samantha chuckle to herself, as she remembered the stories her mom told her about the woman who raised her.

“Aunt Mayra,” Anna had said, “is fluent in several different languages, a very intelligent woman really, who never fully learned to operate her own kitchen, and has a habit of misplacing things, mainly her earrings.”

“Just call me Mayra or Aunt Mayra will do. Great Aunt makes me feel utterly ancient.” Then, twirling on her heels, Aunt Mayra turned to face everyone in the kitchen. “All right everyone, we’re about to leave. We’ll be walking to the cemetery. That means wear sensible shoes,” she said, while kicking off her gold slippers and pulling on a pair of rubber boots.

“Your dad tells me you had a rather rough night,” her mom said, as they put on their coats.

“Yeah, I think I was just tired, that’s all.”

“Samantha, you and Alexzender will walk with me,” Mayra interrupted. She was now wearing a long black coat, and already had Zen by the hand. Linking arms with Samantha, she dragged them both out the door.

The tree-lined path was cleared of snow, making the walk much easier. Samantha even felt the weather was a bit warmer than yesterday. Her mom and Aunt Sam walked together, with the Kitchets, while her dad and Uncle Junzo followed behind them. Samantha and Zen brought up the rear, with Aunt Mayra between them.

“See these glorious life forms standing here?” Mayra asked, pointing towards the trees that formed the canopy along the path.

Samantha and Zen looked up at the giants towering above them.

“Every time I come back here,” Mayra said, “I stand in respect of these ancient beings.”

“What type of trees are they?” asked Zen.

“They don’t belong to one particular species. However, all variety of trees on this planet can trace their genetic materials back to them. I cannot give you a suitable name like oak or maple, because their names are lost to this world, lingering in the higher frequencies outside of what most humans can hear. These trees are some of the true originals of this planet. But if you need a name to call them, Zen,” Aunt Mayra said, continuing her trek down the path, “call them, The Keepers. That’s how all Fairlands address them.”

Zen reached out and touched one of the trees, but immediately drew back, reacting as though he’d been stung.

“What’s the matter?” Samantha asked.

“I felt a spark or— wait my hand feels funny. You think I got stung by a bee!”

“Bees aren’t out this time of year. Let me take a look.” Samantha examined Zen’s hand. “I don’t see anything. How do you feel, should I call your mom?”

“No,” Zen said, flexing his hand. “It stopped. That was weird. For a minute, my hand got all tingly.”

“Tingly?” That’s what I felt last night. “Come on,” she said, grabbing him by the arm. “I want to ask Aunt Mayra something.”

They caught up with her as she stood off to one side of the path. “I was just recalling all the wonderful times I’ve had here,” she said, staring dreamingly back at the house. “I think I’ll open up the old guesthouse this spring. It’ll be good to just stay put for a while, you know, re-energize.”

“That sounds great, Aunt Mayra. I was wondering if I could ask you a question.” Samantha said.

“Sure, go for it.”

“You said most humans can’t hear the names of these trees. If you could hear it, would it sound like music, maybe?”

“I’ve heard it interpreted that way.”

“Really, well last night I heard music. But before I heard the music, I felt this odd tingling feeling all over my body.”

“Well, look around you, Samantha. You’re in a cocoon of nature. You were probably hearing and feeling the vibrant nature essences that live here. And of course there’s, Terrance,” Mayra said.

“Terrance?” Samantha asked.

“Yes, the tree next to your bedroom window is known as, Terrance. His roots extend right under the house’s foundation.”

From Zen’s knitted brow, Samantha knew they were thinking the same thing. Aunt Mayra is a bit eccentric.

“Sounds like a story from one of my mom’s books,” Zen said.

“You should pay attention to your mother’s stories. You may learn something valuable,” Mayra suggested.

“I will, I will, but when you say hearing nature, do you mean like the noise animals make at night?” Zen asked.

“What you call animal noise isn’t noise to them. They’re communicating with each other in their own language. Flowers, plants, and trees do the same thing.”

“So what you’re telling us is that the music Samantha thought she heard were actually trees and animals talking to each other?”

“Zen, your dad speaks Japanese, right? If he were to greet someone in his own language, what would he say?”

Bowing with his arms tight to his side, Zen said, “Konnichiwa, ogenki desu ka?”

Samantha and Mayra couldn’t help but laugh at Zen impersonating his father.

“Which basically translates into, ‘good afternoon, how are you’?” Mayra said. “Now, Samantha your dad is from Australia. How does he greet his fellow Australians?”

Not as animated as her cousin, Samantha slacked her jaw and did her best to mimic her dad’s accent. “How ya goin’, mate?”

“We just heard in both Japanese and Australian the way people greet each other. They sound completely different, right. Think of all the types of music there is in the world. Musicians string together an array of tones to convey how they want their song expressed. Language is music. They both have a rhythm, but they sound different. This is the same as with animals, trees, plants, and even water.”

“I think I get it,” Zen said. “It’s like that dog whisperer guy on TV; he totally understands what the deal is with dogs. I’m like that with dolphins when I surf. I sit on my board and the dolphins swim around me, and we talk. They tell me what the waves are doing that day or if it’s safe to surf. They say other stuff like…” Zen paused, glancing from Samantha to Mayra. “Well I understand all their clicking sounds anyway.”

“Zen, I haven’t had the pleasure of communicating with dolphins, but I wouldn’t dream of dismissing that you have,” Mayra smiled. “Now what’s unfortunate is that most people will dismiss sounds they cannot understand outside of their own native tongue. Why is that? It’s because they’re not in tune with that particular tonal pattern. If people are dismissing sounds from their fellow human beings, it follows that they are dismissing the musical language of nature. And this also applies to the planets, who express their own special songs.”

“That’s what the Greek philosopher Pythagoras talked about, music and the celestial spheres. I read about him when I was learning geometry,” Samantha shared. “I also came across, Harmonices Mundi, by mathematician Johannes Kepler. Kepler, who was also an astronomer, wrote—”

“Stop it! You’re making my head hurt talking about philosophers and mathematicians,” Zen said, covering his ears.

“You’re correct Samantha, but I’ll have to side with Zen. The theories of these great thinkers, though valuable, are over complicated. When things are too complex, it turns people away, and we don’t want that. What’s important is that you both keep an open mind, and a pliable ear. Keep it simple. Don’t dig too far into the minds of men. Listen to the trees whose roots are firmly planted in terra firma.”

Samantha found her great aunt Mayra quite interesting, but she put all that aside as they turned off the path from Fairland property and into the village of Hearthshire.

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