Households and their respective dynamics can be strange things, both on Earth, and also in our precious Xanaduvian Forest. Truly the family dynamic can do so much to shape the futures of little ones raised in their various environments...for better or for worse. And yet, to a degree, children will simply be children, despite all one's efforts at guiding them. And it's always those "little" things that seem to stick with us all. For all the distinctions our sacred forest holds from Earth, even we are not immune to this rule of existence. There is always that bird that refuses to fly, or that canine that refuses not to.
This was the gist of what I felt after my children and I received a round of patented blank stares from my lovely gatekeeper, followed by lovely stories from her own upbringing. I tried to imagine Raven as a young, silly Raven while she spoke, but was unable to.
Cousin Eddie and Captain Leo were several steps behind us discussing the necessary rocket parts Mitzy the arctic fox had delivered earlier, and confirmed that Captain Leo and my children, the Junior Starmappers, would be off to far away places in less than two greetings of the sun.
Not wanting Butterfly and Weasel to dwell on the fact that we'd soon be separated again--and also not wanting myself to dwell on it--I told them to hurry now and get ready for their wonderful surprise. I instructed Butterfly to use her keen telekinesis skills to bring Weasel's space boots down from the highest tree in my sacred garden, and to put on her fabulouness new dress we had just purchased from sisters Sadie and Sally Otterman. I instructed Weasel to return his shovel to the treehouse and to put on some deodorant. They both carried out their instructions with only a very small amount of bickering, as Cousin Eddie fired up the remote control patrol jeep and zipped off to the Sacred Pub, the pink remnant of Weasel's prank still circling his raven eyes. Edwin the Bee looked on seemingly disinterested from upon His lotus flower, and said nothing. My lovely gatekeeper powered down her laptop, smiled at me, and told me she'd see us over there shortly. I acknowledged, and headed off to the Persian rug to check on Butterfly and Weasel. My heart looked back and smiled as I saw my lovely gatekeeper happily walking off with her lovely Captain Leo by her side.
A nip here, and a tuck there, and Butterfly was most satisfied with her shimmery new dress, and even said as much. I smiled and reminded her how beautiful she was and how proud of her I was. As if to confirm that he was also beautiful and that I was also proud of him, Weasel approached me--space boots beaming and blinking--and offered for me to smell his armpits to prove he had used deodorant. Honestly, I was afraid to sniff his armpits, so I simply told him that I trusted him. And I told him how handsome he had become, and also how proud of him I was. With that, we were off to the Sacred Pub. Edwin the Bee actually smiled at my children and I as we passed by, and He told us to have the most wonderful time...and that He could possibly be there to join the festivities at some point. We all thanked Him.
On our way to the Sacred Pub, Butterfly pulled a handful of glitter-glo bracelets out of her purse and handed some to Weasel and I. We all slid a few glitter-glo bracelets over our wrists, and I reminded them of the things my lovely gatekeeper had just told us, and asked them if maybe just for tonight we might refrain from any sort of bathroom type humor. They both nodded in pensive agreement, and there we were at the Sacred Pub almost before we realized it. Butterfly and Weasel seemed both honored and excited to see a large poster on the door of the Sacred Pub that read,
"A Farewelcome Party to honor Captain Leo, and Junior Starmappers, Butterfly and Weasel! One Moon only! With special performance by The Groove Grooves, and hosted by Landrew the Glo-blin King, and his lovely assistant, Mr. Feathers. All ages. 1 pumpernickel or 5 acorns cover charge kindly requested."
Butterfly, of course, was very proud to see her name upon a poster upon the door of the Sacred Pub, while Weasel was more intrigued about who The Groove Grooves were. I told him I had heard good things about them, and that I believed two of them were otter sisters related to the Ottermans, whom we had purchased Butterfly's dress from earlier that sun-greeting. I placed my hands gently upon Butterfly and Weasel's shoulders before we pushed the door open and entered, and reminded them once more about our no-bathroom-type-humor-tonight agreement. They actually harmonized "We knooow!"
So of course the very first thing we noticed (aside from the fact that there were already a fair number of critters present) was dear Caesar Emeritus over by the dart boards asking random critters if they happened to see the whoopie cushion he had placed "under there." To dear Caesar's credit, one of the critters did ask, "Under where?" but none of the critters--even Caesar Emeritus himself--snickered. Butterfly and Weasel giggled, of course, as they looked at me. I rolled my eyes and tried my best not to giggle, but failed miserably. I scanned the room and was grateful to see my lovely gatekeeper was nowhere to be seen. Butterfly found it even funnier that dear Caesar had managed to make someone say "underwear" and yet he still didn't understand the juvenile bathroom type humor. And Weasel was very proud, of course, that he had outsmarted the most wise Caesar Emeritus. "The gift that keeps on giving," I heard Weasel say.
Before I could remind my children about our agreement again, the three of us were assaulted in the most lovingly of ways by Olga the bartender fairy. "There's my little guests of honor!" Olga shouted, and gave us all very tight finger hugs. "My how beautiful and handsome you've become," she continued, and told Butterfly how she remembered when she was just a small, hungry caterpillar. Both kids greeted Olga warmly, and were genuinely happy to see her. Then Olga guided the three of us over to the bar, seated us, and served us up happy flagons: Tick Tock Doc's famous Minute Mead for me, and his much less famous Second Soda for Butterfly and Weasel. Both children looked around the room, as did I, happily sipping our beverages, chatting nonchalantly, and absorbing the atmosphere. Caesar Emeritus and his now dear friend Ptolemy (maker of the almost famous Ptolemy-ce Cream) were now over at the jukebox, selecting songs as though they were solving the mysteries of the universe. Numerous Bachman-Turner Overdrive songs soon began blaring throughout the Sacred Pub, and a smalll group of fat squirrels from Walnut Street were deeply engaged in a game of darts off to the side--all of them keeping one eye carefully upon their respective briefcases.
The children and I hadn't quite emptied our flagons when, out of nowhere, Edwin the Bee came buzzing through the Sacred Pub and cleared an area around a large picnic table near the center of the room. And right after that entered my lovely gatekeeper, wearing her shimmering white apron decorated with images of garden-fresh tomatoes, and carrying a very large pot of what I imagined contained her Dragon Stew. And it was! And behind Raven was my boss, sweet Madeleine, the albino peacock, simply stunning in the dress Butterfly had picked out for her from the costume closet in the county clerk's office earlier that sun-greeting. Madeleine placed a large silver tray of rainbow-glitter-frosted sugar cookies upon the picnic table, and her and I smiled at each other. Butterfly took notice, and Weasel glared subtly at Butterfly as if to remind her not to say anything. Nothing was said. And right behind sweet Madeleine emerged Cousin Eddie--pink circles round his eyes and all (including his baker's hat)--and he began adding loaves of bread to the large picnic table's top--not pumpernickel of course, since it was still the Xanadu Forest's primary currency at that time. Bachman-Turner Overdrive songs continued to play throughout the room, though at a lower volume now. Yes, it was time to feast.
Captain Leo appeared before us almost magically and told the children and I we should be seated at the picnic table. And then Captain Leo sat down at the table on Butterfly's left. Caesar Emeritus and Ptolemy arrived at the large picnic table, and sat down directly across from us. Sweet Madeleine and I smiled at each other once again--perhaps a bit longer than we should have--as she fluffed her dress and sat down on Weasel's right. My lovely gatekeeper, Raven, was ladling her now famous Dragon Stew into wooden bowls, and Cousin Eddie took them, one by one, and delivered them to everyone now seated at the large picnic table. Once everyone had a bowl of Dragon Stew in front of them, Raven took off her shimmering apron, and sat down on Captain Leo's left, with a bowl of Dragon Stew for herself. Cousin Eddie removed his baker's hat, tossed it into the ceiling fan, and sat down on Ptolemy's right.
Edwin the Bee hovered above us all, and delivered a great Farewelcome to Captain Leo and the Junior Starmappers, and a special blessing for all, before any of us began to eat--though I had to nudge Weasel because he was already breaking his bread. Also before anyone began to eat, Olga the bartender fairy joined us at the large picnic table...at Butterfly's insistent request! The dart-playing fat squirrels of Walnut Street looked on as we enjoyed our meal and pleasant conversation, then they continued on with their games--and keeping an eye on their respective briefcases. Many compliments were given my lovely gatekeeper, of course, regarding her fantastic Dragon Stew. Raven pretended very well to be humbly embarrassed, though, secretly, I felt, she was feeling a bit more than proud and honored [Please don't tell her I told you this]. I overheard Cousin Eddie, at one point, explaining (read, boasting) to Ptolemy his skill at crafting nearly anything out of beer cans. Also a squadron of fairies had supplied us all with freshly-filled flagons, and Bachman-Turner Overdrive songs continued to play in the background. My children seemed especially to enjoy their second Second Sodas, and there was no bickering or bathroom type humor at all...and I most certainly enjoyed my second Minute Mead.
As we all finished our Dragon Stew and rubbed our bellies pleasantly, a squadron of fairies returned and cleared the large picnic table of all but the sugar cookies we were munching on by then. Ptolemy and dear Caesar Emeritus mysteriously excused themselves briefly, then returned moments later with large tubs of Ptolemy-ce cream, and enough clean wooden bowls for all of us. Many kind compliments were tossed Ptolemy's way, and that is, in fact, the night that Ptolemy-ce cream became famous. Even the dart-playing fat squirrels of Walnut Street abandoned their games (and their respective briefcases) and joined us. Yet another squadron of fairies supplied them with clean wooden bowls, of course. It was truly becoming a magical evening. My children agreed, as did sweet Madeleine.
I had discovered a third flagon of Minute Mead in front of me at some point, and enjoyed that one even more than the first two. I overheard my lovely gatekeeper discussing Jimmy Page's adorable ponytail with Captain Leo as the elixir trickled down my throat. Junior Starmappers Butterfly and Weasel were discussing constellations at length with me--in a competitive sort of way--when we all heard quite a ruckus behind us and turned to see a squadron of critters entering the door to the Sacred Pub. Truly they were flooding the room, and the fat squirrels of Walnut Street scurried back over to their briefcases, leaving their Ptolemy-ce Cream only half-finished. Many of the entering critters were river otters, but there were also others: birds, insects, canines, and even a feline or two. And there was Mitzy the arctic fox! And there was the fattest of the fat squirrels of Walnut Street, the self-declared mayor of the Xanadu Forest, Reginald III...arguing with a beautiful Mockingbird about some sort of parking violation. Butterfly and Weasel looked up at me, hoping for an explanation. I sort of shrugged my shoulders hesitatingly and told them I suspected the band must be here. My suspicion was very quickly confirmed when Cousin Eddie leaped onto the large picnic table, shotgunned his fifth flagon of Minute Mead, raised his empty flagon to the sky, and shouted, "Hell yeah! It's The Groove Grooves!"
Indeed, the main room of the Sacred Pub was almost about to become completely overrun by chaos, as bodies struggled to find space; and, for a second, I was even pressed into the Junior Starmappers, and no longer had any doubt as to whether Weasel had actually put on his deororant. He had. I congratulated him on that, and didn't have to raise my voice for him to hear it. Thankfully, the almost chaos subsided as many of the critters made their way to the banquet hall down the hall, where the main stage was to be found, and we were able to breathe again. "Holy crap!" my children harmonized, as they looked up at me, as though they had just survived a close call. I told them The Groove Grooves are even more popular than I had realized, apparently.
"Your father's quite right," came the voice of a lovely river otter out of nowhere, with a paisley Les Paul guitar slung over her shoulder, as she knelt and extended her paws toward us. She looked deeply into our eyes, and continued, "I am Betta Groove...but my friends call me Flaminga. And who might you lovely younglings be?"
Weasel's adam's apple enlarged immediately, I suspected, for he was completely unable to speak. Butterfly took command, grasped Flaminga's paw, and replied, "I am Butterfly, and that's my brother Weasel. We're Junior Starmappers, under the command of Captain Leo. And that's my dad. But he's not a Starmapper. Why do your friends call you Flaminga? And why do you have ancient spirals painted over your eyes?"
Betta Groove smiled and snickered a bit, and kissed a guitar pick, and placed it in Weasel's paw using both of her own. Then she turned to Butterfly, held her wing, looked deep into her eyes, and replied, "The ancient spirals are symbols of the cosmos--all of The Groove Grooves wear them. It expresses our committment to universal unity. And dimensional unity as well." Then Betta Groove lifted the hem of Butterfly's dress and examined it closely. Then she continued, "I know this dress. Its stitching holds many secrets. My aunts Sadie and Sally made it."
All three of us were highly intrigued, but only Butterfly had the nerve to ask Betta Groove, "How did you know?" And then Butterfly reminded Betta Groove that she still hadn't answered her first question.
Flaminga stood tall, then spun her paisly Les Paul around so it was in front of her, and stood upon one leg, and rested her other foot upon the knee of the standing leg. Then she shut her eyes and extended one arm straight out pointing at her attentive audience, while her other arm wrapped itself around the neck of the guitar. Then Flaminga opened her eyes, looked at Butterfly (still balancing on only one leg), and said, "The Otterman women are the finest seamstresses in all of Interterrestria for good reason. There is always more to our garments than meets the senses." Flaminga slung her paisley Les Paul back over her shoulder, knelt again, and took both of Butterfly's wings in her paws so warmly, saying ever so softly, "In the silence of space, it's a common mistake to cling to what's clever, my dear."
Weasel and I looked at each other knowingly, but saying nothing at all, knowing well that a very special connection had just occurred--something that hovered well above our heads. Sweet Madeleine edged closer to me, placing her wing softly upon my thigh, and Butterfly took no notice at all--though Weasel did, and he smiled at me. And I smiled at him. We all knew that night that the magic had only begun.
And that is how The Groove Grooves first entered our lives.
So much more to come.
Thank you all for being out there. Lovely of Lovelies.