"Climbing the Family Tree"
Danso couldn't help feeling nervous on the way to the
Super Power Organizational & Operational Nexus.
Of course he wanted Rosita to have her parents,
but he worried that they would want to take her away
from her newfound family, and that would upset her.
She was firmly attached to them, especially him,
and she needed the support of someone who
could keep her from teleporting into danger.
Hadyn and Lakia were tense too, fidgeting,
and Nathaniel picked it up from everyone else
even though he was too young to understand much.
Rosita, thank God, slept through most of the trip.
"Part of me wishes we didn't have to do this,"
Danso admitted as they rode.
Hannah was much calmer, having been through
things like this many times before. "Think about it,"
she urged them. "Imagine how you would feel
if Rosita disappeared and you didn't know
where she was or who she was with
or whether she was safe there.
You'd want to know. So do her parents."
"I don't want Rosita to go," Hadyn said quietly,
twisting her hands where they rested in her lap.
"Neither do I," Hannah said, "but we need to think
about what's best for Rosita, not just what we want.
She does need someone to control her superpower
until she gets old enough to do that for herself,
but it would also be better for her to know
her birth family than not to know them.
So we have to look for solutions that will
meet everyone's needs without hurting anyone."
The SPOON base provided a nice meeting room,
with chairs and a table and a tropical fruit plate,
where everyone could discuss what to do next.
Rosita's parents seemed like nice people.
Amada Durante was a lovely Hispanic lady
with her straight brown hair done up in a roll,
wearing a green-and-gold parakeet on her shoulder.
Faramundo Durante was a small, restless man
with darker brown skin and black curls
and a piratical beard that Danso secretly envied.
The couple had sent for their sons
once they confirmed Rosita's identity,
so the boys were there too:
three-year-old Gil in a blue sailor suit,
six-year-old Fernán with a teddy bear,
and nine-year-old Eduardo reading a book.
"It looks like we've got a regular
Brady Bunch thing going here,"
Hannah said with a warm smile,
noting how the ages of the
younger children matched up
as they converged on the fruit plate.
That got a laugh from Granny Whammy
and smiles from Groundhog and the lawyer
who had been introduced as Piotr Taylor-Morgan,
a scruffy supernary who took a lot of soup cases.
Groundhog kept coughing because of
the damp, chilly spring weather.
Danso offered him a horehound cough drop,
which he carried because so many things
made Nathaniel cough or sneeze
and the herbal drops seemed safe for him.
Hannah passed Rosita to her mother.
"Mweh," said Rosita, but at least
she didn't start fussing. She liked people.
Amada was smiling, and crying a little.
It made Danso feel guilty for
wanting to keep Rosita to himself.
He didn't want to get in the way,
so he left the adults to their discussion
of how to handle the circumstances.
Hadyn and Lakia hung back in a corner, having found
the coloring books and the beeswax crayons
that someone had thoughtfully left out.
The Durante boys seemed like nice kids.
"What book are you reading?"
Danso asked Eduardo.
"A Wrinkle in Time," Eduardo replied,
tilting it to show the cover.
"Never heard of it," Danso said.
"Is it good? What's it about?"
"These three kids go on a quest
to find their missing father," Eduardo said.
"I like it because the whole family is smart
but they're all good at different things."
"That sounds cool," Danso said.
"I'll have to see if the library has a copy."
"They should," Mrs. Durante said.
"It's a Newbery winner.
Eduardo is quite a reader,
so he loves our local library.
What about you?"
Danso fidgeted with his new reading glasses,
tucked into his shirt pocket. He still wasn't
really used to them, having gotten a pair
for the first time after taking a vision test
before his Driver's Education class.
"I'm working on it," he said.
Mr. Durante and Groundhog were bickering
over what "special needs" really meant
while Granny Whammy stuck up
for Hannah's skill as a foster mother
and Mr. Taylor-Morgan kept trying
to remind them about putting Rosita first.
It was clear to Danso and his sisters
that what the Durantes wanted most
was to take their daughter home.
Danso couldn't help wondering whether
coming to SPOON in the first place
had really been a good idea of his.
"We'd be better off back on the street,"
Lakia muttered, crossing her arms.
"No, we wouldn't," Danso said.
"We'd be cold and hungry again."
"But at least we'd be together,"
Lakia said. Her tail lashed.
Nathaniel started his trademark howl,
at which point the lawyer abandoned the adults
to get down on the floor with the toddler.
Mr. Taylor-Morgan hunted through a box of toys,
exclaiming over them with what sounded like
genuine enthusiasm. "Look, it's a rattle!
And these rings go over this stick --
I bet you can put them in order."
With a little coaxing, he got Nathaniel
to take the first wooden ring, and soon
the boy was happily threading them
onto the long spindle.
"I think we're all getting wound up,"
Mr. Taylor-Morgan said. He tried
to dust off his nice suit as he stood,
but the gray fabric was wrinkled.
"Maybe we should take a break."
"I'd like to take my daughter for a walk,
if nobody minds," Mrs. Durante said.
Danso tensed, remembering how
Rosita hated to let him out of her sight.
Raising a ruckus would be mean, though --
the woman clearly loved her baby
and just wanted to spend time together.
So he didn't say anything.
Still he watched the door as they left,
and he could hear Rosita start to fuss
with a rising, "Eh eh eh."
"Blankie!" whined Nathaniel,
abandoning the rings in favor
of plastering himself to Danso's leg.
It took a couple of minutes to get him
interested in a stuffed lamb,
but finally both of them
managed to relax a little.
Rosita thumped into Danso's middle,
crying at the top of her tiny lungs.
He grabbed hold of her and then
sat down heavily in the nearest chair.
"Are you all right?" Hannah asked
as she helped him settle into place.
"Yeah, just winded," Danso said.
"The way she landed on me felt like
when Nathaniel jumps on my tummy."
Everyone milled around, upset,
and a minute later Rosita's mother
dashed into the room in a panic.
Danso showed her that Rosita was fine,
but he wasn't about to let go again.
Clearly she had gotten to the edge
of Hannah's nullification field and
teleported back to the family she knew.
Mrs. Durante gave a glum nod
and then walked out of the room.
Rosita's brothers were sniffling
and clinging to each other,
trying but failing to look brave.
"It's all right to cry,"
Hannah assured the boys.
"What happened was frightening."
"Come here, see, your sister's okay,"
Danso said. "She just got scared."
Fortunately she had quit wailing.
"Uh, Mrs. Durante is crying
in the bathroom," Groundhog reported.
"Bring her back here,"
Granny Whammy said.
"I'll take care of her."
"She's in the ladies' room,"
Granny Whammy rolled her eyes and
left to go find the heartbroken mother.
Mr. Durante just got more frustrated.
"I want my daughter back," he said.
"Of course you do," said Mr. Taylor-Morgan.
"How do you plan to keep her, though?
An ordinary child can be passed around
through whatever custody arrangements
the adults involved may decide to make.
With a young teleporter, it's not that simple."
Mr. Durante crossed his arms silently,
unable to think of a reply.
"She's like a sugar glider,"
Lakia said all of a sudden.
"What?" Danso asked.
"It's a pocket pet, a tiny possum
but it's cute and has wings.
A boy I was fostered with had one,"
"Okay ..." Danso said.
He'd never seen such a thing,
but he trusted Lakia's memory.
"They get really attached to people,"
Lakia went on, reaching out to Rosita.
"There's this trick they all do.
You put them on top of a bookcase,
and you back away from them.
Then they fly over and land on you."
"The way Rosita jumped back to me,"
Danso said, finally getting it.
Hadyn drifted over, offering her finger
to Rosita, who clutched it in her fist
and began gumming it. Hadyn smiled.
"Understand that Rosita survived
losing her parents shortly after birth,
and managed to bond with a new family,"
Hannah said. "That bond is still fragile.
Breaking it now would hurt her a lot."
"She's ours," Faramundo said.
"She'll learn to love us again."
"After what happened to Rosita already,
she might not be able to form
a healthy connection with anyone else,"
Hannah warned him.
"Attachment disorders can last a lifetime,
and impair romantic as well as family ties.
I would really rather not risk that,
especially given her teleporting ability."
"It's very difficult for ordinary parents
to raise a child with superpowers,"
Groundhog said with a sigh.
"Mine tried really hard, but they
didn't know how to handle my flight,
so they kept me indoors all the time.
Now I'm acrophobic and agoraphobic.
I joined SPOON so I could help prevent
things like from happening to other people."
"Groundhog makes an excellent point,"
Mr. Taylor-Morgan said.
"We want to support families
so that tragedies do not occur."
"Easy for you to say,"
"You don't have a freak kid."
"What makes you think that?"
Mr. Taylor-Morgan asked mildly.
"If you did, you'd understand
what a God-forsaken mess this is,"
Faramundo said, shaking his head.
"This is my daughter Darja,"
the lawyer said, opening his wallet.
Danso leaned over to look at
the photo of five-year-old girl
with a chubby face and slanted eyes.
"She's cute," he said.
"She has Down's Syndrome,
which I knew when I adopted her;
and a superpower, which I did not know,"
Mr. Taylor-Morgan said.
"I'm very grateful to have her in my life.
Parenting means you take what you get."
Faramundo looked down at his hands,
clenched together with white knuckles.
"I just wanted a daughter, after three sons."
"Well, there she is," the lawyer said,
tipping his head at where Rosita
nestled in Danso's lap.
"Listen, everyone's upset,"
said Hannah. "Let's find
something soothing to do."
"Why don't I read to help us all
settle down a bit?" Danso said.
Eduardo, can I borrow your book?"
The younger boy passed him the book.
Danso put on his new glasses
and began reading aloud.
It really was a good book.
Rosita's brothers clustered around him,
piling up behind Lakia and Hadyn.
The girls shuffled around to make room.
Near the end of the first chapter,
Mrs. Durante came back.
Her makeup was smudged but
at least she wasn't crying anymore.
Granny Whammy followed her,
keeping a hand on her shoulder.
"All right, it's been a rough day
but we've made some progress,"
said Mr. Taylor-Morgan.
"We've all gotten a chance
to meet each other and talk.
Rosita has shown that she
wants to stay with her new family.
Do we agree that she's safe there?"
Mr. and Mrs. Durante nodded reluctantly.
"Then there's no reason to make any
hasty changes in custody or parental rights,"
said Mr. Taylor-Morgan. "Lots of children
spend some time in temporary care until
it becomes clear whether family reunion is feasible."
"If you stay close, you might manage to convince
Rosita to attach herself to you again,"
Hannah pointed out. "You're welcome
to visit her at my house and get reacquainted.
I can even teach you some bonding exercises;
that's how I got her to latch onto me."
"I don't think Rosita feels very safe anymore,"
Hadyn said. "It must have been hard on her
to lose her parents, and now she's clingy with us."
"She freaked the first time I put her down
so I could go pee," Danso added.
"After that I was so scared of losing her,
I kept her with me all the time."
"It sounds like you spoiled her,"
Mr. Durante said.
"He saved her life," Lakia snapped.
"What do you think would have happened
to Rosita if we hadn't found her?"
Danso shuddered. He'd heard stories.
They all had. Sometimes little ones
who sprouted superpowers died,
or disappeared without a trace.
"I just don't see why we have to be the ones
to uproot our lives," Mr. Durante said.
"El que algo quiere, algo le cuesta,"
Mrs. Durante said, glaring at her husband.
He that would have the fruit must climb the tree.
"Thank you for taking care of our daughter."
It was the first time any of them had said that.
"You're welcome," Danso said. "I'm glad I could."
After that Granny Whammy, Groundhog,
the lawyer, the parents, and the pet parakeet
all went to another room "to discuss things calmly,"
while Hannah stayed to keep an eye on all the kids
and keep anyone from suggesting they'd be
better off on the street -- or kidnapping Rosita --
rather than go home without her.
Fortunately Hannah was good at
supervising small children.
Gil was shy at first, but with her help
he and Nathaniel made friends
over the set of wooden rings.
Fernán showed his teddy bear to Lakia,
although he would not let go of it.
Eduardo and Hadyn took turns
at reading from his book.
Danso dangled the rattle for Rosita
until she got bored with it and started fussing.
"She sounds hungry; give her to me,"
Hannah said, and fed the baby
while the other children watched.
It took over an hour before the adults
trooped back into the room.
"Rosita will stay with Hannah for now,
and the Durantes will be staying in town
at least for a few weeks," the lawyer said.
"I encourage everyone to spend
as much time together as possible,
around school and work schedules."
Hannah pulled her calendar from her purse,
the one with everyone's appointments
and classes written on the pages.
"Hear that, baby girl?"
Danso said to Rosita.
"You get to come home with us."
Eduardo sniffled again.
Danso reached out to pat his shoulder.
"You don't need to be sad," he said.
"She's still your sister too, and
you can come play with her. Look,
your mom is sitting with ours
to figure out when."
Besides, Rosita wasn't a doll to fight over.
She needed to feel safe and loved,
and she deserved to have all of her family --
the new and the old -- around her.
Everyone else would just have to learn to share.
* * *
[Character design by dialecticdreamer.]
Name: Piotr Taylor-Morgan
Hair/eye color, features: He resembles the actor playing Bobby Drake in Days of Future Past, complete with sandy brown beard, but with hazel eyes which are mostly gray outside, brown inside, with very little green commingling.
Secret identity: None. Lawyer, specializing in adoption law, and parent of an adopted soup. Works with SPOON on pro bono basis, about ten hours per week, every week.
BACKGROUND: Piotr was adopted from Russia in 1983, born with cleft palate and strabismus. Both were correctable with surgery, but the delays due to spending five years in the “baby house” and then another five in one of the worst boarding schools in the city -about an hour north of St. Petersburg- left a lasting impression on him. Being treated like he was also mentally defective had a HUGE impact on his motivations, when he finally trusted his adoptive parents enough to let them in on the “secret” he’d been carrying around for half his lifetime: that he knew exactly what those a--hats were calling him, because he has an IQ sitting around 120, and they treated him like he was unable to feed himself. He surprised his adoptive parents by focusing toward law school the year after he was mainstreamed. (He was tutored for two years to teach him English, and begin with a solid foundation for American schooling.) It took another two years before he was caught up in academics--he spent the last three years of high school busting his chops to get the grades he needed for law school. Not Harvard, but one of the barely-known places which is actually between 125-150 in the US rankings.
Miscellany (appearance, other details): He adjusts/fiddles with his
glasses a /lot/ when he’s thinking, but not when he’s nervous- he’s
trained out that tell for courtroom appearances.
Daughter’s name is Darja, and she /is/ a soup, with a major problem.
Origin & Costume: None.
Uniform: High-quality business suits, always in combinations of gray, with
shirts also in shades of gray, but ties are bright, cheerful colors with
very small patterning (no large diagonal stripes, specifically. If it
looks like a solid color from six to eight feet away, he’s great with
it, even if the pattern is floral.)
Qualities: Master (+6) Adoption Law (International & US), Expert (+4) Polyglot, Expert (+4) Family Support, Expert (+4) Calm under Pressure, Expert (+4) Wealth, Expert (+4) Memory (I know I've heard that--), Good (+2) Connections to DSS & Family Law Courts, Good (+2) Friends on the Force, Good (+2) Soup Contacts, Good (+2) Toughness
Poor (-2) skin hunger, Poor (-2) appearance (scruffy, scars, slightly uneven features, walleyed, unattractive)
Vulnerability: His daughter Darja, currently about 7 physically, 3 mentally.
Motivation: To help families.
Faramundo Durante -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and short curly black hair. He is the husband of Amada and the father of Eduardo, Fernán, Gil, and Consuela/Rosita. His heritage is Hispanic, but he tries to assimilate with American culture instead of embracing his Hispanic roots. So he only speaks English, and discourages his family from speaking Spanish. He was relatively happy until his newborn daughter Consuela disappeared.
Faramundo works for an insurance company, which relies on his knowledge of local conditions and people, often demanding long hours and involving emergency calls. That puts him under strain to choose between job and family when his daughter (now called Rosita) is found, but cannot immediately be returned home. He is also not dealing well with her superpower. Origin: Faramundo began flickering in highschool, but his power is so weak that it never amounted to much and he has largely repressed it. Uniform: Business wear.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Insurance Claim Adjustor, Good (+2) American Culture, Good (+2) Guitarist, Good (+2) Physically Fit
Poor (-2) Spork
Powers: Poor (-2) Blinkstep
Motivation: To have a normal life.
Amada Durante -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair permed into curls. She is the wife of Faramundo and the mother of Eduardo, Fernán, Gil, and Rosita. Amada celebrates her Hispanic heritage and often speaks Spanish with her children, much to Faramundo's annoyance. She has a pet parakeet trained to ride on her shoulder.
Amada is far more interested in her family than in having a career, and just thinks of a job as a way to bring in extra money from time to time when the family needs it. This makes it easier for her to pull up stakes and relocate to Onion City after the disappearance and reappearance of her newborn daughter. While disconcerted by Rosita's superpower, Amada is trying to accept it and is far more upset by the difficulty of reestablishing a close bond with her daughter. However, her reliance on her family makes her shaky if that identity is threatened. The current situation makes her anxious.
Qualities: Master (+6) Mother, Expert (+4) Hispanic Culture, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Office Worker, Good (+2) Organizational Skills
Poor (-2) Reliant on Family
Eduardo Durante -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and short straight brown hair. He is the son of Faramundo and Amada, and the older brother of Fernán, Gil, and Rosita. He loves his younger siblings and enjoys playing with them, but also needs quiet time to himself. He is nine years old when they reunite with Rosita.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bookworm, Good (+2) Initiative, Good (+2) Nimble, Good (+2) Smart
Poor (-2) Moody
Fernán Durante -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and curly black hair. He is the son of Faramundo and Amada, the younger brother of Eduardo, and the older brother of Gil and Rosita. He still carries around a teddy bear, and isn't very good at sharing yet. He is six years old when they reunite with Rosita.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Computers, Good (+2) Fast
Poor (-2) Possessive
Gil Durante -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and straight black hair. He is the son of Faramundo and Amada, the younger brother of Eduardo and Fernán, and the older brother of Rosita. He is three years old when they reunite with Rosita.
Qualities: Good (+2) Following Along, Good (+2) Serious
Poor (-2) Shy
* * *
Children in blended families often struggle to cope, and it can come from more than just the usual divorce-and-remarriage. There are tips for helping a blended family succeed.
Terramagne has more resources than we do for beeswax crayons and coloring blocks.
A Wrinkle in Time is a famous children's novel about family ties and tesseracts.
Pet parakeets really can be shoulder trained, although it's more popular in the southwest and in Mexico than in colder climates. It requires patience and tenderness on the part of the owner.
The Brady Bunch is probably the most famous show about blended families, and illustrates the positive end of the spectrum.
People usually think of disabilities first, but "special needs" also applies to gifted children. It means any child who requires accommodations outside the standard. Superkids qualify as special needs by definition, because they require extra help learning to manage their powers.
SPOON tends to favor simple, natural toys because some soups have allergies. See the stacking toy, rattle, and stuffed lamb.
It's okay to cry when you are scared or sad, and parents need to take special care to teach boys this because society often pressures them not to express their emotions. Know how to help children overcome fears.
Sugar gliders are popular exotic pets. They do not actually have wings, but gliding membranes; and not all of them will do the glide-to-owner trick. Fully bonded sugar gliders will do this, and it's a key appeal of keeping them as pets, but requires diligent work on the owner's part to cultivate a bond that tight.
Attachment disorders can come from disrupted family ties and other causes, which may cause permanent damage. Symptoms vary; some children become indifferent to contact like Lakia, while others become clingy like Rosita. Children are not property to be fought over like who gets the good china; doing that injures them, sometimes irreparably. It is the responsibility of adults to accommodate children's needs, and only sever relationships as a last resort if that connection is doing more harm than good.
Phobias are severe fears that limit everyday life in uncomfortable ways. Although some are baseless, many develop from extremely negative experiences or from necessary survival precautions. Groundhog's parents kept him indoors for years so he couldn't fly away and die, but unfortunately the acrophobia and agoraphobia are side effects of that. He's getting better -- able to grit his teeth and dash to work, for instance -- but still has a long way to go.
Staying calm in a crisis is a valuable leadership and family skill. First you need to calm yourself, then address the situation calmly. You may also need to help upset adults or children to calm down.
"El que algo quiere, algo le cuesta."
Colloquially, "He that would have the fruit must climb the tree."
Literally, "He who wants something, it costs him something."
-- Spanish saying
Learning to share is a vital life skill that applies not just to toys but to people.