March 28th, Wanda fills in her calendar with the weeks’ appointments, work schedule and reminders. April 1st already, Spring has been officially here for a week and I have to remember to find time to get a pedicure since the weather is warming up, she reminds herself. She carefully uses her black pen for appointments, blue for her work notes and red for reminders and important information. She looks in her desk drawer for stickers to make her calendar look more colorful. Since I don’t have to work until late Tuesday, I’ll stop at the market Monday evening, she uses the red pen to jot down her market errand. There, all done, at least for now, Wanda takes a deep and tired breath, time for bed. She looks at her watch and sees that it’s 10:45pm and also notices she has a message, wow, if not for my smart watch I might have missed this message.
Wanda opened up her phone and saw that her sister, Barb had called. This was intriguing since she hadn’t heard from her sister in six months. Barb has always been a wanderer, a person who lived on the edge, very spontaneous; Wanda had always been the organized, predictable one. She considered saving the message until morning, but then worried it may be urgent, what if her sister needed her. She put the phone up to her face to use the facial recognition and voicemail appeared in written form: Hi Sis, hope you’re well. Did I miss your birthday, oops, sorry. Text me when you can talk, I have an interesting offer for you.
Barb did capture Wanda’s attention; it was hard to fall asleep thinking about what the “interesting offer” could be? If something was interesting to Barb, it would probably mean something scary or dangerous for Wanda. There was only one thing to do, since Wanda couldn’t sleep, write it down. She took out her calendar and in red pen, she wrote on Wednesday afternoon, call Barb. She decided on Wednesday because she would have time to think about how she would answer any opportunity, from swimming with dolphins to climbing Mt. Everest. She would also call their mother and find out if she’s been in contact with Barb, she may shed some light on Barb’s current situation. With the red pen still in hand, she wrote, “call mom” on Monday.
The next day, Wanda called her mother, she heard the rings and when a melodic voice answered with a sweet hello, she quickly replied, “Hi Mom, how are you?”
“I’m fine dear, it’s so nice to hear from you,” Wanda was always reminded of the good witch from the Wizard of Oz whenever she spoke to her mother. It seemed that the pitch of her voice became higher with each passing year. After a few moments of small talk and a little catch-up, Wanda asked her mother if she’d heard from Barb.
“You know, ever since she began working for that airline, I never know where she’s at, I can’t believe she bought a farm, she’s never there,” her mother laughed. For just a fraction of a second, Wanda wondered if her mother was patting herself on the back for raising such an adventurous young woman.
Wanda continued with her questions and did not want to get caught up in a game of which is the most successful daughter. Years had gone passed that made Wanda wonder how she and her sister could be raised in the same house, only a year apart in age, went to the same schools, have virtually many of the same experiences and be so different. If they didn’t look so much alike, Wanda would wonder if one of them wasn’t switched at the hospital. “When was the last time you heard from her?” Wanda asked her mother.
“Oh, maybe two months ago, but that’s not unusual. She sends postcards now and then,” her mother added. “Why, are you concerned about your sister?” she asked Wanda and wondered for a moment how her life would have turned out if she’d had two sons, instead of two daughters.
Mother and daughter spoke for a little while longer, promised to have dinner soon and then Wanda claimed she had to get back to work. Her mother could always tell when she was lying, since her work was done for the day.
All day on Tuesday, Wanda wondered what this opportunity could be? She knew she couldn’t wait until Wednesday, I’ll call tonight, she decided.
Later in the evening, Wanda checked her emails, emptied the dishwasher, tried to keep her sister out of her head, and then made dinner for herself. She poured herself a glass of Merlot and thought it would be a nice complement for her pasta in white sauce and mushrooms. She stared at her phone throughout her dinner and knew she wasn’t doing a good job of keeping her sister out of her head, with a large sigh, Wanda called Barb.
Wanda could hear the rings, one, two, three, maybe I should hang up?
“Hello, Wanda?” Barb’s familiar voice was calling out to her sister.
“Yes, it’s me, how are you?” she answered. The two sisters chatted and caught up with all the latest happenings for the past six months they had not communicated. “Okay, now that we’ve apprised each other on all the latest news, what did you want to ask me?” Wanda wondered why she felt so nervous, it’s like being a room with several doors and knowing one door is danger.
“Ok, you know I’ve been living in Texas for two years now and as I’ve told you, I have a sunflower farm. Well, I have an opportunity to live in Italy. I’ll still be working with the airline, but based in Europe. I don’t want to sell my farm, but I want you to live here and take care of it, or at least I’m hoping. It’ll be for at least two years, otherwise I have to hire someone to stay here and take care of it,” Barb was quiet, Wanda could hear the hope in her silence.
“I can’t just pick up and leave, what about my job, mom…” Wanda was thinking out loud.
“You work remotely, mom has a husband, you remember our father? And they’re both fine. I know you don’t like to do anything that’s not on your calendar, but why don’t you just do something that isn’t planned?” Wanda answered her almost automatically, sensibly and calmly, as if she knew what her initial reaction would be. “You haven’t been in a relationship in over a year, you have no children and from what you’ve told me, there’s nothing tying you down to your apartment, you’re renting.”
“I have to think about it,” was Wanda’s only answer. The two sisters spoke for just a little while longer, though both were thinking about the sunflower farm.
Over the next week Wanda promised herself she wouldn’t think about her sister’s offer. Barb said she wouldn’t be leaving for three weeks. Wanda checked her calendar every morning, let me see, today’s Thursday, I have a few calls to make and then I’ll prepare my market list for next week. Even in Wanda’s head, she felt as if her whole life was planned out, am I that predictable, boring? She answered her own question, no it’s not boring to have a plan. That night Wanda did something out of the ordinary, she took a whole hour to play on her computer, she scrolled social media, the headlines, then she looked at the clock, a whole hour has passed, I was supposed to be reading the novel I started¸ she looked at her calendar and saw that she was supposed to read for an hour every night.
On Saturday Wanda called her mother, “Mom, would you like to go to the nursery with me? I have to pick up some pots and vitamins for my vegetable garden. I saw that the 6 inch potted plants are on sale…” she added, then wondered, why am I telling her all this, do I have nothing else to say?
“Okay dear, I can be ready in 20 minutes. I do need a few things myself,” her mother clicked off and Wanda prepared to leave.
On the way to the nursery, Wanda and her mother were quiet until her mother broke the silence, “did you speak to your sister? Was it very important, I mean what she needed you for?” she asked, but Wanda wondered if she knew about the offer?
“No, not really. You know Barb, today it’s important, tomorrow it’s forgotten,” Wanda managed to say, but the truth was, she couldn’t’ stop thinking about it.
“You know when I was young, way before you and your sister were born, I had an opportunity. I don’t think I ever told you, but I wanted to join the Army. Back then they had the “buddy system”, you can go with a friend, I’m not sure how it worked, but I thought, I wouldn’t feel alone, so I asked a friend. I was maybe 20 years old. It was the 80s and I guess I was more spontaneous at the time. I came very close to joining, if I had, you and Barb never would have been born, my life would be different. I can’t say I have regrets, I love where my life is now, my family, my home, the choices I made. But when you think about it, that’s what life is, a series of choices,” her mother said as she stared forward, never looking at Wanda.
“Don’t you think Barb and I were meant to be?” Wanda asked, almost fearful that it was so close, she would never have been on this earth.
“I do. The Army turned me away, they said come back in 6 months. I think I had to clear up some debts, they won’t take you unless you’re completely free. During those 6 months, I met your father. Actually, it was when I was paying off my bills at a department store downtown. I told you the story about how we met in an elevator. It was because the Army sent me to take care of my bills that I met him. Funny, they called me after the 6 months and I had completely forgot I had tried to sign up,” she laughed, “I was so in love with your father, all I thought about was a life with him,” her mother teared up and Wanda could see the love in her eyes, the love she still had for her husband.
“Wow Mom, you never told me all of this,” Wanda was in awe, her mother had a life before her and Barb, and she had choices. All of her decisions led her here, where she was now. Would she have been just as happy if she’d joined the Army, where would her life had taken her?
When the two ladies arrived at the nursery, they were greeted by the largest sunflowers either of them had ever seen at the entrance to the patio area, they were almost as tall as Wanda and her mother. It’s a sign, Wanda thought.
The next week was full of organizing, cleaning, making lists and doing research on the her computer, how to run a sunflower farm.
April 12th, Wanda looked at her calendar to check off the things she did yesterday and look at what she needed to do today. She always felt such a thrill when she checked things off, but today, it gave as much a thrill as opening the refrigerator. Okay, I guess I want to go, but I can’t make a hasty decision. I ‘ll give myself a few days, maybe until Friday, the 16th, she said to herself and then marked it on her calendar, in red. On the 16th, Wanda created a list of questions to ask Barb, exactly what would my responsibilities be? What happens if I’m not happy, can I get out of the agreement? What is a typical day like on a sunflower farm? Those were just the beginning of a slew of questions. I’ll call Barb tomorrow morning, she checked off today’s tasks and in red, wrote, “call Barb”.
On Sunday, the 18th, Wanda woke up with so many emotions. After her phone call with Barb the day before, her emotions came in waves, and she found herself taking lots of deep breaths to remain calm. Calming exercises is something Wanda’s body instinctively turns to when she’s absorbed in thought and feeling apprehensive. It started when she was in high school and feeling overwhelmed and over scheduled.
Barb had all the right answers to make Wanda want to leap at her offer. She romanticized the farming life, made it sound like a no-brainer type of decision … as if it would be as easy as eating ice cream. Wanda felt like a pendulum full of emotions swinging from one side to another. On one side there was excitement and adventure, but as the pendulum swung it travelled through fear, worry, feeling overwhelmed, nervous and anxious, and of course there’s always caution. But what feelings could be on the other side, the side the pendulum swings into?
On the 18th, Sunday night, Wanda created a new list of tasks for the following week which included having her car serviced, organizing, making phone calls and packing.
Unlikely as she would have thought, the week flew by and Wanda did not have time to worry or second guess her decision, she was too busy preparing. She was especially surprised by her friends and family, her parents as well, they were all congratulating her on her decision, it seems that everyone thought she needed a change. Maybe that’s what catapulted her to take her sister up on her offer? She, herself subconsciously, felt she was in a nowhere place, in a rut, she knew if she didn’t make a change, she would become Ms. Zelda. She was a woman who lived on her street when she and Barb were growing up. She never went anywhere, she looked out her window a hundred times a day, never smiled and had 37 cats, anyway that was the rumor. I will not turn into Ms. Zelda, Wanda promised herself.
On Sunday night, the 25th, Wanda’s usual calendar time, she added new colors. Purple for travel necessities, green for questions she might have, and pink, because it’s her favorite color, for her day of arrival at her new residence.
On May 1st, Wanda rechecked her supplies, picked up her bags, purse and phone, then sat in her car for just a few minutes. She decided to call her sister to let her know she was on her way, but when Wanda put the phone up to her face, it didn’t know her. That’s strange she thought. She tried several times, but it’s as if it was another person’s phone. She looked in the mirror to check her face, maybe I have changed, she thought to herself, good, she smiled with that thought. Wanda took a deep breath, picked up her calendar and wrote, how did I get here in just a month? That’s a question she would think about on her drive to her new home, the Sunflower Farm.