Part 3

In which Sheridan learns about families.

When the ship arrived at port in Great Britain, Jean and the others got off, did their thing and got back on as planed and we were off again to New York.

I worried that Sheridan's English might give a bad first impression to his parents, but I needn't have worried. His language skill progressed rapidly. He even picked up on 'is' and 'am' eventually.

When we landed in New York I took Sheridan home to my parents house for Christmas. As was our custom.

"Hello! Hello Michelle!" My mother called rushing out of the house. Then she saw Sheridan "Who is this?" She said"This is Sheridan Gaelan," I said "Jean found him lost the jungle and will take him to his parents as soon as can be arranged. In the mean time we're teaching him as much as we can." turning to Sheridan, "Sheridan this is my mom."

"What is a mom?" Sheridan whispered.

"Same as a mother." I said.

"Oh," Sheridan said "Hello Michelle's Mom." My mom laughed. Sheridan frowned, "That's too long. Does she have a name or something?"

"Call me Mrs. Aubrey." said my mom.

"Alright, Mrs. Aubrey." said Sheridan. "Some people call her that." He said pointing to me.

"No" I said "They call me Miss Aubrey."

"What's the difference?"

"A miss is not a mom yet," I said. "Get your stuff and take it inside. Mom will tell you where to put it. I'll come get mine in a minute."

"Alright," said Sheridan and headed back to the van.

"Where do you expect me to put him?" Mom asked.

"On the other bed in Jean's room I suppose." I said, "If Jean objects when he gets here, on the couch."

"That's good enough, I suppose," she said.

"The Tigers want to know when they can get out," called Sheridan.

"Tell them around dark," I said.

"You still haven't given up the idea that they can talk have you?" Mom said.

"They can communicate with their faces and I can understand them a little," I said, "Sheridan grew up with them in Nepal and can communicate with them easily."

"Worse and worse." she sighed.

"Samuel wants to talk to you about that. The rest just want to stretch or eat," Sheridan called back.

"Tell them I'll be there in a minute, and I'll feed them after a while," I called, "Do you have your stuff out yet or is my stuff in the way?"

"Yes. I have it," said Sheridan appearing from around the back of the van, carrying all his stuff, a suit case half full of borrowed clothes.

"Jean's room, eh?" she said and led him away. I reassured the cats that they would be fed soon and carried my luggage to my room. It felt good to be home. It was the only permanent home I had ever had. Dad preferred not to afford a big lot, especially since we only spent about 3 months of the year there during the off season. Luckily the neighbors behind us had more trees than they knew what to do with, and we were aloud to play in the woods as kids.

Dad had a large shed built in the back yard. His cats lived in it between seasons. A partition had been put up later so that my cats could be on one side while I was also home, but usually it was folded against one wall. I didn't know what was going to happen when Marguerite got a troupe too. If Jean got to look after some they would probably just stay at the university or wherever.

After I got myself and my cats moved in I went and checked on Sheridan.

He was looking at the pictures that were on the walls of Jean's room. Some were of relatives some of childhood friends some were music or movie posters.

"Remember that all the stuff in here is Jean's and you should leave it alone unless someone tells you that you may mess with it," I advised.

"Alright," he said, "Did you feed the tigers?"

"Yes, I fed them," I said, "When your done looking around I can show you the house or you can look for yourself."

"I'll look at Jean's pictures some more first," Sheridan said.

"Alright, I'll be in the kitchen or the living room," I said and left.

Mom was in fact in the kitchen. She was making cookies.

"No snitching," she said as I walked in.

"Oh all right," I said.

"You could have warned me about him, you know, so I could buy presents," she chided.

"Well, He needs clothes that fit, a toothbrush he needs badly, a finger-nail file," I said, "He might appreciate any picture that includes tigers or mountains."

"Hmm, normal stuff. I have an extra toothbrush from the last case I bought three years ago. I have some candy that I suppose I could split between him and Marguerite."

"I have no idea if he would like candy, or what kinds he would prefer. You know that he has only been around civilized people for a few months."

"What, just a few months? No one can become civilized in that period."

"Well, he would argue that he's been civilized most of his life and that he has just become traditionalized since meeting people."

"I don't care what word you use he isn't likely to be mannered perfectly and I invited our neighbor Mrs. Kaufman over."

"Oh, I don't think they'll mind each other. You know how she always liked kids as long as they stayed out of her flowers."

"Well maybe. How was your trip?" Mom asked.

"The Tour was great," I said, "It's amazing to see the people. If they could just stop throwing away their crops to the 'holy' animals it would be one of the richest countries in the world. The Hindu religion being what it is, that isn't what happens. They really enjoyed the show though."

"Poor people, someone need's to suggest to them that the animals might not actually be holy. "

"You remember that I was going to wait and get on the same boat as Jean?"

Mom nodded.

"He just happened to have Sheridan in tow. Between the two of them I never managed to get bored. Now we are here. Jean should be here tomorrow or the next day when he finishes the last of the deliveries."

"Where has your father gotten too?"

"I haven't seen him, or Marguerite either."

"He went to the store getting eggs and flower, but he should be back by now. Marguerite was in her room doing something talking on the phone, reading, or wrapping presents. I'm surprised that she hasn't come down to say hello yet."

"I think I will go and investigate."

I soon returned to the kitchen. "No luck," I said.

"She wouldn't talk to you?"

"She's not there," I said, "Probably went outside. Do you need any help in here?"

"Always," So I helped. Dad came home with the needed supplies. Mom complained about me bringing Sheridan. I promptly blamed it on Jean who wasn't there to defend himself. Then I had to recount as much of the story as I had gathered from Jean and Sheridan.

Eventually Dad went to check on my cats, so we were left alone until supper. At supper I learned that Marguerite had given Sheridan a tour of the yard and the adjoining lots. Marguerite and I sat in our normal places at the table, around the corner from each other. Sheridan was sitting at Jean's place across from mine, around the corner from Marguerite's.

During the meal I began to notice Marguerite mutter a word now and then. Finally I realized that Sheridan and Marguerite were signing to each other about the merits of tree climbing methods.

I was surprised how much her signing had improved since my last visit. I caught her attention and signed her a complement on her clarity. she smiled and signed her thanks for my sympathetic secrecy of her abilities.

"So," I said aloud, "Christmas is in four more days and I still need to do some shopping. Does anyone want to come with me tomorrow?"

Nobody did, Dad was planning on spending the day with his cats, Mom was done with buying presents except for Sheridan, so she sent money with me to find clothes for him, while she stayed home and wrapped the other presents she already bought. Marguerite and Sheridan had already planned to spend the day watching Dad and being a general nuisance. So after supper I measured Sheridan for clothes and sent him to bed.

When I got back from my excursion Jean was home and everything was looking to be a regular holiday except that Sheridan was there, too. The next day, Christmas Eve, Jean spent most of the morning in his room while everyone else spent theirs helping Mom or working and playing with the cats. At lunch excitedly Jean announced that he had earlier published his first extracurricular paper online. He had gotten positive feedback on it. When I thought to eavesdrop on Sheridan and Marguerite they were discussing the fact that the tree in the living room was a Christmas tree, and that Christmas trees were to put presents under, and what presents were in the first place.

After lunch Sheridan asked me whether he could give presents also.

I suggested that he write or draw cards since that is what I had done until I earned enough money to buy into the commercialized Christmas. He liked this idea and disappeared.

I didn't see him again until supper during which time I practiced with my cats. After that Sheridan asked me to take dictation for a card for Marguerite, which I took to mean that he had gotten her to write all the others. He dictated "Thank You Marguerite, for teaching me a better way to climb trees, and for being a friend."

Christmas morning we were rousted out early by Marguerite who hadn't yet learned the advantages of sleeping in on holidays. Sheridan was overjoyed by his new clothes and a picture of jungle-covered mountains that Jean got from somewhere. He also greeted the personal grooming items with some interest.

All of the cards had beautiful sketches in them. Everyone liked their cards. Marguerite cried when she opened her card and wouldn't show it to anyone. My card said "Thank You for being able to listen when I couldn't talk. The pictures was of three tigers signing the words 'you' 'good' 'friend'. On closer inspection I decided that they were Samuel, Brigitte, and Napoleon respectively, which I thought were appropriately chosen.

I wondered whether the sketches on the other cards said anything. But after seeing all except Marguerite's my guess is that only mine and hers had signing pictures.

Christmas dinner was wonderful. Mrs. Kaufman did come and she got along famously with Sheridan.

In fact, Mrs. Kaufman decided to give Sheridan some math puzzle books she had gotten somewhere. The first taught basic arithmetic, the second pre-algebra, the third was mostly algebra and not much puzzle.