The next three years passed by in a flash, and before I knew it, I turned 65, and by the time this year was over, I would have to pass the legacy on to either Nat or Paige.
However, on the night of my birthday, when Kenny took me out to our favorite restaurant in town, I let myself not think about it for awhile, and I let myself bask in the happiness of my life. I had reached the very top of the painter career, and even got an article written about my accomplishments as an artist in the paper by none other than Julia. I had also finally mastered the cooking and gardening skills, on top of painting, writing, logic and athletic skills. I was very proud of my life so far, and even though my mother left me big shoes to fill, I feel as if I have done so, and done it well.
This was also the year when the boys turned 18. My baby boys. It seemed like only yesterday they were in diapers. I know, that's so cheesy, but it's true. Their birthday was a blast, and the entire family came over to celebrate.
They grew up to be incredibly handsome young men, and I couldn't wait to see what they did with their lives. Chase, (right) wanted to go into politics and eventually become mayor. He was very charismatic, and loved to work, so I think that career path would be perfect for him.
Scott (left) wanted to become a Firefighter. He was very brave, and wanted to do what he could to help others. I was worried for him joining that career, of course, but I also knew if that's what he wanted, it was best to support him.
Two days after the boy's birthday, Julia decided it was time that she move out. Everyone went into her now-bare room and said their goodbyes to her individually.
I cried a little as I gave her one last goodbye hug.
"I knew this day was coming," I sniffled, "but I was hoping you were going to change your mind."
"Aww, momma," she whispered, hugging me tightly, "I'll be fine. Nick and I have already gotten place together. He's a good man, momma, and he'll watch out for me, I promise."
"I know sweetie," I sighed, "but it's gonna be hard for me to let you leave nonetheless. You hardly even know how to cook! Does your new place have a fire alarm? What about a burglar alarm? Will there be room for you two to start a family?"
She laughed a little and patted my shoulder as she broke from the hug, "Mom. I'll be fine. Daddy put in the alarms two weeks ago. You went and saw the house, it's a four bedroom, of course there's room for that. Nick is a great cook, plus, I'm not the housewife, I'm the evening news reporter. Remember? I'll be just fine, I'll call you every week, okay? I promise."
I sighed a little and stepped back. "Alright sweetie, just remember you can always come home if things don't work out, okay?"
"Alright, momma," she smiled, "I'll remember."
She and Paige also said their goodbyes, giggling as they recalled some of their childhood antics.
And something similar happened when Natalie and Julia said goodbye.
After everyone said goodbye to her and all of her boxes were packed into Nick's truck, she left and was officially moved out of the house.
I went grocery shopping the next day for some of the meat we had run out of, and as I was walking up the porch steps I saw a beaming Natalie, latching on to an equally happy Cliff. I looked at them and I saw the small, sparkling diamond on Natalie's finger, and tears in her eyes. Cliff hadn't come to either Kenny or I, but I'm pretty sure that he knew that we'd be more than okay with it.
Cliff and Natalie had literally known each other their entire lives. They met when his family moved just up the street. He was about three years old, and she was a brand new baby. You could say that they have been best friends ever since. They have been through just about everything together. They would always play together as children, and he would help her inside every time she fell and scrapped her knee, he stood up to some of the bullies that were picking on her in elementary and middle school, he was there for her when my mom died, and he had been there for each other after every bad relationship ended. Even though they were very on and off, it was obvious that they loved each other. I knew it was only a matter of time before this day came. I'm surprised it took this long, to be honest.
They had the kind of love that they put into the love songs and fairytales. It was magical, intense, and very real. It ran deep and true, and when they were around each other, you could almost see the sparks. This was the kind of love that was going to last through anything.
It was at that point, I knew exactly who was going to get the legacy.
Once Cliff left, I told Natalie to wait for me inside. I went upstairs and I got the same box my mother had given me the gift of the legacy in. I took off my necklace, got THE keys to the house, and placed them all inside. I then slowly walked downstairs, and handed her the box.
Her eyes opened wide, and she gasped softly.
"Mom?" She asked, "Is this what I-?"
I laughed softly and gave her a small nod.
She squealed and opened the box, gasping and crying a little when she saw the necklace and keys, I helped her put it on, and smiled at her.
"I-" she laughed, "I can't believe it! Thank you Momma! This is such an honor! I hope I can do as good of a job as you have. Thank you so much!"
I laughed and gave her a hug, "You're welcome my dear, I know you'll do a great job at upholding the legacy."
We both smiled, and went to bed for the night.
A few weeks later at breakfast, Paige stopped eating and cleared her throat.
"Yes, sweetie?" I asked.
She looked over at Jordan, and he nodded slowly. She then took a deep breath and said, "Jordan and I want to start a family, so we're going to be moving out of here in just a few weeks. We bought a house right next to Julia's. Since I'm not the heiress, and I know that there's hardly going to be enough space here with Clifford moving in, I just think it's best we move out."
I looked at her, shocked. I knew she was going to move out eventually, but so soon after Julia?
Natalie smiled over at her. "I understand sis. I'll help you move and settle in too. I can't wait to see the house!"
Paige smiled and so did Kenny, so I had to as well.
I gave her a strained smile, "Alright, alright. I'm happy for you. I'll help you start your garden when you move in to your new house."
She gave me a big smile and we continued on with breakfast, discussing her new place.
When the day finally came, I cried. She swore up and down to give me a call every week, just like Julia. I nodded and sighed, knowing that this was for the best.
I think Kenny cried more than I did when I said goodbye, he and Paige and always had a special bond, so I knew it was going to be extra hard on him.
Paige apparently also told Natalie that she was happy for her, and that she wished her and Cliff the best.
I watched Paige and Jordan drive away, a heavy feeling in my heart. I knew that all children grow up and move away, but it hurts when they do. I looked over at Natalie, and she smiled at me. It was then I knew that this was the end of my time being the center of the Stephens Legacy, but just the beginning for Natalie.