Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)
TITLE: The FTARP Annual Convention
By Seema Bagai
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“Welcome to the FTARP Conference.” The banner hung regally in the lobby of Andersen’s Lodge. Guests trickled in throughout the day, eagerly anticipating reuniting with old friends, as well as making new ones.
Heads turned to glimpse Jack and his mother enter the convention hall. She wore a fur coat and diamond earrings that sparkled in the lobby’s light. They had just completed their third around-the-world cruise and planned to meet their travel agent to arrange their fourth trip.
After registering, each attendee received a copy of the itinerary for the weekend. The highlights included a keynote speech from the local shoemaker titled, “Being Generous in a Selfish World” and one from the emperor titled, “Listening to Your Inner Voice: Taking Others’ Advice Carefully”.
After napping in their rooms, the guests signed up for their workshops. Rapunzel’s hair care class and Hansel and Gretel’s workshop on healing traumatic childhood memories filled up quickly. Beauty and the Prince taught a gardening class and displayed the latest varieties of roses they had cultivated.
In the dining hall, two women dressed in purple with enormous red hats sipped coffee while discussing their grandchildren.
“My darling little Ruby brings me a basket of sweets every two weeks. Her mother is a wonderful baker, but I haven’t the heart to tell the girl I’m not supposed to eat any of it. The doctor says my blood sugar is too high. Borderline diabetic,” she whispered. “But, those fudge brownies are so good I can’t resist. I force myself to give the rest away to the neighbors.”
“Well, at least your granddaughter visits you. My Goldie never comes to see me. Her parents let her run wild. Last I heard she was caught trespassing and had been sent to juvenile hall. If it wasn’t for my arthritis, I would go visit her myself.”
Across the room, the seven dwarves commiserated with each other over their diagnoses of lung disease and chronic bronchitis from excessive work in the damp and dusty mines. They attended a session on government and private healthcare options.
“Ever since Snow White ran off to marry that prince, the house had been a mess. We’re only eating soup. I think we need to look into hiring a caregiver,” Happy said. The others agreed.
The next morning, many of the conventioneers boarded pumpkin carriages for a day trip to Copenhagen where they posed for pictures around the statue of the Little Mermaid and, in town square, the statue of Hans Christen Andersen.
In the afternoon, the guests were treated to a meet and greet session with many princes and princesses. They stood in long lines to have books autographed and to catch a glimpse of Cinderella wearing her handmade glass shoes. One guest inquired about her stepsisters.
“I believe they are still living in the cottage and continue to bicker constantly over the household chores. Neither of them found a husband. I’m certain they will spend their golden years only with each other.”
That evening, after a five course banquet and dancing, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm surprised the conventioneers by reading their latest story. The audience applauded wildly and asked for more. The storytelling lasted well into the night, past everyone’s bedtime.
On the final day of the conference, several of the princes gave guests horseback riding and archery lessons. One of them decided at the last minute to round up some of the single men and give them tips on finding the princess of their dreams. “It’s never too late,” he advised.
Meanwhile, the women sewed and spun. They tried on the shoemaker’s latest creations and bought bottles of Rapunzel’s hair care products to try at home. Strega Nona shared her low carb pasta recipes and passed around samples of her cooking.
Alas, all things must come to an end and before they knew it, it was time for the guests to bid each other farewell. Addresses had been exchanged, along with promises for mini-conventions in their hometowns before gathering again the following summer.
Their minds filled with ideas and memories, each person left Andersen’s Lodge filled with a fresh outlook on their retirement years, and they all lived happily ever after.
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