Timmy and the Turkey Neck

100_0611He’s the tiniest of them all at 10 lbs. and the oldest at 13 or 14. We actually don’t know how old he is because he was a puppy mill dog whom we adopted.

We are lovers of Boston Terriers, and in addition to Timmy, we have 2 others who are younger and bigger than our little squirt. They are also a bit smarter and in fact, they outweigh him by 10 lbs.

Timmy may not be the brightest bulb, but he sure is the most lovable.  He is also the pluckiest. Never fear, where there’s a garbage pail with food scraps, our little man will be found scarfing whatever he can reach and trying to knock over the basket for things he can’t. He never quite manages the latter, but he has been known to tumble down the cellar stairs while trying. Defying the laws of nature, after this fall that inflicted pure terror in my soul, my little fellow simply got up, shook himself off and scampered up the cellar stairs with nary a scratch anywhere on him. I, on the other hand, spent the rest of the day recovering from panic.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Sunday because my boyfriend and his son are heading to PA to spend the holiday with this family. Dominic is the head chef in our house and he had the honors of preparing the meal.  It was a lovely day with the smells of turkey and pies wafting through the house. I was roused from my revelry and rendezvous with Ken Follet when my sort-of-stepson belted: “Timmy, what in the world?”

And there under the dining table, trying to make himself and his turkey neck invisible, was Timmy. This was a dog who thought he’d died and gone to heaven to have this juicy piece of poultry that was about as big as he.  But heaven vaporized when his treasured turkey neck was removed and little Timmy was relegated to curling up for an afternoon nap.

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Buffalo Blizzard

snow shoesA man walked 5 miles to bring formula to his 9-month-old baby. In order to get to the airport to fly to Detroit, which was graciously hosting the Buffalo Bills game that was supposed to be played at home on Sunday, some players were picked up and carted there by snowmobiles. A firehouse filled with marooned firefighters and stranded drivers feasted on eggs and milk that was on its way to a store in a truck that got stuck in the snow. Others in that firehouse group walked to a nearby Tops supermarket where they got bread and other provisions – for free. Rescuers managed to reach a woman whose roof was collapsing under the weight of 7 feet of snow. Not only did they guide her to safety, but also her two cats and dog.

These comprise just a small paragraph of the book-load of stories of resiliency and kindness that arose amid the absolutely astonishing weather events of the past week that shocked not just residents of Buffalo, but also those of an entire nation. I live just 60 miles from where the white catastrophe unfolded in mounds that were three, four, six and over seven feet high. Here – a mere two inches of snow fell. Even in Buffalo, one neighborhood had blizzard conditions, the next a moderate and typical winter snowfall.

That’s the way it is in upstate New York in the winter. Well, it’s never been like what Buffalo endured, but the Great Lakes are the source of our Lake Effect snow – squalls that come off the lakes, skipping blocks and towns and moving around in defiance of weather predictions. (Our weather folks work very hard here in the winter. )

The anomaly in November temperature (Polar Vortex) that led to the snow event is quickly receding, replaced on an hour-by-hour increase in temps that are rising from the teens to 61 degrees. The blizzard warnings have now been replaced by flood warnings and my friends to the west are most cleverly finding ways to put wheels on their snowmobiles, sleds, skates and skis for easy entry to the Ark that awaits us all.

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An Old-Fashioned Sick Bed

Crayons 003Crayons, paper dolls, Nancy Drew and Etch-a-Sketch. Scotch Broth, tons of OJ and Vicks-Vapor Rub lovingly rubbed into my chest. My box of 64 Crayolas, heaps of coloring books, paper dolls, my favorite Breyer horse and volumes of Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins all competed for space on my night table. And on the floor was the vaporizer with its comforting purr. This was what it was like to be sick during my childhood.

I took a little trip down memory lane last week when my temperature careened to heights not seen in many-moons and my lungs went into phlegm-based revolt. To the couch I headed, equipped with serious cough medicine, antibiotics, five flavors of Celestial Seasonings herbal tea, and a BIG bottle of cranberry-apple juice. In lieu of crayons (I do have a box of the 64-count Crayola that I am saving for a special occasion), along came my Lamy fountain pen, (filled with purple ink), the second book in Ken Follet’s Century Trilogy and my computer to watch morbid Youtube videos.

Even though the tableau of the sickbed setup wasn’t the same as when I was a little girl, the basics were in place and my memories filled the gaps. I projected myself back to when my dress-with-apron clad Mom brought me glass after glass of orange juice and bowl after bowl of Jello. I loved how she tucked me in tight and let me watch more TV, and later, than usual. My favorite fare was Mr. Ed, Lassie and The Andy Griffith Show. (Last week my favorite fare was HGTV, HGTV and more HGTV! ) Then there were the long soul-soothing naps where nothing mattered but dreams and the promise of waking up to Nancy Drew.

Last week, while I endured this worse than in many years bout of what turned out to be pneumonia, I sucked down the sweetness of my childhood memories, surrounded by three Boston Terriers, several cans of Campbell Beef Vegetable soup (couldn’t find Scotch Broth) and lovely dreams of sparkling snow and Sugar Plum Fairies. (And yes, we have now had our first nature-induced bling of the season!!)Nancy Drew

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Sound of the Bugle Always

Alaska 2A little over a week ago I wrote a piece about my old camp friend, Annie, the bugler. I wrote the story because I was deeply affected by the news of her passing – this friend of some 40 plus years ago who I’d not seen since then. After writing and posting the tribute to Annie, I went to explore her Facebook page to see if I could find meaning in her death. I went to her photo page and what I found there took my breath away. There were just 20 or so photos, and there among them was a scanned copy of my confirmation picture, and typed next to it was “Hi MaryAnne.” I must have given her that picture oh so many years ago. To find it there, with her personal greeting, is one of those rare life events where the spiritual transcends the physical and shows how we are all connected no matter in what world we reside.

Annie – Hello back at ‘cha and thanks for the spiritual wake-up call!

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And the Beat Goes On … Or Does It?

As I proceed with this thing called aging, I have become exquisitely sensitive to the pulse of my world and all the wonderful things in it. This means that when something changes, it has a profound impact on my psyche, something quite surprising for someone who used to LOVE change. To acknowledge the impact of changing beats, I present three beat stories that affected me deeply.

The little old stooped-back woman made her way purposefully down our neighborhood street, late, as usual, for the daily 7 a.m. Mass. Devoted to her old-school God, she made this trek no matter the weather. In winter she wore a too-big-coat from Goodwill and in summer, a too-small sweater from Salvation Army. I know these things because one day we crossed paths – me, jogging, and she, headed to the comfort and warmth of her church. But then it stopped being the neighborhood church. As the Catholic Church reinvented itself, this little church merged with two others, making a big, impersonal, non-cozy organization where Masses rotated among all three churches, including the daily Mass. The little old lady couldn’t walk to the other churches, and then she became sick and couldn’t even walk to her home church. She probably got sick from not walking as much. The rhythm changed when she stopped walking and the street became eerily empty at 7 a.m. each day.

On the next block over lives a lovely older gent who, every afternoon at precisely 4 p.m., walks by our house with his yellow lab. The man has a jaunty gait and he is one of the few dog walkers in our hood who picks up the poop. Some days I used to take my female Boston Terrier for a walk around the same time and we crossed paths. The lab was as friendly as only a friendly lab can be. He, of course, was more than enthusiastic about making my BT’s acquaintance, but she would have none of it. Her hackles went up and she howled in protective protest. The man and I smiled, and red faced, I made some lame excuse until I finally changed my walking time to avoid being rightly mortified. Still, I took comfort in watching the yellow lab and his man-person walk by our house every day at precisely 4 p.m., until one day they didn’t, nor the day after or the day after that. When I realized they weren’t passing anymore, I felt lost – a major beat in my daily rhythm had stopped. I couldn’t face the fact that something had happened to one of them and my song turned to silence.
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A therapist I took my daughter to many moons ago likened a relationship she had with a former boyfriend of mine as being attached to a wire monkey. In other words, the little girl that she was then became attached to this man even though in her heart of hearts, she couldn’t stand him. I’ve had my share of wire monkeys and one such was a cashier in my local supermarket. This cashier was not terribly friendly, rarely cracked a smile, and had a way of making you feel like you were intruding on her. I was determined to crack her code and after many chirpy chats and cheerful (me) conversations, the code indeed broke. But then so did she. I haven’t seen her in months and the pulse of my grocery shopping experience has been forever changed — by a wire monkey!

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Halloween Encounter

pumpkinsWe typically don’t get too many Halloween trick-or-treaters on a given year– maybe 25 or 30, and the ones we do mostly come from the city to take advantage of our oh-so-much safer neighborhood. I love these kids: they are full of bright energy and loaded with friendliness and exuberant thank-you’s.

This year most of the kids came in bunches, except for this one little guy who rang our doorbell and stood in the doorway all by himself. He looked to be about 8 or so and in a very serious tone he  announced “Trick or Treat.” I took a couple candy bars and plopped them into his plastic pumpkin basket. Quite deliberately  he said “Thank you.”  Then I said,  “I really like your costume.” (I’m not really even sure what he was dressed as and I don’t say this to many kids. There was just something about this kid that was special.) With just a hint of smile breaking through his stoicism, he said, “Thank you for the compliment.” I was bowled over and in my delight I burst out with, “Thank you for coming!” At that I heard a little chuckle that came from his father who was lurking in the shadows.

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Day is Done

It’s starting. That horrific cascade of friends and classmates who have begun their travels to another world not inhabited by me … yet. … and the news is always unbelievable because we are still summer campers, neighborhood pals, grade school chums and high school buddies … only we’re not.  Funny how that goes – like time never really stops. We feel the same as we did then – mostly, and  when we see a long-lost friend, we wonder why they aged and we haven’t.

As grim as it sounds, it is truth, and truth cannot be hidden from – for long. Soon there will be a torrent until someday, as happened with my parents, their parents, and so on, we will be one of the few left, having said goodbye to former loves, best friends, not-so-best friends, colleagues and everyone in our lives who made an impact.

Annie made such an impact in my life with her fiery red hair, her face amass with friendly freckles, her dedication to all things fun, her kind and gentle heart, and her bugle.

I knew Annie from summer camp. She was the one who woke us in the morning with Reveille and put us to bed at night with Taps.  She was the one who gave our days the pulse that wound its way into our young psyches. We could count on her and her bugle which is more than could be said for other areas of our lives – then and now.

Two days ago,  a glistening scarlet red drop found its way into the torrent. It was the forever young, red-headed girl for whom Taps played one last time.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

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