Thursday, November 27, 2008

Who Let the Dogs Out?

I realized yesterday afternoon, while polishing silver and poking the frozen turkey, that this will be the last Thanksgiving for a long time that we won’t have a little person skittering about during our preparations. And how did I manage to commemorate/savor the ease of unmindfulness? By offering to babysit for a neighbor’s toddler.

I am not now nor have I ever been a natural babysitter. Just ask those who did time with me during conscripted service in our church’s ‘Kiddie Keep.’ They would probably be the first to express amazement that I had six children. Perhaps that I had any children. But this mom was desperately in need of a sitter. And when she asked me on Tuesday evening, I was running about the house in caffeinated overdrive and felt more than up to the task.

Last night I was feeling more tired and time-constrained, but we keep our promises.

[Wait. I’ll be back in a minute. The Rockettes are on.]

[Thanks. I do so enjoy my yearly Rockettes fix.]

Once my young charge had been picked up things should have been easy. After two hours of playing, reading, coloring, discouraging coloring on the carpet, various art books and a copy of the Catechism, ending with an exhausted toddler asleep on my shoulder. I must remember to warn Rick that I had borrowed his blue Mr. Rogers sweater off the back of the recliner. He may be interested in avoiding that odd mucousy patch on the left shoulder. Where did I put that sweater?

I’m out of practice with all the kid stuff. Yes, it does come back like riding a bicycle, but I found it just as exhausting as a long distance bike ride. The bending, the flexing, the vigilance. I deferred pulling the water goblets and sorbet dishes off of the upper shelves to the morning, when I would be limber and less butter-fingered. The busy day was capped off with watching Oprah’s thrifty Christmas special - ? - and just as I was dozing off Bridget knocked on my door to ask if I had the dogs with me. Uh, no. The big dogs don’t sleep in my room. Scrappy is discouraged (as in let’s close the door) from bunking in my bed. For a variety of good reasons.

Scrappy was found in the boys’ room. Scrap does not like low temperatures; if it’s below 85 he is to be found under any available cover. But the big dogs? Where were they. And how did they give us the slip? There was a lot of traffic through our house last night...but still. The worry. The humiliation. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose one dog may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness. Oh, hell, it is carelessness!

I heard the troops being gathered. And the sound of “Clyyyyde, Coooody,” in the distance. Rather than offer my limited help - bad night vision, a tendency to find any lurking black ice - I burrowed deeper into my bed and tried to shiver and pray myself to sleep. Invoking the intercession of any interested parties. Not especially for the dogs’ sake. But for the dogs’ pals. Help them St. Francis, St. Jude, St. Anthony, all the other St. Francises and Franceses, St. Hubert. St. Jude again.

[Hey, Rick, where did you find that sweater? You may not wish to wear it.]

Those who know me well know the rocky history the Fran and I have. Now we are the closest of mother/daughter pals. I call her my “right hand Fran.” Oh, but there was a time. A time when I thought she would be the death of me. Death by worry, frustration, aggravation, despair. Innumerable nights when I would wake up at 3:00am wondering where and how she was. During these nights I would go from prayer to wishing that one day she could feel just a fraction of my sleepless worry.

My wish came true last night. And there was no pleasure in it. Worrying about an epileptic dog and friend running about in the freezing night near a major highway is a nicely fractionated dose of what I have gone through. And today Fran will be trying to muster the energy to do her part of the cooking after a pretty much sleepless night.

There is no pleasure at all in seeing Fran get a dose of her old medicine. There is only more worry and sadness. Does this mother stuff ever end? I think I know.

This will go down in the family books as another memorable Thanksgiving. Put it with the year the turkey fell on the floor, the year Emily climbed on the roof, the year of the smoldering cheesecloth ...
The year of unbidden payback.

Payback is a bitch. And her Husky companion.

[They’re baaack. At 5:30am and I didn’t hear them come in. Cold, tired. But OK. Now they’re sleeping soundly while the dinner prep chaos surrounds them. Fran and I can kick back and watch the National Dog Show on the telly. TV dogs are so undemanding.]

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