My house is quiet. Too quiet. Yeah, I know, the kids are back in school, I should be embracing the calm after the summer storm. But I’m not talking about the peaceful bliss the return of the school bus brings. I’m talking about a hollow, empty feeling that’s brought on by loss.
My faithful writing companion—my dog, Jetta—is gone.
Not that she made all that much noise during the day. Outside of the scratch of her nails on the hardwood floors, the harrumph of her laying her big body down somewhere, or the whimper or bark uttered during a bad dream, Jetta was the strong, silent type, letting her eyes and her tail do the talking. But I always knew she was there.
She’d follow me from room to room, listening to my mumblings and musing, panting at my jokes. Somehow, she could sense when I was struggling and frustrated, offering her head for a pat and a nudge when I most needed it. Best of all, she was a fabulous alarm clock, reminding me with a head butt to the thigh when it was time to meet the bus or have dinner. Seriously, she must have had a switch inside alerting her to dinner time because, like an alcoholic barfly, she NEVER missed five o’clock.
Now, it’s just me rattling around the house all day.
My heart still breaks each morning when I get up and don’t trip over her lying in wait in front of my bedroom door—and she’s been gone nearly two months. When I sit down to write, I nearly suffocate under the heavy silence of my own company. And, don’t tell my family this, but I’m not really great company. I’ve tried turning on music or the television, but both are too distracting.
I’m not putting this out there as an excuse for not meeting deadlines, because I will meet them. I’m just surprised at how deep the ache is still. When my daughter arrives home from school each day, we’re both a little flummoxed. Her homecoming was always greeted with a big, furry hug–mostly because Jetta knew she was an hour away from dinner! And now, without the fanfare, it’s anticlimactic. Just crazy Mom waiting beside the door.
I don’t regret the decision we made regarding Jetta. It was time. The cancer had spread so that she was gargling her food and walking into walls. The hard part was, she was still wagging her tail whenever anyone came near, happy to nuzzle her head under any hand willing to pet her. That’s the way I wanted to remember her. But now I’m left with silence.
Everyone says we should get another dog—if not a puppy, maybe a rescue. But I don’t want another dog. I want Jetta. And she’s not coming back. Yes, I know, she was only a dog. It would be a lot harder to lose a child, a spouse or a parent. But with the loss of a loved one, you expect a depth of pain. I didn’t expect to feel the same staggering emotions about losing my pet.
For now, I’ll just have to content to myself with a photo or two. And, maybe a few tumbleweeds of dog fur hiding behind the sofa amongst the pine needles of Christmas trees past. If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll get a fish.
Really, I do. For the past seventeen years, I’ve been navigating suburbia in the quintessential ride of soccer mom’s everywhere: the stylish minivan. Yep. Seventeen. Years. Not all in the same minivan, mind you. I upgraded nine years ago to the then-Rolls Royce of minivans, the Chrysler Town and Country Limited Edition. Complete with on-board entertainment, heated leather seats, a moon roof and five doors that open automatically with the touch of the key fob. (Those automatic doors were a must-have after driving preschool carpool for two years.)
I’m going to go on record here and say I love my minivan. I really do. It’s just that I’ve reached middle age and, well, I want something a little snazzier. My kids can drive themselves now and they’d much prefer to drive anywhere without me. Unless it’s to the mall. Then they are happy to have my credit cards—I mean me—accompany them.
Unfortunately, my minivan hasn’t outlived its usefulness. Did you know an entire dorm room of crap can fit into that vehicle if you take the seats out? It’s also the perfect changing station at a horse show, not to mention it can fit all the tack and my daughter’s trunk on board. And then there’s tailgating. What’s not to love about the on-board table? All are important things to consider when deciding whether to purchase new wheels.
Worse, I can’t find a car that I want. My minivan has become as comfortable as the worn, leather recliner in my family room and I loathe parting with either. Sure, a convertible would be nice, but I’d only hate myself in ten years when I’m battling skin cancer. The purr of a German engine is enticing, but do I really want to waste all that gasoline?
So, I’ll spend another summer with my ride doubling as a mini-barn (yes, there’s an ‘n’ on the end of that word!) until I can decide what I want. It’s actually a good thing, too, because I’m about to spend all my car money for horse power of a different kind.
Meet Tessa, my daughter’s new ride. Yep, I’m a sucker. But her show name is Game On, so Mama wins either way.
So what are you driving?
It’s Easter weekend, although it doesn’t feel like it here in Atlanta. Too cold. But the Easter Bunny will come regardless of the weather and that means chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and Peeps.
Okay, so I don’t actually eat the Peeps. Too sweet. Besides, I’m not a big fan of sticky marshmallows. But Peeps aren’t just for eating. They’re for creating.
Every year, the Washington Post runs a diorama contest where readers submit their best Peep Artwork. My friend Julie and her daughter Katie turned me on to this a few years back when they submitted their creation: The Peep Mobile. Isn’t it cool?
The contest has taken off since then as you can see by this year’s contestants. But Julie and Katie were ahead of their time because several of the 2013 entries featured the Pope, including this year’s winner and my personal favorite: Peeps Mourn Their Peeps, Twinkie Rest In Peeps.Funny, huh? Not to mention wildly creative. Congress wasn’t spared either. Nor where some of this year’s best movies. Jump on over to http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/peeps and look at all the entries. You’ll be amazed!
So, what are you doing with your Peeps this spring? Don’t say eating them!
If you follow author Jill Shalvis’ Facebook page, you’ll know she asks that question at least once a week. It always makes me feel inferior. I mean the woman is a PROLIFIC writer. A rock star! She publishes at least four books a year. What’s she doing reading?
Forgive me, I’m just cranky because I’m in the middle of a manuscript and I don’t have time to read the bock of a box of cereal. Apparently, my productivity pales in comparison to Ms. Shalvis’. Or, perhaps, she’s just torturing herself contemplating all the books she hasn’t read—just like me. We’re like two chocoholics sniffing the wrapper of a Milky Way bar.
I’ve read only two books so far this year, both were book club picks. The first was Sharon Draper’s Out OF My Mind. This book was a light easy read, beautiful in its message. It’s written in the first person, the story told by eleven-year-old Melody who has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. She’s by far the smartest kid in her whole school, only no one knows it. Melody, you see, has cerebral palsy. The story deals with her struggle to communicate with her family and to “fit in” with the other kids at school. The overall message is one we all should embrace: tolerance and inclusion. I’m so glad I took the time to read this book.
I read the February book club selection because I kind of had to: it was my month to host and I chose the book: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. I’m going to say it right now, I loved this book. If my manuscript is late, I consider it well worth it to have been able to sift through the prose of Ben Fountain’s debut novel, already a finalist for the National Book Award. It’s the story of nineteen-year-old Army Specialist Billy Lynn, and the eight surviving members of the celebrated Bravo Squad. They are on leave from Iraq for an eight-day victory tour across the U.S. after surviving a harrowing firefight caught on film by none other than Fox News. The book takes place over Bravo Company’s last twenty-four-hours stateside: Thanksgiving Day at a Dallas Cowboy’s football game, complete with Destiny’s Child as the half-time performers!
Mr. Fountain’s writing is brilliant; his descriptions very visceral. The men of Bravo Company are depicted eloquently both as the teenage boys that they still are and the men they’ve become as soldiers. The book also contains some wonderful commentary on society as a whole, complete with some unforgettable one-liners. My favorite: when he describes the trophy wives in the owner’s box as having “the pinched look of angry vegans.” I. Love. That. Line!
So my TBR pile grows on my Kindle and beside my bed (including this month’s book club selection) as I trudge through the last half of a manuscript due the week after my first book comes out—I have to remind myself I wished for this. So you see, I have serious reader envy. But I’m going to ask anyway.
Go ahead. Torture me. Whatcha reading?