When I was a kid, my parents worked hard to keep me away from sad experiences. They especially worked to keep me from experiences connected to death. That all changed at about the age of seven. It was the summer of the best game of tag.
My heart was still thumping hard from running with her. It was the best game of tag I ever played, and I played it with my dog, Queenie. She was a spunky little golden Norfolk terrier and she played tag better than any human. She and I were a perfect match for playing outside. Around and around the house we ran. When I escaped far enough ahead of her, I’d flatten myself frozen against the edge of the next corner to watch her wiz by without noticing me. “Ha ha!” I’d finally burst out, causing her to skid into stop, and then chase me in a new direction. I laughed so hard running with her, my stomach hurt. We must have played for hours that afternoon.
Both of us huffing and puffing, we finally decided to take a break. Our hearts, still racing, seemed to beat to the same rhythm. The gentle breeze blew cool enough under the sun and felt good going deep into our lungs. I didn’t notice the clouds coming in the distance, when I laid back onto my elbows on the wide cement steps of our front porch. With Queenie sitting at my feet, we sat resting and watching the cars swoosh by.
Queenie and I may have noticed my sister drive up at the same time. It was easy to spot my sister Lisa’s shiny new red Camaro, as it carefully pulled up to the curb across the street. She was settling in to park directly in front of us. My sister Lisa has a heart of gold. She took care of all of us like a second mom, especially our little dog, Queenie. Queenie’s meals, baths, and veterinary visits were all made possible by my sister, Lisa. She styled a short haircut like Pat Benatar, and I wanted to grow up to be just like her.
It took a split second for me to notice the movement at my feet. My eyes flashed between Queenie jumping onto her feet, then looking back up at my sister and down again. Still breathing hard from the best game of tag, I caught Queenie’s eyes the moment they lit up at the sight of my sister. Her ears perked and her tail bursted into dance. In an instant, she crouched down, positioned herself to launch, and with her tiny bum in the air…
She ran towards my sister with all the love and joy that a little dog could have at the sight of the person who cared for her. She sprang across the grassy yard, and then exploded into a flash. Leaping and darting… leaping and darting… full of life, she ran. Her golden hair flattened against her tiny body, as she flew across the yard. My sister’s car, not yet fully parked, finally came to a stop. Maybe my sister noticed Queenie in that moment, maybe we both watched our tiny dog flying away from the house, bouncing off the curb, and into the street. She rolled perfectly beneath the first tire… like a toy, like a bad dream.
“No… Noooo! Stoooop!” I lurched onto my feet, as the sound of my screams echoed through my insides. But I don’t remember if the words stayed stuck in my throat or if they broke free from my lips. My screams, out loud or paralyzed inside, dissolved into nothing. She was a little dog, but nothing could have stopped her. Nothing could have stopped it from happening. My eyes closed tight, but I couldn’t erase the images from my mind. I inhaled from somewhere deep, covered my ears with both hands, and…
I ran away into my back yard, still smashing my ears against my head, trying to force the horrifying images away. I don’t remember breathing. Or crying. Or screaming. I charged into the back door of my house. Where was I going? Where could I hide? I didn’t know where to turn. The tears rolled off my sweaty cheeks and I heaved, struggling to breathe. My world was sinking, and it felt like drowning.
“¿Qué paso?” I heard a distant voice from the living room, and then suddenly my father appeared before me. “¿Qué te pasó?” he asked, scanning me over for injuries or missing limbs. But I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t catch my breath long enough for words. He crouched down, took me firmly by the shoulders, and shook me hard… just once. I could feel the air come back into my lungs and the world began to move again.
That afternoon, my sister Lisa carefully wrapped Queenie’s body in a white towel and buried her in the furthest place of our back yard.
Queenie remains in my memory, not because she died that day, but because she lived. We lived out joy, running, laughing, and breathing life in deeply. It is my best memory with her, and that painful moment secured that joy filled memory deep in the place where love lives. There is joy to every life experience, even loss. What a joy it is to have had something to love, fully, to know joy and run with it.
I must have been 19 when I took this trip with my dad. We were on our way to Los Angeles. To prep for the one hour trip, I remembered to grab a small cotton hand towel to dry my hands. I don’t like the feel of moist hands, especially when I drive. About 25-30 minutes into the drive, my hands began to feel a little moist. With one hand on the steering wheel, I reached down for the towel with my left hand. Just a quick rub on the cotton towel. No big deal. We were moving close to 70 mph, but I didn’t need to shift my eyes from the road to reach for the towel.
Looking down at my hand this afternoon, I noticed that the large cut on my left palm has healed. It took a few days, but I’m relieved to know that it is much better. In the time it took for me to look it over, memories of the car accident my son had a few years ago began to fill my mind. It took months for him to recover. It was a trauma for him, for all of us. The process of changing bandages, keeping him comfortable and calm is all I focused on those few months. That was not as important as having had him survive it all. He was alive and had both of his legs. All he needed was to heal and learn to walk again. It is as far as my mind will allow me to return to that experience, so my memories push further back to a class I took in high school.
She came in to schedule my next appointment, but in our few minutes we gained much more than I expected.
“Hello” she said from behind the mask, as she sat down and began the search for dates on the screen. “I’m going to schedule your next appointment… are you okay with scheduling it for next year?” “Yes, of course,” I said.
“Tap… tap… tap.” I looked up to see a masked woman with a pen and a notebook ready to take an order. I lowered my window. “Hi,” I said. “Hello. Can I take your order?” she asked. “Oh, you’re open! Great!”
It’s a good thing to have set up a writing community, especially on a digital platform.
Tonight, as I sat down to write my last Slice of Life post for the month of March, I heard a “ding.” My phone called out to let me know someone has written. Email? Text? No, it was a notice that one of my students had published a piece of writing. I guess technically, this student is no longer my student. He moved away back in December and returned to Argentina. It had only been a few weeks of learning to blog, during those small chunks of time available for it in the classroom. It didn’t seem to be enough time, but I guess it was.
I love listening to words, especially when the words come from the mouths of the people who put them together just so. Sometimes, they unexpectedly come from the people you love. Some people make meaning from words in such ways when they speak. Words don’t carry much value when they come without heart. I think about the voices I’ve heard in my life, especially those that have made spaces nestled deep in my heart and mind. My mother, my father, my sister back home, there are voices that sit there until I call on them one at a time to come sit for a visit. Today, my sister Sandra sent me a text, just a message with the need to have words spoken out loud. I called to hear her voice tonight.
After yesterday’s slice, I noticed that my writing goes in and out of the reality of living through this pandemic and the beautiful things that I am grateful to have in my life. Maybe it’s an automatic defense to write about something else. Or, maybe I just need a break from this pandemic every once in a while. I’m sure when this is all over and time has spaced out our lives now from what our lives will be in the future, it will be easier to understand why. Until then, I will give myself grace and freedom to move in and out of pandemic writing.
Tonight I plan to bake. It’s late I know, but it’s Saturday and it’s been a while since I've put on my baker's hat.
These last couple years, my time in the kitchen has not been my top priority. My children are grown, my husband’s a great cook, and my teaching responsibilities just keep growing.
At 1:00 PM today, I meet with my class... most of my class. Today was my first time leading a Zoom session. There was just so much to set up, I didn't think about how it would all make me feel.
In yesterday's #SOL20 post, I narrowed my focus down to two questions. When I shared them