Mangia bene, rodents…

A basket of walnuts is by the kitchen window. There are always more in the pockets of my housedress. And by the slider to the deck. There are three extra bags in the kitchen island. My husband and I have both admitted this: throwing nuts to the squirrels has become an addiction. Sugar, the rescue, knows the routine. She stands guard on the deck, quivering, leaning precariously close to the edge, beaming an “if I could only get my paws on you!” energy. But I am a benign goddess of Walnuttia, like the many-breasted Artemis of Napoli: mangia bene, rodents.

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Merry Christmas (four days late)

How to feel older than dirt: ask your four-year-old grandniece, the one you call “mini-me,” to sing a Christmas song. You plan to join in heartily, assuming it will be Rudolph or Jingle Bells, but are left gobsmacked when she belts “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you threw it away.” Complete with gestures. This makes you glad that you picked this one to receive “kid charades” as one of your gifts. Remembering her look of awe last year when you spoke doll to her doll. You enjoyed your temporary unicorn status. Gone now.

Titi

Capo Titi

In a staring contest with Titi, (here seen cosplaying a mob boss), I am always the first to look away. Her eyes, enormous, black, show no whiteness, unless she is side-eyeing you. And she side-eyes. This week will mark two years that she has been with us, rescued from the cage, the forced births, the neglect. She perfected staring during those long and lonely hours in that cage. The only release was when she was yanked out to be mounted by a male. When she runs now, leashless, on the bay farm pathways, she leaves a trail that is palpable. I race behind, inhaling her joy.

Christopher, Friend to Animals in Peril

In the past three weeks, my husband has saved:

three turtles: two from the bogs that were directly in a walking path with thundering dogs, and one from the middle of a country road in the dark of night

one baby rabbit, taken from the mouth of Sugar, our rescue dog, and returned unharmed to its hutch

and

a chipmunk that foolishly dove into our pool while I was doing laps.

Okay, he might not be Saint Francis, but this at least qualifies him to be known as “Christopher, Friend to Animals in Potential Danger.

(many thanks to TOM DESIMONE for his mad photoshop skillz)

Mornings

The moment I stir, there is a little black nose an inch from mine. Two loud sniffs determine if I am still alive, then the thud of two rescues leaping from the bed to the floor. The hurryup prebarking huffs begin the minute my own feet touch the floorboards. The countdown to fullscale arfing begins as I throw on many layers of clothes and race to the bathroom, which signals a dangerous escalation to yelping. The frenzied barking intensifies as I fumble the leashes and unlock the slider. The door opens. Squirrel! They bolt. I stumble after them, finally awake.

Role Models

I found this picture of my Aunt Elena and Uncle Benny and had it blown up. Now it sits opposite our bed in a space where the light filters through. Appropriate, because Ellie and Benny always felt luminous to me, the love they had for each other an endless spring of joy and jokes and all the good things in life. I studied them without knowing I was taking this basic course on Love 101. After being married to Chris for over 38 years, I am glad I matriculated. I learned from them about mutual respect, the importance of the goal of laughing every day until you lost your breath, how to grieve together. Thank you, beloveds.

Ellie & Benny, newlyweds

and, just as importantly, forty or so years later, still on the journey together, note where Ellie has her hand:

Dragon Slayer

Jesse Lanier Cooper – October 15-January 3, 2005

Jesse’s favorite Greek myth was Perseus and Andromeda. He loved heroes, warriors, dragon slayers. A life-size cutout of Xena, Warrior Princess stood in the corner of his room. Some understood that his broken body contained a warrior soul. After Jesse died, his best friend dreamed that he came to him as a warrior. After death, Perseus and Andromeda became constellations. But I don’t look to the stars for Jesse. I read the annual report of the Jesse fund at the MA Federation for Children with Special Needs that has slain the dragons of educational obstruction for over three hundred families of kids with disabilities, and see my warrior boy.

Photograph

The photograph is sepia-toned as if it should be displayed in a fusty old museum. But there is a golden, honeylike aura, too. My son, his head thrown back, laughing, looks up at my mother, who goes deep with him; she has known wordlessness. Together, they are sibylline, trading secrets. Uncle Joe, hands in his pockets like a middle schooler, smiles awkwardly. My niece, nine, looks down at my son in his wheelchair like a sleepwalking girl who sees a vision of her future as a warrior mother who will someday know a savage love for her own boy.