What Is One of My Favorite Photos That I’ve Ever Taken?

[Bloganuary wants to know. It’s the WordPress blog prompt for January 20, 2022. The blog prompt actually asked me to choose my favorite photo ever. I have too many favorites, so I picked one of my favorites from 2021.]

Foreground to background: Evan, Clara, and Michael. Not pictured: me pushing Charlie in his stroller and walking my two dogs, Cabela and Ziva

This photo, taken April 14, 2021, is one of my favorites. My grandchildren love to go for a walk, so on days when they come to my house, we often stroll around the neighborhood.

Evan holds a grabber, and you can’t see it, but Michael carries a plastic grocery bag filled with trash and another grabber. In the spring our walks become garbage patrols. The snow has melted, and hidden wrappers, disposable cups, bottles, cigarette butts, and the odd mitten or piece of clothing dot the landscape.

My grandkids blurt exclamations of joy when they spot a piece of garbage. It’s an accomplishment. I know how they feel. When we were children, my sisters and I pulled a red wagon down our country road and picked up garbage. We were influenced by Lady Bird Johnson’s “Keep America Beautiful” campaign. We didn’t have grabbers, so we used our hands. Things were tougher when my generation was young. (As we age, we enter the I-walked-to-school-in-blinding-snow generation.)

I love walking with my grandkids. But before I took this idyllic photograph, pandemonium ruled, as it does before every walk. Once we decide to go, strategical planning and the ensuing chaos from working that plan almost swamp me. Everyone needs to go to the bathroom, including me. “There are no porta potties on the walk,” I say. I check Charlie’s diaper. We dress for the weather, and during the winter that means helping two toddlers into snow pants, jackets, boots, hats, and mittens. I put leashes on the dogs, who plead to be included, and I stuff poo bags in my jacket. It sounds simple, but understand that all four grandkids and both dogs are moving targets. Just as we are about to exit the house, one of my grandkids usually utters, “I think I have to go to the bathroom, again.”

At this point I think to myself, “Eisenhower had it easy–he only had to organize D-Day.”

However, once we hit the paved trail, serenity settles in, and my grandkids race each other, hunt for garbage, climb trees along the boulevard, and play games with rules only they know. Watching them, my memory of the pre-walk havoc fades. These walks will become cherished memories for my grandkids and me.

Today’s My Ideal Day

[Bloganuary wants to know. It’s the WordPress blog prompt for January 13, 2022.]

Senior Dog

Today was my ideal day. I took what it gave me because thinking about what my “most ideal day looks like” would’ve taken more creative energy than I wanted to spend. Besides, no day is ideal. I cherish the days my sons were born, but labor was tough. I have fond memories of my wedding. But I spent seven hours with over a hundred people, and I had to talk to all of them. Lovely people, but I’m an introvert—I was exhausted.

So today had its blessings—

My senior dog didn’t wake me at 4:00 a.m. to go outside. Once or twice a week she knocks on my door. She wants to go outside and pee. She doesn’t have opposable thumbs, so I get out of bed and turn the doorknobs for her. But this morning she let me sleep.

I wrote a shitty first draft of an essay this morning. When I started to slow down and think too much about finding the perfect word or writing a better sentence, I went all Anne Lamott on myself: Write don’t revise, get the thoughts on paper—all the thoughts, on the paper, now! Regardless of spelling, grammar, punctuation. Without care for lyricism or flow or insight. When I finished, I had almost 1,300 words. I can’t have more than 500 for the piece I want to submit. But I’ve got a chunk of wood to carve into a sculptured essay. (I hope.) I saved the file, feeling a little smug about all the crap I had on my shitty draft. I gave myself permission to not think about the essay until tomorrow.

I talked to a friend, my mother, my sister, and my nephew. Four conversations with people I love, but who don’t live in my house. I talked to a clerk at Honest Dog Books and ordered a book. The bookstore is an hour and a half away, but sometimes I order books from there because the clerk remembers me. The staff writes a note to me and tosses in a couple of paper bookmarks when they ship my order. The book I ordered is being shipped to my nephew. He’s getting an autographed copy of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. She visited Bayfield, Wisconsin, this summer, wandered into Honest Dog, and signed some of her books that were on the shelves. My copy of Writing Down the Bones is unsigned. But no day is perfect, not even an ideal day.

I put on a white turtleneck, a red winter-themed sweater, and a pair of garnet earrings someone gifted me. A couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to stop wearing the same three turtlenecks my mother bought me in 2003. So, each day I find something in my closet that I haven’t worn for a while and I wear it. I do this even if I don’t leave the house, which is most days. Turns out I like dressing up a little to stay home. Reminds me of my nana wearing a house dress to do her laundry and scrub her floors. I did neither of those chores today. Those aren’t ideal-day activities.

I went to two coffee shops. Not to meet anyone. I don’t go inside places without a mask. I won’t eat or drink coffee in public spaces—I’m not removing the mask. I dropped off bookmarks and hung posters to advertise a writing contest. I bought two cupcakes to go in the first coffee shop, one for me and one for my husband. I ate mine as soon as I got home. I bought a mocha coffee to go in the second coffee shop. It paired nicely with my cupcake.

Wally

Wally, the brilliant squirrel who hacks my birdfeeders, stopped by to eat. He stood on the baffle, meant to keep him out of the feeder, and feasted on seeds. I washed dishes because it gave me an excuse to watch him steal bird food. Washing dishes isn’t ideal, but neither is looking at dirty dishes.

My senior dog needed to go to the vet for a shot. She’s had to go for a series of them. She wants to leave before we get in the door. But she’s always gracious to the vet and the assistants, who are kind and gentle with her and always say how much they love her.

I decided not to cook supper tonight. Leftovers are wonderful. But I made mashed potatoes for tomorrow’s homemade ham-and-bean soup that I’ll make in the morning.

Something I wrote yesterday made someone feel better. My husband loved the cupcake I brought home for him. My dogs enjoyed their evening walk.

It’s late and the house is quiet. I’m the only one up. The wind is howling outside, but I’m snug in my winter-themed sweater.

It wasn’t a perfect day, but it was my ideal day.

Tree Guy Update

Tree Guy waits for spring.

Yesterday, after reading my blog story “Tree Guy,” my sister implied—in a forthright manner—that I should look for Tree Guy’s other eye. She’s met him, and she likes him. She also lives in Tucson where she’d never have to brave subzero temperatures and dig in the snow for a cartoonish eye that a wayward squirrel kicked off a tree.

However, the cold snap broke yesterday afternoon, so I went outside. I figured it would be a lost cause, but I leaned over the deck railing. Tree Guy’s eye glared at me. It sat on a heap of snow as tall as the deck, so I leaned farther over the railing, trying to reach the eye. Then farther and farther. I was almost parallel to the earth, a teeter totter balanced on the railing. Then I realized I was attempting the same type of maneuver that caused my best friend to fall into a garbage can. A neighbor witnessed her graceful move and thought she was drunk. But she didn’t drink. She and I laughed a lot about that episode. I stood up, bent down, and reached through the spindles for the eye. I like to think my friend sent a message to me from Heaven in the form of a thought. That she saved me from tumbling over the railing and into the snowbank.

I rehung Tree Guy’s eye and noticed his nose was gone!

Why hadn’t I spotted his missing nose yesterday? Because Tree Guy’s bedroom eyes are more captivating than his Jimmy Durante schnoz. I’m sure the squirrels knocked the nose off too. I checked the top of the snow pile again but didn’t find it.

When my husband came home from work, I asked, “Last week did you say the tree’s nose was buried in the snow?” Turns out he’d said nose, not eye. When I walked outside yesterday, I only saw the eye was missing. I’d mixed up the details.

“Did you know one of the eyes had been knocked off?” No, he hadn’t. I didn’t tell him I’d mixed up the missing nose with the missing eye. I told him about finding the eye. I like to lead with my strengths, then stop talking.

I apologized to Tree Guy for neglecting to notice his missing nose. He told me not to worry. He still has his smile, and he appreciates having both eyes again.

He hopes to have his nose back in the spring. Maybe the world will smell better. Tree Guy knows how to play the long game.

Tree Guy

One-Eyed Tree Guy, January 2022

Tree Guy lost an eye during our last snowstorm, and by the time we noticed, it was buried under six inches snow. Neither my husband nor I were willing to dig in the snowdrifts around Tree Guy to find his eye because after the snow, Subzero Temperature blew in escorted by his companion Windchill. My husband declared, “We’ll find the eye in spring.”

Tree Guy as Old Man Winter

How did Tree Guy lose an eye during a lake-effect snowstorm? Maybe the wind blew it down, but most likely a squirrel knocked it off. Squirrels are the usual suspects, but have you ever tried to round them up for questioning? Because they run up and down his trunk, Tree Guy has had each of his eyes and his mouth knocked off numerous times over the years. My husband has reglued the mouth a few times, and last summer he gave it a new coat of paint. He takes good care of his tree buddy.

Michael, two, communes with Tree Guy, 2015

I didn’t want the maple tree by our deck to become Tree Guy. My husband pointed out the eyes and nose in a store and said, “Isn’t this neat? I think it’s really neat! We should get this!”

Evan, almost three, hugs Tree Guy, 2019

I didn’t think it was neat. I’m not a let’s-turn-our-trees-into-faces kind of person. He’d shown me these faces before, but never with such eagerness. It’s hard to resist youthful enthusiasm in an adult, and I had to admit this particular face did have a friendly, calm appearance. We struck a deal: the tree face could come home with us as long as it would be the only one in our yard. (A neighbor a couple blocks away had a face on every tree in her yard, and it was creepy.)

My in-laws with Tree Guy as Carman Miranda, 2008

My husband kept his word. Tree Guy wears the only face in our yard. Over the years his face has amused guests and bewitched our grandkids. He greets me every time I walk out the back door. His looks change throughout the year. In winter, snow and ice transform him into Old Man Winter. In summer with flowering plants hanging on each side of him, he becomes Carmen Miranda about to sing, “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat.”

I hope we find his eye in the spring. But if we don’t Tree Guy will still be with us. Perhaps I can talk my husband into making a wooden eye patch for him, and he can become a pirate, ready to chant, “Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum!”

What Makes Me Laugh?

Ziva, the poodle paper shredder. It’s never funny at the time. But tragedy plus time equals comedy.

Bloganuary is asking. It’s the WordPress blog prompt for January 7, 2022.

Lots of things make me laugh, and lots of things make me chuckle or grin. So, I’m setting the bar higher: What makes me laugh so hard that I can hardly breathe, that tears trickled down my cheeks, that I cross my legs tight, that I can’t stop laughing because everything becomes hilarious?

Very little.

I’m not a curmudgeon. I like humor. I watch a lot of comedy. I like reading humor. Satire is my favorite. I’m currently watching Upstart Crow on Britbox. The show is a parody and satire of Shakespeare and history and modern times all mixed up into one delicious, sinful sundae topped with the works. I chuckle and marvel at the brilliant wordplay and acting, but I pay close attention to the rapid-fire exchange of dialogue and that probably stifles unhinged laughter on my part.

I can’t remember any recent bouts of uncontrollable laughter. But I remember some past episodes. When I was about fourteen, my mom and I had an argument, so I stormed upstairs and refused to eat supper. She made me come back downstairs. My parents were getting ready to go out, so it was just us kids at the table. I was crying, and my mom was yelling.

My sister picked up the plastic milk carton, which was almost empty, drank the milk, then sucked the air from the carton, causing it to collapse inward. She pulled the carton from her lips, and said, “Good to the last drop!” I had just taken a swig of milk. Laugher and milk erupted from my mouth, spraying the table and my siblings. We laughed so hard. Mom yelled at us to stop, but that made us laugh harder. My dad told her, “Leave the kids alone,” and we laughed ourselves out in peace.

When I was about nineteen, I took my first communion at the Presbyterian church my grandparents belonged to. My grandmother played the piano and organ at the church. Almost no one was married or buried without her accompanying the event. The solemnity of the minister’s words about communion paired with the crackers and grape juice started me laughing. The more I tried to suppress it, the more I laughed—it was my Chuckles the Clown moment. My laughter so shocked me that I’ve never taken communion again.

The following are memorable works that reduced me to jiggling jelly:

Bud Abbot and Lou Costello performing their “Who’s on First” routine.

Carol Burnett playing Scarlet O’Hara in a parody of the curtains-to-dress scene from Gone with the Wind. (Burnett’s show cracked me up. I consider it the best comedy/variety show ever televised.)

Harpo Marx cutting a piece of material from the dress of a snooty customer in The Big Store.

Harpo and Chico Marx packing and unpacking clothes in a scene from A Night in Casablanca.

The final scene of Moonstruck when all the characters are gathered at the kitchen table. The movie is a wonderfully told yarn that culminates in a grand punchline during breakfast.

Anything written by Patrick F. McManus, Dave Barry, P.G. Wodehouse (especially the stories with Jeeves and Wooster) and Erma Bombeck, the first writer to make me laugh uproariously. I started reading her column when I was in middle school. I recently reread some of her work. She’s timeless.

Laughter is indispensable, so thanks for asking, Bloganuary! I smiled and chuckled while writing my answer.

Nana Kitty

My nana died in 2003, but she still inspires me.

As a mother, Nana received mixed reviews from her children. But as a grandparent, Nana had a marvelous second act, a comeback. And isn’t that what being a grandparent is about? A do-over, a second chance, a revival?

Nana inspired me because she survived shit. Her father died of typhoid fever in 1921 when she was seven. He left behind seven children and a pregnant wife before the social safety nets of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Nana grew up poor and hungry. When she turned twenty-one in 1936, she voted for Roosevelt.

Nana Kitty is sitting on her mother’s lap. Mary and Joseph, Nana’s parents, would have two more children. But the eighth one was born after Joseph died from typhoid fever.

After she turned nine, she worked summers picking beans in the fields around West Bend, Wisconsin. When I was nine, I picked dandelions. Seven months after the stock market crash of 1929, she graduated from eighth grade. She yearned to go to high school, but her mother told her she had to work. Shortly before she retired from waitressing at sixty-eight, she applied to Milwaukee Area Technical College. She worked toward her GED, tutored students in math, and took college-level courses in English and psychology all at the same time. She was sixty-nine when she earned her GED. I was a college student.

Nana lived by one of her favorite maxims, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” On a low-come wage, she saved change until she and her first husband had enough money to move from their low-income neighborhood and buy their own home, the smallest house in a middle-class neighborhood. She wanted her children to have a better life than she had. She was widowed at forty-seven, but she worked hard to keep her house and pay off the mortgage.

Nana inspired me because she loved each of her seven grandchildren, which included my three cousins, with a passion. She forgave our mistakes and bad behavior and defended us against our common enemies—the parents. To her each of us was special and beautiful and interesting. She gave us lots of hugs, kisses, and Cracker Jacks. She played Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button? and Cat’s Cradle with us. She told us stories and sang to us. She danced with us in her kitchen. She loved Bobby Darin and 50s rock-n-roll. Her favorite dance was The Twist, which she danced at my wedding.

Nana always had time for a phone call. I memorized her number before anyone else’s. If I called and was upset, she listened. I once tested the limits of Nana’s ability to listen by following her around her house, describing the scene-by-scene detail of a movie I’d watched and loved. Like a typical ten-year-old, I thought every detail of a story was significant. At some point, I realized I was boring her and that she kept leaving rooms, hoping I wouldn’t follow. I began testing her limits. I waited for her to say, enough already. If she had, I wouldn’t have blamed her. But she didn’t. I’d love to say I have the same patience with my grandchildren when they prattle on about a movie or video game, but I don’t. I find a way to change the subject. But I didn’t admire Nana because she could do what I could do. I admired her because she could do what I couldn’t do.

Nana Kitty helping my sister and me (far left) with a puzzle. My cousin watches.

Nana loved me even when I behaved like a brat. When I was about eight, I wanted her to buy me a troll doll from a drugstore. I whined and cajoled and dropped a few tears until she folded. She took me back into the store and bought me the doll. She wasn’t happy. She couldn’t afford to be frivolous with her money. She bought us Cracker Jacks because they cost a quarter. The troll doll cost over a dollar. “You’d better not lose that doll,” she snapped. After we walked back to her house, I asked her for a comb and a few bobby pins. I spent the rest of the afternoon rearranging the troll’s purple hair in one hairdo after another. Nana was no longer angry with me. Over the years, I would tell her, “I still have the troll doll with the purple hair.” I wish I could still tell her I have it.

I live by many of Nana’s favorite sayings. (Although I didn’t warm to some of them until I was older.)

1. The early bird gets the worm. (I told her I didn’t want worms.)

2. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. (I was a night owl.)

3. Silence is golden.

4. You win more flies with honey than vinegar. (I told her I didn’t want to be nice to people who were mean to me.)

5. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.

6. A penny saved is a penny earned. (I’ve learned to be a better saver.)

7. Waste not, want not.

Nana’s birthday is January 22. If she were alive, she’d be 107 years old. Funny thing—sometimes, for a moment, I think, I should call Nana. And then I remember, she’s gone. So, I talk to her without a phone.

[Written in response to #bloganuary prompt #6: Who is someone that inspires you and why? For more information click on: Bloganuary.]

Christmas in Michigan–Christmas Day, Past and Present

December 25, 2021

Christmas Day Past—

My sisters, my brother, and I enjoy a visit from St. Nick. (I’m holding the present.) The cat was not a present. He was a stray we adopted and named George, after our grandpa.

After the longest night of the year loosened its grip and gave way to Christmas morning, my siblings and I had to wait for my parents to get up before opening gifts. Sometimes we snuck downstairs to peek at the tree surrounded by wrapped boxes then snuck back upstairs. This made waiting more difficult, but we knew that to open even one present before they got up would rob them of the joy of seeing our rapturous faces as we opened our gifts. We also knew we’d be in BIG trouble. It was always a late night for them. “The bundle of toys” they brought home in sacks needed to be wrapped and ribboned and tagged times four.

We were fortunate that Christmas morning never disappointed—not even the year my mother told me before Christmas that she couldn’t find Charlie McCarthy, the ventriloquist’s dummy I’d asked Santa for. She and I had to suspend our willing suspension of disbelief regarding Santa for that conversation. Turns out lots of aspiring ventriloquists had asked Santa for a Charlie McCarthy doll. My mother told me she’d try to get me one after Christmas. But even before Christmas morning, my shiny dream of becoming a ventriloquist lost its luster. I told her to forget Charlie.

My mother was good at buying gifts on behalf of Santa. Every year a smorgasbord awaited under our tree. We each received an outfit and a pair of pajamas. I loved going back to school after the holidays dressed in new clothes. And climbing into bed on Christmas night in a new pair of soft pajamas that were still fuzzy because they hadn’t been washed dozens of times was divine. We each received a special toy or two that we’d asked Santa for. He also brought us board games, art projects, and books. Santa wanted us to stay busy during Christmas break.

We had to open our gifts slowly because my father didn’t want to miss a single Kodak moment. He liked to take photos. When he got a Polaroid camera, we had near instant photo results, but this slowed down the gift opening because we were thrilled by watching ourselves materialize before our eyes.

Each of us had a spot on the floor to pile our gifts as we opened them. After all the gifts were opened, I felt like a princess with a pile of riches. I also felt guilty. The gifts my parents received took up little room on the coffee table in front of them, such a small cache of swag. But worst of all they hadn’t received one toy or game or art project. I’d contemplate all they’d given me in the name of Santa, then look at the gift I’d given them—always something handmade at school. A Christmas tree constructed from a toilet paper roll and cotton balls. An imprint of my hand in plaster of paris. A silhouette of my profile. A Styrofoam ball decorated with ribbon and sequins to hang on the tree. I didn’t buy my parents gifts until I turned sixteen and had a job and a driver’s license. It wasn’t until I was a parent that I understood it was more fun to see my children opening gifts, and that I treasured the gifts they made for me more than anything that came from a store.

Christmas Day Present—

On this Christmas morning the youngest one among us is 23. No one snuck out of bed to look at wrapped presents under the tree. (Maybe because they were stacked on a desk.) I got up early because my dogs wanted to go outside. No one was in a hurry to see what Santa brought. We ate breakfast and visited. My sister and one of her sons went to Mass at ten o’clock. No one minded. Waiting wouldn’t short-circuit our wiring. We didn’t open gifts until eleven-thirty.

My mother is still good at buying gifts, but no one pretended they were from Santa. I loved the warm shirt she bought me. I’m of the age where any object meant to keep me warm in the frozen North makes my heart toasty. She gave me a humorous book that pokes fun of British mysteries. I love humor and British mysteries. (Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson & Jay Cooper)

My nephew, distributing gifts off the desk. Bogey, before he gets his pink flamingo.

No one got toys—except Bogey, my mother’s seven-year-old poodle. My husband and I bought him a stuffed pink flamingo. He played with it and played with it, shaking it by the leg, tossing it in the air, and making it squeal. I think he looked at the gifts in front of us humans and felt sorry for us because not one of us had a stuffed toy with a squeaker. He’s too young to understand that not one of us wanted a squeaking flamingo. But we sure enjoyed watching him play with his new toy.

[Words in quotes are a nod to “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”]

Christmas in Michigan—The Yipping

December 24, 2021, 9:00 p.m.

Cabela–not worried about roving bands of coyotes

All the light was behind me. A Christmas wreath strung with white lights and pinecones hung from the peak of the garage. Amber warmth from incandescent lights glowed through the living room windows.

In front of me darkness swallowed my poodles because their black and brown fur coats worked like camouflage against the snowless ground. I strained to keep an eye on each of them, and wished they were white poodles. Then I wondered if white poodles would disappear against snow-covered ground.

Loud yips came from over the distant hill. It sounded like dozens of puppies. But I knew it wasn’t. I thought about a kennel of huskies clamoring for food. But I knew there were no mushers in the neighborhood. I thought about the starving wolves in White Fang that stalk two mushers and their sled dogs, picking them off until only one man survives. But I knew that wolves need more territory than my mother’s neighborhood, even with its scattered woods and fields, could provide. Besides, wolves howl, bark, and growl. They don’t yip like a bunch of puppies.

The yips rose and fell in volume but didn’t stop. They didn’t come closer, but they didn’t retreat. I called my dogs and we went inside.

I told my mom about the yipping.

“Those are coyotes,” she said. “We have a lot of them this year.”

My mother lives on a golf course in a rural setting. I wondered if the coyotes used the cart path to move between the areas of woods and fields while hunting. Coyotes are exceedingly carnivorous. Besides wildlife they sometimes eat cats and dogs. My domesticated, spoiled, wimpy canines would be an easy meal for coyotes. But coyotes are wary of humans and avoid us. Which is good because I’m domesticated, spoiled, and wimpy.

Christmas in Michigan—And It Snows

December 23, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

Ziva rests after our snowy walk.

I wanted a white Christmas, and a couple of hours after dinner, I got my wish. It snowed. I walked my dogs, partly to work out the kinks from our nine-and-a-half-hour drive to Petoskey but mostly because it was snowing. My poodles sniffed the brown grass along the road while falling snow, lit by an occasional streetlight, dusted the wooly curls on their heads, backs, and tails.

I always want a white Christmas. Fresh snow opens a gate in my memory, and I wander into the backyard of my childhood. I remember snowmen, snow forts, snowball fights, snow angels, and sledding. I remember catching snowflakes on my tongue and staring at six-pointed and six-sided flakes that landed on my clothes. Amazed by the intricate designs of something so tiny, I admired each flake because I knew its design would never be repeated. A snowflake might have a doppelgänger, but never a clone. On Smithsonian’s STEMvisions Blog, Alex Stempien writes, “. . . scientists estimate that there are up to 10158 snowflake possibilities. (That’s 1070 times more designs than there are atoms in the universe!).” I wonder how much paper it would take to write out those numbers.

After the first snowfall of winter, my siblings and I scampered into the closet under the stairs and resurrected snow pants, hats, mittens, and scarves from cardboard boxes. If the temperatures dropped and the wind nipped, we wore knitted ski masks with three holes, one for the mouth and two for the eyes, the kind bank robbers wore in the movies. We played for hours in the snow until we were soaked from the outside by snow and from the inside by perspiration. If wicking winter clothing was available in the 1960s, we didn’t own any.

My grandchildren enjoy the snow.

I felt sorry for adults because they didn’t get to play in the snow. I promised myself I would never be that old, but it happened anyway. When my children played in the snow, I remembered that promise. When my grandchildren play in the snow, I think about that promise, but I’m not melancholy or envious. Watching children in the snow rekindles happy memories of my childhood. These days my idea of fun in the snow involves shoveling, walking, and snowshoeing.

After my dogs and I finished our walk, I brushed snow off their heads, backs, and tails. I stomped my boots on the brick walkway and brushed snow off my hat and coat. Happy and invigorated, we entered the back hallway. I called to my mother and thanked her for arranging the snowfall. She answered, “You’re welcome.”

December 24, 2021, Christmas Eve Day

By morning three to four inches of snow blanketed the ground. In my head Bing Crosby sang “White Christmas” and stage doors slid open, revealing snow, snow, snow, snow. Crosby and Rosemary Clooney then Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen embraced and kissed.

Cabela on Christmas Eve Day before the snow melted.

My husband and I went into town to shop. The temperatures rose above forty degrees. By noon, about half the snow had melted. By late afternoon when I walked the dogs, most of the snow was gone. The brown landscape had reemerged. There would be no Hollywood magic—no white Christmas. The next snowfall would arrive two days after Christmas morning. But in my heart, I carried the snowfall from the day before Christmas Eve.

Christmas in Michigan—The Trip Over

Bogey

December 23, 2021

My husband, our two dogs, and I missed Christmas in Michigan last year because of the pandemic. This year with our vaccines and boosters completed, we decided to make the nine-and-a-half-hour drive to spend Christmas in Petoskey with my mother and her dog, Bogey. As a bonus, my sister and two nephews came too. We were a gathering of six, well, nine with the dogs. And we count the dogs.

We have two dogs: Cabela, 13½, and Ziva, 11. A few years ago, my husband and I agreed not to board Cabela anymore because of her age and stiffening hindquarters. And if we weren’t boarding Cabela, we couldn’t board Ziva. She doesn’t like being without a family member unless she’s at home. And she’s never liked kennels. She a bit claustrophobic—a condition I understand. We had been fortunate to have a place to board Cabela and Ziva where there was a spacious double-run kennel they could share because the door between their two sides could be left open. Ziva tolerated this because she could be with Cabela. Once, after feeding the dogs, one of the staff forgot to reopen the door between the two kennels. Ziva remedied the problem by chewing the latch and opening the door herself. So, the dogs go to Michigan with us—Cabela because of her age and Ziva because she would be traumatized if we left her at the kennel without Cabela.

Nine and a half hours in a car with two dogs isn’t without its trials; although, it’s easier than when I made the trip with my two young sons. My dogs don’t argue with each other in the backseat or sass my husband or me. Well, maybe Ziva does because we’re not sure what she says when she’s talking. My dogs can’t ask, “How much longer?” or “How come we can’t fly?” even if they look like they’re thinking it.

Ziva gets car sick sometimes; my children didn’t. I prepped the van by layering the floor with towels and car blankets and stashing paper towel in the back. On the trip over, Ziva threw up three times, but only small amounts. Neither dog eats breakfast before we leave for Michigan. Cabela won’t eat that early in the morning, and Ziva, concerned we’ll leave without her, isn’t about to put her face in a dish of food. She keeps her eyes wide open and follows us while we pack and load the van.

Ziva needs at least four or five potty stops. Something about riding in a vehicle makes her want to piddle—me too, but if I’m honest almost anything makes me want to go. When Ziva has to go, she puts her front paws on the center counsel of van and noses my arm or my husband’s arm. We stop at gas stations with green space where we can walk the dogs. Cabela won’t always piddle because even at 13½, she has bladder stamina that most people of a certain age, like me, envy. I remember when I was young and could ride eight hours from Milwaukee to Gordon, Wisconsin, without going to the bathroom. One of my sons liked to stop a lot to go potty, but it wasn’t due to a weak bladder. He just wanted an excuse to get out of the car because he hated long rides. Once, on a trip to northern Illinois, I pulled into every rest stop along I-94, so he could “go to the bathroom.” It added at least a half hour to the trip, but after every stop his mood improved. He was the one who was miffed because we didn’t fly.

Ziva

After we arrived at my mother’s house, we put the dogs inside so we could unpack the van. Ziva cried and cried until my husband and I finished unloading the van and took our coats and boots off. Then she curled up on my mother’s couch and went to sleep, finally convinced we wouldn’t leave her. Cabela was already snuggled up in an upholstered chair. She wasn’t worried we would leave her. Bogey slept by the kitchen table. My sister and nephews would arrive the next day on Christmas Eve.

Cabala

My mother, my husband, and I sat around the kitchen table and ate lamb curry takeout, a scrumptious beginning to our Christmas visit. Still, I gazed out the kitchen windows at the brown fields and leafless trees and hoped for snow.