Musings on Life, Love and Leftovers

Archive for the tag “mothers and sons”

The Best of Buddies


My family is standing near the avocado trees in a corner of our back yard. There’s whispered conversation, muffled sniffles. Lots of eyes stare at the ground. Occasionally, a finger moves to wipe away tears trailing down a cheek. My husband Nick stands off to the side holding a shovel.

It’s not the first time this solemn-faced group has gathered like this. The seven of us stood in this same spot two years earlier to say good-bye to Max, our soccer-ball chasing terrier-spaniel mix. He’d joined our family after my oldest son, Shawn and then toddler Seth, picked him out as a surprise for their brother Jake’s 7th birthday. My sons fell in love with the dog-who-thought-he-was-a-mid-fielder after watching a four-legged black fur ball toss a soccer ball in the air with his nose, then chase after it.

This day it’s Seth’s turn to say good-bye to Baylor, his childhood pet of nine years. Seth loved Max. Still, when he was ten, Seth mounted a campaign for a dog of his own. He argued a strong case, too, relying heavily on Max’s obsession to escape the confines of our home. Next to eating snails, plotting backyard breakouts was Max’s favorite pastime. “He’s here all day by himself,” Seth had said, playing the loneliness angle. “Max wouldn’t try to get out of the backyard if he had a buddy.” To seal the deal, Seth pledged to feed, scoop and walk his future pet.

So seven years after adopting Max, we returned from the animal shelter with another boy–a five-year-old beagle mix. There were many pets to choose from, but one stood out from the pack. As Seth approached, Baylor introduced himself by standing on his back legs and using his front ones, he hugged this potential owner-to-be around the waist. When Seth hugged back, I knew he was hooked. In truth, so was I.

Baylor being used as a bed by Bandit.

Our caramel-colored dog came equipped with chocolate brown eyes, a tire tread-marked broken tail (that we had docked) and bit of emotional baggage. He was skittish, submissive and in the beginning, sat with his back against a wall so nothing–or no one–could sneak up from behind. Instead of chasing a kicked soccer ball, Baylor would run to get out of the way. He was a lover, not a sportsman. On lazy afternoons, he’d lay his head on your lap, waiting for a rub down. If you stopped too soon, Baylor nuzzled your hand as if to say, “Continue, please.” Max stopped burrowing for an exit and the pair became best friends. At 15 years old (that’s 105 for you and me), it was time for Baylor to join Max in doggie heaven.

In the coolness of a Saturday morning, we waited for Seth who’s standing in the middle of the semi-circle, head tilted down, clutching a paving stone. Fighting to keep his composure, he reads the words he chose: Baylor. A big buddy with an even bigger heart. Seth uses his fingers to wipe the plaque clean then kneels down to lay the stone on the freshly turned soil. Inches away another marker reads: Max. A wise friend and the best buddy.

With the short ceremony over, the group turns around to see a duo of curious onlookers—Bandit and Jersey Girl, our newest pet members. A few years ago, we discovered Bandit, a rat terrier, at the same animal shelter as her two predecessors. Jersey Girl, a comical mixture of Yorkie and Chinese crested powderpuff, was adopted from a local rescue group a few months later.

Not to be outdone by the memory of the senior boy dogs, these young girls swagger as they survey the grounds once ruled by Max and Baylor. I wonder how their personalities and peculiarities will unfold. So far, neither has demonstrated an aptitude for soccer or eating snails, but they are fans of snack time, a good belly rub and snarling at the mail carrier.

Dog tags jingle as Bandit and Jersey Girl romp around the yard, chasing after a bee or a butterfly. I close my eyes and imagine that it’s Max or Baylor barking at the sound of the neighbor’s lawnmower. In between keeping the water bowls full and the leashes ready for a walk, I learned a lot about commitment, trust and love from a pair of pooches. Max and Baylor would be pleased that all those years of education won’t go to waste.


A Girl, Four Guys & Football

shutterstock_113473264Around my house I’m outnumbered. I’m pink in a world of blue. Three sons, one husband. When everyone else stands up, I’m sitting down. I’m the only girl in a house full of guys, and it’s lonely. No one to show new shoes to. No one to care about a bra sale at Kohl’s. No one to share clothes with.

So how does a lone girl even the playing field when she lives with four guys? By picking up her game. Her football game, that is.

With my days bombarded with ESPN (the TV station and the Magazine), I learned quickly how to be in with the in-crowd. And with this crowd, you have to know football. That’s why I chime in on discussions about a team’s defense or chances for a Wild Card bid as though I were sharing my recipe for Cheeseburger Soup. I throw words like depth-chart, Wing T and free safety around with apparent abandon. Someday I hope to actually learn what they mean.

The real test of fitting in with these guys comes in the mastery of the Fadden Football Pool, known around here as the FFP. Each week we predict the outcome of the week’s football match-ups.  It’s a simple contest with simple rules: Someone, usually my husband, Nick, cuts out the odds board from the sports page of the daily paper and tapes it to the official FFP clipboard. The rest of us take turns writing our prognostications on the official FFP tally sheet.

We’ve enjoyed this light-hearted family rivalry for 20 seasons. Starting in late August through the January playoffs – even when a son was away at college and had to phone in his choices or someone has the flu — one thing can be counted on, the FFP.

With player names like Daddray, MegaMom, SonicShawn, Jakeman and $ethMoney, the gloves are off each week to have your moniker posted as the winner. Luckily for me, a few years ago, the gender scales were rebalanced slightly, with the addition of RedGhost and CaptainScallywaggs. Come game time, any one of us can be found holding the clipboard where the prediction sheet is secured. In the other hand, a yellow marker ready to highlight the winning teams.

Here we’ve found a common ground — girl and boy alike. Mastering the FFP takes the perfect blend of football smarts, a sense of humor and a whole lotta luck. It doesn’t matter if your cologne is Windsong or Aramis.

With 32 teams and 16 match-ups most weeks, the total number of wins possible varies during the season. There have been weeks when I’ve been crowned champion before the Monday Night Football coin toss. There have also been times when my win total was less than my shoe size.

Each Sunday, we gather in front of big screens to watch the players, listen to the commentators and make a few comments of our own. As I claim my seat in the recliner, water bottle in one hand and a bag of Scoops tortilla chips in the other, I’m hoping that it will be my name emblazoned as the week’s winner.

But winning isn’t what matters. I’ve already won because I love the camaraderie I share with Nick, and my sons, Shawn, Jake and Seth. They don’t want to spend time scrap booking. My requests to go to afternoon tea have fallen on deaf ears. No takers to join me for a pedicure.

But just mention the football pool and we chat up a storm. Not knowing if Green Bay’s punter has a pulled groin or Atlanta’s quarterback is out for the week, I still manage to fake conversation with the best of ‘em. Just because I’m outnumbered doesn’t mean I have to be outsmarted.

Nike turf or natural grass, we’ve found a common ground and it’s green with white lines. Just perfect for a pink girl in a blue world.

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