The Gift

unnamed-1December 2015 was crazy.  Literally.  Besides MY birthday on the 19th…we had the various functions of attention and attendance for the upcoming wedding of Ellie, my youngest, to take place on Jan. 10th 2016  (Uncle Billy’s birthday, who would do the honors of unification before God and State.) Thankfully, wedding preparations fall to the feminine side of families, for the most part, so I just had to show up where as Dad I was supposed to.

Christmas Eve to the Cities, Christmas day, Day after, Sadie’s birthday on the 27th, Ellie’s on the 28th and the run up to the magical 10th.  The girls were very content to celebrate their ‘days’ with a favorite meal and dessert with some cards and presents thrown in. Thankfully.

By the wedding day, which sketched a new ‘high’ in my experience notebook, I was ready to plunge down the ‘Sugar coated mountain’ and isolate.  Human contact kept to a minimum, or if extreme in statement, sit in a chair by myself and and practice numbness for a week.  Delightful, wonderful, celebratory, and exhausting.

2016 December carried many of the same excepting the hubris of the wedding.  After 2015, though missing the greatest day of my life thus far, it was a supremely ordinary; ordinary to our family excepting we now had two who live 900 miles away.  They would return on the 22nd.  I could celebrate twice, no worries!!

The girls each asked for a different birthday setting; Sadie desired to have friends from different parts of her life come over for food and games.  Excepting a tug a war between two attendees during the ‘musical chair’ card game named Spoons when two contestants, unknown to the other, decided not to let go of the last spoon, it was fun.  (Reminds me of Grma Honey, patch over one eye, at 89, fighting Ellie for the last one few years ago.  They knew each other!)   Least I am told that took place.  I was gone.  Went to bed at 7:00. Sleeping and pain pills ingested, headphones wrapped on the conning tower.  Sadie enjoyed.

Ellie had let her mother know that she wanted to go skating on her birthday.  When she was young, Amy would go and shovel the pond down below our yellow house on the hill.  (We originally named it Whispering Birch – yeah, lots of birch.  But when you have 3-5 dogs on hand at any one time and a testosterone amped rooster…whispering seems a feeble explanatory adjective.)  My friend Bobby sent me an aerial photograph that he took while working at the Pentagon (holy crap, what other pictures does he have…not my favorite place to…????) and he called it the Ponderosa.  I liked that and have been using it since, but don’t tell the girls, they all think the original is still in vogue – it is, just not to me.  So Amy for four straight nights kept the pond cleared so the family all could go skating on the 28th.  A labor of love.

Amy had shoveled the rink year after year for skating and play.  At least until the snow god got tired of her messing with it and dumped a foot or so.  Usually after dark with the pond moon lit, the bigger dogs out running around, smelling and playing.  I would watch from a window.  It had a sense of mysticism to me.

All the girls would skate a time or two in the beginning, but soon Sadie would kick off her skates and go hunting further in the swamp for natural items of interest or build herself a wigwam of cattails.  Amy never could find skates that did not torture and bailed quickly. And me?   My skating was over years earlier.  But I would hike down when imploringly asked to play the ‘bad Grinch’ and try to catch Ells as she skated around a little island in the middle of the pond.  She in skates and I boots.  I hung in there usually up to an hour, longer than Mom and Sadie, but after that the pond was Ellie’s.  She would stay, skating and twirling, exploring the thrill of the glide, the ease of movement and, I hope, the wind in her hair…oh, forgot, she wore a hat.  This all began when the girls were in grade school and carried on thru high school.   It had been a number of years. She wanted to go again, with the family and Cheol Oh.

The pond had a light dusting on it with the sun playing peek a boo most of the day.  I left a message when leaving to call me when the skate was to commence.  I wanted to drive home and watch.  I had a good vantage point above the pond on an access road.  I was texted that 3:00 would be the time.  I left a little later than I wanted, but got to the spot at 3:20.  No one there.  I waited, obviously, and was about to text to ask the whereabouts of the ‘troops,’ when down the hill from the garage, bodies were moving.   Dogs first:  Evelyn Jane the Cane Corso Mastiff, Jayce Douglas the brown and white Border Collie, Tommy Lee a super sized Pekinese, Bentley Arthur the hound dog who came into the fold this autumn and then of course Pickles Dilly, Ellie’s lovable brat who is Tommy’s mom.   Bentley was singing his heart out while the others zigzagged their way to the pond.  I watched and smiled.

Oh, but you should have seen.  Cheol Oh insisted he had to wear a helmet, so Sadie supplied this 225 lb brother in law her riding helmet, which when worn looks like a mushroom that hiccuped.  Sadie did not want to fall, so she was carrying one of my old hockey sticks.  Amy was carrying two large fold up chairs along with her torture implements.  The dogs hit the ice.  Bentley went into an immediate slide and hollered his head off.  Jayce in super motion circled the perimeter.  The Pekes poked around the marsh grass.  They were loving it.

The chairs were set in place and Amy began lacing skates, Ellie first.  Cheol Oh needed help in getting his tight enough so he was next.  Then Sadie.  A mom all the way!  After they all got off skating and it was truly fun, watching up in the confines of Amanti, my 16 year old car. Ellie began a little ragged, but started to have some of the old smoothness return after a few minutes. Cheol Oh looked like me trying to walk down a hall with my ‘stilts.’  His head a black cropping.  Sadie, well, all I heard was “I don’t want to fall!”  And meaning it.  Amy had to be worn out getting this pack all on the ice at the same time and of course the dogs tried jumping on each and the skaters, making balancing that much harder.  The woman that she is, Amy joined for a lap or two, then took a seat to watch the spectacle.  All acknowledged me up above watching from the car.  I waved back.  The sun was opting clear in the background, shining on the scene.  Rockwell??

Sadie did not fall, but I think she sat down pretty quick.  That left the ice to Ellie and Cheol Oh.  Now these two are competitive.  Play them.  So of course, after a while the RACE had to take place.  Twice around the island.  ‘Robot man’ vs ‘Electric glide.’  Ellie had him in speed and style.  Cheol Oh had her in elbows and girth.  Both had the drive.

They took off and I thought for sure Ellie would take care of him from the start.  But it remained close (Ellie would NEVER let him win to be nice, trust me.  Like her mom -giggle!!)  A little of the rustiness showed on the corners and of course the ‘girth’ seemed to always move in her direction.  Oh such fun watching.  I was laughing out loud.  Then in the final turn and E.G. seemingly gliding to the finish ahead of the Robot it happened.  Cheol Oh, being athletic, flung himself into the air, a complete layout, landing on the ice in a headfirst slide, though not sure he slid real far.  The action caught me so appreciative and unaware, I truly do not know who won!  No matter, the laughter was echoing from below (anyone ever hear Sadie let loose?!)  The dogs all wanted to give him a licking at the same time to show their affection.  Ellie was either doubled up in laughter or pretty tired.  I think laughter.

It was time to go.  But I waited just a minute more to look upon the scene.  My family, the whole lot (well, no, horses and chickens excepted) were down in a bowl like setting, the sun beginning to set, the air dry and clean, the day closing, laughter ringing….

I began to head back to town.  I was gifted to the extreme.








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