Monday, September 29, 2008

Mama the warthog -- or things I didn't know about me.

Two days ago, I was putting some towels away and passed my daughter Alyson's closed bedroom. As I was heading back down the stair, she called me into her room. "Mama, come," she said.
"How'd you know it was me?"
"I waited for your happy grunt."
Huh? I have a happy grunt?
She said that when I finish a task successfully -- in this case, putting away towels -- I make this distinctive little grunt. She listens for it if she wants something, because my happy grunt means I'm not busy for a minute and I'm in an okay mood.
The next day, I was telling the story to Beaux. Did you know I have a happy grunt?
Jeni, in the back seat, started smiling. "Oh yeah. The happy grunt. I listen for it."
So I started listening, too, and guess what? I have a happy grunt. It's a tiny, understated little thing that sounds like I'm clicking my tongue and clearing my throat at the same time.
It appears, though, that it's not a solo act. This morning Jen told me she likes my happy grunt, but not my growly grunt.
Huh? I've got a growly grunt?
That, she and Aly agreed, is the noise I make when I'm vexed. It's part growl, part throat clear, and it's the preamble to "knock it off, you two."
I found it today when I paid attention, as well.
The girls were delighted they knew something about me that I didn't know, so on our way to the grocery tonight, they introduced me to two more grunts. I have a sad, I'm-disappointed-in-you grunt and a long-suffering (but still short) frustrated grunt.
Huh? Those, too? Yikes.
So I started listening and, blast it, I found them. They're real. I'm a veritable mood ring of sound.
Wonder what other secrets I'm keeping from myself.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The bestest animal ever

Today, gluttony won and sweet Blossom passed away. She was the dwarf hamster who could stuff food in the pouches of her mouth all the way back to her hip bone. Seriously. You'd touch her cheek and feel hard kibble just below the surface. She liked to roam, but she never sneaked out of her cage empty-handed and we'd find her by looking for the food she piled in for a single trip.
There was, of course, a veritable tsunami of grief, but at least it kept the girls from noticing that her mouth was packed with food. Ugh.
A corner of our yard has now become a pet cemetery that would be the envy of a small community. Three weeks ago, the neighbor girl's dwarf, Princess, died. In true friend fashion, we offered to let her bury it in our yard -- they live in a condo -- and Beaux even did the digging. Within an hour, other neighbor girls were knocking on the door and bringing flowers. The kids have some weird communication network that makes a calling tree look prehistoric.
It was not until I went out to dig a hole for Blossom that I realized how amazing the graveyard really has become. Princess' grave was encircled with garden edging and adorned with a veritable garden of flowers, some silk, some felt, some plastic, some real. There are marbles and gewgaws and a little brocade purse.
After we passed Blossom's little corpse around -- cradled in the arms of a small teddy bear, no less -- and said a few words (I dug deep and came up with something more profound than "Bye, Blossom" but it wasn't easy. I didn't know her well), then sprinkled the dirt over the popcorn box she's riding into eternity, I went back inside so they could grieve as a family of hamster lovers. (I'm more a cat person, actually.) Three little girls wailing so loud I thought someone might call the police.
When I went out to drag them in eventually, the plot had thickened -- literally. In addition to the flowers and gew gaws, it's now covered with colorful rocks and a fuzzy teddy bear. By the end of the week, I expect it to look like the makeshift memorial in front of The Dakota after John Lennon was shot.
No one loves as passionately as a preteen who's lost a palm-sized pet.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Another drive-by day

I'm sitting at my desk, tired and hungry and it occurs to me. Ah, crud. I did another drive by.
A drive by is how I measure my sanity in an increasingly insane world. And it goes like this. I pull up to Burger King or someone where and place my order, humming happily because I'm gonna be fed soon (childish tune in background).
Pull to window, pay. Get change. Drive back to office.
Realize -- sometimes an hour or so later, when my stomach's growling again -- that I didn't wait for my order. When clerks give me change, that signals the end of the transaction to me. If they do that before they give me my food, I drive away.

My friend Elaine and her family love these stories. They're especially fond of the day I went to Mickey D's and pushed the intercom button, then zoned out. Hi, can I help you, the disembodied voice asked. Must have reminded me of a phone, because I introduced myself. "HI, I'l Lois Collins from the Deseret News." A few minutes later, when he called me by name, I wondered briefly how he knew. Duh again.
I gotta get more sleep.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The horse that loved Beaux

Sunday we went to the flag display in Sandy, in remembrance of the horror of Sept. 11. I'm stunned by the moments that bring pure joy -- and the unlikely venues where you can feel it.
We wandered through the flags, a bittersweet display, then meandered further south to the unexpected little nature area behind the ugly Target store back. A little treasure in the midst of a commercial development. To the west, there was a rustic barn and Beaux, who's avid about photography, wanted to snap off some photos.
The girls stood by the fence and admired this knobby-kneed horse in the distance. The horse, in turn, acknowledged them with a little nod, but it kept right on eating. Until she saw Beaux.
The horse made a funky dash across the field and it was clear the dear thing is no longer young. But she (I'm assuming here -- not having been in the mood to really look) set her sights on Beaux and kept on coming, never taking her eyes off him.
He watched her, snapping photos as she came. And when she arrived, all huffing and sweet, she put her nose right against his and just stared into his eyes. I've never seen anything like it. She stared and stared and stared and it was enchanting, but as my friend Elaine said later, "Whisper louder, horse!" I'm not sure what she was trying to tell him.
I like to think she was offering him peace. He's restless and vaguely worried, because eventually he'll fall apart without a new liver and that's decidedly disconcerting. Whatever the gray gal was saying, they just loved each other for a bit. And I learned how it is that a horse hugs, since it doesn't have the kind of arms that enfold you.
A horse hugs by putting her head over your shoulder, drawing you as close and warm as she can and squeezing gently.
I've never had one. But after witnessing this one, I can tell you I wanted a horse hug. Enchanting really is the only word.