Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Sorry it's been so long since my last post. I composed this piece last spring and was invited to read it to an audience at the Drive-In Movie Festival. 
I just want you all to know, I appreciate all of your comments and support. I'm still trying to publish "Crossing the Delaware." I've gotten some very positive responses from the literary world, but haven't gotten a deal yet. The more readers and followers I have, the easier it will be to sell the book, so keep your comments coming. Thanks for reading.

If you are 13, but with a scoop neck ballerina top, green eyeliner and platforms, look 17 and you have a boyfriend who is 20 and looks it----with a caterpillar moustache, and aviator glasses---you don’t tell your mother you are going to the drive in together.
But you don’t lie to her either, not blatantly anyway, so you tell her you’re going to the movies---implying an indoor theater with no car to separate you from the people around you. And if this is your first time at a drive-in, you can pretend you’re going there to see a movie, though you don’t know what’s playing.
    “Mom, I’m going to the movies with John,” you say and pray there’ll be few questions.
    And when all she says is be back by 11, you say to yourself thank God and try to hurry--- a quick spritz of Charlie perfume, shimmy into a tube top, and bolt out the door.
     The screen of the 64th Street Drive-in rises like a worn sail at the base of the rusty Penrose Avenue Bridge on the outskirts of Philadelphia. To its right is a massive junkyard with smashed-flat cars like steel layer cakes, next to Jerry’s Corner with merchandise so shoddy even your family doesn’t shop there.
     The name itself----64th Street Drive-in --- eschews any pretense of glamour or romance---no Starlight Theater, no Galaxy Cinema---just the co-ordinates---enough to tell you where it is.
Further out, are the baseball shaped oil tanks and the oil towers with blue flickering flames—cold tongues of fire. You don’t know what you hope as you drive over the bridge and the sky opens. You could fall into the sky.
   You know you don’t want to be home anymore on Friday nights with your father sipping beer from an Ortlieb’s can and your mother cutting up cold pizza with a scissor and your brother storming in and storming with muddy cleats---hardly ever saying a word to you.
The sky above the 64th Street Drive-in is brown from the refinery and there’s an intermittent subtle quake as you enter from the flights taking off less than a mile away.
John pays for the tickets, one price per car no matter how many people are inside and you wonder what’s the most number of people that were ever stuffed into a car—in the trunk. But it’s just you and him. And it’s not even dark with daylight savings so you’ll wait, set up the robot-head speakers over the cranked down window.
     “Do you want a drink?” he asks, but it’s not for a soda from the concession. It’s what he’s brought with him in a goat skin flask. No you don’t want a drink.
    “But it’s sweet,” he tells you, “It’s Boone’s Farm.”
     And the night comes down.
     The cars are lined all around you in neat little rows like they’re waiting in line, like toys between patches of weeds and pebbles. You like the order and symmetry of it.
      And there’s a flicker on the screen and some scratchy noises from the speakers—dancing boxes of popcorn with slender stockinged legs, accompanied by hot dogs—and the jingle makes you feel like something fun can happen. You want to feel as happy as that box, have the happy life of that box.
    And the two of you wait during the previews, and the opening credits before you start doing anything. And you don’t know what you want but it’s more than just letting John put his hands and mouth on you. And you wish that he wouldn’t say your name during what he’s doing.
And later when you look in the rear view mirror, your eyeliner and lipsticks smeared and your tops stretched out, but your shoes still look good because at least they stayed on, And he’s happy too smoking a Marlboro, because it was his turn after yours.
     It’s a double feature, but you’re tired, so you say, “I want to go home.”
     The sky’s gone black and you start to see stars, but you don’t know what to wish for.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Eulogy for a Rose

We lost Aunt Rose Boccuto last week. Many of us have one of those aunts or uncles in the family like Rosie. The one who never married, never had kids, never quite fit in. Eccentric, not quite normal, a bit odd. Perhaps cursed with misfortune. That was our Aunt Rosie, my mother’s oldest sister. She possessed an unforgettable, unique personality.

When we were young, Aunt Rosie was our unofficial babysitter during those long summer days when we would hang around in my Aunt Annamarie’s house, watching game shows and drinking Tab. We were smart alec adolescents and sometimes we teased Rosie and tried to get a rise out of her. One thing she hated was when we sat on the sofa which was covered in a thick sheet of plastic slipcovers. Apparently, she had paid for the slipcovers and wanted to preserve them. We’d wait until she could see us and then plop on the sofa, to her great consternation.

Aunt Rosie was ahead of her time in some ways, a full fledged vegetarian who never met a bowl of pasta she didn’t like. She was a fixture on South Marvine Street-willing to run errands for neighbors, always down with the latest gossip, and full of laughter and delight when she was introduced to a new baby on the block.
Rosie was a mystery too. She studied the Daily News religiously, kept up on current events and was much more intelligent than we ever really gave her credit. Even as a child I wondered what was going on in her mind. There always seemed to be something there—but what exactly, was hard to say. She'd burst into laughter at inappropriate times, or just stare into the distance with her big brown eyes.
I must admit that sometimes I got jealous when Aunt Rosie showered cousin Theresa with gifts of baby dolls, candy and clothes. Theresa was obviously her favorite and I can say now without a doubt that the two of them are now in heaven enjoying a bowl of gnocchi with tomato sauce followed by a butter pecan ice cream.
Here’s another thing about Rosie—she told it like it was. How many times did she surprise us with a comment or remark that we were all thinking but wouldn’t dare say. Not Rosie. She pulled no punches.
My commentary about Rosie would not be complete without expressing my gratitude to my cousin Denise for all of the work and care she so lovingly provided. Denise was there as Rosie got older and slower and needed a helping hand.
I don’t know if I’ll ever totally understand Rosie, but I realize that’s not too important today. She was essentially a child of God---innocent, imperfect, and one who called upon us to be patient, human, and compassionate. She was part of our family—and we were a part of hers. She did her best with what she had been given—and what had been taken away.
She leaves us today and enters a new realm—where she is finally free of the physical maladies that plagued her. Where her mind is released and at her soul is at peace.
We say good bye to Aunt Rosie and we want you to know, we will never forget your smile. We hope you pray for us now that you are in God’s embrace. 

Friday, September 24, 2010



Every bakery in South Philadelphiafrom Termini’s to Cosmi’s prepared them---the Italian cookie tray. In our neighborhood, it was the centerpiece of celebrations—Baptism, weddings, First Holy Communion, high school graduations. A cookie tray on the dining room table signaled a special occasion as much as shined shoes and a haircut. 
      On my Confirmation Day, one arrived covered in cellophane like a glistening gift. Underneath waited tiny tasty treasures, impossible to resist. Mom slapped my hand away when I tried ever so slowly to grab one. “Not yet,” she scolded.
     “Just one,” I begged.
      I gazed at the tiny mountain of assorted treats---cookies covered in pignola nuts with a chewy moist center, butter cookies flecked with green and red cherries, mini biscotti, half moon shapes of almond and cinnamon. Here and there, jutted pastel-colored Jordan almonds---candy mortar holding it all together. Everything was dusted with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Atop the white sugar rested swirls of festive pink and green cellophane.
              “Please,” I tried again.
              “Oh, all right,” my mother said, “Just be sure to take it out of the bottom.”
              My mother was never a stickler about my nutritional needs. She just didn’t want the tray to looked picked over when it was presented to the guests. 
              I was hungry, and itchy in my white polyester Confirmation dress. A bobby pin dug into my hair where my flowered crown sat.
             Roseanne Pecora, my all around caregiver, hair brusher, snack maker, was my sponsor---a kind of hip godmother. She stood behind me as I walked up the aisle at Stella Maria. I had just been slapped in the face by the bishop and given the middle name “Carmella.” I was officially confirmed—another sacrament ticked off the list.   The only thing I had to eat all morning was a Communion wafer. I wanted to try every cookie, but had to make a choice. Which one would I take as a free pre-party sample?
             I scanned the selection until I found one shaped like a ball, smothered in confectioner’s sugar, loaded with chopped nuts—my favorite. It was all over in half a bite---the sweet buttery flavor combined with the pleasant crunch created a sensation that seemed closer to heaven than the last two hours in church.
          “One more,” I said, hoping for a miracle.
            Mom shook her head while she glided an Avon mini-lipstick in shimmery coral over her lips,    
          “Nah, unh,” came the answer. “You have to eat first,” she said.
           But, I thought to myself, this is eating. I had no interest in the sausages in thick gravy, the simmering slices of roast pork, baked ziti---heavy, salty, spicy---a waste of stomach space. That was food that required forks and knives, food that weighed you down, that made your breath smell bad.     
         Relatives arrived, offering me smiles, congratulations and white envelopes stuffed with fives and tens. I smiled back, but my mind drifted to the tray, now tucked away on the kitchen table, and waited.
         Hours later, amid cigarette smoke and waning conversation, the smell of coffee perculating on the gas range heralded the start of dessert time. My mother slid the tray on the table and soon the chairs around it were filled with aunts and uncles, neighbors and toddlers leaning in to take a treat. I started with a rococo---meringue enrobed with peanuts and lingered over something filled with jam.   There were some I liked more than others, but none I wouldn’t at least give a try.
          Years went by and though I thought I would mature out of loving cookies, I never did. Those early days of cookie trays stayed with me and informed many of my food choices.
           More years went by. A man I loved proposed marriage and I said yes though he preferred eating chicken over shortbread cookies.
         A week before the wedding, I sat in a hospital room with my mother, dying of cancer. She wouldn’t make it to the ceremony, the reception, to wear the salmon colored dressed she bought at the Mansion House on Broad Street.
       Following surgery to repair a bone ravaged by her disease, a piece of her mind went missing. Hallucinations, a mental separation from the grim reality that only death would relieve her suffering. She imagined squirrels scurrying down the hospital hallways, saw her own mother, dead for 25 years, smoked phantom cigarettes.
       In the twilit room, her eyes closed, hands punctured with intervenous drips like a high-tech crucifixion, she turned to me.
      “I’m ready for the wedding, mom,” I said, trying to sound happy. “I've my gown,
the flowers, satin shoes, a French manicure.”
      She nodded, though I suspected she barely understood what I was saying.
      “Did you get the cookie tray?” she asked, and I told her yes, oh, yes, it was ordered and waiting at the bakery. All we had to do was pick it up.

Monday, August 16, 2010


  I am standing with my mother and her friend Stella on the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I’m 12 years old. Our toes sink into the wet sand, and we wiggle them free as the waves retreat. Stella searches the horizon, her, head cocked back, poised in a salute to the scorching August sun overhead. My mother's olive skin, like Stella's, has turned toasty brown after only a few days. On the other hand, I inherited my father's Celtic genes and am a splotchy pink.
         It is August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, 1973. We are waiting for the bishop to fly overhead inside a tiny plane to bless the waters in which we are standing.
         According to The Lives of the Saints, the Blessed Mother  "did not molder in her grave" but was" saved from all defilement and malady that weakens the bodily frame." Unlike other mortals, Mother Mary was taken "body and soul" into heaven. To commemorate her Assumption on this date, these New Jersey waters are blessed every year.
         My mother's stout and sturdy figure fits snugly inside her navy blue swimsuit. She is holding a Tupperware container so she can fill it with the sanctified seawater. Stella, the same height as my mother, no more than five feet, is in a flouncy floral, with a pleated skirt.
         "Katie, wasn't that procession beautiful today?" she says to my mother, who nods and smiles.
Earlier that morning the faithful had followed Father Palumbo and three altar boys down Atlantic Avenue. A group of Italian men, two elderly ones with short sleeve shirts buttoned to the collar, and a two younger ones with thick black hair, broad shoulders and skinny waists carried a statue of the Virgin.  The statue wobbled as its bearers strained to steady the platform covered in roses and white carnations. Women followed, fanning themselves with church bulletins, rosaries hanging from their fingers like vines.
We had all been at Mass, but my mother and Stella were more interested in the coming action on the beach. The “Blessing” was the real spiritual payoff; the part of the day when they'd have a something to take home. The soon-to-be holy water was a tangible, object that could be shared, saved for emergencies, something to show for their faith.
         I am full of doubt and introspection. The ritual offends my adolescent agnostic bent. Still it is impossible to sustain utter disbelief around Stella and Katie.
         We hear a buzzing sound, a puttering and then a roar. The plane passes. A white hand waves and disappears from inside the plan. People on the beach make the sign of the cross. I see Mrs. McGuire and her three sons, one in a wheel chair that the two others dragged to the beach. A frail woman in a low-slung beach chair at the water’s edge rubs her knotty arthritic knees with the water. She kisses her silver medal pinned on her cotton dress like a piece of hope. A young mother drags her toddler into the ocean and wets his hair.
 No one is expecting to see an angel or the Blessed Virgin. The sparkle of the sun on the water or the tail of a shifting cloud is enough of a sign for most of them.
         My mother splashes me. "Bless yourself, Patricia….You'll do good in school," she laughs, and I laugh with her.
         A few raindrops begin to fall.
         “Look Katie, it’s raining,” Stella says, “the Blessed Mother’s tears, good luck. She knows we’re here.”
         My mother's faith is simple and straightforward. She expects practical rewards for her devotion; and if they are not forthcoming, she'll settle for a sense of community within the Church where she is an active raffle ticket seller and cake sale baker. She has endured the burden of a drug addicted son by praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She hopes for the best and puts the rest in God’s hands.
         Now it is again August. 1989. The day after the Assumption, and Stella has saved some holy water to bring to my mother's hospital room. In her pale blue hospital gown, my mother’s chest is flat from her mastectomy three years prior.
 A new nurse on the floor addresses my mother as "Mr. Lawler," and I quickly correct her, enraged at the error, but still aware, that the bald head and wasted body seem without gender to a stranger. I have already summoned a priest, although my faith has long been broken in the brittle August days that are crackling outside, drying up my hope. But Stella is still lively. Her loud voice booms against the white tile floor. She is more familiar with death than I, and faces it head-on. This, she knows, is the last chance to say good-bye to her good friend and she doesn't waste a minute on silent stares of anguish.
         "Katie, Katie," she says, "I've got some water from the shore, the priest blessed it yesterday." Stella presses a small vial into my mother’s hand and closes it for her. My mother's breathing comes in full gasps as if she is trying to suck the whole scene inside of her.
         Stella compresses their life together in this short time. She repeats old stories—The Mummer’s Parade, the way they danced together at weddings, how they both loved Burt Lancaster movies, all of this --- until my mother is alert enough to smile. Stella, a mother of six, knows the most important thing for Katie to hear is that her children will be all right. Her daugther Carol is married to my brother, and like him, an addict. Stella knows the sorrows of motherhood too. And they both look to Mary because she suffered with  her child too. It is the hour of reassurance, of letting go, of peace. That my wedding a week ago was perfect and I am happy. That my brother, though still afflicted, is trying to find work.
I am talking to my mother as well, fussing with the water pitcher, changing channels on the overhead tv.  I won’t tell her the meaning of her life. It is as if by holding back I can save her.
         Stella leaves that evening and doesn’t return. I spend the next day merely watching the defilement and malady of the body that brought me to life.  A nurse comes in and delicately as possible offers to up the morphine drip to end my mother’s suffering, and I believe she means my own as well. Alone, I agree.
An hour later I get the call. I am told that at the last moment, she sat up, looked towards heaven and fell back to her pillow. I chose to believe Mother Mary came to her, took her and is with her still.          

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer of 1982, Atlantic City, The Golden Nugget

Walter sidles up behind me and slips his fingers inside my cummerbund. “Would you like to have breakfast later?”
It is 4:00 am. in early July.
“Maybe,” I reply warily. “First, I’ve got to seat this table.”  I feel his hand slide from the band and brush my hips as he saunters away from my station.
Walter, 21, a first-generation Russian immigrant, is a waiter at the Corncuopia Room at Steve Wynn’s Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City and I am the hostess. Dining establishments in casinos are almost always designed around a particular theme---a time and place in history—and this one is no exception. I am dressed as a Gibson Girl, long skirt, six-inch cuffs, puffy sleeves, jabot, and the waist-cinching cummerbund. Walter wears a white shirt with a garter over his sleeve and a satin vest. We are costumed in a Gay 90's theme, to recall a time when ladies and gents frolicked on bicycles built for two, listened to the harmonies of a barbershop quartet and sipped root beer floats.
I wonder if the patrons of The Golden Nugget really notice anything about this place, especially at this hour. The red-haired woman waiting for a booth wearing a Rolling Rock baseball cap and rhinestone studded sweatshirt doesn’t seem to care. “Just lost my disability checks at the friggin’ slot machines,” she croaks to no one in particular.
Walter and I are more than half way through the graveyard shift.
A flamingo-colored sky smothers the night outside. The wide window bank beyond the Cornucopia exposes the dawn and the stone sea gives the new morning an unsteady floor. The tentative day is a sight the whole crew waits for. But it is not the beginning for us, not a brand new morning. Instead, it is the end of dishes smeared with Boston Cream Pie, the end of requests for extra plates to split the Salisbury steak entree, doggie bags, and ashtrays. It is the end of “Hey hons” from stout men in velour jogging suits and the loud emphysematous laughs from the pin-thin woman fresh out of nickels.
The shift starts at 11pm and ends at 7am; the casinos close at 3pm and re-open at 7am. While the hardcore gamblers wait for the games to begin again, they while their time having a meal at The Cornucopia. The hours never bother me. I feel energized by the atmosphere, mirrors, glass, money, the red squiggly designs, like giant viruses, on the carpets.
The end of each shift brings me one day closer to law school. I am trying to make as much money as I can before September toward tuition, books and transportation. As hostess, my command of influence in the dining area reigns supreme. Who sits where determines which wait staff earns the most tips. I quickly learn how to size up diners  and determine their tip potential.
Two men in open neck stretch nylon shirts and gold crosses will, for example, leave up to a 50% gratuity for a female waitress. Macho men with sexy dates leave good tips for either male or females. But the riders from the "roach coach" casino buses either leave no tip or one so small it is almost humiliating to accept it.
I try to be fair—spread it around as much as possible, but my objectivity is compromised by Walter’s attentions. When I spot high rollers delirious from a win, I take them out of a long line of waiting customers and seat them in Walter’s area. I also score at $10 tip for myself.
“Do not seat me another table from a roach coach,” Dee, a dark-haired waitress breathes down my neck, referring to the casino bus crowd.
They disembark from the casino bus holding crumpled coupons redeemable for a free buffet. They drag plastic shopping bags bulging with newspapers and banana peels. There seems to be a collective assumption among them that the tip is somehow included in the coupon.
Duly threatened, I gently lead a group of bus exiles toward the back of the restaurant out of Dee’s station.
As I return to my station, I hear, “Don’t wear that nail polish again.” It is assistant manager Jeff McGuire. Apparently, Gibson Girls did not sport chipped neon orange nails. Ever since Jeffrey found out that I was going to law school in September, he’s been picking on me.
“What are you doing in the kitchen, Miss College Girl?” he yells.
“That table’s not cleaned. You can’t seat people there yet, Brainy,” he chides, pressing his fingers against his sparse blonde moustache.
To escape his scrutiny, I sneak into the kitchen, open the giant stainless freezer door, dig a spoon into a vat of rum raisin ice cream and cram it in my mouth. Out of nowhere, I hear his whiny voice. “What are you doing? Are you eating ice cream? There are people waiting to be seated! I should fire you right here.”
I can’t reply. My soft palate is pulsing with a surge of cold and sugar that freezes my brain and momentarily compromises my vision and impairs my ability to speak. Gulping down the ice cream, I return to my station.
A phalanx of people are lined up for their four am strip steak and baked potato, extra butter. I wipe a clot of ice cream off my cheek with a laced cuff. At the back of the line, I see Marie Pecora’s son Bernard---Viet Nam vet, drug addict, unemployed--standing with two compatriots. I walk towards the crowd, past the tattooed biceps, ringed pinkies, burning cigarettes; past the scent of Brut aftershave and penciled eyebrows raised in indignation.
“Hi Bernard. Right this way.” One tooth missing, the remaining ones in good shape, his smile warms the last bits of my frozen throat. Bernard had left for Viet Nam 15 years before, sane, slim and sound. During his tour of duty, he was stationed near the Mekong Delta, loading river boats. Whatever happened there, changed him, mind, body and spirit. His eyes burn a blue-green fire, scorched with memories of his days in the war that gnawed his brain and left him lost
 “Hey, Patrish,” he says, sounding just like his mother Marie calling from her front porch when she saw me walking home from grade school.
“I’ve got a table for your and your friends,” I say, touching his broad shoulder.
“Really? But look at the line,” he sputters.
“Follow me,” I motion with my oversized menus.
Bernard looks around, grins and pulls his shoulders back as I escort him in front of the throng, no waiting, and seated him at a booth near the potted plants. It’s the least I could do considering what he sacrificed for our country in a war everyone wished never happened.
Jeffrey is furious and Dee almost slugs me when she realizes they are  in her station, but I consider it a small act of civil disobedience in tribute to my past and with a nod toward the future.
I don’t care about Jeff’s threats. The summer is whizzing by and there are not enough days left to fire me and hire a replacement.
I’m not afraid of being fired and I’m not afraid of the workload at law school. The idea of it is as sweet and irresistible as the rum raisin ice cream. I am leaving when the summer ends and Jeffrey and Dee are staying behind.
Close to 5:30 am, I find Walter sitting on an Abbott’s milk crate smoking a Raleigh and reading what looks like a 600-page book in Russian. War and Peace?
He looks up at me, as I chomp down on an ice cube. His hairline starts low and thick on his forehead and flows back like a muddy river. In his yellow eyes, pulled back at the sides in a Sino-Soviet slant, I think I see the ghost of Ghengis Kahn.
“My feet are fucking killing me," he says, wincing.
“Oh, Walter,” I say, crouching to his level. “I’m going to miss you when I go.”
“You’re already gone,” he answers and digs his black boot into the cigarette he flicks to the floor.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


MOST DOGS BELONG to a family, but Reds belonged to the neighborhood. Up and down 11th Street, across to Johnston, to Marconi Plaza, and along the storefronts of Oregon Avenue, my dog Reds followed on the heels of my mother Katie Lawler in an unmatched display of canine loyalty. When Katie, sometimes shoeless, sometimes in her nightgown, wandered the streets, Reds was never far behind. Reds didn’t need obedience school or a dog whisperer to know how to behave. She waited patiently for scraps of meat from the butcher, sat quietly while my mother paid visits to her friends, and greeted passersby with quiet curiosity.
On those occasions when Reds went off on her own, all my mother needed to do was stand on the front steps of our open porch and call out “Heeere Reds!” and in a minute or two, along she came, tail wagging.
She never had a leash. She didn’t need one. She never was inside a vet’s office. She ate Alpo or whatever was on sale at Pantry Pride.
Reds first appeared on our front porch, a soaked puppy seeking shelter from a thunderstorm on the night that the Beatles played at the JFK Stadium. Once she was towel dried, offered a slice or leftover roast beef and invited for a cuddle on the sofa, it was instant mutual love for every member of my family.
She had a beautiful tender face with soulful chocolate eyes and soft rust-colored fur that hung in elegant fringes along her flank. But what was most lovely about Reds was her personality. Any kid in the neighborhood could pet her, chase her, ride her like a pony, even pull her tail and she would cheerfully oblige. Never a snap or a snarl. She’d sit by your side and listen to your worries with rapt attention, a faithful friend with whom you could share any secret. Reds was a queen among lots of other great dogs in the neighborhood: King and Frosty, Sparkles and Lady to name a few.
If I had to guess what mix of breed she was, I’d say Cocker Spaniel mixed with Irish Setter---there was definitely a dash of hunter in her. What riled Reds were the squirrels who scurried down the trees on Mollbore Terrace. Upon spotting one, Reds would freeze, point and charge with all her might. Most of the time, she’d miss the squirrel by a split second, but one afternoon she surprised all of us, including herself, by catching one. From that day forward, all you had to say was “Where’s the squirrel?” in an excited tone and Reds would stop whatever she was doing and fly out the screen door searching for quarry.
All that wandering around the streets did end up getting Reds in trouble more than a few times. Suffice to say she was popular with certain male dog suitors. As a result, Reds had about five litters. From her first pregnancy, she delivered a single pup on the day Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon; the new addition was quickly adopted and named “Luna.”
            Years passed and Reds aged gracefully, slowing down on the squirrel chasing and spending more time indoors, though never far from my mother. On a late summer afternoon, Reds appeared on the steps of the backyard and lied down on the concrete landing under the awning. Panting heavily, she looked uncomfortable. Her dark eyes opened and closed rapidly. Someone said she’d been struck by a car, but no one knew for sure exactly what had happened.
My mother and I waited with her. Reds wouldn’t come inside so we let her rest there as night fell. We stepped into the kitchen to fix her a bowl of water. When we returned, she was gone. And she never returned. She disappeared as mysteriously as she had arrived. My mother told me Reds didn’t want me to see her die. She wanted us to remember the way she’d always been.
When I pass the New York pooches, dolled up in rhinestone harnesses, rain slickers, and argyle sweaters; pedicured, pedigreed and pampered as they sniff the sidewalk at the hands of their hired dogwalkers. I think of Reds’ self-sufficiency. When two passing dogs growl and yap at each other, I think of Reds’ gentle and serene composure.
Since Reds, I’ve had several dogs and cats, all unique and wonderful in their own way, but Reds will always be the most cherished to me---a symbol of a carefree childhood, of simplicity and trust. I comfort myself with the thought of my mother walking barefoot on a cloud in heaven next to Reds---no leash needed---tethered by something stronger—their undying, unique and unconditional love.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Maloiks or The Day I Killed Gil