In the Pink

I had such plans for my new Shih Tzu puppy. Angel would be a pink fashion plate. Everything belonging to her would match: ribbons, halter, parka, toys, and bed. For our first walk, I buckled the Eastside Collection salmon-pink collar with embossed flowers and clipped on her matching leash.

“Pretty in pink,” a neighbor said.

I thought her rose-tinted life was here to stay.

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Not long after I had recycled the sales slip, Angel heaved her new pink bed left and right, pulled the inserted pillow out, ripped the lining, and then fall asleep on the taupe carpet. Disappointed, I replaced her bed with a durable beige and olive cushion, a pillow that Angel could burrow and toss, but not destroy.

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And, oh, the toys. Her fuchsia pet pig “passed” after Angel chewed its legs and straightened its curly tail. She refused to play with her rose-eared lamb, and when we checked out replacements, she preferred a bright red hound dog. Angel chewed, pounced, and attacked, but the furry creature stayed in one piece.

February and March entered and exited wet and grubby—just like Angel. After too much scrubbing, the once snazzy leash and collar began to fade and fray. Sadly, I put both in the garbage and purchased a sturdy, dark-green combination that wouldn’t show the dirt.

“What happened to her dainty leash?” another neighbor asked.

“She’s not a dainty girl,” I answered.

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Not all was lost. Two months after her first birthday, Angel still had her neon-pink Guardian Gear rain jacket. Until her teeth marks dented the Velcro.  Until putting it on her became a struggle. Dipping and dodging, she scooted away, hid under the table, and ultimately won the parka battle. When we took our afternoon walk in the rain Angel was a tog-free but drenched little Shih Tzu.

“She needs a jacket,” a neighbor said. “You don’t want her to get a cold.”

Chastened, I searched through the pet catalog, and with a sigh, bought her the Casual Canine Barn Coat advertised as the “. . . ideal covering for rugged, outdoor dogs.”

What came of my desire to synchronize Angel’s wardrobe and belongings? I surrendered any hope that Angel would be pretty in pink. On sunny days she struts in purple; on rainy days she wears a red and black plaid slicker, though, just for the fun of it, I do have a substitute pink leash with silver decorations. So far, she wears it without a fuss.

At night, after a raucous run-around (not for long, because we’re both a decade older than these Facebook, blog photos), Angel settles, not in a pink boudoir, but on a brown throw.

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Among nature’s mysteries, who really knows what motivates our animal companions? At times, especially when she gets this human look in her eye, I wonder if my eight pound, clever pup decided not to be defined merely by rosy hoodies or blush-toned hair bows.

Whatever the reasons, I’m tickled pink she’s mine.

Pen and Paper

To write a good letter, take a handful of grit,
A plenty of time and a little of wit
Take patience to set it, and stir it all up
With the ladle of energy. Then fill a cup
With kind thoughts, merry thoughts, too,
With bright words, and wise words, and words strong and true.
Then seal with a love kiss and stamp it with care
Direct it to your friend’s heart and presto ’tis there.
— Anonymous

When I walk up the two steps to my apartment complex mail boxes, I know what awaits me: mail requests for the refugee and owl and river. There are the “good-life” catalogs I did not order. And oh, so many calendars I will never use.

Over the past two weeks, though, another kind of mail has arrived: real letters with my name written in pen. They have return addresses I recognize. Inside are flowered, scrolled designs with words of love and sympathy, grief and praise—every letter focused on the life and death of my sister Mary.

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This is as it should be, for Mary Paige Kennedy Boucher was not only a woman of kindness and creativity, she was also a letter-writer. Through her cards and letters my beloved older sister made it possible for us to read and touch what is gracious and good. Her faithful messages came to us through letters and cards: birthday, sympathy, thank-you, feast day, graduation, anniversary, and holiday.

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Even on her two-week genealogy trip to Ireland in 2016, Mary took time to send postcards. When my postcards arrived, her words invited me to come share her adventure: We took the Hop On—Hop Off bus around Dublin. Tomorrow we leave for Belfast and then on to the Glens of Antrim.

And, her holiday letters—single columned, elegantly formatted—are gems. She wrote at Christmas of 2013:

I love December! It is unchanging. The trees are stripped of their foliage
And stand naked, their inner designs revealed. Lights on trees, windows, and rooftops shine clear and bright on frosty nights. The air crackles and we are energized.

Year after year, with utmost faithfulness to family and friends, Mary sent cards and letters. She let her words be fully human, arriving snail mail, finding a temporary home near a birthday cake or Christmas poinsettia or Easter basket.

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Yes, Mary was a letter writer and the pen and paper messages revealed her unselfish, openhearted spirit. I read again her words on the Celebration of Life book mark:  bright words, and wise words, and words strong and true; letters sealed with a kiss and stamped with care . . .

And before I can call out “Mary!” presto, she’s here.

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Anticipation

The awe and surprise on my sister Mary’s face came not only from the possibility of an adventure, but the magic of riding high in the saddle. That little girl, captured forever in Kodak images, is a sure bet to elicit smiles and laughter.

The photo is also a symbol for expectation. Perfect for right now, for isn’t anticipation what we celebrate during days of Passover, Springtime, and Easter?

 

The Festival of Freedom, April’s flowering dogwoods, and the Resurrection tell and retell familiar stories. Passover commemorates God’s people breaking free of enslavement. Spring discovers new nests in the crotch of a tree. Easter celebrates the risen Christ. Age-old traditions, arriving annually, encourage us to be like my sister Mary: clasp hands in anticipation and then sit high on Life.

One of my favorite poems is Swinburne’s “Atalanta in Calydon.” These verses, humming with expectation, describe a similar passing from grief to joy, death to life, past to present:

For winter’s rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in the green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

tulipsToday, daffodils and tulips opened and birds ate from a grassy green table. Since Nature’s festivals of freedom and communion are in full celebration mode, I wish us (expectant children of the universe) Happy Passover, Happy Spring, Happy Easter.