Portrait of a Lady


There is little hope of my being cogent enough tomorrow to write what I think I want to write, so I will end today with a few words about our dog Templeton.  In the morning we will be saying goodbye  to our beautiful beagle after a 15-year relationship characterized by contrasts:  A faithful friend who would put her head on your lap when you were feeling sad but just as readily steal your dinner from the table; a dog who encouraged her owners to walk great distances in fresh air but could also raise their blood pressure in an instant with her propensity for escape; a gorgeous face who thought nothing of leaving behind all sorts of digestive emissions wherever she chose throughout the house.

She failed obedience training and even chewed up her “diploma” in front of her teacher; she ripped up expensive perennials from my newly planted garden, then skipped through the yard gleefully with them dangling from her teeth; she made a small child cry at a cookout when she took a hotdog right from his hand.  She helped herself to our neighbor’s tomatoes after digging a mammoth hole under our fence to get there.  

She made us laugh.  She made us cry.  In short, she was a member of our family: She was our dog.  We have missed her . . . and we will miss her. 

There has never been a dog quite like you, Templeton.  I will forever remember the pull of your leash in my hand, the softness of your beagle ears on my fingers, the “beauty mark” on your face, the swirling cowlick on your side.   I will think of you in your younger, healthier days getting into all sorts of shenanigans and making us love you all the more for them. 

You will always be our first baby–always.


Symbols, Symbols Everywhere

It might be because I was an English major, or it just may be the way my mind works, but I have a tendency to find the “symbolic representation” of anything and everything I encounter.    I fully realize, of course, that most of the time this is a mere intellectual exercise–attempting to “crack a code” or discern meaning in what may otherwise appear meaningless, nothing more than simple entertainment.

August’s Adoption Day and celebration are coming up in just a little over a month.  The invitations came in last week, but the printer neglected to send the envelopes.  Knowing I had a very small window to address the invitations, I went out yesterday in search of a complementary envelope.  I popped into Staples and found what looked like–at first glance–just a pretty envelope.  I picked up a few packages and went on my way. 

Driving home I thought that  perhaps I should have just waited for the printer’s plain white envelopes–that these embellished ones were not really necessary.  But then I got home, opened the package, and studied it carefully: 

Three butterflies on the front flanked by two large, protective flowers–and on the back a single butterfly, a near-replication of the third from the front.  And then I smiled because I realized these were the perfect envelopes.  The butterflies, Oscar, Edgar, and August, protected on both sides by the two large flowers, Don and me, and the single butterfly, August, on the back.  Add to the fact that the first and third butterflies are darker and the center one lighter, and the symbolism simply dripped from the paper. 

It didn’t take a lot of effort to crack this code . . . and yet it seems anything but meaningless:  A parent’s job is to protect his or her children while simultaneously giving that child the wings they need to fly free.  And August’s Adoption Day marks the official start of that journey.  

Thanks, Ritz, for forgetting to pack our envelopes.  I can’t imagine finding this much meaning in the plain white variety.

College Planning

Oscar asked me recently about going to college. 

He’s currently a Kindergartener, but I suppose it’s never too early to start planning ahead.  He then reiterated something that he has mentioned several times–that he planned to live with us forever.  He concluded that he would therefore need to go to college in Rhode Island as he wanted us to drive him to and from his college classes, just as we do now for Kindergarten.

After discussing his various local options, he concluded that he would like to attend Brown University–but only if we can stop at Dunkin’ Donuts every Friday after school on the way home for an end-of-the-week treat.

Can a five-year-old enter into a binding contract?  I think I’d like to get this all in writing before someone changes his mind!

Who Needs the Directions?

When Oscar, who has never seen the Star Wars films, asked for Star Wars toys for Christmas (based on the recommendations of some of his Kindergarten colleagues), little did we know that Santa and Mrs. Claus (aka Grandpa and Grandma) would come through with roughly two thousand tiny pieces of Lego–pieces so small that even at 41 years old I lack the fine motor skills to handle them. 

Each set, of course, comes in its own box–along with a set of directions that runs about, oh, thirty pages or so.  When I inquired of Don, who spent two or three hours on Christmas Day building one of the ships, what exactly the appeal was, he informed me (without looking up) that these were like three-dimensional puzzles, then waxed poetically about their assorted assets.

I left and got some cheesecake.

But over the last few days, Oscar has been spending a lot of time with one particular set,#8036 to be exact.  He asked me to open the box on Saturday morning, and he has yet to put it down except possibly to sleep.  He tossed the directions aside and built a beautiful ship, presented it proudly, and paraded around with it for hours.

But today he came across the directions–and compared his ship to the one on the cover of the booklet.  He looked truly crestfallen when he realized they were not the same.

As a teacher, I tell my students over and over again to “read the directions, “to “follow directions, to “look for clues in the directions.”  But today I told my son, when he asked if his version of the Star Wars ship looked as good as the one in the picture, “It looks better,” adding, “Who needs the directions?”  He reminded me that “sometimes we do.” 

And sometimes is indeed the operative word.  Many times in life we are aided by the directions that are designed to help us make sense of our world; but in just as many instances, there is no blueprint, or the one that is available isn’t quite right, and we have to figure it all out on our own. 

Oscar’s pride was resurrected instantaneously when he took a second look at his creation.   Yes, sometimes we do need directions, to follow a prescribed path; but more often than not, there is a certain power in tossing the directions aside and following your own burst of creativity and inspiration.  It may not take you where you thought you were going . . . it may wind up taking you someplace better.

He Keeps Growing and Growing and Growing

The title of this post is a specific reference to Oscar and is assuredly not a news flash to anyone, but it has given me pause nonetheless. 

As the mother of boys–and boys who, for the most part, care very little about what they wear, I am able to avail myself of the post-Christmas sales and pick up some mighty fine buys.  An added bonus is that boy clothing at this age tends to be fairly predictable–khaki, brown, blue, gray, and black pants and polo or button-down shirts in short or long sleeves.  That’s about it.  Throw in a sweater or two, some socks and underwear, and you’re good to go.  There is no fear that what you buy in January will be out of style by September. 

But each year, when I buy the next size up, after I marvel at what I was able to get for a fairly small amount of money, I take the clothes out of the bags and I stare . . .

And today, as I removed Oscar’s Size 6 pants ($8.99, thank you very much) and size 7/8 shirts (just $3.99), I couldn’t resist taking a picture because I know, one day,  this outfit will seem very small. 

But today, as I think about Oscar wearing these clothes next fall, well . . . all I can do is stare.   To say that children grow fast is an understatement.

Thinking About Adoption Day

With approximately seven weeks until August’s Adoption Day, I have been busy planning–and reflecting on the signficance of–this event. 

“Our children can learn that . . . the concept of ‘family’ does not rest solely on biology.  They can learn that love transcends many artificial boundaries frequently put into place by humans.  They can learn that closing one door can open another door and another and another . . .”  CAROLINE HARDING, Adoptive Parent

Adoption Day: 8 March 2005

“Adoption feels like genetic connection because it links you directly not only to your own gene pool but to the genes of all humanity, all the way back to the roots from which we all originated . . . Adoption carries the added dimension of connection not only to your own tribe but beyond, widening the scope of what constitutes love, ties, and family.  It is a larger embrace.”  ISABELLA ROSSELLINI, Adoptive Parent

Adoption Day: 8 May 2006

“By choice , we have becaome a family, first in our hearts, and finally in breath and being.  Great expectations are good; great experiences are better.”  RICHARD FISCHER, Adoptive Parent

Adoption Day: 5 March 2010

“It has been said that adoption is more like a marriage than a birth: Two (or more) individuals, each with their own unique mix of needs, patterns, and genetic history, coming together with love, hope, and commitment for a joint future.  You become a family not because you share the same genes, but because you share love for each other.”  JOAN MCNAMARA, Adoptive Parent