You know how some moments are forever frozen in time? Kind of like Han Solo, when Darth Vader has him frozen in carbonite and sent off to Jabba the Hutt’s lair. There’s nothing like that freaky-deaky instant when the camera pans across the metal alloy block (yes, I had to google “carbonite”) to reveal Solo, hands pressing out as if fighting for his life. Shudder.
If for some reason you’ve stumbled across my blog and are of a generation after the life-altering Star Wars trilogy – and by that I mean the original trilogy, the one that sent parents and kids across America to the theaters in the late 1970s – you should really check out Han Solo. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
Anyway, certain images in my life are like that, flash frozen into my brain. Some are perfectly lovely: holding the first copy of my play, riding in my shiny red Miata, seeing BrightSide at the altar on our wedding day, the instant we laid eyes on each of our kids. I can picture those moments as if they happened yesterday…
But there are other snapshots stuck in my mind, too. Not the ones that make you say Awww. I’m talking about the ones that make you go Oh, $#@!
I remember having one of those experiences not too long after BrightSide and I got married. We were living in St. Louis, and my parents had come to visit us in our very first house. We tackled a lot of firsts that weekend – my parents visiting me as a married woman, having someone stay in my own home, showing them around St. Louis – there was a lot going on.
Heidi had already joined our family and I was a little anxious about that, what with my parents being cat people and all. (Okay, that sounds a bit like my parents are a hybrid breed. Not so much. Check out my Heidi post if you haven’t already read about our first furry friend, and that comment will make more sense.) I shouldn’t have worried, though. Heidi was her typically precious self.
She won over my folks with her sweet, charming, adorable self the moment they crossed the threshold. Truly, it was impossible not to love that dog – she was just one of those fluffy critters who made everyone smile.
However, Heidi still had quite a bit of puppy in her. She was the first dog I’d ever owned, so basically every stage she went through was new insight into the canine mind for me. The fact that this lovey-dovey had chewed up an entire section of our family room carpet and lived to tell the tale testifies to the hold she had on our hearts.
At any rate, one night during my parents’ visit we went out for dinner. I don’t remember where we ate, just that the food was incredible. It might have been the night we visited one of the Italian restaurants on the Hill, an area that’s considered the “Little Italy” of St. Louis. We’d never been to the neighborhood, and my dad’s friend had highly recommended it.
A quick word about the dinner meal philosophy, per my dad. Dinner is to be experienced. Savored. Enjoyed from beginning to end without missing a morsel. (He really was made to live in Italy.) Dining out is comprised of appetizer, bread, soup/salad, main course, and (without fail) dessert. Omitting any one of these is unthinkable blasphemy, so you’d better enter a restaurant both a) hungry and b) prepared to need pants two sizes bigger when you leave. It took quite a while for BrightSide to adjust to this perspective…actually, I don’t know that he ever fully has.
So after dinner the four of us rolled home, bellies full and belts tight, ready to sit down and relax. Only when we walked in the door all four of us came to an abrupt stop at the sight of Heidi chewing something on the floor – something crunchy and black – with pieces of dad’s camera scattered around her.
I had a fleeting moment of utter terror, completely convinced that this was it, Heidi’s time was up. My dad was surely going to kill her. And since I was silently rooted to the spot, staring in horror at the evidence of destruction before us…well, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get to her first.
See, here’s the thing – I’ve never thought of my dad as a mild-mannered man. Different kids have distinct perspectives, so my childhood memories might be night and day from my siblings. But I remember working hard to avoid invoking my father’s wrath. And my dog had just EATEN HIS CAMERA.
Things weren’t looking good.
But then my dad did something I never would have predicted. He stood there in shock for a few moments, frozen like the rest of us. Then as BrightSide and I went to deal with Heidi, he calmly walked past us and out into the sunroom, closing the doors behind him.
He stood out there for a really long time, most likely mustering the wherewithal not to kill the dog, while the rest of us left him to work through what could only be enormously powerful emotions. I’m sure some of you would have reached out with something reassuring or funny or apologetic, but it seemed safer to leave him be. If he’d managed not to blow a gasket at the sight of his dismembered camera, I sure didn’t want to be the one to provoke it with the wrong remark.
Maybe Heidi was prepping me for these years in the fire with Gracie…after all, I haven’t killed her yet, either. And she’s given me plenty of those Oh, $#@! moments herself.