Friday, December 23, 2005
Sixteen years ago
I am one who puts everything off until the last minute. People like me are especially penalized at Christmas. We are the ones who the week before Christmas are creeping in traffic jams, hiking in from the back forty of packed parking lots, pushing through crowded stores, standing in snaking checkout lines, plodding from store to store looking for those items that everyone seems sold out of, standing in out-the-door lines at the Post Office, and desperately sending out Christmas cards with just a signature because we ran out of time to write notes.
But sixteen years ago, for one glorious year, it was different. For me, anyway. I got my shopping done weeks early. I got everything wrapped and shipped in plenty of time. I had all my cards done and sent. So the last week before Christmas I was on idle and loving it. Life was goooood. What made it even better was seeing all the other last-minuters struggling and cursing and suffering. Yup, the icing on the cake of good life is seeing others who aren't partaking because they weren't as smart as you were. To be done early is human, to gloat about it is divine.
Then, sixteen years ago tonight, I took a walk with my friend Judi down her street. It was bitterly cold (for Florida), and we were bundled up. Her beagle, Bailey, had escaped from her yard a while back and had had a fling with a terrier, and six weeks earlier he had become a father. Judi thought I should have a dog (I wasn't so sure myself), and since these were Bailey's puppies I had been promised one. On that cold night sixteen years ago tonight, I was going to pick one out.
We found there were only two left, a male and a female. When we entered the room, the male hid, but the female stood in the middle of the room and barked at us furiously. She was only about the size of my sneaker, and I have small feet, but she was absolutely fearless. "Bark, bark!" she said. "Bark, bark, bark, bark, bark!" I was charmed by her spunk. She left the house of her birth tucked inside Judi's coat, to protect her from the cold.
She slept that night on a towel in a cardboard box next to my bed. The next day was Christmas Eve, and I didn't have anything I would need to care for a dog. A kennel. Food and water bowls. Collar and leash. Food. Chew toys. Treats. Nada. So there I was, Gregory the Prepared, Gregory Who Had Everything Done Early (For Once), on Christmas Eve day, creeping in traffic jams, hiking in from the back forty of packed parking lots, pushing through crowded stores, standing in snaking checkout lines, and plodding from store to store looking for those items that everyone seems sold out of (where did all the kennels go the week before Christmas, anyway?). It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair.
I never did my Christmas shopping early again.
We named the little girl B.J. -- Brings Joy. And that little Christmas dog brought me joy for fifteen years. And you know, everything I went through that Christmas Eve day, sixteen years ago? It was so worth it.