Friday, November 25, 2011

The Fox and the Hound

Giving thanks can change at a moment's notice
As a child, Thanksgiving began when my father pulled out the homemade red stained table with detachable pipe legs.  The holiday consisted of cleaning my room (and later the house and yard with my sister), fanning the smoke alarm, waiting for guests, eating and ending with my parents complaining about the outrageous rates plumbers charge for holiday visits. 

We always had a huge holiday spread.  Appetizers consisted of the standard mixed nuts, salami and red wax covered gouda cheese with crackers (if I was lucky, Wheat Thins, if not Triskits, or worse, Ritz).  Crudités with dill or onion dip and pitted black olives which all the children, including my sister and I, immediately popped onto our fingers and waved around like finger puppets made the appetizers Thanksgiving.  The main menu and serving containers were always:  turkey and stuffing on the spiked teak cutting stand,  ham, spikey with cloves, on the pink rimmed platter, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, kept warm in the electric casket-shaped bread warmer, marshmallow topped yams baked on pineapple rings on the white platter, mashed potatoes in the white casserole dish, gravy in my parents’ wedding china gravy boat, and my father’s creamed corn casserole (one of the three dishes he cooked), served in my grandmother’s brown glazed casserole dish.  Salad made its appearance in any variety of bowls because nobody really cared about salad, except that we needed something “green.”  Mushrooms marinated in Wishbone Italian Dressing were served in a stainless serving bowl.  It was the 1960’s – 70’s.  “Cooking with convenience” was all the rage.  Most of the food was canned or rehydrated.   Except for the turkey. 

My mother and I hated turkey.  It was dry and crunchy.  I assumed that was the nature of the bird, until I went to summer camp, and we cooked a turkey in a dutch oven on hot stones, buried under charcoal and ash.   It was delicious.  Who knew?  After that, my sister and I took turns cooking the turkey.  I stuck to a traditional roast while my sister went the Martha Stewart route, placing herbs beneath the skin, making it look like stained glass when it came out of the oven. 

By far, my favorite part of Thanksgiving was the guests.  My father had some friends who were “larger than life:” the colonel who reminded me of a walrus and his beautiful cat-like wife, the professional gambler who showed up with interesting women when he was “up” and no one when he was “down,” the magician who scared my mother by throwing flames from his hands, and the Italian Count and the Countess.  The Count and Countess were our regular Thanksgiving guests.  In exchange, we went to their house for the Fourth of July, which was ironic considering they still relished their unrecognized titles and the wife was from Hong Kong, still a British colony at that time.

To say the Count and Countess were eccentric would be an understatement.  Their cars were beautifully restored Packards.   The Count was a tall man who only wore bespoke (according to my mother) clothing.  He had a thick black mono-brow and longish wavy grey hair that he combed back so that it looked like a powdered wig (appropriate for the Fourth of July, less so for Thanksgiving).  He had a booming laugh that exposed sharp canines, giving him a dangerous air.  His wife was a petite woman who wore stilettos that made her take tiny minced steps.  She styled herself after Elizabeth Taylor, with exaggerated eye make-up and frosted hair teased into a froth.  She delicately brushed stray locks from her eyes with her pinky finger.  Most of the time, she wore a giant fur coat. 

On one Thanksgiving, the Countess wore a fluffy red fox coat.  It was too large to fit into the coat closet, and for whatever reason, my mother didn’t think it would be appropriate to store in either my sister’s or my room.  Actually, I understood why not my room. I would have petted the fur off of it.  So, instead, she left the coat hanging off the arm of the couch, next to the Countess.  They sat and chatted.

The Gentleman as a puppy.  Note the "piglet belly."
At that time, we had an elegant standard sized long-haired dachshund.  My father taught him basic manners as well as tricks.  We called that doxie The Gentleman because we could leave food on the very low coffee table and he’d never try to take anything. When we had company, The Gentleman would lie quietly on the couch between my mother and the guest and my mother would share her hors d’oeuvres with him as she toyed with his silky hair. 

The Gentleman had one flaw:  he loved to gnaw on fabric.  He could look adoringly at the guest, chin on their laps all the while working his lower jaw on a shirtsleeve or pant cuff.  Nobody would be any the wiser until they stood to leave and saw the wet spot and hole.

On the Thanksgiving the Countess brought her fox fur coat, The Gentleman sat between the Countess and her coat, rather than next to my mother.  Despite the fur coat collection, the Countess loved animals and had two Pekinese dogs that she adored.  No one thought anything was amiss, believing that The Gentleman knew an animal lover when he met one.  The Countess alternated between stroking her coat and petting the dog.  My sister and I were excused from the room.

After a while, my dad announced that dinner was ready.  My sister and I dashed into the hall, but stopped dead when we saw the Count and my dad staring, eyebrows raised, into the living room.  It was as if all the adults were frozen in time.  My mother was ash white, her eyes and mouth open wide in mortification.  The Countess held her fox coat by the shoulders and on the coffee colored satin lining there was a large dark area with a hole through the pocket.  My sister and I looked at The Gentleman who slid off the couch and hurriedly trotted down the hall past us, into my parent’s bedroom, most likely to hide out under their bed.

“I’m so sorry,” my mother managed to say.

My dad’s eyebrows kept lowering until they were set in a glower, and his mouth went tight.  His face turned a dark plum color.

“Uh - -“ My mom’s mouth opened and closed but no other sound came out.

Even I knew that the coat was expensive and that there was no way that we could replace it, like we did with the neighbor’s cashmere trousers.  I looked back at my dad.  He had a terrible temper with us, especially if we embarrassed him in front of his friends.  All I could think about was what he would do with The Gentleman.

“Would you like me to hang up your coat?” I offered, pretending the damage was too minimal to notice.

“I’ll have the Count put it in the car,” the Countess said icily.

The Count sprang back to life.  “Of course,” he said, taking the coat and going out.

“We’ll … we’ll pay for the repair,” my mother offered.

“Don’t worry about it,” the Countess said with a tight smile.

“Please,” my mother insisted, her tone stronger as she shot a sharp look at my father.

“Forget it,” the Countess said with a lighter tone, although it was equally false.

I was relieved but couldn’t understand why my parents seemed embarrassed. 

The count returned. 

“Let’s eat,” he roared, smiling broadly, eagerly rubbing his hands together.
The tension broken, we entered the kitchen.  I knew first hand that my father’s punishments were always immediate and swift, company present or not.  The Gentleman was safe.   That Thanksgiving, I was eternally grateful that my father was more forgiving with animals than he was with people.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saying, "Good-bye"

R.I. P. Uber Hundus Maximus April 1999?- November 18, 2011
This is not the entry I was intending to write.  I knew this was coming, but no matter how prepared I thought I was, the actuality hit with an abruptness, a finality that sucked the air out of my world, left an enormous hole in my heart, left me wandering in a haze of loss.  My Uber Hundus Maximus has died. 

I had thought about writing something earlier and then storing it, like newspapers do when they know a great celebrity is nearing the end of his or her time, and then adding the necessary details at the actual moment of death but I’m superstitious.  I thought that I could delay the process, so I didn’t.  Now, I feel compelled to write something, but there’s just so much I want to say, most of which won’t make much sense to anyone except for me and the people that knew him.  Even so, let me tell you about my Uber Hund:

He came into our lives, October 2000, on his own volition, as he did everything.  He had been wandering the streets of my mother’s neighborhood for a few weeks.  He walked by my parents’ house.  My mother, never seeing an empty mouth she didn’t want to fill, set out a bowl of food and went back to the house.  A few minutes later, as she was doing dishes, she felt like she was being watched.  She turned around and saw the stray looking at her through the window.  Not a pushy look or desperate look, but one of curiosity, as if to say “oh, so this is where you live.”  Then he turned around and left.

My mother called me, saying I should come and look at this dog, come help him.  My husband and I were both working full-time and living in a townhome.  It was an especially stressful time for us because several of our friends were also ill and dying.  Anyone could see it was a bad situation for dog ownership.  In fact, the dog I had gotten pre-marriage, a spaniel mix, was living with my parents, their dachshund and two cats.  Still, my mother encouraged me to see this stray dog.

So, after work, I drove up to her neighborhood, not really having a plan in mind.  She’d put out bowls of food and water, and there he was, eating and drinking.  She hadn’t prepared me for the sight.  He was a medium sized dog, incredibly thin.  I could see his spine, ribs, and hip points.  He was nearly hairless, his skin that dark grey elephant skin texture that dogs often get when they have mange.  But he still had fur on his foxy face and when he turned to look at me, he wasn’t frightened or exuberant.  He was incredibly calm, relaxed and confident.  He gave a wag in greeting, then returned to eating.

When he was done, he came over to me.  He wore a wide leather collar, that was so tight that his skin had grown over the edges.  There were no tags.  He let me pet him.

“Let’s see if he’ll get in the car,” I said.

I opened the car door and he approached and looked, but didn’t want to go in.  I tossed in a treat to no avail.  I tried to pick him up, but he balked and when I let go, he ran a couple steps out of reach, but then returned.

I told my mother that I would try again the next day, since my sister would be there to help.  If he was gone, then it wasn’t meant to be.

He wasn’t there when I arrived, but appeared a bit later, checking in at the window again.  He let me remove the collar.  It made a sucking sound when it pulled off of his raw skin.  He let me put a harness and leash on him and with my sister’s help, we got him into the car and she held his leash while I drove him to the vet.

After a few weeks, the hair started to grow back.
I left him at the vet for a few hours so he could have a work-up and a bath.  I alerted my husband to the situation, and being an animal lover himself, he gave the o.k. to bring the stray home, reminding me that we didn’t have the ideal conditions for keeping a dog.  I concurred and assured him that as soon as the dog regained his health and fur, I would find him a permanent home.  When my husband came home that night, the dog greeted him at the door with what would become his usual reserve.  Although my husband was stunned by the dog’s condition, he was sold on the personality.

Because we didn’t know anything about the dog, that first night I slept on the couch downstairs and the dog slept on a folded comforter.  He slept hard almost as soon as he lay down, waking once to come to the couch and give me a kiss on the nose before returning to his bed. 

I was smitten. 

In the morning, I went upstairs to change.  The dog waited at the foot of the stairs for a minute, then came up.  He stopped when he saw our bed.  He glanced from my husband to me and back with a look that would become his trademark, a look that said, “Wait.  There’s a bed?  Why the heck were we sleeping downstairs?  That’s ridiculous.”  And then he jumped up on the bed.

The next night, he slept on the bed with us.  But the next morning was Monday, a work day.  My husband went downstairs and called the dog.  The dog came.  My husband put on the harness and leash and opened the front door.  It was dark and cold.  The dog glanced from outside to the warm bed upstairs.  “Wait.  I was sleeping in a warm comfy bed and you woke me up to go out into the dark and cold?  That’s ridiculous.”  He ran back upstairs to bed.  And from then on, the dog was convinced that my husband ran a few kibbles short in the mental food bowl.

Even so, once the dog’s fur returned, when I followed through and asked if I should look for a new home for the dog, my husband gaped at me.

“We belong together!” he exclaimed.  “How could you ask such a thing?” 

And so Uber Hundus Maximus remained with us

Uber Hundus was different from my other dogs because he always made it very clear that he didn’t need us, kind of like a cat.  If we did something that displeased him, he would give us a puzzled look as if to say, “I don’t need to take this crap, you know.   That’s ridiculous.” And then he would check out either physically or mentally, until we did something that interested him.  However, he also made it clear that he chose to be with us.  He was willing to work with us, he’d hang out with us, and he’d always come back to us.  His choice was our privilege, and I have to say I agreed. 

When his fur grew back and he went from 25 lbs. to 45 lbs., people would literally stop their cars and back up to compliment how handsome he was and ask about his breed.  My husband and I assumed he was a shiba inu mix, perhaps some type of dingo, since he didn’t bark.  However, whenever I walked him through our townhouse neighborhood, Koreans would stop us, saying we had a beautiful jindo (their national dog) and asking if we wanted to breed him.  They were horrified to discover I’d had him neutered, saying he was a perfect jindo specimen.  The breed was relatively new to the United States, the first introduction being during the L.A. riots.  They were the dogs guarding from store rooftops.  When I looked up the breed, they looked like my Uber Hund, although Uber Hundus Maximus was even more handsome, as he would concur.

The Uber Hund didn’t like bullshit.  He had to take a variety of pills throughout his life because of his compromised immune system during his life on the streets.  At first, I tried to hide his pills in food.  Regardless of the kind of food, he would spit out the pill.  One time he spit out the pill and stood on it, “You think you can fool the jindo?  Ridiculous.”  From then on, I gave him the pills straight, but I’d open his mouth from underneath and give him a treat chaser.  He was perfectly fine with that.  He also hated baths, but wouldn’t suffer the indignity of being lifted into a tub.  Once he was in the bathroom, he’d jump into the tub on his own and take his “punishment” like a dog.  After the bath was over he wanted to chase me or my husband around as payback.

Very unlike jindos, the Uber Hund loved people.  He enjoyed parties and would work a room, greeting everyone, but never jumping up to take a plate or to counter surf.  When he volunteered as a therapy dog, he loved working the sitting room of the assisted living facility.  And the Uber Hund was an exceptional flirt.  He always picked out the prettiest girl in any situation.  He’d sit in front of her, and put a kindly paw on her lap.  He’d work her with “big eyes” first, and if cute didn’t work, he’d break out the “sexy eyes,” where he’d narrow his eyes just a little and give a little head chuck, as if to say, “Hey, baby, how ‘bout a treat?” 

Uber Hund with my niece.
He was exceptionally gentle with children.  When he saw children, his eyes would go soft and he’d want to visit.  They were entranced by his foxy appearance. He loved having them ruffle his fur and would let them play with his fuzzy ears.  When my niece visited, she would pet him as she colored and he would fall blissfully asleep.  When my later-to-be nephew visited, he wanted to walk the Uber Hund.  He strutted as the Uber Hund walked easily at his side.  When I asked my nephew why he wanted to walk with the Uber Hund, he said it was because it was like walking a wolf.  I think even Uber Hund liked that idea.

Although the Uber Hund liked to play the role of lone wolf, he eventually allowed other dogs into the household, so long as they didn’t cramp his style.  He’d never admit it, but I think he more than tolerated the company of Wee One and Muzzy, a dog we adopted but died before we moved.  There are even a few photographs of the Uber Hund touching – he would vehemently deny “snuggling” - the other dogs while they slept together.  When I was training the other dogs, the Uber Hund wanted to participate.  But, he didn’t want to do what the other dogs were doing.  He made up his own routines to get a treat.  Then he’d look at the other dogs as if to say, “Top THAT!  What you’re doing, it’s ridiculous.”

He loved cheesecake, smoked cheese, car rides, and supervising in the front yard as we gardened.  He was a great supervisor.  When we briefly lived in an apartment, I came home to see the jindo’s tail wagging as his front end was under the sink with the plumber.  When I called away the Uber Hund, the plumber actually protested.  “He’s o.k.  He’s just keeping me company.”  So, the Uber Hund returned to the task at hand.

Working the "sexy eyes."
Uber Hundus Maximus always had That Look ready, the Uber Hund look, the look that said, “don’t even try to understand the way of the jindo,” the look that wondered at human ineptness, “What?!  Why did you make it rain on BOTH sides of the house? That’s ridiculous!” the look that said, “You don’t know how to do it.  I’LL DO IT.” We got to know that look and love the look.   

We knew the Uber Hund was old, fragile with health issues.  In the last few months, he had a bout of pancreatitis, breathing issues, and something going on with his liver.  We thought we’d have to make The Decision a few weeks ago, when he started to become incontinent, drinking lots of water, breathing heavily.  We even prepared by asking our vet if he could make a house call when The Time came.  We should have known that the jindo wouldn’t let us do that.  However, over the last few weeks, the jindo prevailed, as he has been known to do.  He regained energy, held his bladder, ate with enthusiasm.  He wanted to go for walks and climbed the stairs. 

Friday, November 18, was a regular morning.  Uber Hundus ate a whole chicken breast and some special kibble.  The dogs did their business.  I took Rock Star and Wee One for their walks.  Uber Hundus was in my husband’s office and when my husband went out for a second, the Uber Hund and Wee One migrated to my office.  I was upstairs, with the Rock Star, changing clothes.

 There was a yowl. 

My husband rushed to my office.  Each dog was in their usual place, Wee One on the couch, Uber Hund lying on the carpet next to him.

“Uber Hund?” my husband said, touching the jindo.

Uber Hund yowled again and went lax.

And then we realized.  He had just said, “Good-bye.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Music of the Night

The things that happen while you're asleep.
It’s 3 a.m. and I’m up again, not because I have to go to the bathroom, although I will, but because of stress, minor aches and pains and a general lack of sleepiness.  Like my husband, I’ve been struck with insomnia, but unlike him, I usually initially fall asleep quickly only to wake up later to watch the clock tick off the hours. This night, though he is able to sleep.  Good on him.

It’s a chilly night, my favorite kind.  I dash to the bathroom and back, jump into bed where my spot is still warm, not waking anyone, including the dogs.  I’m not angry or frustrated this night.  I don’t have any appointments in the morning, so when I eventually do fall asleep, I won’t have to worry about the alarm clock jarring me awake.  I’m comfy and cozy, but not sleepy.

And so, I just lay there, listening.

There’s a period of time from around one or two a.m. to about four a.m. that’s deliciously devoid of human interference, the witching hour, so to speak.  When I’m in a writing bender, I love this time period because it’s like dead space where everything’s muffled and quiet, although I’m sure those young’uns out there in the clubs would beg to differ.  But, when I’m in bed, staring at the ceiling, it seems to be a completely different world.

First, because one of our dogs is an old guy, I always key into his breathing, just in case.  One never knows, although I’ve never been “fortunate” enough to have any of my dogs pass on in their natural sleep.  Uberhundus Maximus, as we’ve taken to calling him, has always had upper respiratory issues - allergies, sinus infections – so there’s usually a bit of a rasp to his breathing when he’s not completely congested.  It’s a good night for him.  He’s snoring lightly, regularly.  I can’t see him because he’s sleeping on the floor next to my husband, but I can picture his whiskers ever so slightly waving back and forth.  Then he makes “smacky lips,” one of my favorite sounds, the sound of relaxation and contentment.  I smile, knowing how much his life has changed since he joined our family over 12 years ago as a street dog.

My husband is also softly snoring in a pitch only slightly deeper.  He and the Uberhund are harmonizing.

“Mmmmmmm,” the middle dog groans as he shifts positions in his crate.

He’s our loose wire.  We call him The Rock Star because he always needs management, and yet when the slightest thing goes amiss, he immediately appeals to his people for assistance.  He likes to make his presence and condition known, hence the groaning whenever he shifts or adjusts even while he’s sleeping.  He gives a long sigh.

“Moof!  Moof!” 

The bed jiggles as The Wee One, who really isn’t such a wee dog at 65 pounds, is next to me, dreaming.  He’s the baby.  His paws move as if he’s trotting through the park (or woods or savannahs of Africa) and he suddenly spasms, his eyelids twitching, his head jerking back and forth.

“Grrrrrrrrr.  GRRRRRRRRR!”

It’s a bit unnerving hearing him growl while he’s sleeping because he never growls while he’s awake.  He’s our expert communicator, giving all the polite doggy signals so he never has to get to the growling stage.  But, when he’s sleeping, he’s a badass.  I don’t know what or who he’s taking on, but he does it with a great deal of gusto and his tail is wagging wildly.  He’s having a fabulous time.

By day, mild-mannered dog, by night, Cujo.
I try not to laugh and I move over a little to avoid his gnashing teeth.  He drops back into deep sleep.

Very faintly, I hear honking.  Canada geese.  I’ve left the skylight open, although the shades are closed.  The honking gets louder and closer.  I can hear the rush of wings and it’s almost like the geese are going to fly right through the room.  I’m tempted to wake my husband so he can experience it as well, but I know it’s not his thing and he’ll never be able to get to sleep afterwards.  The sound is exhilarating and I can’t help but think of Julie Andrews singing, “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings, these are a few of my favorite things.”  I don’t even need to see it, and it’s still one of my favorite things.  The honking fades into the distance, probably going to the high school where the geese will hang out until the kids either chase them away or feed them sandwiches.

It’s quiet for a long while.  I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that digital clocks don’t tick.  When I was a kid and our family got a puppy, my dad said that wrapping a clock in a towel would remind the puppy of his mother’s beating heart.  He cried anyways and my sister climbed into the box and slept with him instead.  I press the button to start one of my “sleep inducing” cds.  It only plays for a couple seconds before I turn it off because it’s irritatingly electronic.

A dog barks in the distance.  It’s not a warning bark, like dogs do when they see a rat or squirrel.  It’s a bark of boredom, a plea for interaction, but it doesn’t last long.

“Mmmmmm,” the Rock Star groans.

My husband shifts and I hear the soft whispering sound of him ruffling the Uberhundus’ fur.  Uberhundus responds with smacky lips.
The Wee One readjusts so that he’s nestled between my husband and I, his head on the pillow, cold nose and hot breath on my neck.

To think, I’d miss all these things if I were sleeping.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Legends of Fall

The elusive Fall
 “California has three seasons:  fire, earthquake, and awards.” - K.V. Muir

Despite having grown up in a Southern California beach community, I’m not a fan of summer or warm weather.  True, where we lived, it seldom got into the 90s and the evenings were always cool.  But, it was late fall and early spring, on the rare days when the wind kicked up after a rain and there was a bite in the air, when I was in my element.

I remember being in kindergarten and learning about seasons.  At the beginning of each month, we made a calendar and got a lesson on the events of the month as well as the season.  It was a strange thing to learn about leaves changing colors or snow.  My teacher, Mrs. Cook, who had lived in Connecticut, showed us pictures of fall color and snow covered towns.  It was beautiful, but like something on t.v. or a movie.  We painted brown, orange and yellow leaves, made paper snowflakes, watched Frosty the Snowman.  But none of it seemed real.

Autumn was a shape shifting season and not just because of Halloween.  It did get cooler but neither palms nor pines seemed to care.  My mom talked about autumn in Japan, the colors on the mountainsides and buying hot chestnuts to eat and keep her hands warm.  She bought and roasted chestnuts for my sister and I, cursing when she burned her fingers or jabbed under her nails with the shells as she peeled them for us.  We’d go for neighborhood walks, eagerly pointing out red or gold leaves on specimen trees as excited as if they were a Bigfoot sightings.  However, we never got to dive into a pile of leaves nor smell burning leaves (burning is BAD in California).

My dad had lived in the Midwest and the Southeast, before moving to California.  He had nothing to say about fall, except that it was the beginning of football and hunting season, and he had to wear a sweater when he golfed.  When I asked him about winter, he had a canned response.

“It’s goddam cold,” he’d snap.  “Why the hell would you want to go someplace goddam cold?  California’s got the best goddam weather in the world, dammit.  You can play golf just about every day in the year.  Why the hell would you want to live anywhere else?”

He’d say this every time I, or anyone else for that matter, talked about moving out of Southern California.  He never seemed to catch on that numbers of days I could play golf were irrelevant to me since I didn’t play golf and most of my hobbies were done indoors.  For my dad there weren’t seasons.  There was weather and only two kinds of weather:  golf-able or non-golf-able.  His golf bag held sweaters, sun screen, and rain gear. 

Liquid Amber a.k.a. gumball maple tree
When I started high school, my mom pointed out a little park area as we drove by it.  There was a cluster of three liquid amber maple trees.    

“I like those trees,” she said.  “It makes me feel like we have seasons.”

Through the school year, we watched the leaves turn red, gold, then brown.   They dropped from the trees, leaving the branches bare in the winter morning fog.  Then, when spring arrived, we would watch for the little chartreuse buds and the bright green leaves that sprung from them.

At one point, we had birch or aspen trees by our car port.  I remember the white trunks and seeing leaves turn yellow gold and then dropping.  My sister and I liked to strip the ruffled seed pods.  They looked like tiny inverted cat tails made with hundreds of papery layers.  They’d flutter away with the breeze and we’d watch in amazement, wondering why we didn’t have hundreds more birch/aspen trees, since the dandelion seeds we blew created hundreds of dandelions.

I asked my mother why they were cut down.

“Your dad said they were messy,” she said.

When I moved to Louisiana, I expected tropical weather, something along the lines of the Florida Keys.  I wasn’t looking forward to it, and it was a pleasant surprise to find that Louisiana had three seasons: Spring – pleasant temperatures, blooming wisteria and dogwood, and stinging caterpillars; Summer – hot and humid all day AND night with warm late afternoon thunderstorms that dropped inches of rain in an hour, but at night the egrets roosted in the cypress trees like glowing Christmas ornaments; and Winter – frost, occasional snow, and bare Cyprus trees.  But still, no autumn.

My sister moved to Maine to go to school.  Back in the pre-e-mail days, she sent photos snail mail of the gorgeous fall colors.  I had the opportunity to visit her one Thanksgiving, and while I saw snow flurries and 20F degree temperatures, the few leaves that remained on the trees were already brown and desiccated.  My heart sank.

My husband was offered a job in Northern California.  We were originally hoping for something in New York or Pennsylvania.  We even went to Pennsylvania several times so I could experience its seasons, but because of school, we could never go in fall.  Still, the Bay Area was second choice, and realistically more convenient for both of our families.  My husband moved up first so we wouldn’t be “stuck” in case his job didn’t work out.  I visited frequently to explore the area and eventually to look for our future house.  Living in San Francisco was a romantic notion, but the reality of our finances and commute time, the East Bay was more practical.  We were initially looking at larger properties, which brought us further inland.

A swirl of red and gold.
On one of the trips, we were driving down a major street.  It was chilly and the sky was an amazingly bright blue.  The street was lined with walnut trees and every one blazed in yellow and red.

“Wow,” I gasped.

“Looks like fall,” my husband said.

At last.
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