Henry’s Obsession

I’ve always said, nothing but the best for my dog, Henry. As a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, he has royalty in his blood. Which is why, when he was a mere pup, Henry went to daycare.  And not a daycare for pets, mind you. Henry was enrolled at the best home childcare center for little tykes in the county, and it is run by my very good friend, Gale (who, you might remember, is the Real Ms. Fix-it).

Henry wasn’t really enrolled in Gale’s daycare, but two days a week, I’d drop him off on my way to work so he wouldn’t be alone and miserable all day, pining for me.  As soon as we pulled up in my car, Henry’s heart would start racing with anticipation. He couldn’t wait to get inside. He’d jump excitedly out of the car and make a beeline to the front door.  Whereupon, he’d look at me expectantly and bark, as if to say,

“Chop-chop! What are you waiting for?  Let me in, already!”

Once inside, he’d run eagerly through the kitchen, past the family room, and out the door to the backyard where he’d check out the kid action, then return inside to play with Gale’s dog, Blanca. Well, sort of. Blanca was a bit older and it was all she could do to tolerate Henry and his wild, puppy antics.

A dog, a baby and two pacifiers.

Henry and Gale's grandson enjoying their pacifiers.

But while there, Henry developed an unusual obsession–a fascination for pacifiers.   Yes, it wasn’t long before Henry discovered pacifiers and became obsessed with watching the kids use them. He’d stare intently at a child’s mouth, patiently waiting for the pacifier to drop to the floor. Maybe he’d wait five minutes. Maybe longer. He knew that inevitably, the pacifier would fall, and when it did, it was his. The big pay off!

Henry developed many a strategy for swiping pacifiers from innocent babes. He’d feign interest in playing with the toddlers and run and let them chase him in the yard, all the time keeping his eyes on the prize–until he hit pay dirt. Bingo! He’d also watch them at snack time, sucking on their pacifiers, while playing with their Cheerios. As soon as a child reached for the cereal to put in their mouth, the pacifier would pop out and land on the floor. Henry was on it like a hawk swooping down on a mouse. That dog owned the ground and any pacifier that fell on it was his.  I’m pretty sure that Henry’s obsession led to a shortage of pacifiers that year.

I never did figure out why Henry had such a thing for pacifiers. Could be he liked it for the same reasons little ones like it–for teething or for the comfort it brings. Or maybe he just wanted one so he could feel like a kid, himself. No matter the reason, he sure did love sucking on them.

It’s been a while since Henry went to daycare and pinched a pacifier or two. Now, he’s a stay-at-home dog with no more unlimited access to his obsession. Though occasionally, he does find a discarded or forgotten one when he takes a walk in the park.   And every year, for his birthday, I let him be a kid again. I buy him a pacifier of his very own.

The Boomerang Kid

So much for my empty nest!  Just when I was getting used to it being void of offspring, life threw me a curve ball.  A curve ball in the shape of my son, Josh.  Yep, he’s coming home.  He’s quit his job and he’s packing up his things and moving back in.

Though not for long. It’s temporary, he says.  About a month or so. Just until he figures out his next move, and a new career path.  Oh, and, he has his sights set on Chicago. He’s hoping for a fresh start there and I, for one, am rooting for him.

Meet the Boomerang Kid

By moving back in, if only for a short while, Josh is officially becoming another statistic. He is one of tens of thousands of young adults who reach a point in their lives when the best option for them is to move back in with the parental units. And there’s even a name for it, the Boomerang Kids. These homeward bound kids are finding that there really is no place like home…again.

So while, Josh is boomeranging, I have a second chance at bonding time with him.  Last time he lived here was senior year of high school. Everyone knows how kids are at that age, and we certainly know how they can get a bad case of “senioritis,” which for Josh hit somewhere in 9th grade.

But now he’s older and doesn’t mind spending time with me.  So while he’s making a go of his future, I will be biding time, playing the role of a supportive mother.  Here’s my pledge: I will try not to give unwarranted advice, which, I’m afraid, I’m very good at and have already been doing (much to his chagrin, I suppose).  I will try not to get too stressed or too worried about his future. And I will not coddle or dote on him. Nor will I be a nudge. No way. Instead, I will give him his space and act nonchalant, like he’s just a roommate (and not my son), so that he won’t feel like climbing the walls and screaming, “Leave me alone!”

So, I’m preparing for his arrival.  Which means I have to move most of my things out of his room. The very room that over the last decade has become my workspace, my blogging space and a place for me to scrapbook.

While I’m at it, I have to make room in the house for all of his possessions!  He’s bringing home boatloads of stuff.  It’s amazing how much we can accumulate in just a short time, which in his case is eight years. Eight years of books, magazines, video games, CD’s, DVD’s, not to mention, two guitars, three basketballs and one football.

And if I know my son, he’s packing up all these things in beat up, old boxes and Hefty trash bags, which he’ll scatter all over my humble abode. Well, so much for trying to keep my place semi-organized and tidy. When it comes right down to it, that’s what I’m really dreading: the clutter. Yuck. All that clutter is sure to muddle my brain and get me all discombobulated.

So I’m waiting for his arrival.  Any minute, his car will pull up and the process of unloading will begin.  I’m ready.  Here’s hoping it all works out for him (and for me!). And here’s hoping that no one’s climbing the walls in 30 days.  Yes, it’s off to another adventure!

Me, Rocky Balboa

“You are worthless and you’ll never amount to anything!”

So said my ex when we were still in the throes of unraveling our marriage. And today I want to officially thank him. Little did he know when he said those hurtful, pain-searing words, that he was doing me a favor.  In his own, offhanded way, he was encouraging me to fly the coop, and be something more—without him.  Turns out, it was just the push I needed.

I would be Rocky Balboa, resolved to win the world championship.

When those words were first flung at me, my initial reaction was to fall apart. My second was to pick up the pieces and gather my resolve. Resolve, to never be that woman who doesn’t amount to anything, who believes what she’s told and wallows in self-pity and low self esteem.  Instead, I would be Rocky Balboa, resolved to win the world heavyweight championship. Meryl Streep, determined to win my first Oscar. I’d be the little engine that could, and I’d be Dumbo, about to take my first flight over the Big Top.

According to my ex, the odds were not in my favor. Yet I wasn’t going to be the one to take it on the chin. So overnight my mantra became,  “I will prove him wrong, I will prove him wrong.” I had some big hurdles to overcome, though. Besides, the marriage coming apart, I was pounding the pavement in search of a job. Any job. I was also coming to terms with my mother’s increasing dementia, Alzheimer’s, which made it impossible to confide in her, and to seek her advice and comfort when I needed it most.

“I will prove him wrong,” I kept telling myself, and in my own way, I did. Though it took time, and during that time it became more about doing it for me rather than for the sake of proving him wrong. It was a long tough road, with hurdles every step of the way, but I kept at it. The Rocky Balboa drive was in me, the need to prove I could do it. Then one day I realized I’d had.  I’d found myself, my voice.

It took two years but I finally got the job I wanted, working for a place that thrives on creativity and people who are passionate about their work. Three years after that, I was able to buy my own home and turn it into a place that is uniquely mine, filled with beauty, art and yes, even kitsch. I also raised two children to be thoughtful, caring adults and found time along the way to spend with the people who mean so much to me. Indeed, like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I’d found that the best reward of all is the love of family and friends.  That, and finding your bliss.

So if I ever do win the heavyweight championship or an Oscar, I’ll be sure to express my gratitude to all the people along the way who were there for me. And I’ll be sure to thank my ex, too. For I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know how his words helped shape who I am today. Oh, and how I became Rocky Balboa. Yeah, that’s me. Rocky.