When I was a teenager, I put my parents (especially Mom) through a lot of crap. The worst of it happened when they decided to ‘clean out my room’ one day and discovered my diary. Yeah. I was 16 and had been dating someone that was 28 for the past 10 months. That obviously didn’t go too well. Also my older brother thought it would be a good idea to stash his beer cans and baggie of weed under my bed (thanks). I also drank, did drugs, didn’t do well in school… you get the idea.
I’m sure you get an idea of how well that conversation went when I got home from school. Anyhow, about six weeks later I turned 17. I had wanted a dog for most of my childhood and it never did happen. We lived in a nice house and Mom just didn’t want to deal with the mess. In the meantime, I was an angry, petulant, sarcastic brat.
On a sunny, crisp fall afternoon they persuaded me to get in the car and we drove to a breeder’s house, where I had my pick of a purebred litter of Golden Retriever puppies. This was in 1984, and the puppy I chose cost $400. The drive home was very quiet as I cradled the most beautiful eight-week-old puppy I had ever seen. She kept licking my face and was the softest, best-smelling little thing ever. Even her breath smelled good. I don’t think I’ve ever been more surprised in my life as I was that day. When we got home, Dad hugged me and told me that he loved me. That was one of the nicest gifts that I’ve ever received, and I’m not talking about the puppy - I’m talking about the love and forgiveness, and the willingness by my parents to put aside the past and see the good in me.
Brandy lived to be 14 years old and died when I was 31. She had a heart attack and went quickly, while my Mom and sister had her with them for a long weekend up north. She was happy to the end, and much loved. Sometimes when I’m at Mom & Dad’s I still expect to see her there, galumphing down the stairs or in her favorite spot on the rug in the kitchen.
The second thing that I can think of probably sounds like no big deal, but it was. When I was 19 I got my first really nice car. It was a 1984 Ford Thunderbird like this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Ford_Thunderbird_1983-1987_Aero_Bird-2.jpg#file . When I first bought the car it was a couple of years old and the previous owner took great care of the engine but left the interior a mess. My boyfriend at the time borrowed the car and spent the day detailing it. He cleaned out the interior until it looked like new, vacuuming and scrubbing the carpets by hand, washed and waxed it, polished the rims until they looked perfect, filled it with gas and brought it back to me. There wasn’t any special occasion, it was just because it was my first nice car and he wanted to tell me that he was happy for me. For a teenaged guy to spend all day Saturday to do that for me was such an act of love that I’ve never forgotten it.
There’s more, of course. I have been blessed. My kids have made me gifts that I still have. None of them are valuable, but I can never get rid of the macaroni necklace that my daughter made for me the Mother’s Day she was seven. I wore it for the rest of the school year whenever I volunteered in her classroom. When I look at that faded and broken necklace now, I still remember the way her face would light up when she saw me in the classroom doorway after lunch on Thursdays, ready to help the kids read. “That’s my Mom”, she would say proudly. I didn’t realize at the time that this would be the same child who would be embarrassed to be seen with me just a few years later. Now she is 19 and will go out in public with me without thinking twice, but her face will never again light up with joy just to see me enter the room. When I look at the necklace I remember that.