When I was a child we lived in a house that looked like an old Dutch farm house. Since we were one of the few families in town who were Dutch, it made sense.
The house was a crazy quilt. Our basement was like an old root cellar. To go there we had to go out the back door, around to the side of the house to open heavy wood doors and walk down stone steps. When we reached the dirt floor at the bottom there was another wooden door. Inside was dark and dank with dirt floor and stone walls. The oil furnace and very few other things were inside. The cellar was small and only stood under part of the house.
If we stood just inside the front door when my parents bought the house we could see five or six different patterns of wall paper in the dining room and living room. The kitchen was old fashioned and badly in need of help. Within a very few years Mother had the house re-organized. The heavy old wallpapers with big flowers and dark colors were gone. They were replaced with paint and light papers. The dark wood floors were sanded to bring out the light hidden under layers of varnish. Workmen had come in and replaced the kitchen. There were new light wood cupboards. An electric stove stood where the not so trustworthy gas stove had been. It was like living in a new house.
My favorite room was my bedroom. It was a store room that had been cleaned out. There was no heat other than the old floor vent in a corner. When that vent was opened in winter warm air came up from the ceiling of the living room. Other than that, I stayed under the covers or moved fast.
A huge old pine tree stood outside my window. The pine was rooted between the front walk and the street. It had grown to the height of our house or more. I could sit on my bed all year long watching the squirrels and black birds in the branches. Both had nests in the tree. They chattered and quarreled constantly, but they were also my friends. They would look in the window and talk to me. The squirrels were incredibly curious about the small boy on the other side of the window. They could see me, but they couldn’t reach me. That they found very strange.
I was rarely without a book on my lap. I was a voracious reader. I wanted to know everything there was to know about absolutely everything. Back then I wanted to travel the world. It was my dream even then to go to college in England to study the Renaissance and Reformation. One university degree I have is in English Ren & Ref, but not from England or Great Britain. It did not stop the mind of a boy from travelling there.
My angel friends were also with me. Michael and other angels were always at my side. We talked while I read. Together we laughed at the birds and squirrels. Sometimes they would tell me what the squirrels had to say. Mostly the squirrels wanted to know what kind of strange creature I was. They also wanted to know why I never gave them nuts or seeds.
It was around this time that Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang became popular in American culture. I was addicted. I loved it when our newspaper began to run the Peanuts column in the comics. Sundays were the best day of the week. I got eight whole boxes of their latest adventures to read instead of the daily three or four.
Like probably every other little boy in America, I also wanted my very own Snoopy. Nothing else would do. My Lassie phase ended with a thud when I discovered how much funnier and cooler Snoopy was than Lassie. Besides, Little Timmy could be a whiner. No matter what happened to Charlie Brown, Snoopy was cool. Snoopy was a dog of his own.
I begged and pleaded and most likely threw an incredible pout, but I did not get a Snoopy. Pets of any kind were something we could not afford. Little boys don’t understand why their classmates and friends have dogs when they don’t. It didn’t occur to this little boy that my friends with dogs lived on farms. Those dogs herded cows and chased away foxes and other pests. Cats and dogs were work animals, not something for town people.
I got the next best thing. One year for either my birthday or Christmas somebody gave me a Snoopy-like dog. It wasn’t the same as the Snoopy’s for sale in the store, but it was close. I had that stuffed dog for several years. One day it disappeared. I was told I didn’t need it any more.
It’s funny how we remember things from our childhoods. I always love the Peanuts Christmas special. I love Snoopy and the Red Baron. I enjoy the good memories.
Three years ago this autumn I told Kevin to look around and find a dog. While he was lying in a coma in an ICU four years ago and his medical team was telling his family and me that he would die, I was planning his recovery. While the doctors were trying to be kind to me, I snapped at them and told them that I didn’t care how many strokes he’d had or what caused them. He was going to live. I planned his physical and occupational therapy. I planned two different kinds of speech therapy to get his brain working again. I planned a dog.
Of course Kevin lived. Foolish doctors.
All of the therapies went wonderfully up until it was time to get a dog. Kevin balked for months. Running out of patience, one weekend I started asking around for a dog. The first thing I asked anybody at work that Monday was if anybody knew of a dog in need of a good home with somebody like Kevin who’d had pets all of his life and me. It turned out one of my work friends had a puppy.
A few days later we picked up a black and white puppy. When I saw him playing with his brother, a bundle of white fuzz, I wanted them both. We were thrilled to get our boy. With his black and white markings he looks an awful lot like Snoopy when he’s just trimmed. A year later my friend asked if we would take the fuzzy white puppy, too. She just couldn’t keep him anymore.
Sometimes in the middle of the night I hear a small yelp. I stumble out of my bedroom and open the next door in the hall. One or both of the boys will come jumping off Kevin’s bed, around the corners and up on my bed.
Last night there were a couple of yelps. This morning I woke up with a black and white puppy beside my head.
Dreams come true.