There are moments that might only be significant to a parent. Small achievements that are marked by us as special. That no one else notices or celebrates. Yet they make our hearts sing.
Most would call my oldest son an introvert. He spoke late to the concern of his pediatrician. But when he decided to talk, he spoke with what some remarked to be perfect annunciation. It turns out, he was just listening, biding his time to speak only when he had heard enough from the rest of us.
I was reminded of that on his fourteenth birthday. He had volunteered to do the reading at our school’s Blessing of the Animals, in honor of Francis of Assisi.
It was a gorgeous fall day. Crisp. Sunny. Just the tips of the aspens turned yellow. The lower school choir sang. The entire school body and many of their parents sat in clusters on the soccer field. Dogs sat or wagged or gloried in attention. Two ducks. A hedgehog. Hamsters. A turtle. At least one kitten.
Then my son – 12 years after we worried why he wasn’t talking – stood at the podium and read the psalm he had been assigned. He looked tall and serious and handsome. His voice rang out across the field above the hum of excited children and their pets, and quieted them. Clear. Confident. Each word spoken for its meaning. A voice that you want to listen to, that you instinctively expect to say something wonderful and wise. Beautiful.
It is a good thing that all went well in March 2013, while on safari in South Africa. I have bad luck with vacation animals, and that was the only recent trip where the beasts were not on the attack even when our jeep got stuck a few yards from an alpha lion and his fiercer looking ladies.
On other trips, however, there were the all-night partying roosters who never learned to wait for sunrise.
The pack of chickens, led by Geraldine, who chased me through the barn, pecking at my calves because I had not brought them grapes.
The toad that made our dog vomit five times after going after “frog’s legs” for an appetizer.
The crazy swans who swarmed every time we went near the water, sending the kids into high-decibel shrieks and the Puritans in neighboring lake homes wishing we had never come.
And now, falling asleep each night, is it the swans or the frogs honking?
I miss our dog. She may roam the halls, nails clicking on hardwood floors like an alarm clock we do not need to set, but she sleeps through the night and doesn’t bite when she is hungry.
This morning, we looked out our front window to see a squirrel chewing on our dog’s bone. He was sitting against the trunk of a big pine tree, nibbling away, while our dog watched with us from the window.
The dog whimpered, and my son worried that the squirrel will give her rabies.
So the bone ended up in the trash… to save the dog.