The thing is, I didn’t think I would be this sad. But here I am days after my cousin’s memorial service, still crying at the slightest provocation, feeling fragile like a piece of delicate high-end wedding china, small in the face of loss.
The sky is light blue, my hydrangeas are in full bloom, and the beach is ready for the taking. We’re smack in the middle of my favorite season, and yet it might as well be winter, because Nina Simone, you got nuthin’ on me; I’ve got the blues.
Dying is part of this show, but Jeez, it’s not the fun part. They should really try to make this death thing a little more fun.
But to know that you loved someone so much that you feel a little part of yourself has been surgically removed, is lucky in some bizarre (and painful) way. And that’s how I feel, that gnawing in the stomach that loss delivers like UPS, an overall sadness, an achy breaky heart.
The gratitude comes in waves, of having been fortunate enough to have known someone you truly loved. I just wish it didn’t come with this heaping side order of sad.
My mom used to make apple pie when I was a kid. She also did a nice pumpkin on Thanksgiving. She made them from scratch, no store bought pies, no purchased crusts for Louise. Just her hands and fresh ingredients. And me watching, eating the gooey sugar and cinnamon apple prep. Pie was a winter holiday dessert. Pie was not something we ate during the summer.
Then I began going to the Vineyard, where summer is all about pie. At least in our family. I know I thought it odd that first time we noticed that pies were everywhere on that island. But I quickly accepted the idea, and over the years we honed our taste buds by trying all the contenders. The winner, Eileen Blake’s Pies and Otherwise, wiped out the competition by a landslide. Selling a myriad of sweet confections out in front of a ranch house, we once doubted the existence of Eileen, having never seen her. There was usually a man selling the pies, out of a gazebo. We had hours of fun imagining Eileen and what she might look like, or if she was really a bunch of elves, or whether she used canned fruit, or real. But it didn’t matter in the end, because her pies were the after dinner nectar of the Gods. We turned on the oven, slid in the pies, doused them in vanilla ice cream and no matter how many people were gathered, one taste would silence the crowd. Our faces softened, as low toned moans escaped our lips. Eileen had us at Blueberry Peach. We were goners.
When Eileen upgraded her sign, my cohort, “the other Toni” and I asked if we could have it, dividing up the two-sided sign to give our husbands as birthday gifts (their birthdays were a few days apart and always happened during our vacation). Not a gift they could have imagined. We killed it in the surprise department. It still sits in our backyard patio, reminding us of the heavenly taste of Eileen all year long (who by the way, went to pie heaven a few years ago, causing us to wonder if the legendary pie of our dreams would no longer be part of our summer evenings and waistline expansion program).
I just found these pie recipes and considered making one, but really the truth is, unless it’s Eileen’s, or my mom’s, pie is for after the turkey, not after the lobster.
The first year after I gave birth to Riley, I mean,got him from a family who was allergic to him, I took him to the dog park at Down’s Field everyday. Since much of Brookline doesn’t have lavish yards, we have lots of parks, and during certain hours of the day, those parks are ruled by dog people and their beloved’s. That’s where I met Matthew Gilbert, smart, handsome, dad to adorable yellow Lab,Toby, and tv critic for the Boston Globe. I liked him immediately. Truth be told, I might have even had a little crush on him.
Anyway, I met some really nice people that year, who were transplanted from their home field, by some construction at their usual park, Amory. I met Lee and Gilson and Bob, Angela, Ellen and Matt, to name a few. Dog people are a different breed. We all share something in common: an uncommon, and somewhat out of the dog park passion for our pups. We will talk incessantly about their high IQ’s, pick up their poop without flinching, find them endlessly amusing and adorable. We will allow them to use our legs as fire hydrants, walk around with crinkly bags and biscuits in our pockets, and invest in lint brushes to tame the myriad of hair that covers our wardrobes. To us, they aren’t animals, they are people. The very best kind of people.
Anyway, all those years back, Matt told me he was writing a book about the dog park. I couldn’t believe what a great idea that was. It was such a rich and funny little microcosm. Well, five years later, Off the Leash, A year at the Dog Park is out, and because I have to travel to a funeral in DC today, and wanted a treat to pull me through, I have waited until now to read it (although I bought it on Kindle the day it came out two days ago, and allowed myself to gobble up the first two chapters, which I found to be beautifully written, funny, and smart).
Last night I went to Matt’s book party at Bar Louie’s, where hundreds of people swarmed Matt like the dogs at the park swarm even a tiny bit of leftover food that doesn’t quite make it into the trash can, and where I finally met his handsome and charismatic husband, Tom (who I might also have a crush on). I saw several dog people I knew, had a great conversation with someone I never get to see, and had a glass of really good wine. It was really nice to see the dog community coming together to celebrate and support one their own.
If you’re a dog person, or just a person who loves good writing, you need to get Off the Leash. The cover alone, of the adorable Toby and one of my favorite dogs, now in puppy heaven, Rosie, is enough reason to buy it, but it’s really the story of the way a dog can transform your life that will make you love it. Riley gives it five woofs, I mean stars.