Saturday, April 18, 2015

My dog, myself

My husband thinks I’m silly for celebrating our dog Sundae’s 1st birthday. He says mockingly, “Like she knows it’s her birthday.” I contemplated making a bone shaped cake with cheesy bacon frosting.

On breaks at work I would Google pet parties. The thought of a colorful cone hat on Sundae disappeared in an instant. She would probably chew it up and I would find residue of it in her poop.
In my over thirty years, I never was an animal lover. Until I set my eyes on her in the pet store on a sticky July Sunday.

It is hard to put into words what Sundae has meant to us. She has brought such joy and love into our world. Before the house was always quiet and often. My husband works a different shift from me. My stepchildren are only around every other weekend. As they have aged, the amount we see them has diminished. We have somehow arrived at premature empty nest syndrome.

The house now has dog toys spread around the floor and kibble pellets scattered. Instead of stepping on a kid’s Lego piece, I’m walking on a squeak toy or rawhide bone.

No longer do I hear two children playing or watching television. When Sundae notices a person walking a dog out the window, she whimpers. She is energetic and always wants to play. She wants all our attention to the point if I’m writing she will put her head on my hand. My stepdaughter used to snuggle and put her head on my shoulder.

Now in their teens, my two stepchildren are on their phones or playing sports. Sundae doesn’t replace them; she fills the loneliness in the wake of their absence.

 In the past year I have learned about unconditional love. When I fell in love with husband it was a long and twisty road. Our marriage and relationship with the kids have been about resentment and adjustment. Animals just love and don’t think about the past or future. They are very present and about the ‘right now.’ Dogs want love, food, and exercise.

Humans can be moody. When we arrive home we complain about our day or discuss trivial things. Sundae is ecstatic to see us. She jumps around as if to say, “Where have you been?!”
 I have heard tales of pets that start to resemble their owners. She certainly is a mixture of me and my husband.

She is impatient like me, she wants something and it has to be now. If I’m putting on shoes to take her for a walk, she paces between the kitchen and living room. She adores the smell of books. My husband and I are avid readers and the scent of inked pages sends her running. She sniffs the pages and turns them with her nose.

 Sundae is misunderstood like us. People think she is very hyper but that was when she was a puppy. Her short past seems to haunt her. No one will let go of the notion that she is not the same dog. Similar to others who think my husband is the same man he was a decade ago.
 She is sweet as ice cream, which is funny considering her white snowy fur with splotches of black on her mane.

She has the ability to soften our rigid edges. She has taught us act like a team. We are more affectionate toward each other and calmer. We love teaching her knew tricks and training her. She smiles when we are both home at the same time.

As someone who suffers from infertility, it is an emotional roller coaster. Oddly enough she has become our child. Obviously she doesn’t resolve the depression and frustration. She makes things seem worthwhile. We argue over how to ‘raise her’ or if she has been fed or bathed. He thinks I spoil her and I think he should play with her more.

She has given us purpose and promise of happy years to come.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter in Milwaukee

The closest thing I could find online to what we made
My family was not overly religious or very sane. We were all baptized Lutheran but dad enjoyed trying out different cultures and denominations.

For awhile we were made to attend Catholic mass. Being a kid and sitting through a long service on a Sunday was boring.

On top of that we had to go to Sunday school and classes to be confirmed. That became dull and we were pulled out of classes right before I got to wear my immaculate white dress and veil.

He made us kids go to a mosque when he was trying out being muslin. I was washing my feet at a mosque while dad and his friend Newman were praying on oriental rugs. 

Other years he was into being Turkish, Dutch, Spanish and Chinese. There was a throwback period when he introduced the family into his Jewish heritage. He bought Halva which was fun at first. It looked like ice cream and was extremely sweet.  We were pretty poor and sometimes chocolate Halva was lunch and dinner. I can't even think about the honey and nut confection without making my stomach heave to this day. 

As you can imagine Easter was a confusing holiday for me. Mom still wanted us to color eggs and make Easter baskets out of milk containers. A few weeks before we would see a pile of empty milk containers with the tops cut off. Mom was very crafty and would get construction paper and cut out ears, noses, eyes and whiskers. Then a cotton ball glued to the back. 

While she was cutting out the shapes we used those flimsy egg coloring kits. We didn't have those cool and effortless ones they have now. We didn't even have cool egg stickers. Our family had the wobbly wire that dips eggs into assorted bowls of food dye. 

Me and my two sisters and nephew
My brothers were mischievous and would bump my hand. Splash!  The egg would plop into the blue dye as water spilled over the table. One year we had those crayons that would write on an egg and you wouldn't be able to read it until it was dyed. My favorite was snickering and writing something then handing the egg over to my brother. "Hey there is something written on the egg!" He looks down and up with a red face. "Danny smells like farts...Hey?!" After awhile we would just use our hands to dunk the eggs in different bowls. For a day we would run around the house with blue and red dyed hands. 

Mom would help us put together the bunny face on the baskets and fill it with the fake plastic grass. As we slept she filled each one with eggs, candy and Peeps. I loathed Peeps. It always was sticking to the plastic grass and smashed under a heavy boiled egg. 

Some Easters we didn't get a basket. Times were tough and money was tight. Over the years we would sometimes get a box of food from the Catholic church across the street. That was when I was introduced to powdered milk. It is as gross as it sounds. Dad also made us get water from the well in Bay View. It was a toss up as to what was worse, the well water or the watered down fake milk.

During Easter there was lamb shaped butter mold included in the box. To this day it is still the creamiest and tastiest butter I have ever had. 

As my brothers and sisters grew older the whole Easter basket experience became juvenile and silly. I was thirteen when I got my last basket. I woke up to fresh fallen snow in April. Only in Wisconsin. 

There was no milk container but an actual pastel weaved basket. A huge chocolate bunny, Cadbury eggs, and of course a pink mushy Peep. Next to the baskets each girl in the family was given a stuffed bunny in a different colored dress. My bunny had a light shiny purple dress. My brothers got toy cars. 
Those are bunny ears and yes, a lawn chair

Us kids took colored eggs and chucked them in the plowed street. Pieces of blue and red shells were everywhere. Boiled yolk was smeared under rolling tires. We were having a blast shoving chocolate in our mouths and giggling at each other. 

We heard them yelling. Whatever was going on wasn't pretty. 

Mom and dad were arguing over money. Mom was screaming and tossing plates at the floor. They shattered and splintered off on the snow tracked floor. Dad was chugging a beer. My youngest sister started to cry. The boys went into their room and played games. Just another typical Zolo family holiday.

My sisters and I grabbed our stuffed bunny and walked up to the Avalon Movie Theater. In good times and bad that was our place. Admission was pretty cheap and we sneaked in our own snacks. The beautiful star painted sky on the ceiling and fancy decor was divine.  For two hours I was able to forget about heartbreak, sorrow and anger. We were always going to see a movie there, why was Easter any different?

 It didn't even faze us that me and my older sister were teenagers walking around with dolls. The high school was down the street from us. We just marched in the snow in our jackets and candy lined pockets. The Avalon was dead that day. "Mrs. Doubtfire" starring Robin Williams was playing on the big screen.

It was ironic the movie was playing after all it dealt with divorce. Although it would be a few years before mom and dad made the permanent split.  It felt comforting that the Avalon was always there during the ever changing denominations and dynamics within our home. It may not be religiously correct but it was our place of worship.