Thursday, July 21, 2011

Memory: Mom's dog

The year was 1981. It was a fall evening. (I think)
My younger sister and I were playing in our upstairs bedroom with some facial mud masks. My brothers were watching television in their bedroom across the hall. Both of our doors were shut.

Mom was dozing in her downstairs bedroom, watching her television when all of the sudden, she looked up to see a strange man standing in the entrance way to her room.

I had never heard her scream like that ever in my life.

Both of my brothers came running down the stairs; one with a bat, the other with a golf club. My sister and I gripped each other, paralyzed from fear of the sound, more than of any thought to what was happening.

Mom was only widowed a year. I'm not sure if she was getting used to being in the room without Dad. But she was (and still is) a rock of courage. Her terrified scream struck at the core of my worst fears. Some thing really bad was happening.

The intruder ran out of the house. I didn't even hear his footsteps. I remember hearing my brothers pounding down the stairs, yelling like warriors. I'm not sure who called the police, but they arrived quickly. My sister and I didn't come out of our room until the police were talking to my very shaken mother, and my brothers - who seemed very grown up and strong just then. When we crept downstairs, we still had our mud masks on - light green.

Our house was specially designed for wheelchair accessibility. The first floor was on the street level; no stairs or ramps. Rooms either had a sliding door, or were very wide with no doors at all; divided by little framing. So many details of the design were really well planned - most likely because of my mother's occupational therapy training and a really good architect. The wide shower stall had no bottom rail or sliding door, but a strategically placed drain to catch water dripping off curtains. I even remember the vinyl floor pattern that ran though most of the first floor, and the low shag blue carpet with no padding so that the wheelchair could be more easily maneuvered. (Pre-hover chair times.)

The two-car garage was wide enough for two Pacer's (For the young readers, that's Wayne Campbell's car from the movie, Wayne's World - manufactured in my hometown), extra side space for tools and bikes and extra space for beyond that, Lord knows what future need.

The garage door was automatic. I think it might have been the first one on the block. I remember it being really big, and it had a magic sensor. I liked to play with it until my mother told me it cost $.10 of electricity every time I hit the button.

We argued over who left the huge garage door open that night. I think it was me. Or maybe a rake was left in the door frame. Whatever the reason, the attached door to the laundry room was also unlocked. The laundry room led into the kitchen, to the dining room, to the back family room with no separating doors between any of those areas. The back of the family room had a large glass sliding door. That may have been unlocked, too. There was a parallel sliding glass door on my mother's bedroom. Only two other rooms remained on the first floor; my mother's sewing room (more like a closet) and the living room shrine to my father's music collection. The west facing living room window was next to the front door, which was set behind the garage. The garage was closer to the street than the house.

One thing my mom and the architect didn't know was the living room window had a blond spot on the far side of the drive way. I spent many late nights "talking" with my boyfriend parked right in front of the house. Of course, we couldn't do anything beyond talk - we were close to the street, after all. 

The night of our home invasion really unsettled her. She filed a police report, but still needed to do something more proactive than check all the doors and keep purses out of sight from the multiple windows. All her children were forgetful teenagers. And she was tired.

The next day, she went to the dog pound to find a ferocious dog that would be a natural alarm for any one who would dare invade our peaceful home. I was looking forward to a dog I could run with, train for tricks, be the conversation starter with cute boys; just like of the after school movie specials. I thought my mom was getting the cocker spaniel I always wanted since I saw "The Lady and the Tramp"

Mom came home with one of the scrappiest, ugliest, 14 pound mutts I had ever seen. Her name on the papers was "Tiffany" as if a delicate name would even try to mask the "so ugly it's kind of sad so we should feel sorry for it" face and short wire hair. The dog trembled. There was nothing cuddly about this dog.

But she barked. And she jumped at anyone at the front door. And snapped at strangers. And she hated men. And vacuum cleaners.

And I named her, Smedley.

#35 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

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