Tag Archives: childhood

Life is still hard.

The other night I had to go back to work after a week and a half hiatus. I was so distraught that I called my mom from outside the office before I went inside. I whined. And mostly she didn’t listen. She was in a good mood about napkin rings or something and wasn’t indulging my compaints at all. At one point I started to say, “I feel like my soul is dying,” but she cut me off.

At the end of the conversation she said, “Go to work. You have to do it.” And hearing those words reminded me of all the times she’d told me similar things–when I didn’t want to go to school, or softball practice, or Abby’s ninth birthday party at the roller rink. I’m not sure there was anything I did want to do as a child. Many times I’d sit beside one of our cats on the floor and feel the strongest envy towards its lifestyle. All you have to do all day is sleep. You have it so good, Smokey. So hearing my mom say, “You have to do it,” triggered that same old whiney response from growing up. “I know. You don’t have to tell me.”

As soon as those words came out, though, I realized I needed to pull myself together. It was disgusting. It was like I’d forgotten to take my dignity with me when I’d left the house that day.

Anyway. Work was fine. I survived. Just as I survived school, and softball practice, and Abby’s ninth birthday party.

Funny story–one time at softball practice I was playing catch with one of my teammates to warm up. We’d separated from the group a little bit and gone by the fence at the edge of the field. My dad came over and was watching us from the other side of the fence. My teammate saw him and didn’t realize it was my dad. She thought it was a stranger and a threatening one, too. She told me to follow her to another part of the field, away from the fence.

I didn’t tell her it was my dad or that he was nothing to worry about. Which I would feel guilty about, except…I didn’t want to be at practice to begin with.

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On Nostalgia, On Stars, On Mutts and Thoroughbreds

When I was seven-years-old, my dad brought home a dog.  It was mainly a Labrador, but it was mostly a mutt.  He was already just about full grown when he became our family dog, and no one took the time or initiative to train him.  I forget why my dad brought him home, but I remember my mom was not consulted and she was not happy.

One of my most vivid memories of this time in my life is sitting on the back door concrete steps one particular evening.  It was completely dark.  It must’ve been just after dinner, but in my mind it feels like it was midnight.  My brothers sat beside me and we looked at the stars.  We tried to decide what to name the dog.  The combination of family, and starlight, and this important task–it was like an ancient ceremony.  I think Mom and Dad had actually told us to go sit on the steps and think of something.  We’d been given a big responsibility and I felt the full weight of it (so much so that I offered no name ideas).

It was my oldest brother who finally came up with it.  And it was this magical moment!  He pronounced the name and it felt so right. So perfect.  Like there was no other name in the universe for this dog.  This dog would be named…Sparky.

Myself at seven had no idea that this was a cliche dog name.  To me, my brother was a genius.  He’d gazed at the stars, he’d noticed their white, twinkling lights, and he’d associated that light with the light of sparks.  Thus, Sparky.


Sparky was a terrible dog.  He barked a lot.  He bit.  And the thing that made me most upset about Sparky–he yanked on the leash so hard during walks that you’d have to let go of the wristband or you’d fall to the pavement.  The thing I most wanted at seven-years-old was to be able to walk Sparky.  Being the youngest member of the family, I think I just craved that feeling of being useful.  I wanted to contribute!  

Also, I was very shy, so I wanted to go out into the neighborhood and be social, but I wanted a buffer for when I did–sort of like a desperate guy in a sitcom bringing a puppy to the park with him to attract the attention of cute female joggers.  I wanted to be just like the loud neighborhood kids with their soccer balls and their roller blades, but it was so much easier to talk to the bumblebee that hung around in the backyard bushes.  I think I knew I was the desperate guy in the sitcom, and I think I knew I was never going to get laid. At least not by cute female joggers in the park.


I bring all this up because earlier this week the Westminster Dog Show was held!  Right here in New York!  It was a jarring moment for me, because I was in a bar on Seventh Avenue, drinking a Newcastle, and going back and forth between glancing at the screen with the dogs and glancing at the screen with the male figure skaters–and then, I left the bar, walked up Seventh Avenue near Madison Square Garden–and THERE WERE THE DOGS AND THEIR CRAZY HANDLERS!!  They were all leaving the Garden and heading back to their fancy schmancy hotels.  At first I didn’t even put it together, I was just like, “Hey, there are a lot of dogs around.”  And a couple seconds later, “Hey, these dogs are really well-behaved.”

And then I realized what was going on, and I was like, “Oh, yeah.  I live in New York.”  Still, I got pretty excited and I snapped some blurry pictures:

Only the handler's boobs and below are in focus. I planned this.

It is more expensive to raise this dog than to rebuild Haiti?

Too blurry. Can't think of clever caption.


At seven, I badly, badly wanted a beagle, and later, I badly wanted a border collie. The passion with which I wanted a dog at a walkable size was overwhelming. I didn’t ask for much as a child. An Easy Bake Oven, and a border collie. Between the ages of 4 and 9, that was it.

In most ways I still feel exactly like that seven-year-old. I understand that deep need for an Easy Bake Oven–if I don’t have Duncan Hines brownie or cake mixes on hand, a visceral sadness comes over me. A similar sadness comes over me when I think about how badly I wanted a dog, though, because I can’t relate to that today. Today I’m allergic to dogs. They make my eyes itch and they make little hives pop up on my hands and arms.

It’s a clear example of a place in which I’ve changed. I still want to feel useful, I’m still intimidated yet intrigued by my peers, but no part of me wants a dog. And that makes me sad. It makes me want to go find that little girl having a conversation with a bumblebee and give her a long hug. And a brownie.