Ninteen years ago today, I got up with my best pal and went for a coffee. It was a big day, and she knew it. After all, she had been a big reason for the day being so important. If it hadn’t been for her, I might not have embarked on one of the best decisions of my life.
We had a glorious walk in Stanley Park to start the day, and later she sat beside me as I wrote my vows. That afternoon she was there too, all decked out, as I set out to form a new life. I’m so glad she was there. One always wants one’s best friends to be a part of momentuous occasions as well as everyday life.
You see, my best friend enabled me to get a first date with the man who would be my husband. We did a double date, us two girls with him and his best friend. I knew right then there was something special between us. We all stayed close and became a kind of family for many years.
Today I have another best pal, as the one from all those years ago is gone now, but her spirit lives on. We walk every morning, and most evenings too. She reminds me every day to stop and smell the flowers, take in the moments that make life special. She listens to my ramblings and supports me through thick and thin.
Can you guess who I’m speaking about? It’s my Chocolate Labrador Retrievers. The one from nineteen years ago was named Satchmo, as she was a great singer of the blues and a lover of life. Her successor is Ella, the queen of jazz (and a friend of Satchmo’s in another life). Both of them have been the best companions anyone could ask for, and they helped me to be a better person.
Satchmo was the dog I had when I met my hubbie. He had a wonderful Doberman Pinscher named Paul (after Paul Simon – do you see a theme with our pet names?)
Our first date was to take our dogs for a walk, something that immediately endeared me to this man who seemed an unlikely candidate to hook up with for the long term.
His dog was very well-trained, as they both went to school to learn about training assistance dogs for people in wheelchairs. I was told to hold a chestnut in my hand for a while on the walk and then Hubbie threw it in the bushes down the slope to the beach. “Find it!”, he said to his Dobie.
Paul leaped over the edge of the slope and crashed his way through the brush. When we reached the bottom of the hill we saw his trotting back towards us, looking very proud. He sat ramrod straight in front of us. “Thank you”, said Hubbie, with his hand out. Paul spit out the chestnut, which had been marked with an x for verification. How impressed was I?!
It took almost 3 years for us to tie the knot, going through the trials and tribulations of life along the way. But our dogs were there with us – I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
When Satchmo went blind from a congenital defect at age 8, Paul helped her walk straight by nudging her on the sidewalk and he protected her in the park when we saw other dogs. They became soulmates just like Hubbie and me.
And now, almost 22 years after that first afternoon walk, having shared memories across the country and back with two more dogs and a little girl who is now married, we are still going.
I am so fortunate to have experienced so much love. Even more fortunate to have found my soulmate with whom to share all that love. But more than anything, I am grateful for the Brown Girls in my life – they have taught me how to love and live well, and given me more love (and laughter) than I could ever have imagined.
There is an old Harry Nillson song called “Me and my Arrow”, from a movie called The Point. I remember the tale and the song, every morning as I walk. I try to cherish those friendships appropriately.
Here’s to living the life your dog expects of you.
I bought this sign today as an early Valentines’ Day present for my hubby. Since we will be on holiday that day I showed it to him right away. He thought it was cool, but after he read through it his first words were (and I kid you not), “What about sex?!” What can I say, he is a guy. And, he’s a chef. His argument was that recipes should be balanced.
Putting aside the fact that the sign was likely made for a more family-friendly application, I do agree that if “romance” is included then sex is a logical ingredient to add in the mixture.
I suppose you might be asking that age-old question posed by Harry and Sally: “Can men and women be friends?” That of course is at the essence of the discussion.
Ultimately, my hubby is right. (Don’t tell him I said that.) It’s all about balance. If you can manage the sexual tension that exists on a primal level then you can probably have a successful friendship for a long time, just like Harry and Sally did. But eventually, you have to deal with it – just like you have to deal with the cake batter that overflows the pan in the oven or the grill that flares up and burns your steaks. Nothing is entirely predictable.
Love, and life, do have recipes, but just like anything else you’ll search on the Internet these days you’ll find there isn’t only one. It’s the balance that makes the recipe work. Flavours of sweet and sour, sweet and salty, bitter and sweet, and even umami – that earthly sensation that fills you up – need to be considered. Any good cook knows that recipes are altered with the seasons, as fresh ingredients import different intensities of flavour and corresponding spices need to be adjusted. If you’re fortunate, like me, you find your soulmate and the scales are easier to tip in your favour. When you both know each other and trust each other implicitly, it’s like a a tried-and-true recipe you’ve made plenty of times: you don’t need to measure anymore and it always turns out just fine. Maybe not exactly the same every time, but just fine.
I’m not trying to say there is no happiness for people who don’t have a mate. There are friendships that transcend the earthly confines of traditional relationships – sometimes with siblings, or long-standing friends – even long distance friends. The connection one feels with that kind of friend has the same kind of magic as an intimate relationship can have. I do believe we all have the opportunity for that kind of connection. It’s out there, just keep on cooking and you’ll find the right recipe. Eventually, you will find the combination of ingredients that works for you. As Harry said,
…when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
Here’s to the rest of our lives.
Christmas is my favourite time of year, and Christmas dinner seems to epitomize the festive season: the food and drink and best of all, the company. Just think – at what other time of year can you argue about whether the dressing should be traditional or adventurous, or agonize over which tablecloth would look nicer, and which serving pieces to put out to make sure Aunt So-and-so sees the gift you never otherwise use! (Okay, maybe in the closest families that happens every Sunday, but it seems most of the other days of the year we are far too busy to spend that much time on dinner.) On that point I agree with the Chef – be grateful you have those people you care about enough to argue with, and toast their good health before you dive into that sumptuous dinner.
As far as the menu goes, I have always been one who liked to “upset the apple cart” so to speak, by trying to suggest some new (or old) twist on the Christmas dinner. I wanted to try goose after having read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. I always wondered what Brussels sprouts tasted like and figured they couldn’t really be as bad as my Dad said. And who wouldn’t marvel at the idea of marshmallows at the dinner table, all toasted over a dish of sweet potatoes! Then there was the stuffing. This was a topic that was hotly discussed by my parents, as my Mom read more cooking magazines and my Dad pined for the “good old days” when celery and sage were all it needed. (Years later, he would be the one saying why hadn’t we added walnuts or used cornbread earlier!) But if you ask me what I remember about Christmas dinner, it is not the specific menu items but rather that warm and fuzzy feeling that came once the plates were empty.
I for one don’t think it was merely the tryptophan that made me groggy and light-headed at Christmas; it was more that sense of euphoria that comes over you when you immerse yourself in the spirit of Christmas. If you truly believe in the essence of Christmas then as you let it into your heart and take active part in the festivities and the giving, you cannot help but feel better yourself. Children know this intuitively, and it is only as our hearts harden if we don’t practice such things that we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. Christmas is not for children, but for the child that lies within us all, hoping for a chance to believe in something pure and good, and listening for that magic signal which says that something exists.
So if you need a dose of “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “The Polar Express” before Christmas dinner to get you in full gear, go right ahead. When you sit down to dinner, cherish the meal, and those around you, and of course the cook who made it possible. It is important to take Christmas to heart, for if you do it right, it just might stay with you until next year. Wouldn’t that make the world a wonderful place?
I write often about the fact that sharing food is a central concept to enjoying it. Gathering around a table to break bread and share the events of the day has been an integral part of society since the ancient Greek and Romans started it. As a cook and a lover of food, I get a kick out of seeing others enjoy my preparations and also being able to sit down and savour someone else’s hard work.
Food isn’t the only thing that is fun to share; friendship works exactly the same way. One of the easiest friendships to have is with a dog, and I have been privileged to know many four-legged friends in my life. Dogs don’t judge friends; once they have decided you are a companion they stick by you for life. I am partial to Labrador Retrievers, who are famous for their gregarious nature and ability to be thrilled with whatever you want to suggest to them. They can be running or swimming at full speed one moment, and then relaxing and ready to nap the next. With their dense soft fur, they are eminently huggable, and will often encourage this kind of behaviour, being touchy-feely animals. They are also big lovers of food, another worthy trait in a friend, I think. I highly recommend at least making use of a dog that belongs to someone you know even if you don’t have your own. They say time with a dog lengthens your life, so how bad can it be?
In this post I’d like to salute my current companion, Ella. She is featured this week in a photo contest, so here’s your chance to think about dogs you might like. Hopefully you’ll vote for my lovable Brown Girl, but even if you don’t I’m sure this few moments will put a smile on your face. Vote here (no registration required)
Take time out to simply Be Happy and Live in the Moment. It’s Ella’s philosophy. Doesn’t she look like she’s enjoying life?