Have yourself a very doggy Christmas

Annie 9215AAnnie and I had not been to the dog park in a long time, not since she got into a fight with another dog and its owner cursed me out so thoroughly we both had our tails between our legs. My sweet pup has always been unpredictable around other dogs. I will not forget the day she grabbed a neighbor’s chihuahua and I was sure she was going to kill it. To her, that dog was no different from the rabbit she killed on one of our wilderness walks. I screamed like crazy, and neighbors rushed out to help separate the dogs. The little dog was okay, just a little bruised. Thank God.

There are certain dogs in the neighborhood Annie dislikes, especially Donut and Katie on the next block. Maybe they remind her of her brother Chico who used to pick on her. I wasn’t able to keep Chico, but she seems to have developed a prejudice against black dogs, and I didn’t trust her with any other dogs.

Harley, the yellow Lab who lives across the street, has helped change that. Annie and I met him when he was a puppy, just a handful of cream-colored fur. Now he weighs over 130 pounds and makes my tan 74-pounder look small. Harley is the kind of dog who loves everybody, human or canine. Annie was no exception. She didn’t know how to deal with that at first. She growled a bit. He didn’t react. She tried to walk away. He slapped his paws on the ground in an invitation to play. She hesitated, then jumped into play mode. They have been buddies ever since.

As the years passed, she has mellowed around other dogs. She still barks and pulls on the leash but does not go total Cujo anymore. Still, I have avoided the dog park. Even if Annie is calm, another dog might not be. One time, a pit bull attacked both of us, ripping my favorite pants. The owners just shrugged it off.

Yesterday, I had to mail my last Christmas gift to California, and it was walk time, so I put Annie in the car. Not in the mood for the beach—too cold—I stopped at the post office, then drove up the hill to the community college, which is just past the dog park. Maybe my music teacher friend would be there for a visit. If not, we could at least walk where Annie could sniff some new smells.

School was out for winter vacation, but it was a good walk, although I was wearing these leggings that kept wanting to fall down (Anyone else have that happen?). We walked around the college and then down the road a bit and finally circled the dog park fence. Inside, two large dogs streaked across the sawdust, running full speed. “Look at that, Annie,” I said. “Wow. Look at them go.” I didn’t know if my 11-year-old with her two patched-up knees could run that fast anymore. We continued around the outside of the park until the other dogs spotted us and came running.

Uh-oh, I thought. “Be good, Annie,” I said.

The dogs wagged their tails. One of them whined a little. Annie wagged her tail and whined back. She wanted to play with them.

Okay. I took her to the double gate, warned her that the others would be in her face, and let her in. They sniffed, Annie barked, and they took off. Oh my God, my dog was playing with other dogs. Soon I was talking to the other dog mom. We might have nothing else in common, but we had dogs.

After she left, it was back to just us. I kept praising my pup, and I swear she was smiling.

Yes, she’s a dog. Yes, I do not have human children. But I could not have been prouder if my child had won the school talent contest or gotten straight A’s on her report card.

Some days, I promise, you do not have to think about the children you don’t have.

And some days you do. I played the piano both Saturday and Sunday at my new church. They were incredibly welcoming, and I already feel at home on the piano bench there. But at “coffee and donuts,” sitting with other women, out came the baby pictures on their phones. Having none, I soon slipped away. It’s great being a dog mom, but it is not the same. We’re a different breed.

I don’t wrap gifts for my pup, but I did buy her a new blue collar yesterday. Her old red one was looking kind of ratty. I also bought myself an expensive pair of earrings for my newly pierced ears. We’re happy.

Choose your own kind of Christmas or whatever holiday you want, and don’t let the folks who don’t understand get you down. Feel free to share here about how your week before Christmas is going.

Being Childless by Unfortunate Timing

 

When I try to puzzle out why I never had children, I think the real answer is timing. The kids I might have had got lost in the crunch between my divorce and my second marriage. The first marriage fell apart—and probably should never have happened. The second husband was older and already had all the kids he wanted. End of story. Nobody in this story is evil. It just happened that way.

I honestly believe that if husband number one and I had had a better marriage, we would still be together and would have spent Christmas with our grandchildren. Sure, he was reluctant to have children, but I think he would have bowed to pressure from me and his parents eventually. Maybe not. Maybe I’m dreaming. He has had two other wives and didn’t have children with either one of them. But yes, I think it would have happened if not for the cheating, the booze, and the fact that he decided he didn’t love me. He would have been no help with the kids, but they would exist.

Also, my career would be toast. But that’s a whole other story.

One of the guys I dated between marriages was hot to have more babies to add to the two sons he had with his first wife. We were the same age. Our babies would have been beautiful. But that was not a good match either.

No, I immediately knew Fred was “the one.” I thought he was younger. I thought he was still fertile. I thought we’d figure it out . . .

Timing. In this age of multiple marriages, some of us just get caught in-between and lose our chance to be moms. It’s lousy, but it happens.

Have some of you fallen into this situation? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

***

My Christmas was good. I was busy with church music and friends. I missed my husband, but I honestly didn’t miss the children I didn’t have as I watched my church choir friends running around like crazy people trying to spend time with everyone and dealing with all kinds of family drama. My friends showered me with love, food and presents.

After Christmas Mass, Annie the dog and I read and napped, watched videos, and took a long walk, wishing Merry Christmas to the neighbor dogs. After four Masses playing church music, I played the piano some more just for fun. With no one else to please, I ate raviolis and Portuguese sausage for dinner, all in the glow of my tiny Christmas tree and the lights I hung around the house.

It was my first Christmas alone without a meltdown. It can be done, dear friends. We can be happy without children. The most important thing for me was to stop comparing my life with everyone else’s. That just leads to pain. So, don’t do it.

I wish you all the best of new years. See you in 2018.

 

The Childless Christmas Gift Dilemma

The first Christmas commercials showed up on TV before we finished with Halloween. The stores were already putting out the decorations and cheesy gifts in mid-October. You can’t get away from it. Even if you’re not Christian and don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s hard to escape the whole Santa Claus business.

So much of what is offered is for children. After all, who gets the most and the best Christmas presents? Kids. When there are kids around, almost everything under the tree is for them. It has always been that way. When my brother and I were little, our parents, grandparents, godparents, and aunts brought in armloads of gifts for us. We’d crawl around under the tree, prodding and shaking the packages, trying to figure out what was inside, dreaming of the possibilities. On Christmas morning, it felt like we were unwrapping presents for hours. It wasn’t until my teens that I realized Mom and Dad received comparatively few gifts. They would nod and admire our bounty while itching to get on with preparations for the company coming soon.

I have spent plenty of time at other people’s houses watching the kids rip paper off packages while I sipped my tea or slowly unwrapped my one present, fancy soaps, chocolates, or another coffee mug. It was worse when those kids were my stepchildren, surrounded by so many parents and grandparents, step and bio, they couldn’t even keep track. My husband’s ex always knew exactly what they wanted and needed because she was the real grandmother, the one who was around all the time. I was this weird Grandma Sue person who knew nothing about children.

We can say Christmas is not about the gifts, but in some ways it is. All the advertising showing perfect families with two happy parents and at least two beautiful children doesn’t mirror our own reality. If only advertisers would try to understand that. Sure, we might have stepchildren, nieces and nephews, or our friends’ children to buy presents for, but we have to exercise some restraint because they have their own parents who want to give the biggest and best things.

Christmas gifts present a dilemma for many of us without children. If you’re like me, you don’t hang around kids that much and don’t even know what they want or need. I haven’t been to Toys R Us in at least 25 years. What are the popular gifts this year? What do you get for a two-year-old? What does a 12-year-old want? Are you obligated to buy presents for kids you barely know? Do your friends and siblings expect you to shower their children with gifts when you can’t afford them or when even walking through the toy store at the mall makes you feel bad?

I’m afraid I sound sorry for myself. I don’t get a lot of Christmas presents these days, and I open them alone. The joys of being a widow far from family. I have been buying gifts for certain young people for years and never gotten anything in return. But that’s not what this post is about.

I want to know what it’s like for you. Does Christmas fill you with dread because of all the gifts you have to buy or the gifts you don’t get to buy because you don’t have kids? Do you enjoy buying or making things for the children in your life? Or are you relieved because not having children means you don’t have to spend the money or deal with the crowds? What’s your game plan for Christmas presents this year? Do you have suggestions for surviving the Santa Claus side of Christmas? Please share in the comments.