When I was a kid, I wanted a dog. Plain and simple. What kid doesn’t, right? Unfortunately for me, my dad believed that dogs only belonged on farms or in the country, outside where they could run and be…well…dogs rather than our pets. This was either a really loving, puppy-conscious sentiment or a workable excuse so he didn’t have to get one for me. Either way, it stunk when I was a kid, so imagine my elation when my sister, Sue, and her husband, Ed, brought over a new puppy they had just bought fresh from the puppy farm.
After careful examination, we noted that the pup had two different colored eyes. Whoa! Back up this puppy train. We’re heading back to the farm for a trade in. I actually think they were just fine with this different-colored-eye thing, but my mother was not. If you know my mom, you’d understand why this seemingly defective dog was packed up and taken back to her mama for awhile longer. I was already in the car when they invited me along to pick out the new one. Which we did. On the way home it was Ed driving, then the new pup, then me, then Sue all lined up on the seat. (Remember those days of riding in the middle of the front bench seat?) The puppy got car sick on the way home all over the floor of the car. Good thing my feet didn’t reach that far, but it wouldn’t have mattered. It was instant love. That dog could have barfed all over me and I would have just hugged her tighter.
Her name was Daisy. Ahem. Actually her name was Lady Daisy of Nawada – a pure bred English Sheepdog now living on Nawada Court with official papers and everything. This was royalty folks! In my world the closest thing to royalty was the Kennedy family. Also in my world (remember this was the early 70’s) were the not-so-royal Beverly Hillbillies. I can only presume that my nine-year-old brain fused these two royal families with my own plain one to help me name MY dog,
Daisy May Fitzgerald O’Connor Kennedy.
I’m not saying this was brilliance or particularly witty, but it does have a certain lilt to it. I guess the more names the better was my general rule of thumb. Did I mention I was nine?
Anyway, after a few years of the usual joyful puppy stuff of teaching tricks and dog watching stints, walking her and dressing her up and such, Daisy had puppies of her own. Nine of them. Nine more dogs that could be mine for at least a few months before they went to other kids whose dads didn’t think dogs belonged on farms. Or maybe they lived on farms. Either way, lucky kids.
So OK, I was a deprived kid who couldn’t have a dog and then I got one vicariously through my siblings, right? Lest you think that’s what all of this writing and this piece of art is about, let me set you straight.
This is about GRATITUDE.
Gratitude from a grown-up kid who knows the depth of giving that Sue and Ed poured my way to make life more interesting, adventurous, and whole. You see, aside from Daisy, they also took me camping regularly, snow skiing, and for a week in the summer for several years they rented a cottage on a lake in northern Wisconsin where I learned to water ski, watch bears at the dump at midnight, and clean fish freshly caught.
It doesn’t stop there. We also went smelt fishing once which is a real kicker and strongly recommended if you ever get the chance. They ‘hired’ me to fill their tree with painted Christmas ornaments one year and paint shamrocks on glasses for a St. Patrick’s Day party another. One time during my Barbie obsession, Sue came over with a brown paper grocery bag, turned it over, and dumped a mound of handmade Barbie clothes on the living room floor. I still lose my breath when I think of it.
And they had two kids, Ryan and Sarah. I was only 12 when Ryan was born, the first grandchild. Now that I’m entrenched in motherhood as one of my callings, I know that these two kids were very much a part of igniting that in me. Like Lady Daisy, it was instant love and they could have barfed all over me and I would have just hugged them tighter.
I have only vague memories of being at my real home. Nearly all of my childhood memories involve Sue and Ed and that’s a fact.
Not dissing my real parents. They were in their forties when they had me and were just a little tired of kid raising by the time I came along. (Please don’t tell my mother I said that. I am just finishing my forties and for the life of me can’t imagine having a kid under 10 right now so I totally get it and don’t hold it against them in the least.)
Add to this that my dad wasn’t much for adventure having seen it all during WWII (his words, not mine.) My memories of him are more along the lines of his willingness to take 30 minutes out of Monday Night Football so I could watch Mary Tyler Moore, making me Spaghettio-s or French toast for lunch every school day because he walked home for a nap during my school lunch time, or sitting on a stool at his card table during tax time and scribbling on yellow legal pads. Pretty low key all around.
My mom finally grabbed the bull by the horns, used her college degree, and started teaching when I was about four. Looking back, I am totally impressed with this. Back then, I just had a working, very busy mom and so my memories of her were more about helping her create her classroom bulletin boards and shopping at Prange’s or Gimbel’s on College Avenue in Appleton on Saturdays.
So yeah, Sue and Ed filled a pretty large gap for me during their dating and early-married life. I actually have no memory of life before Ed since I was a pup myself when they met and only eight when they married. Together they provided me a place for adventure, a nod to my creativity, two kids to love, and yes, a dog of my own. For all of that, I am forever grateful.
Details about the artwork
Lady Daisy was completed May 2013 and is a mixed-media creation based upon the image below. It is of Daisy patiently allowing us to dress her up in this orange sweatshirt garb. The black lines are a solid Tyvek papercut mounted on a mat base with cloth, marbled paper swirls, acrylic paint, a zipper, a geniune Daisy dog tag, and book pages from Ramona Quimby – Age 8 by Beverly Cleary.
After Daisy died (sniff!), Sue and Ed found love with another sheepdog, Beezus, who only has one name because I was no longer around to make it more royal. She is however known as ‘The Dog from Hell’ for many reasons we will not expound upon in this writing. You can see a papercut portrait of Beezus in the piece with her devil horns. Here is the actual photo of Beezus which guided my cutting.
Once Beezus passed, they got yet another sheepdog, Quimby, that still graces their home today. Her image can be found on the opposite side from Beezus’. She’s the one with the glowing halo above her head. And here she is without her halo quite as visible.
Last, the nine paw prints across the bottom of the piece depict Daisy’s nine puppies. And oh yes, the names. Sue was a middle school teacher and her daughter an avid reader, so Beverly Cleary and the Quimby family with two sisters – Ramona and Beezus – were very popular in their household. This is what sparked the use of pages from the Cleary book to round out the collage.