Have you met my panda? I’ve been told that could possibly be the worst pick-up line ever, but seriously—would you like to meet him?
Jacques Ping is the bear I fell for at Hodgin’s Drug in Moscow, Idaho sometime in the autumn of 1996. His price tag—$20. An exorbitant amount to spend on a stuffed panda when you are a 20 year old college student. Or as the boyfriend who would become husband proclaimed, $20 was a ridiculous amount to spend on a panda period. Perhaps he had a sense of his future being linked to this bear and saw flashes of packing him around the world. I, who had never fallen for a panda before, had no such vision and yet I knew I must obtain him. And so I did.
His adventures began innocently enough. I decided to take him along on my cross-country road-trip honeymoon (wow! three two-word words in a row!). And having once experienced this, Ping it seems, was bitten by the travel bug. It then became the thing to do. Not only was he to accompany me around the globe, but it appears he developed a penchant for having his picture taken—preferably with the most significant landmark, but any old place would do in a pinch as long as a) he was present and b) there was a photo. And he would throw a strop if he was left behind (ahem, okay maybe that was me). Fast forward to present day and that panda has now visited 15 countries and 27 states.
Reeses Elliot was born April 16, 1995 on a buffalo farm in northern Idaho. She was the smallest of her litter, but made up for her size in personality (a phenomenon known as tortitude in tortoiseshell cats). As a kitten she liked to fetch and learned to sit on command, and would often follow her mom the few blocks to the laundry mat and sometimes attempted to follow her to class. She led an adventurous gypsy life and learned to love riding in cars, though only if she could be in a lap—not in a crate. Each new home was a thrilling discovery, whether it be a quiet spot in the garden to sit or beams to walk on above the living room. She enjoyed being included in conversation, coming home greetings (gorgeous one! beautiful cat!), breakfast seated in a chair at the table, and of course sleeping in beds with her people. She and her mom shared a very strong bond which only grew with the years and experiences shared. Reeses passed away peacefully at home on August 9, 2014. She was a constant companion who was loved and a special friend who will be missed.
Dylan Fox Elliot (née Zoe) was born on July 1,1997 in Moscow Idaho and adopted from the shelter October 1, 1997 by the Elliot family (which included a mom, dad, older cat sister Reeses, and older dog brother Larry). Dylan quickly and succinctly learned many commands without much teaching or trouble. She liked to lay outside in the sun enjoying the day, prancing like a show dog, and giving a bark of joy to greet the morning. But her favorite things in the world were car rides, swimming, and boys. She loved her dad, brother, and grandpas most of all and craved boyish adventure. She moved to Salt Lake City Utah after her parents graduated university and there discovered her true terrors (in addition to the vacuum) fireworks and thunder. She camped and hiked in the Uintas, Escalante, and Moab. When it was time for her family to relocate to England, she bided her time with her siblings between grandparents’ homes until she could be brought directly into the country. At first, she lived in a rural village where she loved to go for long walks along the canal spotting ducks and romping in fields before she moved to London and became a sophisticated city dog. There she ran in the park with her mom, trotted on pavement past shops, and frightened away two burglars. While abroad, she vacationed at Dover, Wales, and Cornwall. Dylan was a very well traveled dog. Her next great adventure would be to re-cross the sea back to the states, which she did with gusto. Landing in Portland, she blossomed as a mature dog with a lot of experience under her harness. Here she was loved by all and became a superstar of sorts, loving every bit of attention. She loved to go for walks around the city, but she never tired of a ride in the car and exploring new places was always a treat. Ashland and the Oregon Coast were favorites. Dylan died peacefully at home on February 12, 2014. She led a very full and long life, brought much happiness, was loved and will be missed.
“There is no use trying” said Alice, “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
It’s been a rough few years and things were just beginning to look up… I’ve got a tremendous group of friends surrounding me, July brought a promotion to library assistant, August saw me graduate from library school, I was able to refinance on my own, and I’ll be turning 37. I wanted to honor all of these big life moments, celebrate these impossibly good things and accomplishments despite all obstacles. So I thought I’d throw a party. I was on the brink of sending the invite out when I learned that Dylan had a large abdominal tumor and then my car was stolen. This was the same weekend, actually the morning of final presentation for my master’s degree. Great timing. So after sobbing uncontrollably for a few days, I decided to stop.
My dog has lived a wonderful life and is still here. She is happy and pain-free. And as long as she is happy and pain-free, I am going to enjoy her company and love her. I can cry when she’s gone. My car is gone. I loved my car and attached it with feelings of independence and freedom. But it is a car and eventually (hopefully) can be replaced. And until then, I live in a city that makes it easy to live without a car. I can walk to shops and grocery stores. The public transport is good and my work pays for a travel pass. I have signed up for zipcar and car2go to get me through those times when I might need a car. And those tremendous friends I mentioned earlier, well, they are also there with cars to borrow or rides to offer if I am in need.
I am still having that party, only now the impossible things party is encompassing all the impossibly shitty things life throws at you too. I’m thinking of it in terms of a liberal arts kind of life; I’m going to be one very well-rounded person in the end, right?
Walking along one day with a friend, I suddenly replied in a sing song manner “and there’s nothing we can do about it.” It stopped me for a moment because it was so familiar…where had that phrase originated and why did I sing it? And then I remembered…it was a shared memory, shared language from the marriage. It was the very first song John wrote as a boy.
Yes July is a warm month
Yes there are clouds in the sky
Yes the trees are so gree eee eeeen
But we will have to say goodbye.
I’m going to miss you so from head to toe
But there’s nothing we can do about it.
Yes I’ll miss you so from head to toe
But there’s nothing we can do about it.
And so I leave you with those wise words on the last day of July.
It has been a long time coming…I have abandoned the blog (nearly), the cello (almost completely), yoga and other exercise (just about entirely) as well as whatever else can fall away while I try to wrap up my master’s degree, prepare for a promotion at work, figure out a way to refinance, deal with the aftermath (and just general math) of a divorce, and come to terms with end of life issues for the dog and cat of my life. So I thought I would take a moment to post a little reflection, something I have been doing not much of lately.
My April Fools Day was quite unlike any other. I learned that this was the date I was officially an unmarried person. For the first time in a long time (the refrain of Josh Ritter’s new album about his divorce is ringing in my ears). I told husband, now ex, via email as he was anxious to have it all be done and dusted. I communicated with him on Tuesday and we met for dinner on Thursday to go over some more finalities (when will the finalities ever be final I ask myself?) and he showed up in a new car. I suppose he needed the final judgment before making a large purchase legally. So I end up paying for a divorce I didn’t want, the rest of my education, which we took on together because we could do it with his income without having student loan debt, and a house that was more than affordable when it was two. And now it is one. A new car might not seem so drastic unless you know the ex-husband. Never would he ever have purchased a new car. Not for us to share, certainly not for me, and not for himself.
Funny how these new priorities have come to the surface. I suppose they were always lurking and I am just now beginning to see what narcissism may look like in a marriage. I compromised, because that is what you do, right? Yes, okay, we will get married now. Alright, I’ll give up my apartment for your dog. No peacecorps, no world travel before we start working for the rest of our lives? Fine. Salt Lake City for the lowest paying job offer? Really? I’ll just start over again from the bottom every move. It’s okay because I can work anywhere. I guess I’ll be taking public transport anyway, so it doesn’t matter that I can’t reach the pedals in the camper van. It’s surprising because when we moved abroad, it really began to feel like he had started to consider me. Our marriage was a good one and I felt it improve. I felt like I finally had a say. You know what? I never liked church or felt comfortable there and still have gone with you for the past 17 years…Yes, England was good and we both felt perhaps we were moving back a little sooner than planned, but after all, it was Portland and I had always pined for Portland. And we were both excited by the prospect. It has proven to be a better city than either of us imagined. More than we hoped for. Thank god it ended here and not in the middle of London. I am here in the city I longed to live in, with a job I love and have progressed in, getting a higher education, in the perfect house in a great neighborhood with amazing people surrounding me. Did it suddenly become too much? Too much happiness on my part, too much permanence after 16 moves in 14 years of marriage? I don’t get it now and may never understand, but full mid-life crisis mode appears to be in full effect and our ending was appropriate as any.
Watching a documentary about the Amish I rediscovered the word Rumspringa, that period of time in adolescence when the Amish youth are free to experience the outside world. How fitting I thought.
My rumspringa is over. I took a year to go a little wild, try some new crazy things, and spend money without a thought. 2013 is about reeling it back in. Taking stock. What did I like, what do I want to continue? What did I try that absolutely was not me? I am taking control of my life, which has felt so out of control and on autopilot at times the last few years. Now I am re-establishing some routine. Taking time for me. Saying no more often and yes to treating myself better. I have dabbled in veganism (and might just stick with it) and have given up alcohol. Not forever I’m sure, just taking a break. Giving my body a rest. Austerity Elliot is in full effect this year and I will be watching my pennies and doing what needs to be done. I will be finding new ways of being frugal and living with less. It is a topic that is close to my heart and now I am able to truly simplify. This year will be full of the unexpected as all years are and have been, but I am also hopeful for some completion. Divorce. Graduation. Refinancing. 2013 is going to be challenging, but I think I’m up for it.