There are two lovely cherry trees in my backyard. Once, they were nearly small enough to see over their leafy tops, and certainly small enough to fit inside our car when we brought them home from the nursery.
We planted them at just the right depth on either side of our pergola that supports our wooden swing, and we wondered how long it would take for them to grow past our heads and large enough to extend their sweetly flowered arms across the yard every spring.
At some point, I forgot to keep track of the trees. My boys were growing fast and moving faster, and I didn’t often have time to look up and appreciate the things above my eyes. Somehow one year turned into ten, and as I sit inside my studio that we built last winter, I smile at the gloriously strong and healthy branches that reach out past my windows and across the roof over my head, branches full of delicate petals that will soon dance down and cover the yard like fragrant pink snow.
These trees are not unlike the two boys that grew so fast as that one year turned into ten, and I marvel at the lovely things they too have become.
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One of my favorite characters when I was quite small was that of Madame Mim, the purple-haired witch that appeared in animated retelling of “The Sword and the Stone.” I adored her cottage and the wizard battle she had with Merlin, and I thought of her in that scenes as I created this piece (though, perhaps, with a slightly more beneficent witch in mind). I loved the idea of making the sparkling starlight float up and out the chimney because there’s something magical simmering inside. I’d like to think of that something as good enchantment, or love, or kindness, floating up and borne away by the wind to spread happiness everywhere.
We hated to say goodbye to you this morning, but you were right: it was time for us to let you go.
As I ran my hands over your soft fur and scratched your huge radar-dish ears (the same ones that caught my attention in the shelter all those 13 years ago), I told you I loved you. Even though your breathing had started to slow, and your eyes were closed, I think you heard me because your ears never missed anything. Those ears heard the school bus approaching even when it was blocks away, returning to you your very favorite little humans after their too-long days at school. Long before those school bus days, those ears heard the 2 a.m. rustling of a baby who had not yet begun to cry in his crib. They also heard the word “turkey” casually mentioned in a discussion about upcoming holiday meals, which lead you to plant yourself in front of the oven, ready, even if that holiday meal was weeks away.
I told you I was glad we happened upon the shelter that day, with no actual intention of adopting anything, especially not an underweight, boisterous puppy with feet the size of dinner plates and ears to match. The shelter manager convinced us you would only grow to weigh 60 pounds. He was wrong. I’m glad he was wrong, because if you’d stopped growing at 60 pounds, you’d never have been able to pull a toboggan full of giggling children through freshly fallen snow on winter afternoons. You’d also never have been the perfect baby gate, always ready to guard the stairs or the doorways against small wandering humans (I tried to explain to you that the wood and metal gates we installed for just this purpose really did work, but you weren’t having any of it).
I told you you were a good girl. By “good,” I don’t mean “well behaved,” because that is the last phrase I’d ever use to describe you, but you were good in all the ways that matter most. You tolerated children who built railroads over you as you napped because you made the perfect mountain for their trains to cross. You let little arms wrap around your neck in delight. You sat next to anyone who had been sent to time-out. You knew which of your people needed a friend and you made sure to stick with them until they felt better.
As I kissed your nose one last time, I didn’t mention the times that you’d climbed into the bathtub with the boys and caused a tsunami of suds to flood onto the floor. I didn’t mention the time you unlocked all the gates that stood between you and our neighbor’s yard and then dug holes in their yard with unabashed glee until we wrangled you back inside. I didn’t mention the time you ransacked all the rooms upstairs because you’d gotten out of your crate (again) or that time you unrolled every roll of toilet paper in the house. I didn’t mention those times because even at your worst, you were our best girl.
Most of all, you were my girl. You spent every hour of our days in my studio with me, warming my feet and reminding me to take breaks and scratch your ears, because what good is a day full of work with no ear scratches?
If heaven is a place filled with your favorite things, then yours is a vast green meadow with squirrels and cats to chase, other dogs with which to play, and trash cans that you can knock over with abandon.
We loved you, Sheba. Thank you for loving us.