Poochie was my first four-legged friend. He was a small dog with sandy blonde hair. I was three years-old when I knew and loved Poochie.
Memories of my third year are short snippets of time sketched in my mind. Poochie curled up in a little ball, basking under the sun in our front yard is an image that never faded. My love for him is a feeling I’ve never forgotten.
I was temporarily in a wheelchair from a childhood bone disease when Poochie was my dog. I’ve always wondered if I was confined to the little chair when Poochie met his last day on earth.
I’ve always thought it rather odd that I remember anything at all about my third year, but it makes sense now that I’m an adult, considering all that happened and the way things were.
We had plenty of love in my family, but from what I understand, my third year was much like the rest of my childhood. Our lives were chronically hardened with strife. On occasion and unpredictably, fear from violent emotional explosions that led to all sorts of trouble visited our family, yet we were familiar with unfortunate circumstances and that each time could have ended much worse than it did.
I had a boyfriend when Poochie was my dog. He was also three years-old. We spent a fair amount of time sitting on my front porch steps together. I remember the way I felt being around him. I know I loved him.
According to my mother, the little boy and I had deep conversations about life. “Lord, I couldn’t believe the things the two of you talked about. I used to stand there at the door listening and just shake my head,” she says.
A child in our neighborhood had thrown a rock that hit my head and knocked me unconscious. Afterward, even as my mother had made it clear to everyone that nobody would ever hit me with a rock again, my boyfriend and I didn’t play on the days when the child who had thrown the rock was outside.
Upon reflection, the accident may explain memory problems I had for the best of my childhood and maybe to this day, but I was hit in the head again during fifth grade. I had decided to play baseball, but the boys didn’t want girls on the team.
“Easy Out! Easy Out!,” the boys shouted enthusiastically. The pitcher tried hitting my head with the ball every time I approached the batter’s box. Finally, he succeeded, and I quit playing baseball.
The brain is amazing and so is the human spirit. I later found ways to cope with what I thought was normal, like my less than good memory and, “the bad things,” my grandmother said I had seen. “You were too young to see what you saw,” she would later tell me.
My third year was in the late sixties. The place was in the heart of the North Carolina Blue Ridge mountains. We were not poor by the standards of the day and perhaps we were Middle class. The stories I’ve heard about medical treatments I endured during those years sound like we came from a time I thought was in history books before I entered this world, which reminds me of the way I met my first boyfriend.
He and I were born minutes apart, in the same hospital room, delivered by the same doctor, separated only by a thin hospital curtain, which the doctor had left open for the laboring hours preceding our births.
“We talked the whole time we were in labor,” my mother tells me. “The beds were side-by-side. Nurses came in to prep us and that’s when the doctor pulled the curtain closed, but we still went on talking.”
The boy’s mother and mine were best friends. I was due several weeks before her child was, but as it happened, we were born on the same night. The boy came first. His mother, lying in her hospital bed, told them to open the curtain again, which they did.
“What’s wrong over there?” she asked my mother. “Why haven’t you had that baby yet?”
Looking over at my mother, still in labor, the woman noticed that Mother was still wearing her teeth. “Lord God!,” the woman shouted to the doctor. “She can’t have that baby ’til she takes out her teeth!”
The doctor ordered my mother to take her teeth out. “You were born just as soon as I took them out,” she tells me.
“Why did you have your teeth in?” I asked my mother, many years later as she told me the story.
“Well, I can’t remember, but I guess I didn’t want that doctor seeing me without my teeth,” she said. “He was a good-looking doctor.”
I realized I was born in pure vanity, but I come from a long line of women who expect good-looking doctors when they get to a certain age in life. I recently noticed that my doctor is pretty cute. I’ve seen him for years and have never once thought about his physical appearance. I wonder if this means I’m getting to that certain age. Alas. I’ve truly regressed, if that’s possible in this piece of writing.
My sweet boyfriend wasn’t there the day when I was sitting on the porch steps and saw our neighbor back her car out of the driveway, running over Poochie in the process. I wanted to help Poochie, but I couldn’t. I don’t know if it was because I couldn’t walk or if the accident simply happened too fast.
Later, my mother said the woman wanted to apologize and that she had made me cookies. I wanted nothing to do with her cookies and doubt if I understood what an apology meant. My dog was gone. In my three year-old mind, I fully believed it was the woman’s fault for backing out of her driveway at a speed that I was sure had been too fast. By the time she heard me screaming, it was too late to save Poochie.
Mother said my boyfriend and I sat on the steps and talked about what happened for days afterward. “The two of y’all came up with the idea that you would go to her house and poke her eyeballs out like she had done to Poochie’s.” Mother says I pointed two fingers to show her what I had in mind.
My family and I did go to the woman’s house. Apparently, I behaved well, but I didn’t like her house any more than I liked her car. From my point of view, both were way too big for one person.
I did not eat her cookies. I was sad for a long time.
For years, it hurt to remember what I had seen and I did remember. I also missed Poochie in a terrible way. I’m glad the images of the accident finally faded and that today, my memories only include him basking in the sunshine, and how it felt to love a dog.
The next dog that came into my life was a long funny looking Wiener dog. I’ll tell you about him, and my life when he lived with us, in an upcoming post about, “The Dogs I’ve Loved.”
12/30/12 Post updated to allow ‘Likes’ 🙂