An Old Dog, Pizza, Harmony ♫

We’re making home made pizza tonight. I have to boast just a bit and tell you that I have this recipe down pat. First I made a batch of dough that just looked wrong ( so apparently ‘down pat’ is incorrect). One thing about making pizza dough is that you can just know where there is no saving it, you gotta let it go. This batch though, will be perfect, flaky and flavorful. Casey is listening to Jamestown Revival, I like to sing with these guys because they’re easy to practice my newly learned attempts at harmony on.

Its weird when we find that suddenly we can DO harmony. Like a light bulb turning on and you can’t figure out why you ever thought it was so hard.

We stood in the kitchen and sipped and talked about how when we lived in Kingsley we’d go out to the Manistee National Forest, which was just down the road. How we’d two track out there and how we’d sit high up on a cliff above the  the Manistee River. Sometimes with Kaia in a car seat, sometimes just us, always with the dog.

The dog!

This old boy will be 14 this year. His face is white, his nether parts are pretty much all over the place, he can’t see the ball when we throw it for him, but he still susses it out using his powerful, noble nose. He used to ride in the car with us on our two track adventures and we’d put the back window down and he’d bite the tree branches that scraped the side of the SUV. (This is what SUVs are made for, they are made to get scraped, made to haul people and stuff, made to two track and not get stuck, so don’t wince at me about scratches on a car.)

This old boy used to eat everything. He would lay five feet away from us and chew on the legs of the dining room table, he ate a first edition Alice in Wonderland, countless pairs of underpants and flip flops. One day he just stopped, I don’t know what happened, maybe that harmony light bulb came on.

This old boy listens to his dad, who loves this dog in the way that a person can only love their first love. He unequivocally, always, obeys his dad. Me, most of the time, more than the kids do anyway. This old boy doesn’t walk on a leash, he’s a people and he trots along with his family.

This old boy eats bacon grease on his dog food and leftovers from dinner and is pretty fettle anyway, and not too bad of a beggar.

This old boy has gone swimming in the ocean after an interminable trip to Florida with Jared and Casey. He’s gone swimming in the little and big bays in Traverse City, in Lake Michigan, in Lake Arbutus, in Spring Lake, in most of the rivers near the places he has lived.

This old boy learned a long time ago to live in harmony.

My mom used to tell me, and honestly (sorry mom), I’d feel irritated and smile and be glad she couldn’t see how my body language just closed up, she used to tell me when we had our first really hard days in Traverse City, that we needed a “church family”.

The idea of it still makes me shudder a little, but I know what she means now.

I made a CD for a my friend Kelly, it is made up of songs that we need to learn for our first professional time singing together outside of church. But I added some fun stuff too and thought about a boy who made me a mix tape when I was about 13, how I listened to it as I showered every night in our immaculate little trailer where we lived with our mom. How special I felt that someone thought I would appreciate just that music.

I thought about how Kelly gave my brother and his wife a ride home the other day when the battery was dead on their vehicle. How she brought me home when I realized that my alarm system was much more sophisticated than I would have guessed and my starter disabled. I thought about how everything always gets done, the people always show up, the work is shared, and the product usually just as we’d hoped it would be.

I think that’s what my mom was talking about. She didn’t mean I should find a church so that I could just lean and lean and lean on them. She didn’t mean I should find free babysitters who would pray with my kids. She meant that our community, our harmony (or lack thereof) was confined to the square walls of a blue house that was much bigger than the space we currently occupy. She meant that we needed friends.

Tonight my friend Joanne emailed me. She said she would pick up garlic bread and salad stuff for a luncheon she and I are working on for Thursday. And then she said, do you think we should consider centerpieces? I have some decorative snowmen, or I could pick up some daffodils. Harmony.

And I thought, I can do this thing. Its the same delight I get when I realize that if I just take a note and then roll it one tiny bit up the scale, I am singing in harmony. Its the delight that I belong to this place where we help each other because we are friends, not because its people giving and giving but never taking back. That is the sweet harmony my mom was talking about; everyone in tandem, singing mostly the right notes, and the beautiful thing that this creates.

I told my father I’d carry on his name with my sons and daughters, raise them taller. 

What if every generation could do it better? What if every generation could add just another level to the existing hum of notes? What if it starts with my daughters? With me, with us?

Hmm. I have no conclusion to reach, other than this one:

Our dog is a lesson, a daily reminder that we don’t, not any of us, know how much time we have left. So I try to remember every day to stroke his nose, to look into his cloudy eyes and croon to him, to tell him he is my best boy.

And I know that when its time for him to meet up with Whiskey and Sambuca, Boba and Suntar, and Mandy and Phoenix,  and Henry the turtle, and all the other family pets we’ve loved and had to give up, he’ll find just one more place where he is one bright and shining note on a scale, contributing to the harmony that waits for us when we cross that bridge to the other side.

I just know it to be true.

Harmony can be so hard, but when you finally figure out how to flip the switch, well, you’ll hear what you’ve been missing.


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