will there be bears?

“Will there be bears?” I asked.

John shook his head and explained that they would be spending their boys’ night a few minutes from our old bearless suburb across the Bay, and probably 100 yards from the main road on which you can find a CVS and Round Table Pizza.

“Do you have everything?”

“Yes.”

“OK, well….be careful out there.”

“You be careful, and have fun. Don’t worry about trying to do too much, you can sleep for hours if you want to.”

John had provided the opportunity to go camping with them, and I was admittedly less than pleased. I think you could describe the look on his face as half confused, a quarter surprised, and a quarter not-at-all surprised as I explained that I was unhappy with the invitation because now I was put in the position of having to feel bad about saying no, and I would rather just not even be asked in the first place.  It made sense at the time.

My friend Margie has a cheeky little napkin hanging on the bulletin board in her kitchen that says, “I love not camping.” I point at it when we visit, and quote it often, and I quoted it again when he asked.

Oh how I want to want to camp. It seems to be a popular thing for people to do and the snacks would be right up my alley…I hear there’s often chocolate and marshmallows AND bacon.

But after realizing the weekend’s arrangements were likely best for everybody, I was excused from going, and from the jobs of monitoring stick usage, dirt abatement and maintaining a 40-foot perimeter around the campfire. The guys loaded up their tent and stove and other supplies I did not recognize. John pointed out the ingredients they left me on the counter for my own “in the house” s’mores, and headed off into the beautiful sunshiny weekend for a night in the wilderness.

We waved at each other enthusiastically and I dashed up the stairs, ready to tackle my list. Of course I had a list; I wanted to use this time wisely.

I had just under 24 hours and a few simple things to do:

  • Clean out and organize all rooms, closets, bookshelves, and areas that could possibly contain LEGO’s and/or baseballs
  • Fully prepare for the start of school, short of packing lunches two weeks in advance
  • Give self manicure and pedicure
  • Catch up on DVR’d shows (that, my friends, is a legitimate to-do)
  • Plan meals for the week, nay, the month
  • Read backlog of magazines
  • Return backlog of emails
  • Think about exercising
  • Finish reading The Help then go see The Help in the theater, and of course…
  • Re-start, finish, and finally fall in love with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I am almost positive that I had NOT written:

  • Make and eat entire box of pasta salad
  • Run out of things to read on the Internet, because you have simply read it all
  • Don’t read any books at all– I mean it, NO books
  • Watch Hoarders, then feel yucky after
  • Watch romantic comedies until your eyes hurt, and feel way worse than you did after watching Hoarders
  • Argue with the cat about her incessantly stealing the drain things out of the sinks
  • Take picture of the cat with the drain things, because even though it’s so annoying, it’s kind of cute
  • Argue with the cat about her trying to remove the vent grate with her tiny little claws at 2:00 am, which unfortunately is shortly after you will finish watching a Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, and not one of her better ones.
  • Paint nails and allow to dry while laying motionless for the length of DVR’d Gossip Girl season finale
  • Rediscover long-dormant and impractical love of French house music
  • Use minimal math skills to evenly space out consumption of the three Hawaiian sweet rolls that are in the kitchen
  • Become overwhelmed at how many areas in house contain LEGO’s and/or baseballs

Though that is most certainly the list I did not write, it is the list I diligently completed while the boys were frivolously frolicking about in the woods.

persuasion

The boys want a dog. Like really bad. What boy doesn’t want a dog, I guess. And when I say boys, I mean all the males who live in my house. Here’s the hitch: they’ve teamed up, and I’m fearful they are using their collective cuteness and unparalleled persistence as their secret weapons.

Frankly, I don’t feel that I’m ready for a dog. Two human boys? Sure, I can handle that. Well, sometimes, I can handle that. But a dog? With fur and paws and stuff? I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t know how good of a job I’m doing right now with what I’m already responsible for.

I’ve been casually interviewing people on the street about how their lives have changed since the dog. It’s hair, and shoe chewing and “surprises” in the hallway. I saw Marmaduke this summer while we were on vacation in Las Vegas, which as it turns out, was the only redeeming quality of the movie. On top of it being a simply awful cinematic disaster, it did not help the boys’ argument for the dog. There was a lot of slobber, and passing gas, and the guy losing his job because of Marmaduke’s terrible terrible behavior (I hope I didn’t spoil any critical plot points.)

Of course, I’ve had a few people tell me it’s been the best, most wonderful thing that has happened to their family. John is consistently reminding me about those people. I turn around and cite the few souls who flat out told me, “don’t do it, just have another kid.”

I’ve had dogs. Well, I think it would be more accurate to say that my brother had dogs, and I lived at the same address as said dogs. Scott & Mugsy shared a close relationship long before I was ever born. I mean for years. Mugsy went to doggy heaven when I was still little. Through the years, the story of how he’d shown up abandoned on our doorstep one 4th of July when Scotty was a tyke became family lore. Apparently, he was the world’s most perfect dog. He had the body of a full size canine, and the legs of a tiny one. He stepped over toys, and slept in front of our bedroom doors as our guardian and never chewed anything and would let my brother and the neighbor kids dress him up when they played cowboys, spacemen, and army. (Um, my brother was a kid in the 60’s. I played Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman and Remington Steele).

Zeke was also technically my brother’s dog. We got him about 2 months before Scotty left for college. Zeke and I were cordial to each other but we had drastically different interests and schedules.  He was a Brittney Spaniel, a hunting dog with a lot of energy, and my parents had to add 2 more feet to the back fence because he could jump out of the yard flat-footed without even trying very hard. He stayed outside and had his own little house, and when Scott would come home from college he would breeze in the front door, say hello to us, and head straight out the back to hang out with his furry little buddy.

Yes, a boy and his dog. That is what my boys envision for themselves. Every essay that Jake writes, if it’s not entirely about a fictional dog, or the general greatness and amazingness of dogs, or the emptiness he feels because he does not have a dog, includes at least a sentence proclaiming his untamed desire for the animal. He does in fact look like a kid who should have a puppy. Overalls, a fishing pole, and a loyal canine companion. He’s got freckles, a sweet smile and floppy hair that hangs in his big brown eyes (See?? I can’t even get my kid a haircut – how can I have a dog?)

Zach’s on the same page. He has a legion of stuffed puppies who, he reminds me are not real, but he takes very good care of them, and gives them interesting names that only kids can come up with (“Salad the Dog” anybody?), and softly tells the stuffed puppies that he will still love them even if he gets a real one someday. He even wakes in the night to make sure they are all accounted for.

And then, of course, there’s John. Every time John is on his laptop lately, I peek over his shoulder, and there are all these sappy and adorable photos of full grown dogs, and little puppies in need of good homes. I’m pretty sure he got a good sense of where I am emotionally when he peeked over my shoulder this afternoon, and saw a screenful of fall boots that are also looking for a good home.

I get it. I understand the allure. Dogs are cute, and they look interested in what you are doing. And I know they are loyal and amazing companions. But, when I greet a new dog, I usually keep my hands to myself, look down at them and say, “hello there.” I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m not looking for anything long-term. And I’ve seen people talk to my kids that way, so I really don’t feel very bad about it.

Honestly, I’m trying to be responsible and realistic. In fact, I’m pretty sure I thought less about the consequences of having human children, than I have about adopting a dog.  We keep weird schedules, and we’ve tried the “kid contract” where our eldest signed a non-legally binding piece of paper outlining our expectations regarding the much smaller pet rat. That did not go awesomely.

But then there are the big brown, yes, puppy dog eyes (John’s included) that are constantly trying to change my mind. And of course, societal pressures! Peer pressure! Corporations who want me to think that I’ll be a better patriot and mother if I get a dog! The Man! Big Brother! And probably, my actual big brother too. And even though I effectively ended the discussion this afternoon when I pointed out tall black zippered walking boots with juuust the right amount of slouch, I know the conversation is not over.

Because, I haven’t exactly said no. Hey wait, I have said no, and nobody seems to be taking that seriously. As it turns out, I am weak when it comes to puppy dog eyes. Especially the human kind.