|Well, this month marks 18 years since you changed my life, so I wanted to thank you. Again. For bringing such happiness into the lives of the girls and me, although some heartbreaking sadness, too. But there's nothing like unconditional love.|
|OK, but can you tell me what you are talking about?|
|Do you remember when I moved to Houston after living overseas, and we started going to the Hyatt Hill Country in San Antonio for Memorial Day weekend? You were married to Larry, and his girls were young, and Natasha and Sawyer were even younger. Well, in 2003 you asked me if it was OK if you got us a puppy.|
|You had always talked about getting a dog but wanted to have children first. The timing seemed right, but given your allergies, the options were limited. Until I learned about a new breed, well technically a mixed breed, originally developed in Australia to be hypoallergenic guide dogs.|
|I'll never forget you showing me photos of the most incredibly adorable dogs I'd ever seen. The fact Labradoodles were half standard poodle, which was what I had initially thought we'd get, and half Labrador Retriever was amazing. But only you could find the perfect dog from an article in a business magazine.|
|Fortune magazine. It was written by Andy Serwer back when he was Managing Editor (he now is Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Finance), and you never knew the topic – or angle – of his next piece. Sometimes serious, sometimes amusing, but always astute and worth reading. And, I actually saved that article.|
|Of course, you did. All I know is that starting with that day in the hotel, I was in love, first with the idea of the Labradoodle, then with the puppy pictures they sent us, and then with her. In fact, from literally the moment you and I picked her up at the airport and then came home and gently placed her next to an unsuspecting Natasha who was asleep on the sofa, she became the most loved member of the family.|
|If only people were as good at unconditional love as pets. Anyway, not only are pets a source of love and companionship, but studies – and science – have shown there are proven health benefits.|
|Well, I don't need a study to tell me how much, over the last 18 years, having Woof, and then Oink and Moo, has meant to the girls and me. And although I still find it upsetting to think of Woof's early passing in 2007, and Oink having left us this past summer still breaks my heart, I'm so grateful for all the memories and love that's still there.|
|I do not think we ever forget them. I still remember Mom's family dog, Buttons, a beautiful Irish Setter that Grandma Betty and Poppy Louie would sometimes bring to the house so she could run free in the backyard. She was almost as tall as me, but was very gentle, and always affectionate.|
|That's funny because our childhood dog, Yenta, was anything but affectionate. I know poodles have a reputation of being proud, and although I loved her, she wasn't the most lovable dog around. I just wanted her to be cuddly, but she wouldn't have any part of it. Instead, if a dog could put their nose up in the air and walk off with a royal air about them, that was her.|
|I prefer to think of it as being stubborn. And, independent. Both traits of poodles. And, may explain why she and I got along so well.|
|No comment. Except to remind pet owners that this is National Pet Month. So, what better time to show your pet how much you love them than to celebrate with them?|
As I write this, the New York Islanders are tied (1-1) against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the semi-final round of the Stanley Cup (the Super Bowl of ice hockey, although it has been around almost 75 years longer). Growing up on Long Island, I have been an Islanders fan since birth – the team's birth in 1972, having been introduced to ice hockey by my father, who had always been a huge New York Rangers fan.
Understandably, having another hockey team in the New York metropolitan area meant there would be a serious rivalry between the two fan bases. Including at our house. And, often at the kitchen table, although it did not include my mother. She was not a sports fan of any sort, let alone ice hockey, and was not even remotely interested in learning … although she should have created a "penalty box" somewhere in the house for when I misbehaved (which was often) but probably realized I would enjoy being sent there, which would only encourage my misbehavior.
The fact the Islanders only played the Rangers four times a season did not stop the discussions and debates. And, the number-crunching of statistics. (This was well before the internet, and they were not at your fingertips unless you saved, or memorized, the results in the newspaper). This would happen all through the season, and you can only imagine what it was like in 1975 when they faced each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Even when I moved out of New York, I followed the Islanders, through highs and lows, and remember how frustrating it was to be living in the South during their historic early 80's run (and again being in the playoffs with the Rangers) surrounded by football fanatics. I would have to call home to talk hockey.
But my fondest hockey memories? Growing up, my father and I watched the games on television, so I will never forget my first live game. It was a regular-season Rangers game in Madison Square Garden (I do not remember the opposing team, so obviously it was not the Islanders), and I am not sure I ever saw my father so mesmerized by anything. Maybe it was being at a pro game at "The Garden" as he typically would not spend money on something as self-indulgent as sports tickets. Or, maybe it was because he had played ice hockey growing up, so it had special memories for him.
Which, in turn, created special memories for me, as I can remember being in awe of his skating abilities when he first taught me how to ice skate (on a frozen water reservoir) – he was as quick in reverse as going forward. Graceful and effortless in both directions. A very different side of him than what I would typically see at home or in his home office.
I also remember treating him years later, just before I went off to college, to an Islanders home game at the Nassau Coliseum. It was a relatively new stadium and has been home to the Islanders for almost their entire existence (this year's playoffs will be the end of that as they will be moving to a new stadium). But, it did not have the history of The Garden, and since we drove there, did not have that special feeling of getting off the Long Island Railroad and taking an escalator up to the game. But, none of that would matter, as the game will always have a special place in my heart,
It was the first, and only, time my father and I went to a game at the Coliseum, and although I do not remember who we played, I do remember us both shouting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" after every Islanders goal, and even louder after their win. And I cannot help but smile thinking about my father … and watching a diehard Rangers fan so excited about an Islander win.
How can such a small number of flowers mean so much? After all, a bouquet's visually more impressive, so why do I have such fond memories of the few corsages I received over the years? Because it's a reminder of when things were more "old-fashioned" (but in a good way) and reflected a mixture of class and even elegance. Or, maybe it was because it came from a place of love and affection.
So, what made me even think about this? Well, it's prom season (although due to the pandemic, my daughter's prom was canceled), and recently on "Live with Kelly and Ryan," Kelly Ripa was talking about her son, Joaquin, going to prom. When I saw photos of him and his date, I couldn't help but notice her corsage (and his matching boutonniere), and it brought back memories as, years later, corsages still signify something sweet, enduring, and wonderful.
But corsages aren't only for proms. For me, corsages celebrated rites of passage, like my "formal" graduation ceremony from Schwarting Elementary School (I graduated in the early 1970s, so don't know if they still do that, but had to laugh when I saw how large the trees in front of the school had grown) and my Bat Mitzvah ceremony a few years later. And although I received a corsage from my date (who flew in from Switzerland for the occasion) when I attended my one and only prom, the only corsages that ever really mattered were the ones from one person,
I remember many things, but I honestly couldn't tell you what flowers were in the corsages my dad gave me. Still, I'll never forget they were always wrist corsages, which I loved for the ease and simplicity of being able to wear them as I wasn't the most coordinated girl in the world. Not that it mattered, for those corsages came with complete and unconditional love, and told me not only how much he loved me but that he was proud of me for whatever milestone event I was "dressed up" for. My dad could have made a corsage out of dandelions from the backyard, and even with my pollen allergies, it would have been the most beautiful corsage in the world.
Of course, I'm the more sentimental one, but I was curious whether Black had any memories of corsages, from our dad or any of her many prom dates (yes, you read that right),
I can barely remember my prom dates, let alone the corsages. However, I do remember each dress because I designed and made them myself. For me, proms were all about the fashion, and I am certain that I would have requested wrist corsages as not to put pinholes in my dress. But there is one corsage that does stand out in my mind, and that is the one First Lady Jill Biden wore to the inauguration.
So, I guess you are never too young or too old to wear wrist corsages … and create lifelong memories.