For my mother and father, Millie and Jim Eddington, who would have celebrated 68 years of marriage on February 9.
One of the most touching books I ever read is “My Mom!,” by novice author Molly Eddington Moore.
At six pages it is charming and -- in my opinion -- very well-reasoned: “I love my Mom, she is so beautiful! I love her! She is good at her work she is realy good at her job.”
There is also a hot pink illustration of a serpent of some sort and the following: “She loves anmazes. She dose not like snaks.”
Since I have always enjoyed snacks, I was confused until I realized my little daughter was writing about my affection for animals, but not snakes.
Her book solidified something my veterinarian husband, Jim, and I have often discussed, that parents pass along the value they place, or do not, on animals to their children at an early age.
My own parents were both animal lovers, but they came about it in very different ways.
Dad grew up on a farm and walked a mile each day to class with his buddies -- a smudge-faced, dungaree-attired, little bunch. Dad’s faithful mutt waited patiently outside the one-room school during the day and romped back along the country road with the boys each afternoon.
If it all sounds a bit Tom and Huck, that’s what I envision as well.
One fall day, as they neared his house, Dad spotted one of his family’s pigs in the pasture and, being youthful, naive, and naughty, goaded his dog to: “Sic ‘em.”
The race around the field that followed was slap-knee hilarious to Dad’s little posse of ragamuffin buddies. Until, that is, the pig keeled over, apparently from a heart attack and they all slunk home.
The really big problem ensued when my father went about his after-school chores and homework but didn’t tell his financially strapped family, who might have been able to use the pork, had the poor animal not been left in the field the better part of the unseasonably warm afternoon and evening.
That night, Dad listened as his father talked to a neighbor who, hearing of the event called and screamed through the (newfangled) telephone: “Ed, why don’t you just knock that darn fool up side the head. He’s never going to amount to a damn thing!”
Dad, the kindest man I’ve ever known other than my husband, always laughed a little sadly, when he told that story. I know his sadness was more about what he’d done to the poor pig than the neighbor’s assessment of his own future.
Conversely, my mom grew up in downtown Detroit. The unlikely pair met during WWII when they were both working at an ammo plant in Plymouth, Michigan -- my father had been labeled 4F due to a severe speech impediment -- married and moved back to dad’s hometown in 1950.
It must have been quite a sight, my mother with her red lipstick, fancy manicures, platform shoes and peplum suits moving from the big city to a town of only a few hundred people. But, always pragmatic, she happily ditched the suits for denim coveralls and began raising chickens and collecting barn cats and scruffy dogs.
She’d had a Fox Terrier named Brownie when she was in her ‘20s. Brownie, the way she described him, was sort of a forerunner to the little dogs celebrities carry in their purses today; she pampered him, groomed him, and carried him everywhere with her.
She took him on vacation to a friend’s cabin once and when the hostess served up heavy, wet pancakes fried in bacon grease and floating in syrup she managed to sneak hers off the plate when the woman turned around and hold it under the table for Brownie who rushed up, took a whiff and ran away yelping, just as the lady returned, leaving mom holding the dripping pancake.
Despite his treachery, Brownie was the dog all others were judged against. If Mom liked a dog, it was because she felt it bore at least some small resemblance to her old pal.
“Kelly is very cute,” she told Jim when we adopted our first pet from the Humane Society a few years after we were married. “She must have a bit of Fox Terrier in her.”
“Mom, I don’t think so. She’s a doberman,” Jim told her.
“Yes, but I can see it, a little bit . . . around the whiskers.”
Kelly has been gone a long time now and her Frisbee-chasing successor Sophie Zenkman, as well. And, Molly’s pet chinchilla, Priscilla, to whom my mother would bring dried cherries and ziplock bags of Cheerios; she passed away last September.
Our family dog these days is a goofy greyhound named Gabbana Huffington. Gabbi was one of my father’s best buddies in the final years of his life -- his banana sharing, hand nuzzling pal -- but my mother never met her.
Still, we know Mom would have loved Gabbi from the start. She would have tilted her head to the side to get just the right angle and said: “Yes, but I can see it, a little bit . . .
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