A conversation with my Mom as to why pets weren't allowed in our house
|As a child, I remember having such a yearning for a pet, mostly a dog. I was so angry and sad about the fact that we were not allowed to have pets of any kind. I yearned for a dog so badly and would dream constantly of that day my Mom would finally break down and say, “Yes Sweetie, you can have a dog”.
When I was seven, I even went so far as to bring home a puppy. My biggest mistake was, I brought it home without asking permission first. My thinking was, “once she sees this adorable puppy, how could she say no”, well she did say no and then made me take it back. So it was I had to wait till I was an adult before I could have my first pet, which of course was a dog.
After getting my first dog, and over the years there were many more to follow. As a matter of fact, there was a twenty year period where I had between 4-6 dogs at one time! It was pure heaven. One afternoon while enjoying my little pack, a thought came to me, well more like a question began to form, “Why did my Mom not like pets? How could someone not love these babies!”. It was one of many questions I would have to remember to ask my Mom the next time I went to visit her. That wouldn't be for another year or so, as I lived in California and my Mom lived in a little town about 3 hours south of Anchorage, in town called Kenai Alaska. I guess I could have asked her over the phone but I liked seeing her expressions when she described things, so I figured, I've waited this long, what's a little longer?
Time to visit my Mom and I'm prepared. Before my trip, I was given the news that my Mom was in the early stages of Alzheimer s, and so I knew I wanted to get as much video of her as possible. I wanted to film her telling about her childhood, our family, her family, why she didn't want pets, etc. I wanted to get this before all her memories slipped away, so I packed my camcorder and off I went to visit her.
After a couple of days there with my Mom, I informed her that I would like film her. She couldn't wait and was ready to jump in and do her “Interview”. I knew my Mom was never shy about being the center of attention but hadn't realized just how much until after the “Interview”.
I set up my camera on the tripod facing the kitchen, it was her favorite room in the house as she spent more time in there than anywhere. The camera was aimed towards where my Mom would sit, which would be at her kitchen table. When I was all setup, I asked her to sit down in the chair I prepared for her. She brought with her a cup of coffee. She then spent several minutes arranging her cup on the table, for it had to be “just so” in her “Interview”. Having turning it in several different positions, she was finally satisfied it was set well asked, “Mijita, does this look good?”, I let her know it looked great.
Once the coffee cup was to her satisfaction, she then proceeded to arrange herself in her chair. She smoothed out her “muumuu” (it's a Hawaiian dress she wore most of the time) and changed positions several times, finally sitting in what she felt gave her the best presence. She set her elbow on the table then laid her forearm in a couple of different positions until she felt comfortable, she was still trying to get her best pose. She brought her free hand up to her other hand that was resting on the table and intertwined her fingers. Resting her clasped hands on the edge of the table and posed, she again asked, “Do I look good?”. I could not help but smile and told her she looked great.
At this point my older brother joined us and sat behind me. I hit the record button on my camera and then proceeded to ask her questions:
Me: So Mom, what can you tell me about your childhood?
Mom: Well, I'm the oldest of a bunch of kids, there were 12 of us, 5 boys and 7 girls, all born about 1 to 2 years apart. One of the girls died when she was about 3 years old. Her name was Virginia and she was a year younger than me. Mamma said she got sick.
Me: What was it like for you as a kid?
Mom: Well, we were pretty poor. When I was real little, my Dad was a sheep herder and worked for his family on their farm. They had a lot of sheep. We lived out in the country, so sometimes, when he went into town he would take me with him. I was the only one he would take with him. I was about 3 or 4 and loved riding on the horse drawn wagon with my Dad, just him and me. Later he worked in the Silver Mines up in Silverton, from then on, he was gone a lot so I didn't get to spend time with him alone anymore.
At this point, my Mom reached her hand and lifting up her cup, took a sip of her coffee, all of this done ever so slowly and with her pinky finger pointing up, like she'd seen in the movies. When finished, she then again, very slowly set the cup back down, and asked, “Was that good?” Confirming her “acting” was ok, I laughed and let her know that it was great and I wanted her to just be herself. Now I realize, she was.
At this point, I remembered that old nagging question, “Why didn't my Mom like pets?” and decided to ask her.
Me: Mom, for as long as I can remember, you have never liked pets and wouldn't let any of us kids have one. I can't ever remember you or any of your brothers or sisters ever talking about having pets either. You didn't have any when you were a kid? No dogs, cats, anything? Why is that?
Mom: Oh, let me tell you -
(I might mention, at hearing this question, she became very animated and sat straight up in her chair, forgetting the pose and raising one hand up, pointed her finger at me),
- Well, it was on one of the trips with my Dad into town. He had left me sitting in the wagon for a bit while he went into the store to get something. When her returned, he had something wrapped in a blanket. It wasn't very big and while he handed it to me, he said, “Mira, mijita, te traje algo especial” (look my daughter, I bought you something special).
He put this bundle in my arms and I gently pulled back a part of the blanket to see what was inside. -
(My Mom began demonstrating by folding her arms as though cradling a baby and started as though pulling back the blanket)
- Inside was wrapped this white fluffy kitten! It had LONG white hair! I took one look at this kitten and -
(at this point, she threw her hands in the air and began making loud gagging sounds, like she was going to vomit! With her nose wrinkled and a look of total disgust on her face, she then raised her voice saying)
- I began gagging and wanted to throw up! -
(She immediately calmed back down and very calmly stated, in a matter of fact manner)
- So since then, I didn't want anything to do with any kind of animal!
My Mom slowly took another sip of her coffee, pinky in the air and both my brother and I could not stop laughing.
That was all there was to it! No pets in my childhood because of a white fluffy kitten! I can't help but wonder, what if my grandfather had only given her a cute cuddly puppy instead.