It was not a good year. I was sixteen, my sister thirteen, and my parents were divorcing. Ozzie and Harriet were no more. My mother had moved out, and Dad decided we needed to get away for the holidays – get out of the house and out of the drama. A change of venue, something fun! He borrowed a large RV from a friend and we packed up and prepared to head to a warmer climate.
What a stinking idea. In preparation for the trip, I had to take the family dog to the boarding kennel. This was the final blow, the last bit of weirdness I could stand. She was as much a sister as my sister. It felt like my family was being divided even more. I sunk into a depression as I drove away from the kennels, my body slumping under the steering wheel of the car, my heart the heaviest I’d ever felt it.
I had to drive through a small burg on the way home. There were no traffic lights, just one stop sign in the middle of town. I was the only car approaching the stop sign. There was a young boy on the side of the road, a large box in his arms. He was obviously anxious to cross, so I stopped back from the stop sign to let him go, afraid he might dart out in the street if I didn’t.
He was a mess, that kid. His pants were too short, no socks, his jacket unzipped and perhaps unzippable, his sleeves too short and ragged at the edges, no gloves. This is Michigan in December – those are staples, not usually optional. His arms were under the box which was open at the top. He was practically bouncing in his hurry to get across the street.
And he was beaming, an ear-to-ear grin. He looked right at me as I stopped and I managed a small grin and waved him over. His face lit up and he hurried into the street. Then he did the strangest thing. He stopped right in front of my car. Looking over at me, his face as bright as any Christmas tree I’d seen that season, he tipped the box slightly toward me so I could see inside. I pushed up in the seat and stretched my neck to see.
It was a puppy. Black, curly hair, very tiny, sitting on some newspaper and probably as cold as the boy, if not as excited.
The boy was looking right at me and I didn’t disappoint. My face mirrored the joy on his, and I gave him an enthusiastic thumbs up as he nodded and practically ran the rest of the way across the street and on to his new adventure.
I shook my head, laughed, started to cry. I was driving a nice, heated car, on my way to my nice home to pack up an RV and begin an extended family vacation to a warm climate. And I’m depressed. Here’s this little vagabond kid who has nearly nothing, but is holding the world in his arms and it’s enough.
Perspective restored, spirits at least temporarily lifted, my head was full of Christmas songs on the way home. And pictures of a little ragamuffin boy and his puppy running around their backyard, laughter lifting to heaven.