Wrapping up another year always makes me want to write a list. I look through my pocket day planner for the single words or phrases I squeezed into each month’s allotted square. Then, I handwrite a list of my accomplishments, no matter how small, into my journal.
This year’s list is unremarkable: routine appointments, a free online class, hours spent with friends and trips to nearby gardens, parks, and walking trails. Persevering with the routine has become its own triumph.
I’ve kept feeding the birds off my patio for the last year. Making sure to clean the feeders often so disease doesn’t spread. And for the first time, I grew mammoth sunflowers from seeds, so the birds have a more natural food source. All twenty-four seeds sprouted into plants. Some grew to 6 feet.
The chaos of life now makes me think back to my younger years when my only duties were going to school, playing outside, walking the dog, and doing simple chores. The days of toys and puppies. I found a picture that almost perfectly represents that feeling. Our shepherd-mix puppy and a Krazy Kar in our living room. It was 1974.
Her name was Funny Face – My brother named her. He thought the brown, peanut-shaped marks above and below her eyes, made her look cute and funny. Cutie-face, I would have preferred. But eventually I got used to the name.
This picture could be the basis for a children’s story. The red and white swirl of the Krazy Kar’s wheels are my heroic puppy’s flying car. Maybe, she’s like Underdog from the animated show, a caped dog flying off to rescue anyone in need. His motto, “There’s no need to fear. Underdog is here.” I can imagine Funny Face now running to jump in the Krazy Kar, putting her paws on the short rods on the wheels to lift-off and steer, moving at lightning speed to bring help. As smart as Lassie, but with a flying car.
Being nostalgic feels natural. Remember the fun times to keep the stories heart-warming and light. My selective memory wants me to rewrite the past into a fuzzier version. It tricks me into believing the moment captured by this picture – when I was young, my life was all cool toys and a puppy to love. After checking the photo’s date, I remind myself that my father died the year before.
But then we had this young, new life in the house. The puppy followed me around, raising her eyebrows and tilting her head as she focused on whichever noisy toys I was playing with at the time. My drumstick hitting the paper surface of my Bugs Bunny drum set made a disappointing, muffled thud. Funny Face barked at me. She smiled with her whole wagging body. She chased her ball every time I threw it, and then stood at it, looking back at me.
In the mornings now, the loud, repetitive chirps of the cardinals wake me up. Usually, the cardinal couple are the first birds I see at the feeder. My black cat glares at them through the window. He flicks his tail, slapping it against the carpet to say, “I could get you if I wanted.”
Gratitude is a key to happiness, I’ve heard. And as each year ends, I think back on all I’ve done and experienced and my list helps me do that. But gratitude can be frustrating to practice each day. It is as fleeting as joy and is easily pushed aside by whatever random thought pops up next. I come closest to succeeding as I drink coffee in the morning and watch the birds – red, orange, yellow, black, white, brown and gray. A spectrum of colors, sizes, and songs all sharing the feeders, pecking at the seeds together, right off my back step.