Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Paddington: on why I have only liked one dog in my life

Paddington ate bubbles. Paddington was the ideal dog for a sparkplug kid like me because Paddington was a willing guinea pig for all of my schemes and experiments…like “Paddington the Christmas in California Reindeer” game, or the “How Much Peanut Butter Can Paddington Eat?” game. But of course, my favorite was “Paddington and Princess Zadie Go to the Beach” game. He loved this game equally as much, if not more, than I did. I would make magic bubbles from my bubble wand, and I would try to blow them high into the air so that when they floated back down, Paddington would fly up and catch them into his mouth with a snap. With a chomp.

And over the years with me, Paddington the Jack Russell terrier had developed innards of steel. He could eat anything. He wanted to eat anything. Especially if it made him burp or me laugh.

Paddington lived his little doggy life for me, and I would do anything for Paddington.

One afternoon while we were playing “Peanut Butter,” Tammy, Dad’s girlfriend poked her British-looking face into the living room.

“Love, your father has suggested we head to the beach. What do you say? Paddington, what do you say?”

I dropped my spoon of peanut butter, and ran with bare feet down the cold wood hallway to load up my toys. I changed into my ruffled, pint-striped bikinnini. Dad said it was a bikinnini, so it was a bikinnini. Standing on the uneven concrete of our Long Beach driveway, I pulled my ratty blonde hair into a ponytail because we were going to take Tammy’s blue convertible. I don’t know what kind it was. For five-year-olds, cars don’t have names, only colors, and this one was big and blue and old.

Dad turned on the radio and we listened to Mel McDaniel, “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On.” I sang loud into Tammy’s ear because she didn’t like country music. But I sang, “Ooh ooh! Nah, the girl cain’t help it! Lord have mercy, baby’s got her blue jeans on!”

When Paddington was my dog, I could sing as loud as I wanted in Tammy’s ear because the wind on the way to the beach would suck up my voice and carry it out all the way across California. When Paddington was my dog, it didn’t matter how ratty my hair got in the wind, because he would always love me, and so would Dad, and so would Tammy. When Paddington was my dog, I never thought about people loving me so I sat up high on the backseat of Tammy’s big blue convertible and I let my hair go as crazy as I could-- so crazy that nobody would ever be able to comb it or put it braids ever again.

When my stubby legs hit the sand, I ran towards the beach watching my feet the whole way to the water. I was so cool because when I ran fast, I looked like a Flintstone. And really, much like I still do today, I resembled a cartoon. Not much about the way I look or act has changed since those days on the beach.

I still jump around with animated stories and use my closest friends as guinea pigs for my schemes and experiments. But they don’t jump like Paddington did. That’s why the freedom I felt with Paddington only lasted as long as he did. Then, I feared nothing, was offended by nothing, and had no flaws. I was perfect. Now, I make lists for myself, seven long, of each.

I am paranoid or neurotic, I can’t decide. I am repetitive. I am defensive. I am confrontational. I am bossy, manipulative, and egotistical.

I am scared of dogs, I am scared of dancing with other people. I fear sports equipment and being yelled at. I am scared that my dad will die and I will need him. I fear for my life that I will fail and end up just like my mother. And more than anything, I am scared that I have become someone who will be lonely and will be alone my whole life.

But Paddington lived for me. He jumped so high he could look me in the eyes when he ate those soapy bubbles. He jumped as high as I would blow them, just so he could see in my eyes how happy he was making me. Over and over again, he would jump, because I was worth it. I was Paddington’s favorite. I have never been someone’s favorite since.

Paddington was only my dog for six months because Paddington was not really my dog to keep. When Tammy left my dad, she took her English dog with the English name and her English face and married a guy with the same name as my dad. She had a baby, too. I think about that baby a lot. He should have been my baby brother. And Paddington should have been my dog. I wonder if that baby fed Paddington peanut butter or bubbles. I wonder if that baby savored every moment with Paddington because maybe that dog was his last chance of not being afraid of anything, like Paddington was for me.

I didn’t miss Tammy’s voice or her cooking, but I missed trips to the beach, and I missed Paddington. I would have done anything to stay with that dog.

When Paddington was my dog, I laughed louder than even Dad did. When Paddington was my dog, I was British too, like Tammy. When Paddington was my dog, my hair wasn’t ratty, it was curly. When Paddington was my dog, I didn’t need moms or brothers or friends because I didn’t need anything. When Paddington was my dog, I never thought about dogs that might not be as nice as Paddington. He could eat anything. He wanted to eat anything.

copyright 2002 by Ryann Ferguson

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful and heartbreaking. I think my dog Jack might just eat bubbles for you. And you are my favorite girl that isn't my one of sisters. So I hope that's something.


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