Welcome Back to the Edge of the Driveway
You know how this works if you’ve walked with us before, “us” being me and Maggie, or Toby, my two Northwest Farm Terriers. We go for a walk daily, one mile each, throughout our neighborhood. We begin each walk at the edge of our driveway, where the pavement ends and the wonders begin.
Thank you for joining us today. Let’s take a walk back in time, back sixty-seven years, to 1953.
We moved, my family and I, in 1953, from a small rental to our first and only family-owned home, 4022 North 18th Street, Tacoma, Washington, a post-war, brick, two-story dwelling in a brand-new neighborhood. When we arrived there the streets were still dirt, the lots still dirt, no landscaping, no vegetation, the homes standing like lone sentinels on a barren landscape, a moonscape, not a welcome sight for my five-year old self. I had left a handful of good friends, fun friends, the only friends I knew at that time, and I then found myself in a strange location seemingly empty of warmth and companionship.
I remember being quite sad that summer, and I suspect my parents clued into my sadness because one day, as I was sitting in the backyard feeling so very sorry for myself, my mom and dad joined me and handed me a box, and inside that box was a puppy, a Fox Terrier puppy, not much bigger than my two hands held together, a squirming, licking, bundle of loving companionship.
I named that puppy Pixie, and for the next twenty years we were the best of buddies.
Everywhere I Went
There was an old song from the 70’s, by Harry Nilsson, called “Me and My Arrow,” and the lyrics went something like this:
“Me and my Arrow
straighter than narrow
where ever we go
it's me and my Arrow”
And that’s what it was like with me and my Pixie. We were inseparable during my childhood. Pixie would follow me everywhere during the day, and at night sit in my lap while I did homework or watched television, and when my eye lids grew heavy, she would sleep on my bed with me, a constant, for me, in an ever-changing world, a solid buddy for a quiet, lonely child.
I loved that little dog, and when, during her twentieth year, she had a stroke and I had to have the vet put her down, I held her, told her I loved her, and thanked her for twenty years of unbridled loyalty and joy.
That’s How It Is With Maggie and Toby
I had forgotten the pure joy of having a dog like that until Maggie joined us three years ago and, a year after that, Toby. They are Pixie reincarnate, my constant companions, my buddies, and I can’t imagine what life would look like without them.
I talk to Maggie and Toby during our walks. I admit it, lock me up, toss away the key, I’m that old man, the one with lips moving during walks, the only possible recipients of my words my two dogs, and I have no doubt people look at me, as we pass by, and wonder just how far removed I am from a state institution with padded surfaces and spoon-fed meals of pudding and strained peas.
Maggie is the quiet one, the shy one, the introvert, the one most likely to put her head in my lap and look at me with loving eyes. Toby is in-your-face fun, a bouncy, flouncy, furry bundle of adventure and reckless abandon, always ready for a game of toss-the-ball, nudging me with his nose, spurring me on to get off my butt and take part in his latest hairbrained game.
Maggie will go anywhere with me in the truck. She is a road-trip junkie. Toby, he’s not too fond of the monster with wheels, but grab his leash, hint at a walk, and he’s all over that like flies on poop.
I clean the house and they are underfoot. I do yardwork and they are underfoot. I sit on the porch and relax and Maggie lays down on my left side and Toby on my right, occasionally looking up at me, with loving eyes, reminding me of Pixie long ago, reminding me that the true joys of life arrive, often, without the bells and whistles of a marketing campaign, but rather with sublime subtleness.
Different and yet the Same
They are Yin and Yang, two sides of the same coin, my two sibling companions. Maggie avoids attention, bristling when strangers approach, on guard constantly against the invasion of unvetted, uninvited company. Toby has never met a human he didn’t like, instantly trusting, instantly inviting, and yet he moves like a coiled predator, like he’s one evolutionary link away from attack mode.
They are much like me, quite frankly, two sides of their owner, reflections of the complicated intricacies of all beings. I am inviting and yet guarded. I am friendly and yet distant. I will reach one hand out for a handshake and keep the other clenched in a fist. I am fully aware of how strange that is but, God bless them, Maggie and Toby understand.
Perhaps we are all like that.
The Walk Continues
And so we continue on our one-mile stroll, first Maggie, seniority counting in our household, and then Toby. We walk by the young family building a shed, Dad up on top, working on the trusses, Mom and kids down below, handing materials up to him, cheering him on. We walk by Betty, working on her flowerbeds, the petunias getting leggy now in the late summer, the California poppies losing their luster. We walk by Gus, Vietnam vet, mowing his lawn, saluting as we pass by, always saluting, “Semper Fi” he says, a VFW baseball hat on his bald dome, six months in Chu Lai a weight he’ll forever carry in his rucksack. Pete, the Aussie, transplanted from far away, jogs by, little dog in tow, waves, says “Good day, mate,” mostly because he knows I love Aussie talk. Miss Daisy, that’s what I call her, eighty or more, pink scarf over her face, shuffles in our direction, holds out her frail hand, Toby sniffs, wags his tail, she thanks us for the joyful moment, literally thanks us for the joy we’ve given her, and shuffles off.
All is well in our neighborhood, as it was back in 1953, Pixie by my side, and I’m struck with the similarities, so many years passed and yet it seems like time stood still, just a kid and his dog, just an old man and his dogs, walking through a slice of Americana, different homes, different clothes, different people, and yet the same, you know?
And that thought brings me peace of mind!
Late August, slowly transitioning into September, summer waning, fall arriving, another year about to succumb, a new one to follow, and so it goes, metaphors abound as I move forward, always forward, into the unknown and yet oddly familiar tomorrows. Life is good now, with my two dogs, as it was in ’53, with Pixie, just a regular guy, a regular dog, or two, surrounded by the sights and sounds of life.
Surrounded by unlimited wonders, at the edge of the pavement, awaiting us all.
Thanks for joining us today. You’re always welcome. You just need to be willing to suspend reality for a short while and embrace the magical.
2020 William D. Holland