Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Taking a powder, the mystery that was me, and how old dogs get to heaven


I wasn't a saintly child. I wasn't a sweet heart of a little girl who wore starched pink dresses (I did only when I was forced, and then I fought like a cat when my foster mother tried.) I gave a boy a black eye when he teased me. I didn't read my Bible and refused to memorize my verses unless I was bribed, and I hated going to church, where I had, at least once that I recall, screamed at the top of my lungs in the middle of the Invitation that I had been kidnapped and could someone call the police?

I was, in short, a little monster. I am certain that I gave my fosters tremendous amount of grief, and were probably enormously happy when they were finally rid of me. I don't regret what I did. I was, after all, only a child, and a very frightened one at that.


I was around eight years old then. And a few months before the fosters came for me, an elderly cocker spaniel had taken up with my brother and me. The dog slept on a mattress outside and we fed him scraps. He was a sweet old guyand very protective. Even when we ran out of food, and scraps. He still stayed with us. Every morning when I went out to water him, he'd greet me with a tired thump of his tail. I would sit with him as he gratefully drank his fill, then come and lay his head down in my lap. I would read, and he would be content to rest his head on my knee. I could sit like that forever, with the sun beating down on my back, all golden and warm, and the dog cuddled up beside me. I loved that old dog.


I remember sitting at the breakfast bar one morning shortly after I had been taken away to live with the "B" family. I told Mrs. B that I wanted my dog and demanded in no uncertain terms that I was to have him. A shouting match ensued, which ended in her telling me-quite brutally-that the dog had been killed by one of the deacons.

I asked then if the dog had gone to heaven and was told that he certainly did not. God did not allow filthy old dogs in heaven.

If my dog (I had forgotten his name) couldn't go to heaven, then I didn't want to go, either.

This left everyone within earshot in shocked silence. The preacher was called, and I was locked in my room. I have no memory of what occurred after that. That's probably a good thing


It was shortly after that incident, I started going off on my own; what my dad would call 'taking a powder.'I didn't think of itas running away, per se, (although it never entered my mind to go back to the "B"s) but now I can pretty much tell, that's what I was doing. Or maybe it was a subconscious rehearsal for the real thing. Either way, when Mrs. "B" tucked some coins into my palm for lunch money, I'd walk down to the school bus stop with the foster girls, and I'd find an excuse to miss the school bus. What I did do, was catch the city bus (I was living in Dallas at the time) and make my way to a local museum that had a planetarium built in. I had been there on a field trip with my other school back when times for us was much better and enjoyed it tremendously .Especially the planetarium.

I would spend the day there, studying the exhibits, avoiding adults, and then when the planetarium opened, I would sneak in and hide in the dark.

I remember the planetarium best of all. I'd hide in the dark and watched the show, then another showing, and then I'd fall asleep. After which, someone-usually the security guard or a police officer-would find me.

The jig is up, Muggsy. You gotta go back. It's hard time for you now, Muggsy. They'll have you making small rocks out of big ones.


I only remember two times when I actually did this.There may have been others. Mostly I remember sitting in the playhouse sweltering by my self, plotting revenge. Someone killed my dog. Someone killed a sweet animal who was so filled with love he didn't even care if I could feed him or not. He was killed and he couldn't go to heaven. And that pissed me off. It still does.


The foster girls told me that the soft patch of earth beside their playhouse was the grave where they buried their family pet. I was disturbed by this and asked if they had prayed for it, and why didn't it even have a marker.They just laughed and told me that dogs die like rover, they die all over. They laughed and skipped away, chanting this. I was furious. How horrible and thoughtless to just dump a beloved pet into the ground without so much as a prayer and nothing marking that it ever existed. I sat at the foot of the grave and thought it over. In the playhouse there was an old cushion with a plastic top. Underneath the clear plastic was a lovely but faded display of plastic flowers. I thought this would make a wonderful offering to the poor dead creature (whom I was convinced HAD a soul, no matter what the preacher said). So, I went inside the little play house,found a pair of scissors and went to work cutting the top off of the old cushion. I probably took more sadistic glee at ripping up the cushion than what was called for, but I was in a rage, frustrated, and all of that bottled up emotion had to go somewhere. So I ripped up the cushion. I extracted the flower display and I put it on the head of the grave.

I knelt beside it and prayed that God, if he was really loving and merciful, ( which I was starting to doubt, but was too terrified of Him to admit) would accept old stray dogs and cast off pets, even if it meant taking the trouble to put them on the far side of Heaven. At least the poor things would be happy.

An awful scream came from the house. Mrs B. stood on the patio with her two girls, whom I'm sure saw what I was doing and snitched. "That was MY GRANDMOTHERS PILLOW!" she screamed, her hands on her face like Macauly Culkin in the movie Home Alone. I have no memory of what happened after that, but I'm sure another visit from the preacher was committed.


It was shortly after that, when I slipped out of the house one night and made my way to the bus stop. I went to Down Town Dallas, alone at the tender age of eight, in the dark with just my Barbie suitcase and tried to sneak onto a bus heading for Tulsa, Oklahoma. I didn't have a plan, but I had an idea: My grandfather lived in Oklahoma and if I could get there, I could find him.Had I been older, eleven or even twelve, I could have made it, but even with the two hippies who tried to sneak me on board, I was caught-again-and was sent back to the Fosters.


I have no real reason for telling you this. This is me sorting out bits and pieces of an era in my life that is fragmented at best. Some of the fragments are funny, some are not. But they all set me firmly upon the path that I now tread.

The question for me tonight, and the mystery that will probably never be solved is what was inside that museum that fascinated me so much? It wasn't the planetarium, although that was certainly one of the things.There was something about the exhibits that drew me back, over and over again. But there was something else, something that deeply resonates within me. But I cannot remember what it was. I may never remember. It would be really cool if I found out.

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