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Xmas 1977: Child is mother to the woman, or something. The xmas I remember most for two reasons, two gifts that profoundly influenced my life.
I got my first dog. After experimenting with a variety of names, including Quasimodo (my brother's pick) and Carlton R. Carlton (dad's favorite), we named him Sam. This is my sister Cathy holding little Sammy.
He was sold to my parents as an Old English Sheepdog. In reality, he was a schnauzer-poodle mutt. He was high-strung and barky, but smart (ask my dad to tell you the bologna story!) and friendly and immensely lovable. He slept on my bed until I left for college, then he slept on the floor next to my parents' bed. He lived to be 16. He was a good dog.
I have another good dog now, another scruffy, friendly mutt. I will always have dogs in my life. My blackest moods can invariably be lifted by cold noses and fuzzy paws.
A few years ago, it looked like dogs were going to be the focus of my professional life as well. I wrote and edited a newsletter about alternative healthcare for dogs -- Holistic Hound, perhaps you've heard of it? No? Well, I only got to do 5 issues before my publisher fell on some hard times (not directly related to the newsletter) and pulled the plug. But it was a good little newsletter, and I got articles published in lots of other magazines and Web sites. So now dogs for me are back to being a hobby, a delight, a part of the family. Rub the belly!
Also in 1977, a gift that had as much if not more to do with shaping my personality: I got my first Beatle record. This is me with my brother Alan and my sister, opening our gifts on xmas eve. I was so thrilled!
This hardly seems controversial now, but back in elementary school, loving the Beatles made me a damn freak. There were actually kids who wouldn't play with me because I liked the Beatles! When John Lennon was killed, the teachers were understanding, but the kids teased without mercy. "Hey, Amy! The Beatles are dead!" I started wearing a Lennon button on my shirt every day, and one boy would always point a finger-gun at the button and yell "Target practice!" After recess one afternoon, I came back to my desk to find this picture of John & Yoko on my desk, John's face scribbled out with red marker. So I spent a lot of time alone, listening to the Beatles in my room. I gave up so much in those days in my quest to fit in -- I quit the school band so I wouldn't be a "band geek," I tried to make myself quiet and dumb so boys would like me, I purposely lost a spelling bee in the last round so I wouldn't seem "too smart" -- but I was not willing to compromise on this Beatles thing.
Of course, by 1987 -- the much-hyped 20th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper and the "Summer of Love" -- the kids who wouldn't play with me in grade school started approaching me in high school to tell me how they heard some Beatle songs on the radio, and you know, they were actually pretty cool. By the time I got to college, everybody had Beatle CDs. I just smiled knowingly. The Beatles are, without question, a great fucking band, but for me they've also been a symbol of staying true to myself under duress. It's a lesson I keep learning.
Happy Xmas. War is over (if you want it).
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