American Coming of Age

Atop the long staircase she would stand with her silky robe tied tightly at her waist. Holding the banister securely always concerned about falling or tripping with sleepy eyes and wide yawns, she slowly descends. Clunking hard down each step. One by one the sound etched into my memory. The oak rail was finished with a shiny coating allowing the beauty of the natural wood to peer through. The steps covered in movie theatre bold carpeting, the grand centerpiece of the home.

 I ran all the way home with a puppy in hand. Rocky was just wandering the streets. He was brindle, short, round, and hungry. He was happy to come to me and I was happy to capture yet another stray.

“Mom, Mom, look what I found? “Can I keep this one, please, please!”

“Samantha he’s filthy and smells. Put him in the garage. One night and then out he goes.” “Oh mom, please I want a dog so badly and I’m going to keep bringing them home until the day you say, YES.”

 I campaigned for a dog for a long, long time until one magical day, I received the best surprise of my young life. Mom finally acquiesced with Dad and my brother lobbying her as well. She said,” We will buy you a French Poodle and if the dog pees in the house, out it goes. I waited my entire life to have a beautiful home and I won’t allow a dog to ruin it.”

Our newly built home was decorated with light blue wall to wall carpeting throughout. Yellow pee stains garnished that rug for years to come creating a constant threat of my pet’s longevity. With each accident, I would be frantic that this would be the moment she would actually take my dog away. She would scream and cry that this little black French Poodle was ruining her beautiful home, “she’s got to go!” I would hide in the corner of my bedroom hugging Candy tightly and crying while whispering to her, “I will never let you go and if mommy tries to take you, I ‘m leaving too.”

Mom never followed through on her threats, but she didn’t have much of a chance because Candy was killed at four years old by a hit and run driver. Mom was saddened for me but happy that Candy could no longer be destructive, to her.

 Overwhelmed by the loss my mother felt compelled to allow me to have another dog. I was now four years older, and I vowed to train the new dog in such a way that she would never have any accidents. I knew my mother couldn’t live with the accidents, and I couldn’t live with the threats and the anxiety that each accident would bring. I stayed true to my word and read every training book I could till I devised a plan.

  The house was Mom’s golden ticket in her life. It represented everything she did not have as a child as she grew up on the lower east side of Manhattan in a tenement apartment. This home gave her the stature that she believed she would only have in her dreams.

As my parents were ascending the ranks of financial success they began to travel outside of the country. They cruised to Europe on the SS France, and it was on that transatlantic journey that they met people whose lives were completely different. Wealthy, educated, cultured. Among their new friends were a couple from Israel that my parents fell madly in love with. This couple was to shape our lives.

Mom and Dad came home from that trip completely smitten with both the man and the woman. They, especially Mom, would talk about them incessantly and waited anxiously for their letters. When their letter would finally arrive, it was a huge event in our household. Everything stopped. My mother would call my father at work, and he would eagerly come home to read the letter. Dinner was put on hold until Dad could scrutinize the letter. Then they would have long, dissecting, conversations about the letter. Immediately they would respond and that was always laborious. Mom would write and rewrite making sure her grammar was perfect and that she sounded intelligent before the letter could be mailed. Her preoccupation with the letter took all her time and if she wasn’t writing it, she was thinking about writing it. And when she sent it, she was thinking about them reading it and what they might think. Perhaps they will misunderstand something and become upset with her. Of course, they were in a holding pattern until the next letter came. And round and round it went.

Periodically their friends would make a date for a phone call from Israel. Mom and Dad were crazed with anticipation. Mom would speak first, loud and fast as the minutes were expensive and then Dad waiting impatiently would eventually say, “Sharon, when did you buy stock in the phone company? “She knew her time was up. He grabbed the phone and did the same, loud, and fast banter. For those few high-priced minutes, the earth stood still. Once they hung up, mom would be in a dream world for weeks, reliving the moments.

“Mom, Mom, Hi, I’m home from school.” “Oh! HI!”, she would answer in surprise. “I didn’t realize the time. And off she swept, her head floating in the clouds. “Mom, Mom, dinner?” “Let’s see what your father wants when he comes home.”

“I had my math and science tests today. They were awful. I believe I failed both miserably.” “That’s nice, she would swoon.”

Okay, let’s try this again, “I would say sarcastically, “ I couldn’t answer any of the questions, I cheated off the smart kid in the class and got caught and I’m expelled for 3 weeks.”

 “That’s so nice. Glad you had a wonderful day. I did too.”

Once they started to travel and met this couple, there was no room in my parents lives for anyone except their Israeli friends, the label my parents referred to them as. I was glad that I had my dog, my companion that listened so intently and gratefully. A love that I so wanted to share and equally needed to receive.

Mom and dad decided to purchase a home in Israel to be able to visit with their friends for weeks at a time. This began a period in time when they could always be together. If not in Israel, then they would visit in our home for months. My life became very lonely. My brother was away at college. I was home alone for most of my teenage years. If they were home, they were busy. I was cared for by a housekeeper, Pat, with whom I developed a loving friendship. Pat became my surrogate mother, but she was barely older than me.

I sought parental guidance from Pat when the need arose, but she wasn’t prepared to mother someone barely older than herself.

 When my parents returned home after one particularly long stint, my mother resented the depth of my relationship with Pat. I was forced to turn that off or else I would be in deep trouble. Deep trouble meant the silent treatment, long lectures telling me how wrong I was, and dad calling me and telling me to apologize to my mother. “Do it for me,” he would say. “Otherwise, she will make my life miserable.” Mom never fought her own battles and on occasion she would send in her Israeli friends to pitch her side.

My home life was difficult. My mother was always making plans with her friends who lived in the room next to mine and with whom I shared a bathroom. They took lots of time grooming themselves, door open and so much conversation between them as they walked back and forth from the bedroom to the bathroom. They were always arguing and for some reason it sounded so much more dramatic when the anger is in another language. I remember how he doused himself in Aramis permeating the entire house. He walked around in sleeveless tee-shirts and boxer shorts with blue backless slippers and a Marlboro dangling from his hands. He was well soaked in his cologne leaving a contrail of smoke and scent. Dad referred to him as, Mr. Aramis.

I learned that mom had a real affinity for him.

He was a womanizer. Mr. Aramis with his Paul Newman baby blues, used those eyes to win woman over. He would raise one eyebrow, slightly cocking his head, and looking at his prey sideways, moving his head back and forth with just enough motion to message his intended. He used his accent trying to sweet talk Mom. She swooned and giggled over his tall, dark, presence. I gagged.

With my privacy invaded I would resort to keeping my bedroom door closed while blasting my stereo. My senses were able to turn off the intrusion as I tuned out the sounds and their presence creating a safe environment to hide away in. I would lay in my bed with my dog at my side, staring up at an Easy Rider Poster with Peter Fonda taped to the ceiling. I would fantasize about becoming a mother and how I might treat my own daughter someday never denying her, her value.

 Instinctively, I knew how I wanted her to feel and how I would treat her to get her there. I knew she would feel important and loved. She would have Elizabeth Taylor violet eyes that my mother always talked about, she would be smart and independent, which I would encourage, and she would be my best friend. We would do so much together. Everyone loved her and wanted to be with her. We would talk and laugh and be there for one another. We wouldn’t ever have to ask; it was a given.

A decade later my fantasy was to come true, minus the Elizabeth Taylor violet eyes. I had given birth to a beautiful baby girl and on that day when she was placed in my arms for the first time, I held her close and promised to always be there for her and that she would never feel alone in this world.

January 07, 2022 16:31

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Marty B
21:25 Jan 12, 2022

The story does not seem to be related to the prompt of intuition. I do not understand the point of the anecdote of the french poodle, was there another dog to benefit from the training plan? The story of the dog, and the parents' friends from Israel is not needed in a short story format. A mention of one, or the other would have gotten the point across that the Mother is not interested in the child's feelings. There is a lot of describing what happens, instead of action. I propose that if the author had the characters talking more,...


Noelle C. Lee
00:01 Jan 13, 2022

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my story. I questioned in my own mind whether all details were necessary but I felt I would chance it hoping for feedback such as yours! My intention was to string the important love from and to the dog to the loneliness that the child felt once the parents had something more interesting taking their time away from her. The child used her intuition in how to deal with that loneliness by having a dog at her side always. This also provided insight into how she might raise her own child. She...


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