The Kindness of Strangers

The house was blissfully quiet aside from the gentle hum of the air conditioner. I peeked outside to check on Coco, the dog.

Minutes earlier, she was dozing on the front porch, her black head resting on her paws. Now, there was a brown magnolia leaf, a desiccated spider, and a pile of sand (a hallmark of the boys) but definitely and absolutely no dog.

She wasn’t around the back or in the grass, hiding behind a tree or romping in the woods. I called and whistled and shouted, all with a growing dread in the pit of my stomach.

It was still nap time. I couldn’t leave and I didn’t want to wake up the boys early. So I waited and paced around the house, checking the front door and then the back porch.

I ticked off the list of things we would need to do if she didn’t reappear within the next few hours: create a flyer, make copies, post flyer and wait.  

“Boys, we have to find Coco,” I explained when they woke up. “She ran away, again.”

They took matters into their own small hands, went outside and began shouting in squeaky voices for their beloved dog to return. Pleas that went unanswered.

Little Legs held his pointer finger up in the air, Einstein style, and said, “I have an idea.”

“I’m listening,” I said with the keys in my hand.

“We should get in the car to look for Coco,” he said.

“Great idea! Let’s do it, guys.”

We were off on a Coco rescue mission to the tune of Mission Impossible, with a fully rested squad and three quarters of a tank of gas, we were set.

After driving up and down side-streets for an hour, yelling out the windows, we had to call it and accept that we might not find her.

“Coco’s gone,” Little Legs told his brother.

Baby Brother said, “Car go, Coco,” unwilling to end the search.

“Who wants cartoons and a snack?” I asked and was answered with unanimous support.

It took Daddy Longlegs, after a long day at work solving other people’s problems, to say, “Did you check on the nextdoor app?”

And there she was, in all her floppy eared, tongue hanging-out glory, never lost at all, just passing time in a neighbor’s garage, eating milkbones (which later would wreck havoc on her GI system).

The post said, “Here until the owner claims her.”   

In spite of every trash bag and diaper ripped open, toy destroyed, mud tracked in the house, she is a good dog. She guards the yard from nothing and steals the boys’ snacks, through it all, she is ours, home and officially reclaimed.     

These are the days.

Enormous waves rolled up and crashed down on the beach. A red flag flapped overhead declaring dangerous water conditions which we did not dispute. We settled happily on the sand with towels, buckets, and shovels.  

Little Legs focused on burying the lower half of his brother’s body in the sand. He dumped scoop after scoop of wet sand onto Baby Brother’s chubby thighs and shins. With Little Legs’ tongue hanging out one side of his mouth, he was the very image of concentration and Baby Brother, the image of patience and grace.

Who agrees to be buried alive, aside from a sibling?   

Suddenly, Baby Brother rose with a roar, a toddler sized King Kong, and broke free from his sandy bondage. Little Legs screamed as sand flew up in a thousand different directions and his work was destroyed.

“No,” Little Legs yelled and lunged to pull his brother back down to the ground.

I assume his plan was to rebury Baby Brother.

Not interested in this, Baby Brother escaped and ran for the crashing waves.   

This time, I yelled “No” and raced after him.

I apprehended the runaway and brought him back to work on a new project, the construction of a sandcastle. Spoiler alert, it never got off the ground because Little Legs smashed every bucketful of carefully packed and formed sand.

Two beach-walkers with matching black sunglasses, maneuvered around us, holding hands. They were freckled and leathery from the sun.

“These are the best days of your life,” the man said.

“You don’t know it yet, but he’s right. These are the days,” the woman agreed.

The pair continued their path, straight ahead, leaving behind their prophetic wisdom and the thought that if these are the days, I want more, so many more. I am greedy for time with our children, satiated only by more time.

I am also overwhelmed with sadness to think this period could be it, the pinnacle of our time together. And I hope that the beachwalkers were wrong only in the omission of the word some, these are some of the best days of our life.

There can be more best days, many more.