Pets Complete the Family Album

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During the past week, I’ve had the joy of gathering pictures and memorabilia to assemble a pictorial album for my mom’s 90th birthday.

Requests have been made from my siblings to send pictures commemorating various milestones since we became a blended family back in 1968. As the album will feature highlights during this period, I cautioned that photos must be chosen judiciously and include as many family members as possible to avoid hurt feelings.

Among the sweeping panoramas from weddings, civil ceremonies, and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, I ran across a comical picture of my mom snuggling with her grand-dog, Lilly, our Boston terrier - the closest thing to a granddaughter my wife and I could run up the family tree.

In the photo, my smiling mom has her hands wrapped around Lilly’s neck in a playful strangle while Lilly’s smushed face stares back into the camera with an expression belying equal parts of terror and surprise. Probably the same expression I wore when I was six just before my aunt Shirley bolted over to me and pinched my cheeks so hard that I cried.

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This picture makes me smile and I trust it will have the same effect on my mom. I know that mom loves Lilly dearly even though she did not go to Hebrew school, graduate Princeton, marry a professional with loads of “potential” or bear her a brood of precocious great-grandchildren.

Mom loves Lilly for her own endearing qualities and because she knows that Lilly is our daughter. The fact that Lilly is not of the same species as we are is simply an accident of nature.

The nurture that mom lavishes upon Lilly, however, is no accident.

Of course, mom would have loved to shower the children of my wife’s and my loins with cuddles, care packages and gift certificates from Nordstrom. But, after engaging Lilly in a little tug-of-war or a game of tag, mom doesn’t appear to pine much for our non-existent human children.

Because her grandchild is a dog, mom gets a precious, time-lapse view of life. Mom met Lilly when she was barely out of puppyhood and has watched her blossom into somewhat of a sophisticated middle-aged lady. Perhaps mom and Lilly will share the the joys of old age; two grizzled gals showing the world that they can still get a leg-up on life.

My wife’s and my branch of the family tree may be the shortest, but the fruit that it bears is as sweet as any other.

For mom’s album, this picture deserves a page all its own.