I jumped to my feet at the noise that came directly from overhead. I had been laying on my tummy enjoying the refreshing feel of the cool tiles against my sweaty body. It seemed to contrast nicely with the rich warm glow of the sunlight that was filtering through the big double glass doors of the dining room, instead, my inability to suppress my own curiosity drove me to explore the cause of the noise. Life can be funny, one minute you are relaxing enjoying the sweet jazz like tones of the birdie band in the back yard, singing and tweeting each note with such exquisite passion and lust, then the next moment you are being compelled by your inner demons to take part in some activity you want no part of, yet cannot resist at the same time. How can life be filled with moments like this? I let the question roll around inside my mind during the brief journey from the dining room up to the source of the concern in Mommy’s office.
A scratching and scrabbling noise was rising and falling from inside the closet. My first instinct was that a rat had taken up residence in the house, but my ears quickly picked up traces of the culprit. Papers were being ruffled and a humming sound had started to grow. It wasn’t a random humming, rather it was the sound of AC/DC in general, and “Back in Black”, more specifically. It didn’t take mental gymnastics and complex formulas for my brain to figure out that it was Yehudi.
I strode forward so that I was standing directly in the doorway to the closet. In front of me was a two-foot by two-foot white cardboard cube with the back half of a black cat hanging over one of its edges, the tail casually flipping and flopping from one side to the other. Apparently, the sound had been the box falling off a stack of three other containers and landing on top of some shoes boxes which were now scattered across the closet floor. None of this seemed to effect Yehudi in any way, she was obviously intent on exploring.
That was Yehudi’s way. The small tuxedo cat was the poster child for that age old adage about cat’s and their curiosity.
“Huh? What’s this,” the nasally voice squeaked from inside the box.
“What’s what?” I asked.
The black hair stood straight out on the half of the cat that was visible from my vantage point, along with a high-pitched squeak. Her legs scrabbled against the cardboard for a moment before she tumbled forward into the cube, the papers making their own unique splashing noise when she hit.
“Sorry Yehudi,” I giggled, “I didn’t mean to startle you!”
“No problems,” her little black head popped up so that I could see her face.
“What are you doing Yehudi,” I stretched my neck out to take her in. By now, she had rested her head on the edge of the cardboard. She stared back at me, her whiskers twitching as they are wont to do and her head was covered with little pieces of white paper. It was that ragged paper that formed when you tore a page out of a spiral notebook, which had somehow found its way free.
“I was just bored and found these boxes that I didn’t know what was inside yet, so I thought I would look,” she began to explain, “ and I found this,” she dove back down into the depths of the box to retrieve her newest treasure.
I let my butt drop to the floor. Might as well have a seat and be comfortable while I wait, right? I stared at the white container, watching it shift around on top of the smaller shoe boxes.
The sounds of papers being shuffled and tossed about filled the air, combining with an old musty aroma that was emanating from the box. Together, the sound and smell came together to perform an ethereal dance. Over the course of time the two had grown to become intimate companions, and for the first time in many years, they were able to share their mutual affection for each other with others.
Yehudi sneezed, then resumed her digging. I was just about to give up on her and return to my sunbathing and the sonata that the birds of the backyard were performing when at last her head popped up. She held a yellowing parchment in her mouth. Yehudi pulled and tugged on it, and just when it seemed like she was about to conquer it, the paper would slip from her grip and fall back into the box. I watched her struggle a little longer, waiting to see if she could manage to accomplish the task on her own.
“Would you like a hand?” I asked, hoping she would accept the offer.
“Please,” she squeaked, letting the paper fall from her mouth back into the box.
I stood up and leaned down to retrieve it. Eyeing the single page of paper that she had indicated with her paw, I reached down and plucked it up, pulling it from the casket of memories that had held it for so long and bringing it back into the world of the living. I gently set it down on the floor and waiting for Yehudi to climb out of the box.
She sat down next to me and puffed her white chest out just a little.
“I saw this and wanted to show you,” she said pawing the parchment-like paper that had begun to yellow with the passage of time.
“It has your name on it,” she looked at me, a smile of satisfaction had begun to grow on her lips.
I glanced down at the document in front of me. My forehead scrunched up and my head tilted to the left. I opened my mouth to say something, but then closed it.
“Flip it, you gotta flip it over to the other side,” Yehudi directed me, her eyes also focused on the page.
“Oh, yeah, right,” I said, trying to ignore the heat that was rising in my cheeks. I bowed down and flipped the paper over. Yehudi was right, the words were on the other side. Sometimes I can be so daft!
“See! Your name!” She pointed to what was clearly my name on the page.
“What is it,” the little black cat asked, the pitch in her voice rising an octave. I looked at her and smiled. Her green eyes glimmered with anticipation in the light.
My gaze fell again to the weathered old sheet of paper. It looked familiar, but I couldn’t find the memory. My eyes began to scan over the typed characters. Each new word was like a magic spell, unlocking sights and sounds, emotions and dreams. Little by little the memory of the day came back to me, and a smile spread across my face.
“This is from my Bark Mitzvah!” I looked over at Yehudi misty eyed.
What’s a Bark Mitzvah?
The slender black cat asked.
I laid down next to her on the floor, the fibers from the carpet kind of scratched and tickled and felt comforting all at the same time. Yehudi curled up on the carpet next to me and stared up into my eyes, waiting very patiently, for a Yehudi that is.
“A lot of traditions celebrate when members of a family change from being little into being grown up. Some people have confirmations, some have sweet sixteen parties, and some have quinceaneras. There are lots of different ways to celebrate,” I looked at Yehudi waiting for confirmation.
“I follow,” she said with a smile.
“In our family the humans have a bar mitzvah or a bat mitzvah when they turn thirteen years old. For puppies, like me, it happens when we turn thirteen months and it is called a bark mitzvah.”
Yehudi, looked at me with a smile, her ears perked up.
“Congratulations,” she said, putting one of her paws on mine. I wanted to tell her that it happened years ago, but I let it go.
What happens at a Bark Mitzvah?” she asked, unwilling to be satiated with the brief explanation I gave her.
“Well, the Rabbi reads a story from a book called Genesis, reminding us that all of God’s creatures are important and that dogs and people were created on the same day. Then we sing a song,” I explained.
“Ooooooh, I like songs,” Yehudi exclaimed in that high fast pitch that let you know she was excited.
“Probably not these songs,” I cautioned her, “there was no drums or electric guitars!”
“Oh,” she was disappointed by that revelation. “What else?”
“They tell stories about how we came to our forever home and then the Rabbi blesses us.”
“Wow, that sounds pretty rabid!” she said. I am not sure where this rabid term came from, but that was her new thing and I can only hope it means something good.
“It was, Yehudi, it was.”
“I’m going to see what else I can find,” she rose to her feet and trotted off for the closet.
“Have fun, but be careful,” I reminded her as I watched her go.
They can delight us, or they can haunt us, and sometimes, they have the very special power to do both at the same time. I was back enjoying the cool tiles on a warm summer day, gazing out the big glass door, where often I can be found.
Only, on this day, I wasn’t seeing the play of sunlight and shadow, nor the scampering of squirrels or rabbits in the back yard, no, I was seeing things with my inner eye. Like one of Ovid’s grand metamorphosis, the brown dog with floppy ears and slightly greying whiskers who stared at her reflection wasn’t the dog who was peering back. Instead I saw that little brown puppy who hadn’t quite grown into her own ears yet, wearing her favorite white lace bow in her hair.
It was the party after the bark mitzvah ceremony. Puppy’s of all colors and breeds where dashing around the fenced in yard. Dozens of activities where happening all at once, beagles playing tag and border collies splashing in the pool, and even a cocker spaniel dancing the tango with a brown and white shih tzu. Smiling faces and big floating balloons where the order of the day. And I? Well, I was at the height of my happiness. I had graduated from puppy to full grown dog.
In my corner of the lawn, the long blades of textured green grass poked and tickled me while I sprawled out on my back and got lost in the deep blue sky. I was captivated by the puffy white clouds floating high above me. What magic words were spoken to hold them there in the sky? Then, my thoughts turned to whether or not they would taste as delicious as they looked? Would they be sweet like cotton candy or was it more like eating whipped cream and would I ever find the answer to the questions I pondered.
A medium sized black and tan terrier loped over to me, carrying a tiny box in her mouth. The way the sun shone on her in that moment, made the luster of her black hair gleam like the purist of onyx stones. Her dark eyes looked into mine, smiling in that way that they were able to smile. She lay the box on the ground in front of me.
“Happy Bark Mitzvah Cindee!” the words rolled off her tongue in that thick Latina accent that can only be found in Miami.
“Thank you Cosita,” I barked back, trying to restrain myself, but doing a terrible job. I began to unwrap the box with the excitement and fervor of a child on Christmas morning.
Slowly it faded
The memory gave way to my own dusty reflection staring back at me in the glass door. I was so young and untainted then, I believed that life could only get better. As the years would pass, I would learn about things like cancer, loss, death and the Rainbow Bridge. What I wouldn’t give to have that time in my life back.
A shaft of sunlight filtered in through the window and hit my collar just so. Immediately it began to shimmer and twinkle in shafts of brightness in an otherwise dingy reflection. I let my eyes home in on the illumination, my heart pounding in my chest as I did. My entire body exploded in tinglies, it was the pink metal, bone shaped, name tag that I wore on my neck that gleamed in the sunlight. The very same name tag that Cosita gave me that day so long ago. The name tag that when turned over on the back read:
"Cindee and Cosi Sisters Forever!"
It was, and still is the best Bark Mitzvah gift ever.