I see the older woman walk slowly up our driveway, step by leaden step, watching out for icy patches. Her head is down, so I can only see the top of her forest-green hood, attached to the overcoat she wears. It’s big on her, and I wonder if it belonged to a son now living in another town, probably another state.
She shuffles closer to the front of the house in old brown boots encrusted with caked mud and old snow. My dog is barking obnoxiously, “let me out, let me out now.” I open the front door and he barges out as if his life depends on it. But he’s only anxious to get to the woman, who has lifted her face that glows with happy expectation.
She throws a Ritz cracker out to the dog, who jumps up and devours it in a fraction of a second. This annoys me. I have trained this dog patiently and thoroughly. For me, he sits for a biscuit and is told to “leave it” for seconds at a time, sometimes up to a minute, before a quiet “okay” tells him he can gently mouth the treat and eat it. Now, I see him jump and miss the old women’s fingers by a fraction of an inch for a second cracker, then a third, then another as she throws them out the driveway as if throwing bread for pigeons.
For goodness sake, I think, ready to go out and stop the circus act. The woman looks up at me as I stand in the doorway and gives me a small toothless smile. I could go out and talk to her, but she’s really not there for me. She’s there for the dog.
I watch myself stand there in the doorway, annoyed at my rude dog and the lady throwing crackers, and I see an impatient, uncompassionate woman.
What’s my problem? Am I such an elitist that I think strange old women shouldn’t find pleasure in feeding treats to neighborhood dogs? Who am I to find this activity boorish and unnecessary?
I wonder, then, who am I? The walls of my world narrow to my body, and my heart, and my brain. Why am I standing here, worrying about a few crackers? I want to be out jumping for treats myself. I’d jump for a great book, for praise from an agent, for a hug from my children, and for a kiss from my husband.
That’s what I am, isn’t it? A proton/neutron bundle of energy coiled for love and affection, for insight, for a glimmer of God and the meaning of life. I look inside further and laugh. I am a funny creature.
I wave goodbye to the old woman as she shuffles away, and I pet the dog as he returns to me, satiated and happy. He sits on the front door step straight and proud, looking at me with all the love in the universe.