12/11/17, “A Christmas Story”

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re holding up okay 2 weeks before Christmas, and not too stressed or tired, or worried about how the holidays will shake out. I hope they will be beautiful in wonderful, unexpected ways!!!

I remembered a story today that touched my heart greatly one Christmas, and wanted to share it with you. (I wrote about it in the little book I wrote about our family dogs, “Pure Joy”.)

I had a very dear friend, a woman who was a great deal older than I was, and became something of an adopted mother and beloved friend when I moved to San Francisco in my early twenties. I was very fortunate that in the course of my lifetime, I have met several older women who took me under their wing, gave me good advice, and kind of mentored me. Isabella was one of them. She was of another era when women who chose careers, usually didn’t marry and have families too. She never married and had no children, and was the only woman in her graduating class at Columbia Law School. She became an attorney, specialized in family law, and eventually became a judge. She was a truly wonderful person, and was the godmother of one of my children. And although she was in her mid-eighties, she had an absolutely terrific mother herself, whom I loved to visit with. Isabella’s mother was clear as a bell and lived to be 103.

My friend Isabella came to Thanksgiving with my family every year, and was a great addition. Well into her eighties she fell ill, but was managing to get through it, and that Thanksgiving, she mentioned at the table that she wished she had a dog. She said it with such longing that it really touched my heart. My children and I discussed it afterwards, and they ALL said, “You should get Isabella a dog”. I wasn’t sure about it, it’s a lot of work to have a puppy, you have to walk it and take care of it, and she’d been sick. I hesitated, and my kids (in their late teens and early 20’s) insisted, “She wants one, Mom….get her a dog.” And somehow, by the end of the night, they convinced me. She had mentioned Maltese as her preferred breed. So I started looking, and a few weeks later, I found an adorable little 5 month old Maltese puppy, and fell in love with it when I went to see it. So I jumped in with both feet, bought everything the puppy was going to need, sweaters and a collar and leash, bowls and toys, food, a bed, and a playpen if she needed to confine it safely. My kids were all home for Christmas by then, and with a sense of total accomplishment, I announced to them, “I got a dog for Isabella!!” They all stared at me as though I’d grown a palm tree on my head. YOU WHAT??….”I got Isabella a dog”, I repeated,”you know, like you told me to”….Their response was unanimous and immediate, “Are you crazy?? She’s too old for a dog…don’t be ridiculous!!!” Don’t be ridiculous??? What happened to their talking me into it after Thanksgiving dinner after she said she wanted one? I reminded all of them of that, and they looked at me as though I was nuts. Was I hallucinating? They insisted I couldn’t give her a dog, and reminded me that she’d been sick recently. Meanwhile, the dog was at our house, with every possible piece of equipment, and what was I going to do with it??? My kids are usually very nice about things, but they had total denial and wanted nothing to do with it. In my fantasies, the whole family would go to Isabella’s house and play Santa Claus and hand her the puppy. No such luck. I was in it on my own. They were all meeting up with friends, had other plans since they’d just gotten home, and no one would go to Isabella’s house with me, with the puppy. Panic set in by then, as I realized that I had gotten talked into something really stupid. What was Isabella going to do with a dog? She probably didn’t mean it anyway. I felt as stupid and as crazy as my kids said I was, and that night, feeling like an idiot, I loaded up my car with all the dog equipment, and drove the puppy to my friend’s house. I was sure she would refuse it and give it right back to me. And then what? I didn’t need a puppy either. I felt like a total idiot, the euphoria of getting the puppy had dissipated, and I was sure my playing Santa Claus with a puppy would be a disaster. And it had seemed like such a good idea….for a minute.

The puppy and I arrived at Isabella’s home, and I had it bundled in a blanket in my arms. I looked at it before I rang the doorbell, and nearly apologized to the dog. It was giving me suspicious looks as if to say “What have you gotten me into?” And finally, I rang the doorbell, and Isabella answered and looked at the bundle in my arms. “What’s that?” she said, as the puppy stuck her head out of the blanket on cue, looking extremely sweet. “It’s a puppy….for you…”I said, in a nervous embarrassed voice, and as I said it, I handed it to her, and the look on Isabella’s face was priceless. She really looked like a kid at Christmas. She took the puppy from me, and went to sit down holding it, as the puppy gave me one backward glance as if it say, “You’re done now, you can leave.” That puppy looked as though she knew she was home and was meant to be there. She didn’t move an inch off Isabella’s lap the whole time I was there, and Isabella lit up like a Christmas tree, as she held the little dog and beamed at me. She named her Trixie, which she said was the name of her first childhood dog. I brought all the equipment in, and set it up, and Isabella and Trixie were thrilled with each other. I’ve never seen so much love in one room, they fell in love immediately, and were inseparable from then on. A few minutes later, Isabella said “thank you for the visit, and the puppy!!” And that was it, they escorted me to the door, and my mission was accomplished. It was love at first sight between the two of them!!

I will admit that I smiled and laughed and cried on the way home, so relieved that it had gone well, so thrilled that Isabella was so happy, and the puppy was in just the right home. I didn’t hear anything from her for a few days afterwards and got worried that Isabella might not admit it if the puppy was too much for her, so I called to check on them, and got a glowing report of how happy they were. The love affair between Isabella and Trixie was just what Christmas should be, and it went on for many years, for the rest of Isabella’s life. They were crazy about each other. They had a good long run, and after Isabella was gone, Trixie went to live with Isabella’s brother and his family, and remained the most adored, pampered dog in the world.

I will never ever forget the sight of Isabella falling in love with the puppy, and the little dog’s look of adoration. And the sheer joy of seeing them together. It was everything that Christmas is supposed to be and made my Christmas that year. Of all the gifts I have ever given anyone, that moment of giving Trixie to Isabella, and seeing the total happiness and love on Isabella’s face was the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. And whenever I think of Isabella, which I still do often, I think of Trixie with her on that very special night a few days before Christmas. It was a beautiful Christmas for me because of it, and it still warms my heart when I think of it.

I hope there are wonderful surprises ahead for you in the coming days, or that you can surprise someone in a big or small way. It’s what Christmas is all about (though it was a daring thing I did—-and I really got lucky that it turned out so well.) I hope the days ahead go smoothly for you, and lead up to a VERY happy Christmas!!!

much love, Danielle

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4 Comments so far
  1. Jayakala G December 13, 2017 1:29 am

    Hello,
    I am proud of U!I think U r one of the best-light hearted book writers-no one can carry on the way U do -I wish to meet U.
    Regards,
    Jaya

  2. Elaine December 13, 2017 2:38 pm

    Hi Danielle,

    What a wonderful Christmas story! I’m so glad that Isabella and Trixie found each other (and your description of your children first telling you to get a dog then acting like you were crazy when you took their advice is priceless! So typical of children)

    I’m wondering if Isabella is the inspiration for some of the characters in your novels? I’m guessing Astrid’s mother in Now and Forever, Caroline Lord in Palomino, and Pilar Graham in Mixed Blessings?

    Regards,

    Elaine

  3. Carol December 13, 2017 5:51 pm

    A beautiful memory of giving! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Deede December 16, 2017 6:37 am

    What a wonderful story!…from a Maltese lover…You just know when the chemistry of a little fluff butt and its humankind is perfect…You can watch the interaction and know its primal, from Heaven…a gift form in real life…

    THREE CHEERS FOR ISABELLA…..AND FOR DANIELLE AND HER WONDERFUL GIFT GIVING ABILITY!!!