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Friday, December 10, 2010

Best Gift

In 1976, Greg and I scraped every penny we had and bought an old sea captain's house, circa 1902. The down payment alone almost killed us. If you see pictures of us from back then, you can tell we probably missed a meal or two. (I'll never see that kind of skinny again. LOL) 

Times were hard but we didn't care. We were newly married and having the time of our lives, a grand adventure in a strange new land called Texas.

But Christmas was right around the corner and we both knew there wouldn't be any Christmas presents under the tree that year. (I'll tell you about that magic tree in a future post.) 

Greg knew I was very lonely in Texas. I didn't know anyone. I hadn't yet learned to drive. And our families were far away. I was miserable. 

Worse than that, we were dog-less!

There's something about being young that makes you believe that anything is possible. Make no mistake, we were poor. And any reasonable person knows that you don't get a dog if you can barely afford yourself. But it just wasn't home without a dog, so we scraped up the ten dollars for the pound fee and went to the local shelter.

The pound was horrific. It was dirty and cramped and it was a fair bet that hardly any animal got out of there alive. I clung to Greg, afraid to touch anything, it was so gross. And then I came across two little puppies with pushed in noses.

One was in the water dish, but the other one came up to us right away. "That one," I told Greg. She's the one.

We took her home and I wanted with all my heart to believe she would turn into a German shepherd. In the early 70s there was a tv show called Run, Joe, Run, about a German shepherd wrongly accused of a crime. I wanted a dog just like Joe.

Being a girl dog, I called my puppy, Joey. 

It turned out she wasn't a German shepherd at all, but too late, the name stuck. 

Here's a picture of Joey all grown up. That's Chicago snow in that picture.

Greg has bought me many beautiful things over the years but my favorite gift of all was a ten dollar dog called Joey. It was a lot of money back then, especially if you didn't have any to spare. But Joey was worth every penny. She made us a family. And I was never lonely again.

So that's my best gift. What's yours?

45 comments:

Lynn Colt said...

Aw, what a wonderful story (and cute dog!). I can't think of my best gift at the moment, but I do love the way dogs and cats can make a house feel like a home :)

Marianne Arkins said...

Mine was also a dog ... my Bailey was a Christmas gift from my husband our first Christmas as a married couple. Nothing -- not the diamond earrings he bought me one year -- NOTHING was better that than puppy under the tree.

Maria Zannini said...

Lynn: Joey filled the void to the very rim. She meant everything to me.

Marianne: I'll bet Bailey was a gorgeous puppy. Judging by the way you talk about her, there must have been a lot of love in that house. I wish I could have met her.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, Maria, what a sweet story!!

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: Joey was a far cry from Iko. LOL! Nah, they're both good dogs. But Joey didn't chew. :)

J.L. Johnson said...

When I was young, my mother got very sick Christmas Eve. Turns out she had gall stones so bad, they had to operate on her that night. I almost lost her. My best gift was my mother beging given back to me.

Maria Zannini said...

JL: That was a beautiful story. Sometimes the best gift is the one you don't lose. Gall stones are so dangerous too. She was very lucky. I'm so glad it turned out well.

Kimber Leszczuk. said...

I love that story. Dogs are the best!

For me the gift I enjoy most is getting to spend time with my family. They are so spread out these days just getting to be together with them and see them for a whole day - that is my favorite gift.

Kim said...

What a great story and the dog is just too adorable for words - both as a puppy and big-girl dog. The first dog I got as an adult was a shelter dog (and the conditions of that shelter were very much like where Joey came from) and every dog since has been a rescue.

My best Christmas gift? Hmmm... my daughter was born on Dec. 29th - can I count that?

Maria Zannini said...

Kimber: You have your head in the right place, Kimber. :)

Kim:
Ref: Your daughter
I'll bet that's one gift you were glad to unwrap. :grin: Christmas babies really bring the message home. That's a wonderful gift!

Joanne said...

What a sweet story. Pound Fee - $10.00. Joey - Priceless!

One of my favorite gifts is a silver bracelet I received from my daughter last year. It's become my writing bracelet, I wear it always when I'm writing, connecting us in that way.

Lydia Kang said...

Oh that puppy is so cute! And grown up Joey is even cuter!
Oh, I don't mean to be so boring, but my family is my favorite gift too!

Maria Zannini said...

Joanne: How sweet. A writing bracelet that ties you and your daughter together. I'll bet it means so much to her knowing you cherish it.

Lydia: Family is never boring. They might make you gray--but never bored. LOL.

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

aww! I always wanted a dog or puppy for christmas or my birthday. Sadly, it has yet to happen

Sherri said...

Best gift...hard one cause my favorite part of the gift giving is watching people open my gifts, LOL.

I've got my Christmas baby, though, Ian born on the 28th.

Joey looks like a sweetie.

Angelina Rain said...

What a great story, Maria. Joey is adorable! I think a pet is one of the best gifts. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

My best gift: When I was seven, one of my mom’s friends brought over a snow white kitten that “Santa” gave her to give to me because he was too busy to stop at our apartment. My mother wasn’t too happy about “Santa’s” gift, but I loved it. Pooky was the best cat I’ve ever had.

Liz Fichera said...

Oh, what a wonderful story! And Joey is such an adorable dog!! Fav Christmas gift? Craig brought home a tiny Christmas tree no bigger than a foot the first year we were married. It was all we could afford. We decorated it with miniature ornaments and tinsel and thought it was the prettiest tree. Best Christmas ever.

Joanna St. James said...

Oh that is such a sweet story sorry i have to yak it up now but you asked. Because i like instant gratification I started using pregnancy test kits the minute we started trying for a kidlet - I saw the first 2 lines on xmas day.

Shirley Wells said...

Aw, what a lovely story - and a great photo!

I so agree about a house not being a home until it has a dog living in it. Houses just don't feel right unless they have mud on the floor. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: But how would Yvie feel about it? :grin: Doesn't she have final say?

Sherri: You got a Christmas baby too? I'll bet you were one tired mama by the time the holidays rolled around.

Ref: watching others
Strangely, I prefer not to be there when they open gifts. I just feel self-conscious. If it's what they want though I love to hear the sound of their voices when they call.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: I can just imagine what went through your mother's head when she saw Pooky. LOL. There was no way she could keep her from you once it arrived. I hope you had her for a long time.

Liz: What is it about being poor that makes the best Christmas memories? But I know exactly what you mean. I'll tell my Christmas tree story on Christmas day.

Maria Zannini said...

Joanna: OMG. That is so perfect that you found out on Christmas day. I agree completely. That's a wonderful gift.

Shirley: Ref: Houses just don't feel right unless they have mud on the floor.

You are so right, Shirley. I couldn't have said it better myself. It's the fur, the mud, even the occasional accident. And then...there's Iko. LOL. Thanks for stopping in!

Cate Masters said...

Such an adorable dog, Maria. I can't imagine life without a dog. Joey sounds like she was precious.
That old sea captain's house intrigues me. Hope to hear more about it (hint hint)

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: I'll have to see if I have any pictures of that old house. Poor house. It had such a tragic ending. It passed hands several times and in the end, the last owners bulldozed it. At one time, we seriously considered MOVING the house to the country, but the costs were too prohibitive. It was very special in many ways.

Maybe I'll do a post on it someday. It too has a ghost story in it.

Dru said...

That is what Christmas is about.

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: You're right. The best memories are the ones where you touch someone on the heart.

jackie b central texas said...

Best present I ever received was an electric typewriter the Christmas I was 14 or 15, needed it to practice for typing class in High School.. I am not sure how my parents afforded it because back then typewriters were 2 or 300 dollars.....

Now I have one that was bought for less than $80 that I still use for typing envelope address labels on occasion.. I know it is easier on the computer but the "nostalgia" gets to me with the clackety clack of the keys!

Joey was the best present for sure Maria and such a beauty for a "pound puppy" too... Thanks for sharing such a wonderful memory...


jackie >_<

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: I think it's always more special when parents realize what's important to us even when it's out of reach. Especially mothers, I think. They always seem to know what's on our minds. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I don't think I have any thing to compete with that one. But one special Christmas we had just moved into a new house, a new school district and my son missed his grade school friends. We had lost our dog a year before and hadn't replaced him because we were moving.
We found a kitten and gave him to our son on Christmas Eve. He named her Merry. She's 15 now and still his kitty.

Maria Zannini said...

Oh, Susan, that is so sweet! I can only imagine how important that kitty is to him. They literally grew up together. Those are memories you can't buy. You're a good mom for giving him a kitty of his own.

Mason Canyon said...

What a wonderful story. And she grew up to be a beautiful dog.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Meghan Schuessler said...

What a beautiful dog. When I still lived at home w/ my parents, I begged them for YEARS to get me a dog for Christmas. No such luck. So of course the very first thing I did when I got outta their house was get my little chi, Ferris :)

Maria Zannini said...

Mason: Joey was my best friend. I was a basket case when she died. But it was her death that was the catalyst for me going back and finishing my degree.

Meghan: The joys of adulthood and freedom. :Grin: Ferris one lucky dog.

Bookewyrme said...

Love that picture of Joey in the snow. She looks so alert and playful!
This Christmas we're doing the same thing. We are spending way too much, but we're getting a beautiful little german shepherd puppy, and we can pick her up on the week of Christmas. I'm naming my Christmas pup Holly, and I could not be more excited and happy to be getting an animal companion again.

~Lia

Mike Keyton said...

Being a girl dog, I called my puppy, Joey. Hmm, that can be misconstrued, Maria.

My favourite gift is that old book I told you about, bought by my mum

Maria Zannini said...

Bookwyrm: I'm so happy for you! And what a perfect name. I hope you'll post some pictures soon.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: What stories are you spreading now? How can anyone misconstrue my sentence?

Ref: book
I love that story about the book your mom bought. It's like a piece of her remained through that book. That's a wonderful feeling.

Cozy in Texas said...

What a lovely story. The best gift for me was my son Nathan who was born on Christmas Day (Nathan means gift).
Ann

Renee Miller said...

Oh Joey is adorable. That is definitely a best gift. My best Christmas gift? I'm going to go total mom here and say the gifts that the kids make at school are usually my favorites. Kennedy took all of her pennies to the school 'yard sale' last year (she was 5) and bought me a used cookbook and a used candle. (really, the candle was half burned)I knew nothing about it until I found this paper ballish thing under the tree with "MOM" scribbled in glitter pen on it. I opened it and looked at Ken who was just beaming with pride. "I kept it a secret since October! Are you surprised?" Yes, I was. That has to be one of the best gifts I've ever gotten. That and the ornament that my oldest made me in Junior Kindegarten. It was a big green lump of clay with sparkles and tissue paper glued to it. She says it's a tree.

Maria Zannini said...

Hello, Cozy in Texas and welcome! I don't think we've seen you here before.

Ref: Christmas baby
Always the right gift. :) I didn't know Nathan means 'gift'. Thank you for telling me. I love to learn the meanings of names.

PS I've added you to my Reader so I'll be able to read your future posts.

Maria Zannini said...

Renee: That just puts a lump in my throat. You bet those are the best gifts. And here I thought you were a heartless and evil banshee. Look at you all warm and sensitive. LOL What a mommy.

Great story.

ciaraknight said...

Even though it wasn't planned. :) Finding out I was pregnant after doctors told me I'd never be able to have children.

Maria Zannini said...

Clara, that's not a present. That's a miracle. I don't know how long ago this was, but I am so happy for you.

Linda Leszczuk said...

I know I'm a week late, but here's mine. Two part gift - received early. November 26, 1998. My younger son brings my first grandson home from the hospital (to our house where he stayed his first couple weeks) and my older son announces grandchild number two (who turns out to be a girl) is on the way. Doesn't get much better than that.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Wow! I'll bet you were bursting your buttons with pride.

You? A doting grandma? :grin: