Wow, autumn.

After months of hot weather and smoke from apocalyptic California, there are wisps of snow in the mountains. We are no longer sitting on couches with wet scarves on our heads trying to stay cool. I feel like I could take on a project or two rather than just blurred-eyed watching CNN and reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

After weeks of figuring out how to do it, our daughter’s family has temporarily moved in with us. Some quarantining, and then we merged two COVID bubbles into one — pandemic times.

Besides people, this meant animals. We have our rescue poodle-Chihuahua, who thinks she is a German shepherd, Maisie.

They brought their part Shih Tzu, who thinks she’s human, Tallulah, and their cat, Clover.

As an aside, I learned after three days that it is not a good idea to have a cat if you are a writer or have self-esteem issues. Clover frequently pops up on my desk and gives me that disdainful cat stare that can destroy your soul.

Messy and crazy. I’ve not completed a full sentence or thought in days. Our home is controlled by our granddaughter, Fiona. She spends much of her time chasing the dogs from room to room. She’s learning to be gentle with the dogs, not hug them too tightly and not pull their tails. They, in turn, have learned to sit beneath her chair during mealtimes. The snacks rain down from her plate.

We play together — remember play? We sing songs from the movies Moana and Frozen. We all dance to the songs, with Fiona leading the way and the dogs running circles around us. Clover just watches us with disgust.

After months of enforced solitude — and once you let go of getting things done — it is a lovely existence.

The pandemic has taught me how much I have missed and how much I have craved family, children, dogs, cats, fish in aquariums and the occasional hamster.

I miss the debates about whether snakes are pets, and if they get out of their terrarium, who is responsible for tracking them down? And, should we get chickens? Can you have snakes, dogs and chickens?

Suddenly, having three generations in a home makes so much sense to me. I grew up that way, with grandparents living with us, with multiple dogs and kids wandering in and out. Meals seemed to include friends and neighborhood buddies. My dad, who traveled a lot, would show up for dinners and be puzzled by the number of children sitting around the table. I’d watch him do math in his head, not only about how many of the kids were his, but why we were feeding three or four dogs instead of two. Of course, this life is temporary. Next week, we pack up our family circus, our moveable feast and head to Minnesota to move our daughter’s family to her new home and new jobs. Two cars, all the animals. The dogs, because they are little, have their own car seats. But occasionally, they sit on the laps of passengers and look forward as the mountains give way to the unfolding prairies. Our route is “flexible.” We drive to Trinidad, Colo., and turn right.

It’s exciting, an adventure. The dogs and our granddaughter have never seen real grass. I imagine them all jumping out of the car when we arrive and running in the yard, Fiona barefoot and the dogs in a heaven of new smells. There will be squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and deer. They will explore a new home. Clover will disappear into the house, find new hiding places and be alert for any mice. Nothing like a good midnight hunt.

We’ll stay with them for a few weeks and help them settle into their new life. Then we’ll take the northern route, through the Dakotas and Wyoming to the mountains and home to Santa Fe, hoping to beat the snow. Coming back, with just the three of us and Maisie, I know our home will feel a little empty. Our plan is to adopt one or two new shelter dogs in October, have a full house of dogs, and have a little bit of chaos of dogs barking at the knock at the door and dogs underfoot. It is a blessed way to live.

Be safe, stay sane and follow the science.

(1) comment

Elizabeth Guss

Thank you for reminding us that the pandemic does have some "silver linings" despite all the upheaval it has wrought. Approaching challenges with humor and grace is a life skill that you have obviously cultivated. I wish you and your family the very best as you enjoy your togetherness and, then, head across the United States to deliver your co-habitants to their new home in MN.

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