I'm watching a video and it only takes eight seconds for the tears to pool, miniature waterfalls tumbling down my cheeks. The music, the footage, the stories, the faces, I'm utterly sucked in. Ricardo turns to me and says, "Why didn't you study to work with animals? Really. That's what you should have done."
The video? Beagles released from a life as research subjects, crammed in metal crates for their whole lives these three years. Never seen the sun or stepped paws onto grass. When their cage doors were opened in the middle of a grassy yard, ten minutes passed before the first brave beagle soul stepped unsteady onto grass with soulful eyes.
No, it's not genocide. It's not drought or famine. It's not human trafficking or the AIDS epidemic. It's not a number of devastating, heart-rending injustices that rob human beings of life (and also bring tears to my eyes). It's just beagles - released from imprisonment.
And I shrug, blink back through moist eyes at Ricardo's expectant face. "I guess I never thought of it."
But really, when did the thought ever disappear from my world of dreams? As a little girl, I was always begging my parents for pets. We took in stray cats, cared for goldfish won as prizes at school carnivals, loved on worms from the garden, opened our hearts to two rats who gave us ten babies, tried out hamsters and gerbils, and rescued my one and only dog, Yankee Doodle, from the pound. I even mothered our neighbor's pets - Lady and Skip, beautiful thoroughbred horses, and Norton, the lovable Springer Spaniel who was best friends to Yankee, and all their jersey cows. I dreamed of owning a seal that lived in our bathtub and slept in bed with me, and thought I might one day pursue a career as a pet trainer at Sea World, to swim with dolphins and orcas. I crafted homes for fuzzy caterpillars in a shoebox, then released them after a day or so, with a guilty conscience. I nursed a baby squirrel we found sick in our backyard and cried when she died.
And yet, at some point, I tucked this love away. Perhaps it had to grow up, like me, and so I traded for something more serious. More mature and professional. Where did I learn to believe that caring for animals was only for children and veterinarians?
Now I'm thirty-one. And for several years, these dusty passions exiled in childhood are making a gradual pilgrimage back to my heart. They keep gently knocking on my door, reminding me they're still alive, like long-lost and treasured relatives. I'm not searching for a new career path, one with animals, but I open the door and welcome in these dusty travelers. As they make themselves at home in me again, they awaken places in me that I cherish. Instead of drowning out their voices, I open my ears and listen, and I find smiles and tears and joy so sweet. And I give myself permission, once more, to dream of a home one day with rescued dogs and goats, chickens and parrotlets, fish and bunnies and maybe a donkey. I dream of imparting this love to my children, of providing a home where they can grow up with furry family members. Because I will never, ever outgrow this. It's in me.
Towering trees with climbing branches, fields of grass and wheat bowing down in the breeze, creeks running cold with crawdads and tadpoles, dancing in ocean waves foaming, barns filled with the sweet smell of hay and musty wood beams, forests for exploring, autumn soaked leaves for collecting, earthy scent of horses as we nuzzle nose to nose, pitching backyard tents to stargaze, soap sudsy tarps for sliding, big-eyed does wandering through backyards, cherry trees heavy with fruit for the picking, arms wrapped around soft cow necks, chocolate milk puddle splashing in spring rains, pouring my heart out to trusty dog ears. The magic of childhood.
And I wonder, how much of who we are as children and what we love remains, covered in dust, waiting for us to open the door as adults to welcome them back in? Maybe growing up never was meant to grow us away from what first captured our hearts.
Joining the Just Write community today over at Heather King's delightful blog.