We would walk almost every day, my friend and I. She had a sweet little black cocker spaniel who needed walking and I needed the exercise as well as the comradery. The three of us walked down little-used roads, country lanes, and decrepit old tarmacs. They were ideal for our long rambles and perfect for a dog that lived by her nose. For the dog, whose name was something like Trixie, every step brought a new explosion of scent. If it had rained recently there were damp grassy sniffs to explore, and muddy ditches to investigate. The heat of summer brought dry dusty smells left expressly for the next canine visitor. And there was truly nothing so exciting for a nose as whatever it was that lived under all those leaves in the fall. Dogs are so existential. They truly live in the moment, and let’s face it, the end of a leash marks the best of all doggy moments.

While walking Trixie, we conferred with one another about our design work. We exchanged humorous stories about the office, and all the colorful characters populating the design world. We commiserated with each other as we dealt with our aging parents and the ravages of Alzheimer’s. We shared good times, good food, and created more of the same as we planned parties to bring our friends together. We lamented the loss of our girlish figures and the really bad hair days. And, we tried to comprehend the stupidity of mankind as we lurched from Desert Storm and reeled through 9/11.

As we walked the dog, we celebrated all the joys and sorrows of daily life and the bonds of friendship. One crisis followed another, and still we walked the dog. Life and work intruded upon our time, but still we walked. And as we walked, we constructed images of who we perceived ourselves to be. We talked of what tied us together, and how to fix whatever needed fixing at the time. Together we drew self-portraits with our words … mirages of ourselves … reflecting how we hoped to be perceived. As the dog snuffled along, we shared our lives, and were able to be whoever we wanted to be.

But time brought changes. My friend moved away. Her dog died. Family demands overtook us both and stole the time we once spent together. Inevitably, our friendship suffered the ravages of neglect. But still her voice intrudes. All these years later, I hear her thoughts about cooking, designing, entertaining, and all the day-to-day minutia that we shared. When I make my bed in the morning, I can still hear her telling me about sheet-garters and how they keep her bedding smooth. Every day with the sheet garters, I kid you not! I wish I could get her to stop, it is beyond annoying. Her hands instruct mine when I fold freshly ironed napkins. And she is with me when I dress a table for company using the china and glassware that we both loved and collected. Her recipes live in my kitchen, and her voice lives in my head. It seems she has completely disappeared from my life leaving only random instructions behind. Today my memories of our long friendship are like bird bones left after a feast. Nothing remains to hold them together. It brings to mind the sadness that my mother once expressed about outliving her friends. She had children and grandchildren to share her later years, but her friends were all gone. It was as if the fine flavor of her life had disappeared.

I sometimes imagine myself composed of post-its, and those little sticky notes are the currency of memory. As I meet with someone and exchange greetings, or chat for a moment with a neighbor, or spend time with friends, it is as if I have left a trail of sticky notes clinging to those behind me. That little bit of me, that nugget of thought, that gnarly observation, or that vivid retelling of an experience, they are all given into the care of someone else. And as I walk away, the post-it stays behind stuck to the listener, a note from me to you to remember it. When we leave them behind the posts are altered and become part of someone else’s memory.

So to lose a post-it treasury … a friend that holds the thoughts and feelings you shared … to lose one of them is to have a part of yourself die off. Those memories are gone. Whether we lose the friend to neglect or death matters little. They are gone. And their passing means that we are left with no way to explore that collection of old post-its. There is no pathway back to those shared memories, no way to come together again and laugh at life’s absurdities, and no way to live once more inside the joy of that old friendship.

When a friendship dies, it also means that we are left with their post-its. Dis-attached and faded, their sticky notes have been left behind in our care. But with the passage of time, they have become static. The print has faded and the edges have softened and frayed. We put them in our memory bank and hope to preserve them, but they are mostly lost under a mountain of new post-its.  We transcribe our memories, telling others about those we have lost. But in doing so, storylines become simplified and the nuances of meaning … the details, the quirks, the funky and fine … those parts become lost. Time has blurred the originals almost beyond recognition, and we are left with a few pixelated memories. It turns out you really had to be there, after all.

Today, oddly enough, only the visuals remain from our long walks. I can still see Trixie’s floppy ears bouncing up and down in sync with her joy. The fields of Queen Anne’s Lace, golden rod, and milkweed corralled by old fences, still float like a sea of texture in the late summer sun. The sunshine and shade locked together still meander through the woods, and march across the fields. And the thuggish weeds continue to chew the edges of the road. Those images all remain vivid and alive after all these years. But what we said to one another, and what it all meant … that I can’t recall. Which is odd, because it was so very important at the time … that I do remember.

As I get older, and my memory bank fills up with old frayed notes, it has become easier to dip in and find the good stuff … the visuals, the sounds, the great conversation and fabulous food, the fine art, the laughter, and the memory of happiness … like cream they rise to the top. But I live in fear a time will come when the post-its left in my care will crush me, and all the faded memories from those who are lost will become a burden beyond bearing. I rail against untrustworthy time, stealing away my memories. So I write them down and file them away. I post them, I copy them, I rewrite them, and I edit them for clarity, but still, they are slip-sliding away.  There really are not enough hours in the day to keep up with it all. And let’s face it, I would much rather be out and about leaving a trail of post-its, thank you very much. So I am off and away.

But before I forget, I have one more post-it to share about Trixie. She was always very confused about how to pee. She dithered between lifting her leg and squatting. She would lift her leg for a tree or a fence post, and squat on the lawn, but a tuft of grass confused her. It was about 50/50 which technique she would use at any given time.  We couldn’t quite decide if she was a closet bi or merely clueless. Either way it didn’t matter to her, nor did it lessen the bliss she felt while walking. And now, looking back at all those miles and miles we walked, I guess I am not surprised to find my memories of her remain the most endearing. She might not have been the brightest bulb in the box, but she was who she was, and she was happy with that. Would that we could all be a little bit more like Trixie.

5 Replies to “TRIXIE”

  1. Excellent writing… very insightful and thought provoking. Remember Ginger? Our dog in Wheaton? For many years she accompanied me on my early morning paper route. Though we traveled the same path every morning, each journey was new and exciting, just like Trixie’s travels. My favorite apropos quote is, “I wish I was the person my dog thinks I am!”

  2. Still loving this essay. And of course it’s gift is also bringing back so many memories of Max and Wookie and China before them. Dogs remind us how precious our days are.

  3. Beautiful and true. I read aloud to Hunt and we were right there with you. Losing a good friend to an upcoming move we too feel things slip sliding away.

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