Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Survival Blog, Day ?

Today's blog entry is titled "The Worst Day of My Life."

At least that's what the Chunk will tell people twenty years from now while he recounts this story over a foamy beer, striving to hold back the tears while the recounts the tale of losing his first love.

His first love of course, being Puppy.

Puppy came into our lives shortly after the Chunk did. My sister Sarah had started an adorable tradition when Banana was born, and has gifted each of my children a stuffed dog as a "welcome to the world" present upon their official entry to this big bad world. These fake furry friends have been with us to absorb tears, to help heal boo boos, and to get dressed up in all manner of new fashions, from doll bonnets to kleenex dresses. And so it was with joy that the aptly named "Puppy" (Banana's) and "Puppy" (Kbear's) gleefully enjoyed the introduction of the third member of their fiber filled family, "Puppy" (Chunk's).

Of my three children, Chunk has been the most attached to his puppy by far. Being dragged along by an ear at Chunk's side (or sometimes by a paw) he has accompanied us through weaning, walking, hospitalization, and surgery. He gets tucked in side-by-side with his master every night, and gets hauled to the grocery store by day.

We have never once lost a Puppy.

Until today.

Today we drove into Portland for the arrival of the first of many summer visitors. The well-loved Miss Toni is gracing us with her presence for a few nights before attending a wedding several hours South of the Gorge. Miss Toni was our steadfast babysitter way back in the day, faithfully caring for my girls at all hours during our time in Sycamore, Illinois. She helped take care of my girls beginning when Kbear was a tiny baby. She was there to help when my Dad died...when we miscarried...when I had surgery...and when I simply needed an hour to myself at the grocery store. And in the meantime, we enjoyed watching her work her way through college at NIU. When we said good-bye to Miss Toni, many tears were shed. We have missed her tremendously and I have yet to find a sitter that can take her place.

And so naturally we wanted to show her a good time on her short visit to our sunny piece of Oregon. Once she was safely on the ground and buckled into the minivan with many hugs and squeals of excitement, we travelled towards an Oregon showpiece - The Historic Columbia Highway and it's star attraction, Multnomah Falls.

Toni was appropriately awed by the beauty of one of our favorite spots. And while we made our way to the big mama, we hiked, took pictures, and absorbed the scenery. It was a cool and sunny day. My children were happy to have an old friend back, and I was enjoying a good cardio work out while pushing Chunk's umbrella stroller up and down the paved paths. Finally, slowly but surely, Multnomah Falls came into view around bend.

If you've never seen them, rest assured that the falls are absolutely spectacular. The upper falls are approximately 540 feet high and spill into the lower falls, which measure in at an impressive 69 feet. (You can see more details about the falls themselves here: And in between the two tiers is Benson Bridge, a showstopper if you've ever seen one. It's an easy .2 mile paved hike to the bridge, and the view can't be missed. So naturally, we made the trek.

And that is when disaster struck.

There we were, jostling for space on the crowded concrete bridge...the girls are pointing and laughing and waving to the people 550 feet below. Toni is trying to capture the beauty of the falls with her camera. And I'm standing with both hands on Chunk's stroller, white knuckled in my determination to make sure that my only son doesn't somehow go tumbling down the ravine and into sure disaster. I like the bridge, but it makes me nervous to have my kids on it. I even set the stroller's brakes, pressing my foot down firmly to ensure that my smallest munchkin isn't going anywhere unheeded. And before I go any further, needless to say that despite the disaster that we encountered, of course I am first and foremost thankful that no one has ever gotten hurt during any of our many trips to the Falls.

The Chunk of course, was fine.

But Puppy...Puppy somehow took an impromptu flying lesson.

That damn stuffed dog sailed perfectly through the slats in the bridge - and landed ten feet below in a sudden-death-like-drop of grass alongside one of the tallest waterfalls in the country.

My heart just about stopped when my sweet baby boy started to wail. It all happened in a blink, and yet I couldn't believe I had actually seen it. I mean, those things happen to other people, they don't happen to US. Surely that couldn't be MY baby boy's beloved Puppy friend snagged in the ferns below....but it was. I swiftly brought Toni up to date on our tragedy. She quickly herded the girls towards the trail and we headed back down in search of someone who might be able to help. And that's when it got rough.

"PUPPY!" Chunk cried in dismay, "PUUUUUU-PPPPYYYYYY"

Right then and there, my heart broke. The farther we walked from the bridge, the louder and more forlorn my sweet baby boy got. I bit my lip to keep from bursting into tears, swallowed my pride, and walked my tear streaked child's stroller to the information desk to see if anyone could help.

And Lord knows that they tried. The ranger was surprisingly unperturbed by the situation. Apparently it's not all that uncommon for them to try to retrieve camera cases, expensive sunglasses, and who knows what from the falls. They even have these neat grabber tools to help facilitate the job. However, they are rarely successful. Multnomah is a massive force of nature, and she doesn't eagerly give back her treasures.

For one brief second, while he held everyone captivated, Ranger Sam managed to snag puppy by one paw...only to lose him again - this time further down the steep ravine.

And so, defeated and dejected, I left my information at the front desk. Our ranger is going to try again tomorrow if Puppy happens to still be there but I have to admit, I'm far from hopeful. I think that Chunk's first furry friend is lost for good.

In our one stroke of luck for the day, Toni just happened to bring Chunk a stuffed Huskie dog in honor of our time at NIU. It's not the same. It's nowhere close and we all know it. But for now, it seems to suffice. Chunk is sleeping securely in his bed with his arm wrapped around this new friend.

And Lord knows, we won't be taking "Doggie" to visit the falls any time soon.

Pictures and updated blog entries coming soon - we've been on the run for two weeks straight and I haven't had time to write like I normally would. But call it a mother's guilt - I had to get this one off my chest tonight.