Ghosts of frolickers past

The other day our elderly dog was zipping up and down the hallway. This wouldn’t be noteworthy except for the fact that she’s pretty spry at 16 years old and her glee was exacerbated by her usual lack of entry into that end of the house. If left alone, she’ll piddle on the carpet, which I understand can feel like grass under foot, especially for a senior dog who is losing her marbles. However, it’s not acceptable, so she’s not let free onto the carpet side of the house often.

We have a cat who isn’t allowed the run of the house either. He and our older cat don’t get along well, so during the day she has command of the business end of the house and he stays in the family room side. When he does get his freedom, he also flies up and down the length of the hall with abandon.

As I watched the dog the other day, it made me laugh out loud. That hallway has been the source of inspiration for many an animal, human or beast. We live in a small rambler in which the layout is conducive to frolicking. The hallway leads to my bedroom, which winds into my bathroom, into the laundry hall, blends into the kitchen, then back out to the living room and hall. My oldest daughter used to love us to chase her with one of those rolling, popping toys so she could run the “off road track” we call our home. She’d scream the whole while with the thrill of it, begging us to do it over and over.

My husband, her grandpa and I were the usual chasers, with my sister on the occasions she was visiting from Oregon. None of us adults lasted very long because the toy was short enough for a child, thus killing whoever’s back was talked into the task. During family gatherings, we’d tag team each other until we wore my daughter out. Then she’d pass out for a nap until whatever meal the occasion called for was ready to eat.

One particularly rough Thanksgiving, she tripped and fell, hitting her head against the door jamb. Then she climbed on the hearth and toppled over, catching her cheek on the edge. It was a stressful holiday for all of us. After her nap, she sat in her high chair, subdued and cranky, bruised forehead and lip. Then with a symbolic gesture to sum up her day, she plopped a bowl of lime Jell-O over her head. I have photo evidence.

When my youngest came on the scene, my husband and I conveniently “lost” the popping toy. I felt justified, figuring I replaced it with a baby sister who could eventually chase my oldest down the hall. Though I was correct about the continued use of the hallway, the activity wasn’t what we expected. When my youngest was just over a year old, she received a small, plastic, red wagon full of Duplo building blocks for Christmas. Immediately, my oldest dumped the blocks out and persuaded my youngest to crawl in as she pulled the wagon. The hallway screaming became that of my youngest as my oldest careened out of control when she 360ed the wagon at the end of the hallway.

So the gleeful pitter pattering of our dog’s little feet zooming up and down the hallway brought back joyful memories of my daughters in their toddler years. My husband, who was asleep at the time, probably dreamt of his little girl running in search of her popping toy or his babies racing down the hall in a plastic, red wagon.

Either way, our hall echoes with ghosts of frolickers past.

Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. You can read more of her writing and her blog on her website