It’s as gray as gray can be outside. The sky hangs heavy in gray. The temperature is hovering around a somewhat breezy, freezing gray. The trees are a bare and skeletal gray. All this grayness has left King Ranch, Little Foot, and I all a bit gloomy-gray ourselves.
We bundle up Little Foot into his navy blue, bear sweater and dinosaur mittens while slipping on our own jackets so we can go wander around outside in the gray outdoors. I grab a couple of apples to share with the donkeys.
Little Foot wanders straight out to the pecans that cover the ground beneath the pecan tree. He likes to pick them up and throw them down one-by-one. King Ranch follows closely behind him, sticks and shells cracking beneath his boots.
Bunny and Tee saunter up to me nosing for the apples I have in my jacket pockets. I hold them out and they each take two to three bites before both apples are gone in loud crunching. They continue to nose at my pockets looking for more.
Little Foot is suddenly tugging at the back of my jeans and I turn around to see him holding a small stick up towards me.
“Is that for me?” I ask, holding my hand down.
He grins a toothy grin, pushing the stick a little higher.
“Oh thank you,” I say.
I take the stick and he purses his lips. Holding his hand back up, I give the stick back to him. He quickly grabs it, studies it for a moment, and then holds it back up to me.
“Thank you,” I say, taking the stick from him again.
He makes a sound that’s somewhere between a grunt and a laugh while tucking his lips into his mouth. He reaches up. I give him the stick.
This goes on a few more times. Each time, he smiles a little wider. Each time, I say “thank you.” I think he’s learning to share.
His normally blue eyes are slate gray in reflection of the sky. Everytime he looks up at me to either retrieve or relieve the stick, a silver gray flashes at me in pure, playful curiosity. Those eyes are seeing so much these days – not just lights, shapes, and colors anymore. They’re starting to comprehend so much. Words. Feelings.
How amazing this is to witness – the maturing of a creature. The other day, King Ranch asked Little Foot to “grab that ball.” In a stack of several other toys, Little Foot grabbed the only ball. It’s astonishing how quickly toddlers turn into their own people.
Little Foot takes the stick one last time before hustling over to King Ranch who is still beneath the pecan tree. Moving as quickly as his boots will carry him, Little Foot holds the stick out to the right while saying “Dadada.” As he approaches him, King Ranch scoops up Little Foot and embraces him.
“That’s right,” King Ranch chuckles, “I’m dada.”
Little Foot giggles.
I watch them from several yards away – Little Foot in King Ranch’s arms – as they walk together around the pecan tree chattering about something that I can’t quite hear. King Ranch and Little Foot’s ears stick out from the sides of their heads in exactly the same way.
Bunny pushes her snout against my arm and I turn around to both of the donkeys still standing with me. I squat down between them. Bunny lays her heavy head on top of mine and Tee lays his in my lap. They’re being extra snuggly today. Maybe it’s because of the apples. But maybe, like Little Foot, they’re comprehending much more than I could imagine. Maybe they’re picking up on the ongoing stress we’re experiencing. Either way, I appreciate this.
I appreciate it all so much: King Ranch bonding with Little Foot. Little Foot sharing the stick with me. The donkeys being so affectionate.
This place is not lacking love. Not in the slightest.
I have a hand on each of the donkey’s jaws when I notice King Ranch standing in front of us. He’s smiling at me. I smile back and stand up. Little Foot is once again sorting through pecans. King Ranch puts his arm around my shoulders and I lean into him.
I’ve had happiness on my mind for days – what it means to me, when it’s appropriate, and how it changes our perception of circumstances or even life itself. Although I’m still mulling over my ideas, what I DO know is that when I’m with my family, I am happy. The grace and pure, genuine nature of all of them – King Ranch, Little Foot, and the donkeys – grounds me. Humbles me. Makes me happy.
I am so very grateful for my family…so very happy and blessed to call them my family. All of them: human, fur, and feather.
It is so gray today. Strikingly and hauntingly gray. Beautifully and peacefully gray. Lovingly gray.