I grew up with the evil eye lurking. In my mother's experience, doom was at the end of every rainbow. And the worst thing you could do was call attention to your blessings, a surefire way to attract the evil eye. A compliment required not a thank you, but a "kinnehora, tut tut tut" — the verbal equivalent of spitting three times after you tell the evil eye to look elsewhere. The very idea of buying baby furniture before my eldest daughter was actually born unleashed as many kinnehoras as I ever had heard in my life. You can't do that, my mother said. You're inviting the evil eye. Imagine how you'll feel if something goes wrong and you don't bring a baby home. I tried to explain to my mother that if something went wrong, I would be devastated about the baby, not the furniture, that living life with an eye out for lurking disaster takes most of the joy from the moment, and besides, the baby would need a place to sleep. She was unconvinced; kinnehora was bred in her bones.
And mine, too, I'm afraid.
Two days ago, I wrote about my night life with my youngest dog, Irving, who sleeps with me every night, soundly, effortlessly. I wrote about his ability simply to close his eyes and be asleep, free from the all the emotions, the worries and regrets that stand between me and the sleep I so need. Such a blessing. If only I could learn.
How could I be so stupid?
Two hours later, he came home in my baby sitter's arms, having collapsed at the dog park, where he plays every day.
It was my fault. I knew that instantly. I never should have written that column. It may not have made it to print yet, but clearly the evil eye had seen it. Kinnehora, I muttered, tut tut tut. How dumb could I be?
It wasn't a particularly hot day. He had been running, true, but Irving loves to eat and hates to diet. (He is, after all, my son — and a pug.) The vet had recommended exercise. Usually, he watches his two sisters chase the ball at the park, but on Tuesday, with his 11-year-old cousin Hershey the cocker spaniel joining the chase, Irving raced off. And ran until he couldn't breathe.
Another dog mother at the park blew air into his mouth and checked to make sure there was nothing blocking his airways. Then she told Rosie, my dog-loving baby sitter, to take him right home or to the vet. When she walked in the door with the limp puppy in her arms and tears in her eyes, the column still was sitting open on my computer screen. My son read it, crying, as he waited for a call from the vet.
Over the course of the next eight hours, Irving threw up over and over — in my car, on my son's bed, in his lap and finally at the animal hospital. He had two bloody stools, which I carefully checked. He also had blood work, a chest X-ray and an abdominal scan. Loving an animal, as we do, is expensive and scary. The money is the least of it, although animal care doesn't come cheap. The fear is the worst. I named Irving for my father, who died at 54. I have hated hospitals ever since. Sitting at the dog hospital, waiting for the doctors to advise me about the health of the newest Irving Estrich, brought me back to a place I try to forget.
I never had a pet when I was a kid. Why tempt the evil eye? My mother's theory was that we would fall in love with a pet, and then the pet would die, and we would be heartbroken. Better to avoid the heartbreak. Better not to have loved and lost.
I have tried to learn from my mother's sadness, to remember that worry doesn't prevent bad things from happening; it only gets in the way of enjoying what you have. But old habits die hard.
At midnight, my daughter and I picked up Irv at the animal hospital. He was still groggy from the ordeal and from the shots and the tests. My daughter carried him in and carefully laid him down in my bed. I put my arm around him, and he closed his eyes and went to sleep. I watched him sleep, full of gratitude for the gift of joy that he brings to our lives. Kinnehora. Tut tut tut.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.