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Little Dogs Humping: Buckets of Love
By Paige Bernhardt

So last Christmas morning I woke up really, really early. Like 5:00 a.m. I was really hot. I had kicked off all the covers and then I couldn't go back to sleep at all which is crazy; I' m a great sleeper. So then I... But wait I should go back... So when I woke up at 5:00 on Christmas morning I had this sensitive part of my tongue, you know, like when you've burnt it on hot soup. But I don' t remember anything like that on Christmas Eve so then I... You' re totally not going to get this -- and you should -- if I don't go back, so... I was born in the Florida panhandle.

My parents lived together as a young married couple for a little over two weeks. Those kids really gave it a shot didn't they? After the forty-five minute struggle to really talk it out and make it work, Mom' s mom, Frances, came to get us and we all drove back up to North Georgia. I didn't drive; I was just a baby. "Mom" tried to live up to her new name for a while, but when I smelled bad from scooting around in my own poopie diaper more than once she, and anyone else downwind, decided the Army might be a better idea for Mom. So she left. For Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. I didn't know where the hell she' d gone so, I' m told, I screamed a lot. But at least I smelled nice. About then, Frances decided it would be fun to tell me that Mom was actually my sister and ain't that a hoot. (Another story)

And what did I care? Things were pretty sweet for me. I mean, I was getting absolutely everything I wanted from Frances, her two sisters and their husbands. It was like a royal court. Me, little Queen Elizabeth of Georgia demanding candy on Wednesdays and a big prize on Fridays. Jus cuz.

Let me tell you something though, I was loved. Really loved. There was so much love around we had to keep it in buckets out on the porch. That was the same porch I used to roller skate on. Yes, I wanted roller skates. And I got everything I wanted because my Mom... my sister (ha-HA), was gone, in the Army.

I wanted roller skates because all the kids on TV had roller skates. But the kids on TV also had sidewalks and there wasn't a sidewalk for thirty miles in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Tons of gravel, plenty of red dirt and cow patties. So I sped on those roller skates back and forth and back and forth on that screened in porch like some little hillbilly Papillion. And I had to swerve to not hit the buckets of love. (It took me years to realize how great that love was and exactly how much more of it I had than a lot of kids with normal families. I think that' s what saved me from getting knocked up in high school and becoming a hairdresser in Marietta.)

I only met Larry once when I was six. That' s bio-dad. It was on a summer vacation trip down to Panama City. And I made the royal court stop off in the town where I was born so we could visit him at his work. He sold big construction equipment. Whenever I pass one of those giant yellow Caterpillar backhoes I wave "Hi, Dad."

I have two pictures of my father, Larry. In one, he' s standing beside the open bed of a pickup truck on which lies a giant, dead buck. Ten-pointer from the looks of it. In the picture he looks like he' s trying to hide his proud excitement with an expression that' s saying, "Hey, no biggie, I gun down woodland creatures aaaawll the time." The composition of the photograph is actually pretty nice, considering it' s just a snapshot and Larry probably turned around and took the same picture of the other swamp rat he was hunting with before they hopped in the Chevy and drove off to drink and gut Bambi' s uncle. Larry' s camouflage hat is sitting way up high on top of his head. You know, like it does. And he actually looks good in safety orange. I smiled when I saw the picture. I thought, "Hey, the guy next to that big, dead deer… that' s a good looking man."

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