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Tag Archives: Taco

the recorder sessions…

TacoOurs was not a music-making family. My mother truly could not carry a tune and the only times I ever heard my father sing were when his voice was lost among hundreds of others. They went to concerts and we listened to music on the radio all the time — classical, jazz — but there were no instruments in the house. The only record player was in my room and it played 45s.

So it was somewhat surprising when, in my senior year of high school, my parents decided to take up the recorder. They did some research, selected an alto and a soprano, bought a music stand and enrolled in a class. And they practiced. Who knew they could even read music? But sitting side by side at one end of the dining room with a score in front of them, they blew and blew.

The dog, Taco, sat at their feet earnestly tilting her head from one side to the other until she couldn’t bear it any more and came down the hall to my room, nosing her little body through the nearly-closed door and standing there until it was firmly shut behind her. She was more tolerant than I. It was a terrible noise, screechy and sour, and nothing like the angelic melodies suggested by the song names on the sheet music.

But they stuck to their practicing with determination and, to their credit, they did get somewhat better. They were still at it when I went off to college, leaving poor Taco to fend for herself. But by my third or fourth visit home, the dining room chairs were back in their usual places and the music stand was gone. I didn’t question the decision or ever know why they quit, but years later, when Dorothy moved out of the house, the two recorders, in their dark brown flannel bags, were among the treasures she left behind, unremarked and perhaps, even, by then, unremembered.


Taco at 15Taco came to live with us when I was 16. She was a pug. Ostensibly, she was my pug, but the stirrings of my departure for college were already in the air and she slipped easily into the role of my parents’ late-life love child.

This was before pugs had reached epic popularity and many of our friends had never seen one. We had traveled to a distant valley of the Los Angeles basin to collect her, bringing her home on my birthday with a list of new-pug instructions about food and toenails and ointment for the folds of her little black face.

Like me, Taco had to observe my mother’s rules. But unlike me, she never seemed to mind and she certainly never complained.

She was a sweet-natured dog, affectionate and undemanding, always ready for a cuddle or a tussle or a full-speed dash around “the island” at the center of our house — kitchen, hall, hall, dining room, kitchen — her tail tucked, her back humped up, her feet skittering as she tried to gain purchase on the linoleum.

After I left home, at 17, my mother fed her and walked her and sketched her, perhaps thousands of times, and Taco patiently endured Dorothy’s arty crocheted dog sweaters. But it was my father who would get down on the floor and roll around with her. It was his lap she sought, the two of them snoring through their evening nap. He was the one who brushed her and played with her and gave her unqualified love through the remaining 15 years of her pugness.

And yet, each time I came home — alone, with a pal, even with another dog — Taco was ready to be mine again, for a day or a weekend or a week. She was a wonderful friend: generous in her forgiveness, acceptance, affection and love.

Decades have passed since I touched that velvety head but she still finds her way into my dreams.