Saber Toe

"A good man is hard to find," my mother declared on our annual October trip to close the family cottage in Maine for the winter.  "And it's even harder to find one who will let you stick your cold feet under his legs at night," she continued with authority.

Before realizing that I could be opening myself up to a case of TMI, I asked if my father let her warm her feet under his legs.

"Oh no," she stated. "He always complained that my toenails were too sharp.  He called me Saber Toe".

My sister, Liz and I giggled at the nickname and vowed to call our mother "Saber Toe" as much as possible that weekend.  The moniker, however, ended up being awarded to my sister's dog, Bronte, before the long weekend was over.

Bronte was a sweet small to medium sized dog that looked to be part shepherd and part origins unknown.  Despite several walks during the day, jaunts on the rocky sea side and car rides with her head stuck out the passenger window, Bronte was a night owl.  I'm not sure when she slept...if ever!

Everyone went to bed at the same time in our dormitory-style second floor sleeping area.  Bronte had a dog bed and blanket on the floor next to Liz's bed.  Bronte would patiently wait until everyone was sound asleep and then her nightly activities would commence.  She would carefully check on each sleeper like a night nurse in the hospital, scanning for vital signs by nudging an exposed hand with her cold damp nose.  Liz sleeps deeply as was demonstrated when she was seven years old and her bedroom ceiling crashed on her.  Bronte's nudges to check for alertness went unnoticed by my sister.  Bronte's toenails clicked loudly on the wood floors as she approached each bed.  Unsatisfied with the less than enthusiastic responses, she clicked and tapped and scraped and scratched down the pine stairs to the wooden floors below.  Her nocturnal journey through the living room, dining room and kitchen was mapped by the sharp staccato clicks of her saber toes.

Each night Bronte's saber toes tapped out secret Morse code messages that were intercepted by everyone except her owner.  I recalled that when Liz lived in Atlanta, she slept soundly locked away in her bedroom while her two cats tried to kill each other all night long in the living room, rudely trampling the unlucky guest (me) on the couch.

Luckily, Liz and Saber Toe departed Maine early and I looked forward to a good night's sleep at my Aunt and Uncle's house outside of Boston.  It would be an easy drive to the airport in the morning and I hoped to avoid traffic with an early start.  Alas, the Saber Toe curse had followed me from Maine in the form of my relatives!  Despite their age, my mother, aunt and uncle treated the visit like a preteen slumber party chattering into the wee hours of the morning while creaking and tapping and clicking and shuffling on the wooden floors outside my bedroom door...