Sunday, August 30, 2015
I was one of those dreamy kids, the kind that don't really exist anymore, mostly because of the Internet and because moms would totally get crap for letting their children do, well…nothing. Each hour spent looking for four-leaf clovers I swear made room for something new in my head, like the imagination is this giant hole only you can dig for yourself, its adult size determined by how much space you can shovel into place by the time you are, say, 12…
I walked to the library every week and carried home my loot--goopy Nancy Drew, bad dream-making Alfred Hitchcock. I talked to the flowers in the backyard, scared to touch the bleeding hearts, lightly fingering the churchy Queen Anne's lace… I danced to my sister's terrible records (for hours!), drew ladies in ruffly, bustle-y dresses, raided the bathroom cabinet and mixed up concoctions in the sink, explaining to the television audience (the one behind the mirror, of course) exactly how to combine the ingredients.
I remember clearly one Saturday afternoon in late winter, when I took my red, white and blue basketball (cue up the Harlem Globetrotters theme song) and walked up the road and through the field to the basketball court at Most Holy Trinity to practice by myself. We had just formed our first girls' basketball team, and I was the center. I was 11 and there was nothing I couldn't do--keep up with the boys during sprints in gym class, hit triples during our lunchtime baseball games, get 100s on my tests, write, sing and perform my entry in the school song contest (to the tune of "Camptown Races," the only other song besides "Jingle Bells" I could play on the guitar)… So on that March day, I was full with potential, like the forsythia buds that my mom had brought into the house to force-bloom. As I looked up at the net I had this vague feeling that things were going to get complicated in the distant future, but in that moment, at least as far as I could see ahead of me, the world was kind and mine.
I'm pretty sure that's a basic rule to live by if you're a kitten like Ira, and I would do anything to keep his life--and that of his big brothers, Lorenzo and Derrick--that way, always. Dogs and cats have that pureness and sureness I get really fierce about protecting, because it seems like even kids have to let it go sooner and sooner… and somebody has to have it or we're all screwed.
At 13 weeks old, he reminds me that with every day dawns a whole new world, and there he is waiting for the sun. The first time he met Derrick and Lorenzo, he launched himself at them like a rocket, a kitty Odysseus finding his long-lost friends. (They reciprocated…a month later.) When he's hanging out on his cat tree or perched on the foot of the bed and sees me walk by, he gets so excited that the force of his wee-kitteh happiness knocks him off balance, and I am forever making sure he doesn't fall. He can't quite yet contain his meows either--I'll say his name softly, Ira, Ira, Ira, and he does this redonkulous bobble-head thingie, his whiskers start wiggling and only then does the meow come, like it's something he's still figuring out the choreography for… Can you imagine if you got that happy to be recognized, when they called your name at, say, jury duty, or when you're next in line in the post office?
When Derrick showed his little bro how to play Bathtub (Cat A jumps in bathtub and uses magical kitty powers to make sure Cat B, who may be otherwise engaged in another room, knows the game is about to commence; when Cat B approaches, Cat A leaps out of the bathtub; Cat B chases Cat A), they played this every morning for a week. Then one day Ira tried to initiate the game while there was water in the tub.
Well…nothing much happened. He tumbled into water that went up to his little chocolate-brown cat spats and zoomed right out, galloping through the house in celebration. The next day he was back in the tub, watching the faucet drip. I was too scared to try out for basketball in high school, and now I think I sing so badly I'm embarrassed to do karaoke (tho I practice it in the bathtub--I could probably do "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," if they even have that one.)
Ira knows, in his tiny cat head, that it's not about how it's done, it's simply that it's done. And if you carry on as though good things will happen (like your big brothers love you even though you steal food and treats out of their bowls and push them off the prime real estate), maybe good things will happen. That people love you more the worse you sing karaoke, that it's the best feeling ever when someone's happy to see you, and that the world is big and you are small but not.
Incidentally, the MHT girls basketball team played just one game. We won, but I wasn't in it because I'd broken my finger the day before.