"When you fall on your head, do you land on your feet?
Are you tense when you sense there's a storm in the air?
Can you find your way blind when you're lost in the street?
Do you know how to go to the heaviside layer?
Because jellicles can and jellicles do..."
- Jellicle Songs For Jellicle Cats (from the musical "Cats")
I’ve been reliably prompted to remember that this is National Cat Day. Really? Isn’t everyday National Cat Day?
Obviously, my social media content manager lives with dogs, who are always good and charming, which is why Nana doesn’t mind being dragged up a tree by one of her adorable grandsons, Connor (the size of a small moose) in pursuit of (dare not speak its name aloud) a “squirrel” or growled at by the other grandson, a little rat terrier named Finn the Fierce who's holding a grudge because Nana is no longer allowed to bring any food treats when she visits. No treats? Then, no tricks.
Clearly, a cat is not a dog.
I’m a cat woman, which is not to be confused with an old cat lady. Not yet, anyway. Always have been feline fancier or at least since I was 16 and found a tiny newborn kitten who had been abandoned on the street in the New England town where we lived. I wrapped her in my scarf and carried her home and successfully begged my Mother to let me keep her. Mom said I could, as long as I took care of her and I did, creating a bassinet out of a basket by my bed and nursing her with a special formula from the Vet with a doll’s bottle every hour for weeks. I named her Bébè and cats have continued to be my babies, with the exception of my own darling girl, who convinced her Mother into expanding our family at least twice. Her last kitten, Mikey, ended up living with me years after she’d grown up and eventually traveled to England where we lived together in Eden. I would write in Newton’s Chapel, he would wander and yes, nap under the boughs of an apple tree.
Until the day arrived when we couldn’t and all I cherished was suddenly lost and became forsaken. So two weary travelers unexpectedly landed on my beloved sister’s doorstep in California. That was 7 years ago. A complete karmic cycle. Last year when my first children’s book The Best Part of the Day was published, my creative collaborator, the artist Wendy Edelson (www.wendyedelson.com) so beautifully illustrated our English idyll, transforming sad memories into wistful remembrance. A conjuring trick for sure. Bless you, Wendy.
When I write about cats, I am writing about love and when I write about love, I must write about my sister Maureen O’Crean. For as long as I’ve known the incredible woman she grew up to be, the plight of homeless women has been her personal and passionate cause, beginning early, probably with all the homeless bride dolls or headless Barbies tucked in safely after their travails (at the hands of the evil, only older sister.)
Sadly, at no time has her work been more needed than now. Women find themselves and those they love in unspeakable terror unexpectedly and through no fault of their own. Physical, emotional abuse and peril are only a paycheck at bay. May you never know this nightmare personally. But many women have, including me. Being a best-selling self-help author didn’t insulate me from needing to find the courage to begin my life over again, but the love of my sister, daughter, friends and cats did.
For over a year, Mikey and I slept in her bed and shared her bathroom; I wrote Peace & Plenty in a corner of her living room; he dozed safe and warm on her sun porch; we feasted at her delicious table and the three of us snuggled safely on her couch watching good triumph over evil in reruns of crime dramas that I missed while living in England.
But there’s even more love in this grateful celebrating of all creatures great and small and the heartstrings that bind us to each other. Every Wednesday and Saturday for that year, Mo drove us to the Hermosa Beach Animal Hospital and the care of Dr. Steve Liebl and the compassion of everyone who works there, until the last sorrowful journey. Mikey’s little soul managed to stay with me until the morning I finished Peace & Plenty. Mikey was 18 when he passed and ascended “Up, up, up past the Russell Hotel, up, up, up to the Heaviside Layer” (Cats).
Of course, I swore I would never get another cat. If I wanted another animal, someday I would have a golden Labrador, when I had the little farm … but a dog is not a cat. Then a few months later, we blissfully went out on errands and bumped into a kitten rescue adoption table, loitering with clear intent, waiting for me. It was a Heavenly setup. I’d been living alone in the apartment next door to my sister and it felt as empty as my heart and life. There was such gleeful gratefulness as kittens and their new owners found each other. All of the kittens were quickly adopted except three from the same feral litter. Suddenly I said I would take two to keep each other company. Hmmm, that would leave the runt and they’ve never known any love except with each other. So sad, to break up the little siblings….Perhaps you could help us find a good home for the baby….?
I promised to find them all a good home. I did.
So this is a heartfelt thank you to Maureen, Kate (who begged me to let her have a “kitten of her own” named Mikey), the Hermosa Beach Animal Hospital (www.hah-vet.com) and to all those who care for the animals we love; to all those who rescue abandoned, mistreated and discarded animals; and especially to the shelters who keep the animals alive so they can someday fill empty hearts and lonely lives.
This is a great day to listen to the incredible, happy musical Cats with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics from the poet T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats originally published in 1939. Cats the musical is now celebrating its 35th anniversary and a fabulous memory prompt. It’s helped me remember a time when I knew what happiness was.
May the memory live again.
Blessings on your fur ball cuddles.
PS. So my official baby is named Lucy. Maud.Montgomery. She’s a Jellicle cat. And soon it will be time for the Jellicle Ball, come one, come all.
XO SBB and (Lucy, Maddie Grace and Charlie)