I must admit: I had always thought of self-professed “cat people” as snooty. I felt that they looked down upon dog lovers. Having grown up with dogs–and being for the underdog–I became a staunch dog supporter.
Then along came Katniss. We adopted her almost a year ago, and my life was forever changed. She was barely three months old and only two pounds. While I was distracted in the humane society by the many lovely little tabby cats competing for my attention, my husband found Katniss alone, resting after her surgery the day before. When I saw him cuddling her, I knew he was lost in cat love. I attempted to distract him from such a young and small animal, but he was determined.
Over the next few weeks, I spent much of my spare time comforting this scrawny little kitten and encouraging her to eat. She gradually grew and put on weight, becoming a sassy little princess. Although she has never grown as big as other cats, she makes up for it in her personality. Somehow she has wrapped all of us–including our dog, Anakin–around her perfect paw. With a swish of her tail, she can easily convince any of us to allow her to get her way.
As Katniss grew, I found myself looking at cat pictures on the internet, “oohing” and “aahing” over the cuteness. I began wearing a cat bandanna and considered cat jewelry as perfectly fashionable. It was then that I realized that I was a middle-aged crazy cat lady. I was in love. Cat love. And there was no going back.
I’ve finally accepted it and embrace the title. I have decided that clothes with a dusting of cat hair are perfectly fine, and the sweetest sound is my little princess meowing for me. Am I snooty, like I figured all cat people were? I hope not. Despite my new status, I’m still for the underdog and my little prince, Anakin.
Growing up in small towns, I yearned for a way out. Cities like Chicago and New York seemed exotic, far away destinations where the streets were lined with tall buildings and people rushed constantly about. If you had asked me then what my life song might be, I probably would have answered you with titles such as Peter Gabriel’s Big Time or Glenn Frey’s You Belong to the City. I dreamed of anywhere but our little hometown.
As I look back, though, I realize just what we had in those rural towns and how much I miss certain aspects of that life. One of those aspects is politeness. I suppose I didn’t really notice it back then because it just “was.” I really didn’t know anything else and so had no comparison.
Some of the behaviors common to us back then are apparently almost extinct nowadays. For example, when I was growing up, men took off their hats before they entered a building, and everyone–men or women–took off their hats during the singing of The Star Spangled Banner or the recitation of “The Pledge of Allegiance.” In an area where wearing cowboy hats or ball caps was fairly common, I would see men politely remove their hats almost daily.
On a similar note, I remember riding in the back of a hearse after a family member’s death. As we traveled along the small, rural road, I looked out the window in an attempt to control my emotions. That was when I saw him. He was an elderly man who had stopped his car by the side of the road out of respect for the funeral procession. He stood by his car with his hat held over his heart. That one man’s small act meant more to me than anything else because it was true and heartfelt.
I must admit that it was a shock to move to my current city. Those niceties that I had taken for granted were gone, and I wonder if the loss of it has affected me as well. I have sometimes found myself forgetting my manners, something that would make my mother and grandmother shudder if they were still around.
I know we probably can’t go back to the politeness that I remember. I think that perhaps we’ve lost more than we can imagine, however.
When I was fairly young–a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away–we would often drive through the rural areas of Oklahoma in our trips to various destinations. These rides were fairly boring, with little to alleviate this feeling except books, games of “I Spy,” and occasionally AM radio when there was reception.
Sometimes, though, I would see a relic from the relatively recent past. Burma Shave signs still stood along the sides of rural roads at that time although the company had quit placing new advertisements back in the 1960’s. I don’t ever remember seeing Burma Shave in the stores, but I grew to love their quirky signs.
These serial advertisements that grew out of the desire to lessen drivers’ boredom–along with spread the word about the product–certainly livened up the trips during my own childhood. I eagerly looked for these small signs and would yell out the jingle to my parents. The final sign, the one with the product placement for Burma Shave, was screamed out as if it were some sort of punchline for the witty sayings.
Although I have traveled the back roads in the Midwest for years since then, I haven’t seen Burma Shave signs in years. Even with our endless electronic entertainment, our current rides through the countryside seem a little vacant of creativity and fun. Perhaps we’re missing something with our constant supply of movies and email.
I can see now that those Burma Shave signs found along rural roads were exciting discoveries and so more appreciated. Too, each group was different and provided a different message and some fun. Those periods of quiet in between the discoveries made those small bits of entertainment sweet.
How much do we think about the endless stream of Facebook or Twitter? Is there time to think and appreciate what we see? Or does it all feed a need for more?
I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know I miss those signs. Burma Shave signs will most likely not be remembered for long, but they are a cherished memory for those of us who loved them.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. –James 1:2
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
It is sometimes a struggle for many of us to even step out of bed in the morning. Whether it is a period of unemployment that never ends, a new diagnosis of a terminal illness, or a chronic mental illness, life often brings us to the point of giving in to defeat. I’m not so sure about the saying that “God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle.” I’ve seen plenty of people bear more than they should have to handle, ultimately succumbing to addiction or suicide.
If you were to ask me today how I’m doing, I would probably say, “I’ve had better months.” The upcoming loss of my teaching position has me at a loose end. I seem to be scrambling at writing anything possible online in order to gain some attention for my efforts and hopefully some employment. As I watch for comments and increasing scores–and not seeing either–it seems a futile effort, one that will ultimately bring me nothing.
But I’ve had worse months as well. And on those days when everything seems hopeless, I try to remember that I’ve come through worse times, ones that were filled with illness for myself and family members, along with the deaths of several family members. I’ve survived. And that’s what I’m trying to hang onto right now when the outlook for our future seems so uncertain.