ginny: on birthdays

I am 49 years old. For many people this is not a significant age, not with the big 5-0 coming up the next year, but for me it gives me pause. When my mother turned 49, she had no idea she only had ten more birthdays ahead of her. We never know, of course, how many days, much less birthdays, we have ahead of us, but now that I am within a decade of the age she was when she died I feel aware of the passing of time in a new way.

So what if I only have ten more birthdays?  How would I like to spend them?

FIFTY:

Obviously, a party will be involved.  My husband ran away to Florida on his fiftieth birthday – I went with him of course – but I want to stay put and have people celebrate the fact that I have continuously breathed in and out for half a century.  One of my sisters-in-law also turns fifty next year, so it would be nice if we could celebrate together with our family.  I would prepare all of the food myself, because that is something I like to do, and then have someone else come in and take care of it during the party.  Once everyone shows up I don’t like having to worry about making sure the food is replenished and the buffet is kept clean.  Besides, I will be sipping champagne from my mother’s crystal stemware by that time and won’t put it down.  Notice I didn’t say “won’t want to”; I said “I won’t”.  There will be music and dancing and people telling funny stories – not stories about me, but funny stories nonetheless.  And if I plan it right, few people will be able to make any age jokes because many people I hang out with and am related to are older than I am.

FIFTY-ONE:

On this birthday, I am going on a retreat.  All by myself.  If I only have nine years left I want to make sure I am as clear headed about them as I can be.  I see a weekend in the mountains, my own room with a balcony and a view, and nothing but time.  I would consider a meditation or spiritual retreat, but I don’t want to feel forced to participate.  There will be friendly people who will speak to me when I want them to, and who will simply nod and be on their merry way when I don’t.  The food will be healthy and fabulous, and the wine will be local.

FIFTY-TWO

Since I left Gary alone on my last birthday, I will spend this one with him.  When I was talking to him about this post he said I have to spend my fifty-second birthday with him because he was born in 1952.  That’s as good a reason as any I suppose.  I am going to do something daring on this birthday, so he has to come along for the ride.  I asked him if he would sky dive with me, and he said that was too boring.  Please note he has never sky dived.  Sky dived?  He has never been sky diving.  On this birthday we are going white water rafting in the Grand Canyon.  I have never seen the Grand Canyon and I would love to see it from the ground floor.

FIFTY-THREE

I’m going to go wherever my daughter is living and hang out with her.  Gary can come along if he wants to, which he probably will because he kinda likes her too.

FIFTY-FOUR

On this birthday I am going to go to Italy and eat my way through it.  Oh sure I’ll see some really old buildings and marvel at a city with canals instead of streets, but make no mistake about it, I am going to eat.  I am going to sit in a restaurant and let them serve me seven courses and I’ll stay there for hours and hours, eating and drinking and eating some more.  Then I will go back the next night and do the same thing, except this time they’ll know me and we will be family.

FIFTY-FIVE

This is the year that I go back to Hawaii.  Gary and I went there a couple of years ago, but I have always wanted to return.  I went surfing for the first time in my life at Waikiki Beach, and I have never forgotten the absolute joy of standing on that board.  I laughed the whole way in the first time I really “caught” a wave.  I have no balance, so for me to be on top of a surf board on top of the water and not fall off?  That’s as close to a miracle as I have ever been a part of – the birth of my daughter not included.  I want to stay in a small hotel on a secluded beach and do nothing but hang out with Gary.

FIFTY-SIX

Hoo-yah, this is the year that I retire! I will spend my birthday and the rest of the months of that year on the road traveling across the US.  There is so much I want to see and I don’t want to be in a hurry to do it.  I will visit family and friends in all parts of the country, and I will stay as long as I like or as long as they can stand us.  But whatever else happens, by the time I hit …

FIFTY-SEVEN

I will be in California hanging out with my sister.  That is the year that she will turn fifty-nine and I am not going to take any chances.

FIFTY-EIGHT

For my second to last birthday I want the various friends I have scattered about the country to meet each other.  I would hate for the first time that  Patt met Reid met Bridget met Briget met Laura met Pam … well, the last two know each other because they are sisters … met Julie to be at my funeral.   They are wildly diverse women and I love them all, so they will love each other.  At the very least they will have some good stories to share and we will laugh until we cry, or until I say that I am tired and it’s time to go to sleep.  I am famous for being the first one out.

FIFTY-NINE

I think I will just wake up and see what happens.

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julie: on birthdays

June 12, 1967 was a Monday.  And while I don’t think I know anyone who was born on June 12, 1967, or June 12th of any year for that matter, that date will be forever and inextricably be one that I think of when I think of birthdays.

June 12, 1967 is the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Loving v. Virginia.  Although some states kept their laws on the books, and the exact meaning of it is still a point of debate, this ruling once and for all told every person in this country that the idea that it was illegal for a White person to marry a non-White person was not ever again to be called “Constitutional.”  It isn’t something they teach in many classrooms, but they should.  It mattered.

Waiting for this decision added to the already chaotic world that was my mother’s kitchen.  As with everything, everyone had an opinion: what would it be and what would it mean;  if it went the right way, would it change anything and if it did, in what way; how would those on each side of the question respond  and how would the other respond to their response. There was always planning for something, and this was full of all kinds of possibilities to be planned for.

One of the many lessons I learned in that small space was that simply changing a law, because something became legal or illegal,  didn’t necessarily mean that anything would really be different the next day.

When the calls started coming that any plan had gone the way they hoped, a bus had arrived safely, a march had gone well, a speech had been wonderful, anything had gone well, there was a sigh of relief and the atmosphere went from tense anticipation and readiness for bad news to instant delight.  And then it was right back to more planning.  But really big wins, things like a Supreme Court decision or the President signing a Bill, those turned all that tension into a huge and wonderful celebration.  No decision of any kind ever ended anything, but a big enough victory would slow things down for a minute, there would be a period of regrouping for the losing side.  And though every other wrong was still waiting to be righted, there was just enough time to have a really big party.

Among the things that big things were going to do was “change the social fabric of this country.”  When I finally asked someone what that meant I was pleased when hear that the picture I had of the world in my mother’s sewing machine was not that far off.  A lot of the people in my mother’s kitchen seemed to enjoy teaching me about the rights and wrongs of the world and I listened to all of them.  But there was only one person I wanted to tell me about Loving v. Virginia because there was only one person who knew just how the social fabric of my world felt to me.

June is many things, but in grammar school, it is mostly the end of the school year.  For me, that year, one of most important things that finally was over was  birthday parties for my classmates.  The school I went to had  lots of extra social fabric, but just like any other grammar school, birthday parties were an important part.  If you were lucky enough to have been born in the spring, your guest list could be updated with all the changes that had taken  place during the school year.

I didn’t have many friends at school.  I got along with everyone, it wasn’t a case of “nobody liked me,” it was just that my friends lived upstairs or downstairs or across the yard or down the alley and none of them went to the same school. But I had some “birthday party and occasional other activities” friends, they invited me and I invited them.  By that age most parents let their kids choose who they wanted to come, but there were still a few whose mothers made them hand an invitation to everyone.  The other thing about those birthday lists at the end of the year is that they are a way to publicly announce who is and who is not still your friend and who you will and will not be hanging out with  over the summer and, unless something “tragic” happens over the summer, who you will and won’t be friends with on the first day next year.

“I don’t have an invitation for you, Julie.”

“Okay.”

“Don’t you want to know why?”

“No, not really.”

“And I’m not coming to your party either.”

“Okay.”

“Don’t you want to know why, Julie?”

The truth was that I really didn’t care.  I only invited her because my mother thought I should invite people from school.

“Because you’re dirty and nasty and your house is dirty and nasty.”

It took me by surprise and I didn’t say I wasn’t, and it wasn’t, and  I didn’t care what she thought anyway, fast enough.

“And your mother is dirty and nasty.  She’s a Nigger lover and so are you.”

I froze.  I could feel tears coming to my eyes and I put my head down.

“You live with a Nigger and you and your mother are nasty Nigger lovers.’

I couldn’t really tell anymore which of the three girls was talking.  They were all laughing.  We were in the middle of the playground and it was almost time to go in and I was a student of non-violent protest and I slammed my fist into face of the first one who said something about my mother.

I don’t know what they told their parents or anyone else.  I got in a lot of trouble at school and they didn’t.  I don’t know what their parents said to them.  My mother was really angry that I would let someone saying “something” about her get me into that kind of fight.  All I wanted was for the short time before summer vacation to hurry up and be over.

The only person I told exactly what had happened was my step father.  He said a lot of things that I have drawn on many, many times in my life.   And so it was that when  Loving v. Virginia  was announced, that’s who I needed to ask.

“Will it matter?”

“Yes.”

“Will things change?”

“Not much.”

That was one of the best things about my step father, he always told me the truth.  And he was right. Not much changed right then, but just enough.

My birthday is in October, right at the start of the school year.  Two of the three girls didn’t come back, they moved to the suburbs.  The other one and I were in different rooms and never said a word to each other the whole year.  I had a pretty  good birthday that year.

In one of those strange coincidences, I ran into an old friend of my mom’s this week while I was thinking about this post.  We talked about their trips to Selma and Washington and other places.  We talked about some of the people from my mother’s kitchen and where they are now.  And we talked about how things have and have not changed.

“It all really did matter, didn’t it?”

“Of course it did, Julie!”

“Do you think things will ever really change?”

“Someday.”

I hope that’s true.  I really hope that the day is coming when all people have the legal right to marry whomever they choose.  And even more, I hope the day is coming when not just the laws, but the hearts that make up the “social fabric of this country” change as well.  But no matter what, no matter what changes, I will always think of Loving v. Virginia when I think of birthdays.

ginny: on paper

Me: What do you think of when you think of paper?

My daughter:  That it beats rock.

She’s a funny one, that child.  I asked a few other people the same question and got various answers from “toilet paper and paper towels” to “the horrible smell of the paper mill in Franklin.”  When I asked my husband he replied “notebook paper from school”.  I was astounded.  We are so different and yet we both think of notebook paper!  We must be soul mates.  But then he continued “I bet thousands of engineers started out by making paper airplanes in school  And spit balls!  Spit balls were the best!”  Ahem.  He was thinking about spit balls.  Oh well.

I love paper.  I have a couple spiral bound notebooks as well as two or three legal pads in a box next to my desk.  I envision writing down great thoughts and expressing deep emotions, but somehow that doesn’t happen as often as I would like.  Okay, perhaps the great thoughts have never happened but I know I have plowed my way through a tree’s worth of paper working through emotions.  The truth is, unless I am worked up about something I have a difficult time putting words on paper.  I like the idea of the blank sheet awaiting my pen, but the actuality of it never comes close to the image I have of it.

Or maybe I just have too many images.  I get stuck in a sea of possibilities and flail about, finally turning away because I can’t settle down.

It is far easier for me to take something that has already been written and make it better.  A couple of years ago I worked on a local campaign as the editor for brochures and emails.  I loved it.  I loved taking something that didn’t quite make sense or didn’t flow just right and making it sing.  I loved taking out what didn’t work and putting in a better or more precise word.  I even loved going through the entire copy and making sure that everything matched – lists of things were either nouns or verbs, but never both.  Fixing what’s wrong: it’s what I do.

I look at life like that too.  I have been called The Queen of Self Help, and for good reason too.  I work on myself constantly.  I am always looking to see how I can change myself, or make myself a better version of who I already am.  I tinker.  I’m coming to a point in my life now, however, where I have to come up with something completely out of thin air.  I am on the verge of retiring from my career as an air traffic controller, but I don’t want to retire to “nothing”.  I want it to be the next step … or, rather, a next step.  Saying “the” is too daunting, as if, if I don’t get this right I won’t get another chance.  And I am stuck.

Would it be too trite to say that life is like a piece of blank paper?

I don’t know what to do next.  I can clearly see, however, that one thing I am doing is creating a situation so that I have to go back and do the same thing over again, and that is lose 20 pounds.  I am comfortable with the process of losing weight.  I’ve done it a couple times, and I’ve obsessed about my weight for most of my life.  I was actually at a weight that I was comfortable with, I could do the things that I wanted to do, and I felt healthy as I went about my day.  As I began to consider “What To Do Next” I slowly stopped doing the things that keep me at a healthy weight.  Don’t know what to do?  Go back and do the thing you know you can do!  So here I am, twenty pounds heavier than where I was six months ago, ready to tackle my “problem” again, with the added bonus of distracting myself from contemplating the future and having to make a decision.  So while I have a big pile of blank paper right there in the box next to my desk, I am going to fool around with the old papers on my desk and see how I can rearrange them instead.

I would have a hard time believing that I am the only one who does this.  It is easier to focus on an old familiar problem than it is to take a chance on something new.  Endless opportunities are scary.  Blank sheets of paper are scary.  I blame this on my parents. When I was a child paper was a scarce commodity in our house and so I was told time and time again not to waste paper.  Maybe if I had wasted more paper, maybe if I had made more paper airplanes and spit balls, I wouldn’t feel the pressure to make sure that what I use the paper for is not a waste of it.  

And I wouldn’t feel the pressure to make sure that my life is not a waste of it.  Stuck in neutral as I am, as I have been, I often wonder why I have spent so much of my life consumed (pun not originally intended but appreciated now that I get it) with my weight.  Talk about a waste of paper!  If today I were told that I have only a certain amount of time left I would regret all of the years and tears and paper wasted on my obsession with my weight.  Knowing that, even knowing that, I find myself unwilling to turns towards something else.  

I am not a rational creature, not by far.  

But life is lived in small steps as well as in big bold leaps and so today when I go home from work I am going to waste some paper.   Maybe I’ll wake my husband up by tossing a few paper airplanes at him.  I’m thinking no spit balls, but anything can happen.

And that’s the problem.  Anything can happen.  What do I want to happen next?

julie: on paper

I decided to send Ginny a book this week.  So I went to Amazon and looked it up and there it was.  As an ebook, or for Kindle, or something else.  I just want a book.  With a cover and pages.  Buying a book is yet another thing that now requires lists and twice as many decisions.  Who has a Kindle, who has a Nook, who reads on the computer.  I suppose if I was both a good and thoughtful friend and way more organized, I would have this information listed next to my contacts so if I want to send the most considerate form of book for each person, I can make all the right clicks.   I chose a paperback that was relatively cheap from a seller with a high rating.  I do have her street address, so off it went.  A book.  I do that now, send it directly to the person.  For a long time I would have it sent to me and then sent it to them.  That’s about as far into this century as I have gotten.

Well, to be honest, I do now have a Kindle.  A free one that is on my computer.  I had to get it so I could buy a book a childhood friend of mine had written.  It took me quite a while.  Aside from everything else, I hate to click on things that you have to choose “run” or “save” for which all those warnings come up flashing up about.  I went and googled  “free Kindle from Amazon safe download?” and a couple more things a couple of times before I actually clicked on everything and got it done.  I hate the feeling of doing things that could result in things that I don’t know how to undo or at least fix.  A lot of what could go wrong with the wrong clicks are things I not only might make worse trying to fix on my own but that  I  wouldn’t even really be able to explain properly to anyone who might try to help.  I need a reference book on  “clicking dos and do nots” to keep by my computer,  those little windows just end up confusing me, or worse, I click on them for some reason and the page I am responds instead.

I was so proud of myself that during my next conversation with my son I told him about having gotten this Kindle.  I realize that many, many people, many of whom were born in a year the first digit of which is 2, making them not only much younger than me, but actually not more than 12, consider this just an every day, five minute click, click, click.  Not something to mention to anyone, and, as my son explained, not something many of them would bother with.  Although his year of birth does start with a 1, the first digit of his age is a 2, and so he is a part of all the many people who think this is just click, click, click, and do not really have a lot of use for a reading tablet that isn’t on an actual tablet.  And as it usually does, this led to a suggestion for more ways to enter the world that in my mind is still sort of  “of the future” but that is actually here.  He tells me that he has just gotten a great scanner and is going to start scanning every piece of paper in his home into the computer and will then shred it all and that will clear up all kinds of drawer space and counter tops.  Once he has it all done, he will notify the few companies from whom he still gets a piece of paper of any kind that he no longer needs it and just go completely paperless.

I have at least four boxes of pieces of paper of various kinds.  Old letters, old taxes, paperwork from several deaths, and all kinds of other records of all kinds of things.  And some things I have more than one copy of, like, for example, death and birth certificates.  And then I have clippings.  At least a box is mostly those, old newspaper articles or pages torn from magazines.  And announcements of art shows.  Programs from plays.  Ticket stubs from movies.  Recipes.  Invitations.  Cards, and yes, postcards. I even have some empty envelopes that have a reason for being in a box.  And those are the things I have received.  I also have stacks of stationary, mine, my father’s, my mother’s.  And I have a stack of 8′ by 11′ drawings, some of thousands my step father would create as we sat and talked late into the night.  I also have cards, carefully chosen to be on hand for any occasion, or for no occasion other than I want to send someone a pretty reminder that I am thinking of them, or just something to make them smile.

I have literally been surrounded by stacks of paper all my life.  My mother’s desk was full of paper to type on and yellow legal tablets for longhand.  My step father had not just the smaller paper by the ream, but large heavy pieces for larger works, or  to paint on when he wanted a different texture than on canvass.  My father finally was successful in business after finding an incredibly economical and profitable way to print a product that people both wanted and needed.  I spent many hours watching that publication roll along the printing presses.  I know, just by holding a piece of paper, about what the weight would be.  I love the feel and look of things done on just the right paper, and when it is on glossy and done right, nothing more impressive.

I am sure that it would be very helpful for me to start scanning all this into my computer.  My son says not to worry about somebody hacking and stealing any information, and that he will help me set up something called “outside storage” which I am guessing has nothing to do with a locker.  I wouldn’t need copies, I could print them.  I wouldn’t need to search through boxes to find things.  It would not only clear up clutter, but would get me more organized.  It all sounds really good.  And I am going to give it some thought.

But here’s the thing.  As annoyed as I get when I can’t find something, or when I realize that my closets have no more room because they are full of boxes and filing folders filled with papers, I would miss them.  I would miss looking for something and seeing other things that I haven’t seen for a while.  The scent of some, maybe very faint or maybe even more imagined than actually still there, I would miss that.  And I would still have the drawers full of cards and stationary because things that you send on the computer are not the same.  So I am going to go through it all and make some piles of things that I can scan in and then shred.  Something tells me that they will be much smaller than the piles of the pieces of paper I really, really need to keep.

And just a question for my son and all the other shredders who are looking to create these paperless drawers and counter tops: what exactly will you fill that space with?  Clean and tidy counter tops, okay.  But what will go in your drawers?  Maybe this is becoming paperless leading to  becoming “drawerless.”  Really, that’s how things happen.  This particular thing, unless and until having paper or having drawers is against the law, will not be happening in my house.  I may scan a thing or two, but that’s about it.  It will still take me a while to find whatever it is I am looking for, I will still have to handle some things really carefully because they are so old, I will still have less room everywhere because I have “too much paper,”  and that’s just fine with me.

ginny: on cats and dogs

If we are going to talk about cats and dogs, we have to go to my childhood home.  That is the only place I’ve lived that has had both cats and dogs at the same time.  Our cats and dogs did not fight like cats and dogs, and I still have never been in a house where the two didn’t co-exist peacefully.  Of course, I have never seen it rain cats and dogs either, so you can’t really put any faith in those old sayings.

When people talk about cats and dogs that have been in their lives, you know that the animal meant something special to them – even if their stories are about how crazy or ill behaved they were.  Living with an animal is unlike anything else.  There is just that certain “huh?” factor that comes in even when you think you know who they are and how they are going to act.  I am going to skip way ahead to my last pet, an English Setter named Becky.  She hung around with us for 16 years, and even though she had gone through a couple different personalities, at the end of the day I thought I knew who she was.  One day, near the actual end of her days, when she was in diapers because she was incontinent, I came upon her in the living room.  She was not the dog who went through the trash or chewed on shoes or really snooped into anything.  Yet this one day I discovered her with her nose deep into the canvas bag where we kept her diapers and wipes and other paraphernalia.  She slowly pulled her head out, and there in her mouth was a brush that I had used once or twice on her.  She gently held on to the brush, turned her head, and then stopped when she saw me looking at her.  We stared at each other for a moment, then she laid the brush on the floor and walked away.

You think you know, but you just never know.

Backing up to my childhood home, we had a collection of cats and dogs, but for the most part never more than one of each at any one time.  I have varying degrees of recollection of them until we get to the daddy of all cats, C’mere.  I ask you, is there a greater cat name than C’mere?  That was my mother’s bright idea.  What do you say to a cat when you want them to come over?  You say, “C’mere cat” of course.  And let me tell you, that was one indifferent animal.  He could not care less who was around or what you wanted, you had just better leave him alone.  Unless, of course, you were my dad and you had a crumpled up cigarette package to toss.  Have you ever seen a cat fetch?  C’mere would chase those cigarette packages down the hall and bring them back to my dad so that he would throw it again.  Along the way C’mere would drop it and play with it, bat it around a little bit, but in the end it would always end up back with my dad so that he could throw it again.  C’mere would do that five or six times until he got tired of it and left, but the next day he would be back again.

My mother hit a sweet spot of naming pets right about that time.  One of my older brothers brought home a cat he had adopted at college, and the cat was pregnant.  She had her kittens in our basement, and one day decided it was time to bring them upstairs to be with the rest of the family.  She grabbed one in her mouth, scampered up the stairs, and then meowed to let us know that she needed the door opened.  Unfortunately for the kitten in her mouth she dropped it, it went through the open stairs, and landed on the concrete floor below.  That kitten was never quite right.  When all of the other kittens were learning to walk, he could barely hold up his head.  When they were running around the living room, he was making an attempt to get mobile.  His version of walking was to pull himself with his front legs, then sort of hop with his back legs, dragging them along.  He looked like a frog.  And so my mother dubbed him Phrogg.  You know how when you dangle a string in front of a cat they bat at it with their paw?  Do that to Phrogg and you could have the string put back in the drawer before he would react.  He was the epitome of the “the lights are on, but nobody is home” but he was a sweet, sweet thing.  Another one of the kittens my mother named G’way, just to balance out C’mere.

My younger brother ended up with custody of Phrogg, and he carried on the naming tradition.  His next cat had six toes, and so he was named Toed.  And the next one was named Ranidae, which is the family name for true frogs.  Rani lived to a ripe old age of 22.

And so that brings me back to Becky.  How many people get 16 years with a dog? She came into my life a couple of months after my mother passed away from colon cancer, and right after my husband and I bought our first home, a townhouse.  My oldest stepson, who was fifteen years old, had come to live with us at that time too, so it was a period of adjustment for everybody.  We had her a couple of weeks and she never made a peep.  Then my husband’s ex-wife came over and Becky barked up a storm!  You have to love that in an animal.  She was sweet and gentle and such a good dog.

I could tell you stories but I think they wouldn’t mean as much to you as they do to me.  That’s the thing about cats and dogs.  I don’t think you can appreciate someone else’s pet the way that you appreciate your own.  You can tell me stories about your cat or your dog and it won’t have the same impact on me as it does on you.  Truly, you have to be there every day.  You have to survive the vet visits and the litter boxes and the oops on the rug with that one precious animal to know.

I’ll tell you this though.  Becky came to me in a dream a couple of weeks ago.  I could have written “I had a dream about Becky a couple of weeks ago” but that would not be what I believe to be the truth.  I have had dreams with Becky in them.  In one of the dreams the fact that she was there made me realize that I was dreaming so I stopped what I was doing and went on my merry way.  In this dream, however, Becky came to me.  She was young and she was spry and she was bouncing around just like she used to do all of those years ago.  I said to my husband who was in the room, “Look!  Becky is here!” but he couldn’t see her.  I knew she came just for me.  I got down on the floor and I put my forehead on her forehead like I used to do, and I looked right into her eyes and it was her.  It wasn’t dream Becky.  It was Becky.  I was so happy.  When I woke up I wanted to see her again, so I willed myself to go back to sleep.  I immediately fell back into a dream, and Becky came bounding towards me again, this time all soaking wet like she had been playing in the rain.  In this dream my daughter was there, and I said “Look!  It’s Becky!” but she couldn’t see her either.  I toweled Becky off, and I scritched her on the head, and I sent her on her way.

In the end, that’s all that we can do.  We send them on their way.

julie: on cats and dogs

Cats and dogs.  Where to start?  I could write a daily column on tips and stories about cats and dogs for the next couple years and still not have said it all.

For most of my life, I have always had at least a cat or dog, always plural cats and not as often a dog as well.  Which got me to thinking about those quizzes you see all the time, “If you were an animal, would you be dog or a cat?”  Or, more specifically, the ones that are all over now to help people be responsible owners from the start that help you decide, “Are you more compatible with a dog or a cat?”  There are, of course, the ones that ask, “Are you a cat or a dog,” or “Are you starting to look like your dog?”  While thinking about all these things we ask ourselves and each other about cats and dogs, I found  the answer to the other thing this topic got me thinking about which is why is “cats and dogs” a category?  I mean, why no quizzes asking, “If you were an animal, would you be a Banana Slug or a Coyote?”  I know, one of those is a bug, but just like cats and dogs, they are both, they are all, animals of various groups and species.  And there is no species called “cats and dogs.”

Or maybe there is.  It is called, “our most common pets.”  The reason that they have their own category is us, the owners.  When talking about cats and dogs, we are as much talking about ourselves as about these animals who belong to a category that often has the sub-title of “my baby.”  Oh, there is one quiz I forgot to mention, “Are you more compatible with cats and dogs or humans.”  I always score, “with cats and dogs.” And I should also mention that I am quite aware of this fact.  The clean  freak I lived with was a member of a category that normally makes me a little nervous and therefore I know little about, “people who grew up without pets and have never had one as an adult and now are trying to like it.”  I’m not sure if it’s an absolute, but to move past just being really clean into being freakishly clean, there probably is a no-pet upbringing in that past.  Some people who have grown up with a home full of animals do get very clean conscious when they are out and on their own, but there is a huge difference.

There are all the usual things that are noted about cats and dogs and what about each makes a person choose to choose, or own, or very often, “parent” one or the other.  I have often found myself saying I would love to have another dog “if.”  “If” I had more room is one of those “ifs”.  But there are small dogs.  I never was too fond of small dogs in general, but then my son and I inherited one and I just adored him.  But given my choice, I like bigger dogs.  I like a dog who will protect me.  Small dogs, it’s true, often make enough noise to stop a lot of could be bad situations, but while I would really want a dog who could handle the situations that barking doesn’t stop, the fact that I have really no fear of anyone ever coming into my current apartment would mean that if I wanted one enough, I would get a smallish dog.  It’s the other “if” that I think is the one that really intrigues me.  It’s the one that has to do with having that kind of life.  I think I see it about being grown up, about being responsible in a way that cats do not require.  Having a dog is being settled.  It’s permanent, a permanent commitment of a specific kind.  Not that cats don’t require as much, and sometimes more,  but what they each require is just very different.

It is about having a certain kind of life.  Having a dog is truly, in many ways, like having a child.  Although my cats would hotly contest this in hopes of keeping me at their beck and call, and certainly point out that after all, humans bred the small cat version for themselves to begin with and so are intrinsically both tied to and responsible to and for all cats forever,  they can pretty much take care of themselves.  You can’t say, “Oh, well, my dog will be pissed, but I am going to stay over rather than drive home this late.”  Your floor will be pissed.  Cats  will find all kinds of ways to get you back for not being there to feed them at the time they feel they they should be fed, they will knock things off counters or dressers, manage to hide one of many pairs of things, but if it is just a day or so, they probably won’t get too extreme.  It’s not a dog’s fault, they just can’t get the leash and go for a walk on their own.  So you have to have a job and a life that can get you home in time to take care of your dog.

Most people I know get a dog around the time they either have a child or start thinking about having a child, or get one when they decide maybe they won’t.  Like looking to the future a little, starting to plan and create a more stable life, buy a house, that kind of thing.  “Taking on more responsibility” is often the term for this change.  Cats don’t seem to require the same thought.  So maybe people who have cats and do not have not dogs are less stable or responsible?  I can ask that in that way because, like I said, I have always had cats and not so often dogs.  But just to be clear, I am not suggesting that cat not dog owners are unstable.  Or even unsettled.  Just maybe not quite not done being in motion.  Of course, contradicting that point would be the fact that people more often go on long travels and treks with dogs, not cats.  But that is a a separate discussion.

Maybe people who own cats and not dogs really, as the quizzes suggest, “are a cat.”  They prefer to do things with room for a little less rigidity, or maybe to be more precise and honest, do things when they want to do them and how they want to do them, and at the same time try to keep the consequences of the possible and often to be expected deviation from a schedule, to a minimum.  So they are actually responsible in a certain real way, knowing that a dog would spend hours of its life with its legs crossed starring at the door and hoping someone gets there soon.  Cat owners maybe have what could be called, “responsible insight into themselves,” even if they don’t appear quite as “stable.”

I could go on, there is so much to consider.  But I have to go feed my cats. One, Misty,  is walking dangerously close to things that are not nailed down and doing that thing where she sort of stops and makes the suggestive move that the thing in front of her may just fall.  The other one, her sister Pearl,  is inching over towards the keyboard.  Both of them are doing that cat thing that is designed to give me time, between each move and decision they make, to do whatever it will take to stop what any thinking person should know is the inevitable outcome of a cat being ignored.  I am definitely going to give serious consideration to getting a dog to teach them some manners and to appreciate all that I do.  Or if not, maybe I will get a Banana Slug.  That might be one of the few ways I could truly get my cats full attention.

Oh, I don’t have a picture this week.  I couldn’t find a good one of a Banana Slug that wouldn’t be a copyright problem and that I could figure out how to download and I refuse to give my cats and further evidence that they are of any importance, they are full of plenty of that already.