Monday, March 26, 2007

Different Does Not Necessarily Mean Wrong

Our cats had litters now and then, when I was growing up. Getting a cat fixed wasn't something my folks wanted to do, so when a cat gave birth they just took the unwanted kittens to the pound once they could be weaned. How I hated to see the babies go. Playful, tiny, soft kittens.

One litter I remember particularly well, probably because I was a little older, about 10. The word 'runt' had flitted through my consciousness, but not until little Snowball was born did I become aware of what a runt actually was. She was the teeniest, tiniest kitten, the one the others shoved aside to get to mama's milk, the one the mother cat didn't seem to notice or care for, the one........who was different.

Mom warned me against naming the kittens or growing attached to them, advice I normally heeded, but for some reason this little white skinny thing kindled my flickering sensitivities. She needed help, or she would die. From the corner of the blanketed cardboard box I gently lifted Snowball over her robust siblings, setting her next to her mama for milk. I waited while she drank, nudging the other kittens away if they bothered her. I did this before school, after school, and before bed. Every day. Snowball was always smaller, always shoved aside, always different, but she lived, and grew.

Dad declared it was time to take the kittens away. How I'd dreaded the day! I asked him to let me keep "just one?". Somehow I understood his position. He wasn't being mean, just practical. As the box of kittens was loaded into the Lincoln I ran outside and climbed a tree, hiding myself and my tear streaked face amongst the mulberry leaves. I'd kissed Snowball good-bye and could still smell her creaturely breath and fur on my sleeve, feel the warmth of her tiny body on my cheek. "Good-bye little kitty," I sniffed sadly. I sensed somehow that something important, something 'grown-up' was happening in my mind and heart, knew it even at that young age.

At the dinner table the topic of the discarded kittens came up. I asked timidly, "Do you think they will all be adopted?" Of course I really wanted to know about Snowball, as I was quite hopeful the other fat lively kittens would be quickly chosen.

"Sure, all but that little runt," my mother replied. My siblings nodded their heads in agreement as they chewed and swallowed.

"Yes, they're cute and healthy, they'll find homes. All but that runt. She'll probably die. I'm surprised she made it this long," Dad said matter-of-factly, cutting his tough pork chop and stabbing it with his fork.

I had a piece of tough fried pork chop in my own mouth when these shocking words were spoken. No way could I chew that thing now. It felt like it had grown to three times its actual size. Rising emotions seized my throat. My upper lip quivered. My breathing came in irregular mini-gasps. My eyes began to water, everything went blurry. I put my napkin up to my face and with my tongue pushed the pork out of my mouth into that napkin, set the wad on my plate, and left the table murmuring shakily, "I need to go to the bathroom."

Once out of sight in the bathroom, I silent-sobbed until I could breathe again. Sobbed for Snowball. Sobbed for all those who were weak, who were different, vulnerable and unnoticed. It hurt deep, way deep in my soul. It was awful.

I knew I had to go back to the table or everyone would figure out I was crying over a "stupid runt kitten." As it was, no one was the wiser, no one knew of my love for Snowball or of my efforts to save her. After rinsing off my face and seeing my red eyes in the mirror, I tucked my chin and returned to the table. "Please, please, don't let them notice and make fun of me."

The meal was finished, dishes done, kids sent to bed, and no one noticed my upset. At all. Ever.

I've never said anything until now. I felt guilt for a few years for not trying harder to rescue Snowball. Maybe she died physically while still tiny, maybe not, but she has lived in my heart for forty years. I'll always remember that little 'runt,' unnoticed by her family, unable to reach vital nourishment without help, her own mother indifferent to her needs.

Because of Snowball, and the feelings of compassion and action that she aroused in ten year old me, I have an inkling of how God intervenes in the lives of those of us whose differentness is misunderstood. By intruding upon the indifference of our given environment He provides special means of nourishment for our hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits, while watchfully caring for and guiding us in ways unknown, though appreciated, to growth.

When those who ought to care do not, when differences seem too complicated to sort out, when ignoring comes easier than effort, from 'outside of the box' can come God's merciful hand to set things right, his own way.

He makes all the difference.


Anonymous said...

That's beautiful!

Pam said...

I agree with Tom! There isn't anything else to say because you said it all so beautifully.

Anonymous said...

Wow, as I read I kept wishing your family surprised you with Snowball at the end of dinner and you were both saved. I feel bad that no one saw the opportunity.

Lessons in life are hard. This story is precious. Thanks for sharing.

deanna said...

I must blow my nose now and get on with the day.

Cherie, that was so well told and meaningful.

Cassie said...

Ohh, Mommy! I am so sorry about you kitty!
You made my eyes water!


Carrie said...

Im so sorry! That reminded me of Sarh. The bunny. That was so sad, just like you kitty. We can hope somone took snowball and that she lived!

Cherie said...

Through you loving people comes God's hand of mercy once again.....providing nourishment to this weary heart of mine. Your kindness and understanding mean so much. Thank you, Tom, Pam, Deanna, Sandy, Cassie, and Caroline.

Is it weird that I cry when I read this, too, for several reasons and out of just plain emotion? Maybe it would be weirder if I wasn't moved by it.

I think my guarded heart holds volumes of sadness that have been stuffed away, only to be uncovered bit by bit when I'm not really looking but am strong enough to sort them out at last.

Sandy is right, life lessons are hard.

Pam said...

No, it is not weird for you to cry when you read this. It was sad in and of itself, and then there's the whole life lesson it represents, which you summed up so well in your post. The tears are a good thing - a sign of facing the hard stuff and the hurts and growth. They are healing... and they are precious to God.

I love you, Dear Friend! Consider yourself hugged.

Cherie said...

Thanks, Pam. I shall take your friendly squeeze with me today, all day, and know I am loved. You said just the right surprise. :-)

I love you, too, and hope you and Lizzie have made peace with the evil heavy metal demon in your basement.

Marianne Elixir said...

This was lovely in its humanness. Thank you for sharing!

Cherie said...

Thanks for your kindness, Elixer. You are most humbly welcome.

With glee I discovered you and your blog, via Deanna's. So much in common have you and I, including being members of the Gutenberg family!

Thanks for stopping by!

liz crumlish said...

what a beautiful sharing. Thank you for opening up and then making some sense of emotions and life that overtake us. blessings.

Cherie said...

Thanks, Liz. I like the way you put it, "making sense of emotions and life that overtake us."

Ann said...

Lovely $ sad at the same time. As I was reading, I was hoping for a happy surprise at the end, but somehow I knew it wasn't coming. Your story encapsulates life-- with its sorrow that's simple and overwhelming at the same time. "Volumes of sadness" describes what I feel sometimes, too-- even as I know that moments of ectasy are folded, and sometimes hidden, in each new day.

Cherie said...

"...moments of ecstasy are folded, and sometimes hidden, in each new day"

Beautiful, Ann, just beautiful.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and understanding. You, along with the others who commented, have been a balm to my heart and mind. I will not forget this post, and the responses.

I wonder, would the telling of this event have caused such a powerful surge of thoughtfulness and emotion in all of us if it had a happy ending? Ten year old me was hoping for one with Snowball; 50 year old me hopes for happy endings in current situations, as well. Sometimes they happen, and when they don't, well, most of the time great lessons are learned, sooner or later.



Lisa Smith said...

Thanks for sharing your compassionate heart, Cherie. What a poignant memory that has obviously shaped your life greatly.

Cherie said...

You are very astute, Lisa. It has indeed had a profound impact. Thanks for your gentleness.

Anonymous said...

Why are most people hesitant to share with this degree of candor? It slows us down and makes us think. You are one of a kind, Cherie. I am grateful for you. You are courageous.

Snowball was one blessed kitty by the way! You gave her a chance.

Cherie said...

I don't know, Annie. I know I benefit from candid heartfelt sharing whether giving or receiving, but maybe it's not so easy for everyone. Maybe it's not courage so much spilling over. Thanks for the uplifting sentiments. I'm grateful for you, too! :-)

tshsmom said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful story!! Yes, we all wish for the happy ending, but sometimes it isn't meant to be.
I love the way you took this life lesson and made yourself stronger through the experience.

Cherie said...

Thanks tshs! Thanks for understanding! Means a lot.

(I finished my DVD's - my girls AND my son love the show now! They are ready for DVD reruns already. They said to tell you thanks for the tip! :-)

tshsmom said...

You're welcome kids! I'm glad you share our love of this show!
My hubby and son both love it too!
I hope they come out with the remaining season and a half.

Cherie said...

tshs - me, too!!


Elizabeth said...

Cherie, I love your posts and Snowball inspires me so much that I linked the story to my blog. I hope that's ok with you.

Cherie said...

Lizza, I'm am honored and very glad that the story of Snowball inspires you! It is perfectly fine that you linked to me. It's always okay with me. If something I write can be of use to anyone else, well, that's part of why I scribble like I do. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

"Not a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father's notice."

I like to think that by giving this little creature a chance, the ripple effect continued.

One kind act creates others. I am sure you have been, or shall be, rewarded by a kindness shown to you.
Lovely blog, lovely pictures.

Cherie said...

Thanks, Anfa! You are very kind. I do love the idea of the ripple effect, and believe it to be true.