Bet on the marshmallow

Bet on the marshmallow

There are people who would rather have one marshmallow now than two in ten minutes.

There are people who festoon marshmallows with garland halos and declare them angels.

And then there are cats.

The word “marshmallow” receives heavy off-label use at Tabby’s Place. Seldom do we speak of the squat sugar cylinders who keep company with cocoa. Constantly do we speak of our own hearts, gelatinous and melty.

“I am a marshmallow” is simply “I am a Tabby’s Place person” in a higher-carb dialect.

Can you blame us? We work and volunteer and weep and laugh and mop in a 12,000 square foot mug. The contents are too warm for any loving creature to keep their shape. The contents contain angels and comedians, generally dressed in the same stripes.

The contents contain Betty.

Betty was a mere mini marshmallow when we first met her, a kitten of uncommon charm. This is saying a great deal for a senate of sugar plums who have petitioned Congress to rename them “The Charm Swarm.” But even among felines who fit in a teacup, Betty bubbled over.

She was a snowball draped in silver bells. She was innocence expressed in energy. Her hand-painted face glittered with tinsel, and anyone could see that she was an angel.

You do not need to be a marshmallow to go all gooshy for a kitten. Betty’s adoption came, and Betty left us, and we were left blowing kisses at her perfect mug. Marshmallows weep and rejoice in the same breath, grateful and forlorn and liquefied by love. We would miss Betty. We would remember Betty.

We did not expect Betty to come back to the cocoa cup in 2023.

In the 1960s, Stanford University conducted its famous “Marshmallow Experiment.” Researchers offered children the option of a single marshmallow immediately, or a pair of them in twenty minutes. Over the next forty years, they followed these wee ones through life’s cups and cauldrons. Overwhelmingly, the children who had delayed gratification enjoyed the most success.

Betty could have written the executive summary. This winter, she’s doing just that, in a language human marshmallows can comprehend.

The instant gratification of adoption always cools. If love has its victory, it warms and mellows to a rolling boil of “forever.” You wouldn’t want to go back to the giddy gelatin of a kitten’s first night home once you’ve tasted an unbreakable bond. No heat or hurt can melt family ties. The meltiest marshmallows are the sturdiest lovers.

But life in the swirling mug is not always gooey with gratitude. A silver-haloed seraph may develop bashful bathroom habits. A kitten known for uncommon charm may become a cat known for unbecoming behavior.

Sweetness may stutter. An elderly angel may return to Tabby’s Place.

Betty came back, sticky and baffled. She would not, would not, would not use the litter box. She could not fathom how she might fit back in the teacup. She’d had her chance at being a marshmallow. She’d had the instant reward back in babyhood. What now?

Studies show that cats prone to “inappropriate elimination” are difficult to adopt. Studies show that “difficult” individuals face loneliness.

Studies know nothing of marshmallows or success.

Betty had to wait ten years for her second marshmallow, but the mug is warm between her toes. A jumbo bag of mushy humans are hers here, tumbling over each other like toboggans down Happiness Hill.

Betty grieved when her cup toppled, but today she rejoices. The years have draped her in several more strands of tinsel, and marshmallows arrive as chicken-flavored stars and lush laps. The solarium is as warm as the promise of love she cannot lose.

She may be adopted again. She may not. Our course of study is keeping her cup overflowing. We are here, together, again, sharing a sequel we did not expect. We get to love Betty again. We get to see her silver tinsel sparkle in her happy golden years.

We are the most successful marshmallows who ever rolled across the earth.

As cats and children do, Betty is returning the grace faster than we can keep up. Our love is unconditional. Hers is invincible.

No one needs to wait to know they are home.

We are a difficult bag of marshmallows here at Tabby’s Place. We are softhearted and hot-blooded, prone to leak tears or make crafts outside the litter box. We have known the long wait between sweetnesses.

Best friends like Betty keep us soft, which is to say fully alive. Do you hear the angel voices?

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