You can’t know, as they’re happening, which things will have All The Impact upon you.
Case in point: in ninth grade French class, something provoked my friend Jay to stand up and cry out, “How am I expected to be victorious under these circumstances?”
Twenty-five years later, that’s still one of the most profound questions I have ever heard in my life. But I couldn’t have guessed that at the time. (Nor could poor Madame Graham, who once declared that the “H” in the class name “French H” clearly did not stand for “Honors,” but rather for “Hostile.” L’enfants terrible? Oui, we were. But I digress.)
Second case in point: at some point during the second wave of The Great Pestilence (I am so tired of typing COVID-19 I would pluck those letters out of my keyboard entirely, except I could then no longer type “victorious” or “coconut” or “V9CDIO1,” all of which may prove necessary), we were asked, “will you take this adult black cat with gastrointestinal issues?”
This is a remarkably ordinary request at Tabby’s Place. We have probably been pelted with this specific request — all the same details — a dozen times or more. But this time was different.
This time, the question and its answer would change our lives forever.
Because this time, the cat in question was none other than the answer to all our questions.
The cat was one Stefan.
As accurately noted on his profile, this is Stefan as in “Sté-fáwn, because he’s a fancy boy.” (Whoever wrote that among the staff, chef’s kiss to you.)
On one level, every cat is fancy. They are imperious; they are impervious to our inelegance; they are entirely at home in their own sparkling glory.
But on the Stefan level, there’s another universe of “fancy.”
Stefan is just the sparklelord we needed in the doldrums of winter.
Stefan is the specific splendor our dulled senses and dotardly minds hungered for.
Stefan is the individual who inspired Dolly Parton to write “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That?”
Stefan is the one-cat Mardi Gras to make us make merry and shake us from the long Lent that is life in the Great Pestilence.
Stefan is fancy, alright.
And saying “yes” to Stefan, long before we knew how he’d cause us to fawn and rejoice, was the answer to our own questions.
Can there be great flights of fancy, jamborees of joy, shameless splashes of unapologetic bliss, in the midst of tireless sorrow?
Can we laugh from our bellies even when it makes the wounded places a little sore?
Can we dare to be ridiculous even when we don’t know if or when or how the morning will come?
Can we possibly do otherwise, in the presence of one Stefan?
We thought we were helping a poor, gastrointestinally challenged gentleman when we said “yes” to Stefan. Little did we know he would glitter-bomb our lives with uproarious laughter, unwavering love, and a hatred of other cats that is clearly 100% due to the fact that they are peasants and peons and strangers to Stefanic sparkles.
It turns out we can be victorious, even under these circumstances. We just need the right friends and mentors.
May the Stefan spirit be with you today, all you tough and treasured creatures.