I have entered week five of misty distance from Tabby’s Place.
When I last kissed Bucca on March 13th, I didn’t envision five weeks apart. It’s not that I imagined the global pandemic would resolve in less time; I just didn’t have any concept of the time this thing could take. (Go easy on me; this is my first global pandemic.)
Even if I knew then what I knew now — that week five would come without any promise that week seven or week twelve or week sixty-four would be the last — I’m not sure I could have conceived of it. A lot can happen in five weeks — a school marking period, three and a half novenas, an entire presidential campaign.
But when they’re spent far from the home you love, they can feel all fast and slow and gershmuzzled together.
I did say “home,” and not just for the Fiddler on the Roof reference (although if you’re humming that tune now, I’m not sorry, and someday soon maybe we can sing it together). Although I technically reside in a condominium 22 miles from Ringoes, there is a very — lately painfully — real sense in which Tabby’s Place is my home.
This has struck me at unexpected moments through the years. (Nearly thirteen years now. My tenure at Tabby’s Place is as old as a teen who just discovered existentialism and temporary hair dye, and similar in other ways, too.) I keenly recall one annual Emergency Planning Meeting, a predictable affair where we’re all reminded how not to die or let the cats die in case of thermonuclear war, alien invasion etc. (We will add “global pandemic” to future meetings.) When we got to the section on what to do in case of a fire, and someone said something about how we could save all of the cats even if the entire building burned down, I became inexplicably tearful and had to leave the room.
Yes, of course, saving the family first is what matters. But you still don’t want your home to burn down, the rooms where you grew up and grew into yourself and grew in something like grace. And Tabby’s Place — whether or not I always make it proud (I don’t) — is my home.
I’m nothing if not a homebody.
I’ve already whinged about Bucca enough (thank you, patient readers), but I find that my longing transcends even the cat whose purr is my nest.
I miss the very walls, echoing with laughter and meowing and Jonathan’s unrepeatable original songs.
I miss the solaria, filled with stubborn cats come ice storm or sunshower or alien invasion. (We once found half of a lizard out there. The aliens have been contained.)
Mercy, I even miss Suite A in the morning, that excrement-storm of Pollock paint by our gastrointestinally challenged gang.
OK, I don’t literally miss that. But almost.
I’m sure these days — whether you find yourself in week five or some languid limbo all your own — have you a little sick with longing, too. We miss strange things when we find ourselves in strange times. We tell ourselves to snap out of it, only to find ourselves looking up articles like “Praying While Sad.”
And then we realize — if we’re lucky enough to be jolted by forces wiser than we are — that longing and yearning are the long, hard end of something sweeter.
You can only miss what you cherish.
You can only ache for that which heals you.
You can only “pray while sad” if you know someone is listening, and night always yields to day, and weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
I’m only aching because Tabby’s Place is worth aching for.
I’m only grieving because Tabby’s Place is a bold brilliant blaze of life lighting my life and this world.
I’m only impatient because something wonderful still stands, still strong, still waiting for us on the other side of a world gone mad.
I will continue praying while sad. And when I do hug Bucca and hear the giggles and tap down those hallowed halls again, I will always remember this good, good grief.
“Home” isn’t going anywhere, kittens. And eventually, we’ll all get there — whatever “there” your heart is missing — in victory.