It’s the shortest month of one of the longest years since years began.
The hour is late.
This is no time for half-measures in love.
This is no time for scarcity in hair city.
If your hair is a little frizzled today, or the hairs on the back of your neck have learned to permanently stand on end like toy soldiers, you’re not alone. It’s December. It’s December 2022. It’s a day in the life of a string-light world, where there’s always a bulb or two that won’t light properly.
December has a way of swashbuckling our illusions, sidestepping our pretensions, unwrapping the pretty paper that we think protects us from harm.
There’s a reason cats chew on pretty paper. As usual, they are trying to get our attention and get us free.
You would be hard-pressed to find a freer creature than Betty. Older than the magi and twice as wise, she is a cloud of golden tinsel on snow, haloed and whole, sheddy and silly and strong in her dignity and her dozen-plus years.
Love fell softly on Betty’s landscape, with skin issues and seniority shutting other doors, until time split open and Tabby’s Place sang her secret carols. But at last, she came, and she came into her own, and her own people — peculiar and pickled and incandescently imperfect though we are — received her with joy.
Hers would be no elf-shaped cookie. Hers would be no salmon croquette. Hers would be a fifty-course French feast, involving words like sous vide and au jus and sacre bleu and j’adore, j’adore, j’adore. She was immersed. She was engulfed. Every hair of her aging body was hallowed and hollered-over with happiness. (We do a great deal of hollering at Tabby’s Place, the better to spare the world our attempts at singing.)
It was enough to make up for the scarcity of salmon croquettes.
It was enough to make up for the scarcity that scares less-hairy beings.
If Betty thought Tabby’s Place belonged to her alone, she was in for a rude unwrapping. If Betty worried that love was a mincemeat pie with only so many slices, she was doomed to a life of strategy and slicing. If Betty thought that mincemeat contained actual meat, she was in for a sadder surprise than a stocking full of coal, or (worse) vegan cheese.
But Betty believed in fullness.
And so Betty feared not.
When Toulouse and Agnes and revolving rounds of fellow feline ornaments came twinkling onto the tree, Betty’s boughs held.
When fresh feasty-beasts arrived around the table, Betty pulled up chairs — the good chairs, the soft chairs, the chairs that make cats and kooks feel like kings and queens.
When the need for love grew, so too did the supply.
There were hugs and kisses and salmon croquettes enough to go around. The old women of Danielle’s office (which do not include Danielle, I AM NOT CALLING DANIELLE AN OLD WOMAN, please do not get me fired) were as young as January. The arrival of new need-ers — and cats are glorious, notorious, unapologetic, electric needers — only enriched the table.
Love would not run short.
But only if everyone surrendered to full immersion.
Full immersion in life, sad and starry and horrid and holy.
Full immersion in courage, the choice to rise like a flying reindeer even when the sky is black.
Full immersion in faith, trusting that you will never reach the end of love, that the supply is infinite, that leaving cookies for Santa or forgiveness for an enemy doesn’t leave you with less, but rather with more, in the merciful math of December and life.
We hide ourselves in gaudy paper because we think we need to be pretty enough to hold onto our scraps. We wear crash helmets instead of soft Santa hats, bracing ourselves for loss. We cling to our discount toys. We forget to cling to each other. We forget that clinging and singing occupy the same great stewpot.
Betty and Agnes and Toulouse remember.
And as I write this post, Agnes and Toulouse, Betty’s besotted sisters, remember their sister from a dazzled distance…because Betty, old Betty, gold Betty, was adopted.
She who gave space and grace was given the gift that old cats of two species are scared to ask for.
Betty wasn’t scared.
And so, at last: J’adore, j’adore, j’adore.
Tomorrow is St. Nicholas’ Day. Although the actual man was better known for protecting the downtrodden than providing Buzz Lightyear action figures, his strength and sweetness sing down the years for a reason.
We need to know that there’s enough in the sleigh for all of us knotty-haired children.
We need to remember that there are joys and toys enough to be shared.
We need to hear a laugh that tells us we are lovable even when the hour is late, and our homework is late, and we are late to the table towering with finest fare.
We need to unwrap and immerse ourselves in the light that tells the truth.
The truth is, we will be baffled. We will think we have exactly what we need, no more and not a hair less, with no wriggle-room. Then we will find ourselves surrounded by buffoons who need a few of our balloons, and we will have to share, and in the sharing we will find the sky filled with more balloons and comets and angels than we ever would have dared to ask Santa for.
We will think our suite is sweet and secure, that we are Betty in her tower. Then we will get tackled by a towering loss, the kind that leaves us certain that the sum total of love has shrunken like a raisin. And in our grief, we will find that we are exquisitely wrong, and we will never see the last of love.
If Betty believed that each cookie taken from the tray meant one less, she would not be the beacon of light that she is for all of us at Tabby’s Place. But Betty is a beacon and a baker and a maker of sweet sense, shining to remind us that there are cookies and kindnesses enough for every hairy hobo. Even you and me.
So let’s share and feast and sing and believe, kittens.
Let’s give each new face the good seats, and the rich feasts, and the “last” drops of love. Recklessly. Radiantly. With the full-immersion trust that the supply chain is strong, and the chains that bind hand in hand in paw in paw are ever-growing, and the only way to save your life is to give it away.
This is no time for half-measures. We are the fellowship of the fully-loved.
There is no scarcity here in hair city.