Did your elementary school give out a Perfect Attendance Award?
Did you ever win it? Did you ever win it every single year?
If you did, you’re a better bean than I.
As a green little girl, the Perfect Attendance Award was ever out of my reach. I had a shot at Highest Average in English or Meilleur en Français, and I had Biggest Frickin’ Nerdazon all locked up. But when it came to Perfect Attendance, I was doomed by sick days spent thinking deep thoughts and watching The Price Is Right.*
The older I get, the more I think the Perfect Attendance Award might just be the top prize. There is something holy about simply showing up, day after day, up and down and wild and boring. Nerdazons can throw the occasional cerebral meteor, but consistency is a deep earthy thing with roots that don’t need to shout.
Of course, I am speaking as much of felines as of humans.
It is easy to go all starry-eyed in the light of the silvery splash. Papillon and Tanzy demand our delight like new kids in school. Kittens streak across our sky like so many fireballs, gobbling every iota of awe in our hearts. They deserve it, too.
But we’re fools if we forget the cats who provide the compass, ancient stars who set the tone. Peachy and Hootz and Katrina have spent 7 years with us, never growing itchy for better humans. Babs has been here 8+ years; Jackie and Maggie, 9. Not counting an adoptive interlude, Mango‘s scratching the surface of a decade under our roof.
They are the constants. If we take them for granted, still they remain. (If we take her for granted, still Jackie bites our ankles like so many human cronuts.)
Things are changing at Tabby’s Place these days. The erstwhile apartment is fast becoming an expanded hospital. Targeted TNR is consuming our vision and our energies. Cats are coming and cats are going, as they always have, as they always will. Our already-bobbly heads can’t help but spin.
But in the face of change, sameness is sanity. The cats who long ago stopped being “new” have never ceased to beat a pulse of stability for us. When we’re distracted by the flavor of the week, our old friends wait patiently, there to make the world feel normal when it’s all too fast.
It’s plenty exciting to have a friend who gets you under the velvet rope to meet Kanye or Weird Al or whoever floats your ferry. Your heart beats faster for the new flame who drives an ice cream truck and knows The Roots and plays the accordion.
But all the zing in the world can’t compare to the one who’s ridden ten years of feelings with you. When you’ve cried secret tears into someone’s fur, tripped over them ten thousand times and been forgiven every one, and seen each other through haircut disasters and hairballs, your history is sacred. There’s no comfort like that.
Sure, there’s a sense in which our old friends have no choice. Katrina could no sooner ditch Tabby’s Place for Rome than Ursa Minor could leap down from the heavens.
But our old-time residents are present at the deeper level of choice, too. Even in our well-meaning, imperfect world, with the well-meaning, extremely imperfect humans they have to deal with, these cats continue to live fully. Gaze into Peachy’s sky-blue eyes, and she’ll study you as thoughtfully as the first time ever she saw your face. Join in Maggie’s dance of cuddles and claws, and she’ll engage you with all the force of her bodacious being.
We have never gotten “old” to them. Even after all these years, life at Tabby’s Place is ever new and ever precious to our longest-time residents. As they’ve built this history with us, continuing to bring it day after month after year, they’ve kept us steady and brave and sane. (OK, two out of three ain’t bad.)
They are grace. They are grit. They are glory.
And we’re so grateful they remain in Perfect Attendance at Tabby’s Place.
Give your old cats a hug for us, Felis Catus folks. And have yourselves a grand old weekend.
*Two activities that were made for each other, natch.
Photo credits from de top: Mark, Heather, AT, Jess B.