If you want to be inspired and/or vaguely nauseated today, revisit your high school yearbook and read the seniors’ “favorite quotes.”
I bet you all the Mumfords and their sons* that someone will say, “Dance like nobody’s watching,” and someone else will say “Live, Laugh, Love!”
I bet you all the stripes on every tabby that someone will go all melodramatic and say,”Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.'”
And I guarantee you that last one will be wrong.
Sad as “It might have been” may be, the saddest sound of tongue or pen is this:
In the dark days of Paquita’s infancy, the dust-bunny of a kitten didn’t know anything. Alone, outdoors, with her eyes closed and her ears folded-over, she was about to know her last breath…until she came to Tabby’s Place.
A motherless kitten can grow up strong and happy with the right human help. Paquita wouldn’t be the first bottle baby to be hand-raised by Tabby’s Place humans, and our staff would surely do a stellar job of raising the tiny girl.
But there’s nothing like a mama of your own species.
It just so happened that, two weeks before Paquita’s arrival, a certain tabby mama had given birth to her own little boys at Tabby’s Place. As she delighted over her three sons, Juanita already had us calling her the Mother of the Year. Despite Juanita’s heroic efforts, however, her littlest, weakest baby, Ernesto, had slipped away.
But unlike the many mother cats who intuitively give up on fading kittens, Juanita only redoubled her efforts on Ernesto. When the little guy departed, Juanita screamed in desperation as our vet team attempted to revive him. Mama Juanita was inconsolable until our staff gently, sorrowfully let her examine and sniff her baby after he had passed away. Quietly, acceptance washed over her, and she sank back to care for her two remaining babies, Ignacio and Filiberto.
When Paquita arrived, we couldn’t help but wonder…would Juanita be open to an adopted daughter?
The answer was an immediate, exuberant “yes.” From their first moments together, Juanita and Paquita knew they were meant to be family. Inseparable, mother and daughter shared a bond as real as any blood tie. Together with her “brothers,” Paquita flourished in Juanita’s care.
Along the way, Juanita accepted an astonishing second adoptee (little orphan Alonso), bringing the family to five. Juanita loved all her children completely, chirping out what I can only imagine are their names until each one flocked to her for grooming and loving. Locking in her title of Mother of the Aeon, Juanita also showered her motherly love on us — that is, the human beans. Need some affection? Visit Juanita. Want to give and get hugs? Wrap your arms around Juanita. Jonesing for joy? Juanita has your number.
So you can’t blame Juanita’s one and only daughter, Paquita, for wanting to stay tied to mama’s apron strings indefinitely. Why grow up when your infancy is this magical?
Like the eaglet who just won’t fly or the adultolescent who just won’t launch, Paquita was happy to plant her feet firmly in babyhood. But time marches on…and kittens go to Tabby’s Place’s own kitten college, the Community Room.
Most kittens — Alonso, Ignacio and Filiberto included — delight in this graduation. And what’s not to love? The Community Room has lots of humans. It has lots of kittens. It even has cranky adult cats like Peachy to torment (a pastime Sinatra raised to the level of an art form). The Community Room is Narnia, Sesame Street and Never-Neverland all in one. And if there’s one thing kittens love, it’s adventure.
But Paquita didn’t want adventure. She didn’t want other cats, other kittens, or humans — not under these circumstances, anyway.
All she really wanted was Juanita.
While other kittens frolicked and freewheeled, Paquita released the saddest sound of tongue or pen:
Over, and over, and over…
Desperate, mournful, terrified…
Alonso looked at his sister with a mix of exasperation and pity. Would you snap out of it? This is great! We’re big kids now! We can eat ALL the cookies have Nutella straight out of the jar!
Paquita wasn’t listening:
The psychologist Erik Erikson would tell Paquita she was working through normal developmental stages. Carl Jung would help her to find her archetypes. Abraham Maslow would remind her that her basic needs were all still met. Oprah would give her a hug.
But anyone who’s honest would admit to Paquita that it’s true: sometimes growing up is really, really hard. Sometimes leaving the nest seems cruelly, hideously overrated — especially when your nest was Juanita. And sometimes it’s a leap of faith to believe that your next phase and stage could possibly be as good as the one before.
But the leap launches us all, and every eaglet leaves the nest even if mama has to push her.
Paquita may have been pushed…but she’s finally beginning to believe that hers is a future worth falling into. The more time she spends with friends like Sinatra, Milan and Conrad, the more Paquita’s Aeeaeaaeeeeaeeeeaeeeeaaaaee!! turns to glee.
Growing up is never easy. But from her foundation of pure love, Paquita will have a future more glorious than she can imagine. From grand beginnings come more shimmering stories.
And don’t you worry about Juanita: our Mother of the History Of All Time is doing just fine…and finally getting “mothered” herself, by all the humans she can stand. (Number of humans Juanita can stand = the number of Kardashians x the number of hairs on the chin of each Duck Dynasty dude.)
So remember this one you need a yearbook adage: the saddest words, whether of tongue or pen or meow, never win.
*I know there are only four of them. I know that only one is actually a Mumford. And I know that none of them actually have actual sons. But you get the point.
Photo credits from de top: Volunteer Jess x 4, Mark, VolJess, Mark. Render your oohs where your oohs are due.