People, of which I am one, make assumptions about kittens.
They say kittens are a blank slate.
They say kittens have moldable personalities.
People say a lot of things.
This one is common: “Kittens are new. Kittens’ personalities are formless and void. We can mold them like Plasticine. They will be what we make them to be.”
Ergo, a kitten raised with kisses and bacon is guaranteed to be the lovemuffin of your dreams. If you love him, he will become exactly what you intend.
Just like human children, right?
At this point, real live parents of any species are chortling, patting me upon my empty head: “You made a funny!”
The truth is, although our efforts/kisses/bacon go a long way towards well-adjusted kittens/babies/spawn of any species, nurture never completely trumps nature. We are not the makers of these marvels.
Let our kittens illustrate.
Katniss, Creamsicle, George and Johnny Ringo are siblings. Their first few weeks elapsed in identical circumstances as they frolicked outdoors and learned feral ways from their elders. They then enjoyed gentle “reeducation” in the home of a dedicated volunteer foster mom. Ergo, they should all have been on precisely the same page by the time they came to Piazza di Tabby, si?
You made a funny.
Katniss is 1,000% Team Human. You can rub her ears. You can rub her belly. You can put your nose in direct contact with hers and attempt a mind meld as you gaze into her hazel eyes. She believes in the power of dance parties and neon pink. Katniss is a Pop Tart, a bowl of sprinkles, and a ukulele song in the sunshine.
George and Johnny Ringo are Katniss’ brothers. I would like to formally lodge my opinion that George and Johnny Ringo are also the true faces of the mysterious French robots composing Daft Punk. Since coming to us, these boys have been in a perpetual state of panicky awe (probably because someone yanked their helmets and revealed their identities). They cling to the rhythm of one another’s heartbeat, but even in their nervousness they can’t quite look away from us. The world around them is just so full of stars. It’s overwhelming. It’s amaaaaaaazing. It’s much too much. But they’re slowly learning that too much of a good thing is an even better thing.
Creamsicle is the last of the quadruplets, but you’ll be pardoned if you haven’t seen him. He’s a blaze of Bisquick-buff fur shooting through the Community Room, only to dive back beneath blankets and couches to safety. If Katniss is hypersaturated neon and George and Johnny Ringo are pale pastel, Creamsicle is translucent ivory. He’s Gregorian Chant. He’s the one who sees all but goes unseen when he has it his way.
I could go on.
Taz, Magdalene and Bones came to us at around the same age and had the same “molding.” Taz is a Very Serious Individual, all huge eyes and huge concerns. He’s Encyclopedia Brittanica. He’s PBS. He listens to nothing but Brahms and has very serious reservations about anyone who does otherwise.
Magdalene, on the other hand, is a mouthful of Pop Rocks. She’s 10,000 Mentos in an ocean of Diet Coke. She’s a goof and a gleehound.
And then there’s Bones, the kind of hipster doofus who wears ironic suspenders and listens to bands with names like The Dirty Guv’nahs.* He bounces from lap to lap to table to knee like he’s Woody Guthrie hopping boxcars. He hasn’t quite coordinated his front and back ends yet, so he still bangs into things with the full force of his fun, but that’s a small price to pay for the joy of being him.
They are, in other words, who they are.
We have no doubt that love and patience and lunchmeat will help our serious scaredy-souls to trust us. But they are, each of them, entirely themselves. Taz will keep his adorable-beyond-his-years solemnity. Katniss will glow neon well into old age.
They’ve been given a richness and an oddness and a themness that we can no more mold than a diamond.
And that is a very, very fine thing indeed.
*Which is an actual band, which is actually awesome.
Photo credits from de top: Jess B, AT, The Independent (Daft Punk)/Jess B (George & Johnny Ringo), ATx2