So now we know what a polar vortex feels like.*
However, we’ve known for seven lucky years what another sort of vortex feels like.
Some cats pull you in with obvious ploys. A chirp here, a rollabout there, a shameless paw-on-your-forearm if they’re brazen. It works, of course. It works as well as calling “really cold air” a “POLAR VORTEX!!!!!!!!!” works to terrify 170 million Americans into shivering sniveling puddles of goo.
But it’s easy. It’s obvious. And Babs doesn’t do easy and obvious.
Let’s get this part right out of the way: Babs is an oddity. If you multiply David Bowie by Lady Gaga, then cube the total by 150 Dennis Rodmans, you might approach Babs’ level of “odd,” give or take a Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Babs is the only Tabby’s Place cat about whom reasonable human beans have asked: “Excuse me, is she part possum?”
Babs is the only Tabby’s Place cat about whom we are tempted to answer, “We think so.”
Her fur is patchy and scratchy and rough like she’s part possum and part burlap. Her face is so pointy we could use her nose to snip out paper snowflakes.
That’s when the whirlwind of her inner beauty sweeps you. If it’s a sunny day in Babs’ interior neighborhood, you’ll get chirps and chatters and a vaguely benign look from that pointy face. But if the storm clouds are forming, beware the teeth and claws and very loud Angry Sounds of Babs.
Babs lives in that epicenter of oddity we call the Community Room at Tabby’s Place. (Incidentally, this is where we keep most of the humans.) If you’re feline, Babs has little use for you…unless you are very, very small. Time and again, kittens creep into Babs’ orbit for a nap, and Grandma Babs ignores them with a wink and a nod. She knows they’re there. She knows they’re tiny and helpless. And she chooses not only to let them live, but to let them share a bit of her burlappy possum warmth.
Not everyone slips into the Babs Vortex. In seven years at Tabby’s Place, Babs has not captured the adopter valiant enough to adore her for all she is. But for all her quirks and occasional Angry Sounds, Babs is happy. And Babs really likes Babs.
I realized this the other day while watching her nestle into aan office chair. Making some funny little grunting noises, she rolled up tight, inserting her nose into the envelope of paws and tail. She saw me see her, blinked, then settled her eyes shut with a little “hrrumph” of satisfaction. The message was clear: That’s right, I really am this grand. And I get to be me all day, every day.
I think this invincible confidence is part of why we can’t help but love Babs. Think about it. Who do you prefer to be around: strange bold peacocks who know who they are and love it, or pale beige mouse-people who don’t trust their ability to choose the right socks? The former, by sheer virtue of their shine, give us a sort of permission to be and like our own odd selves. The latter make us kind of nervous that, dernit, maybe we’re not good enough, either.
After seven years of not being chosen, Babs could curl in the kettle of self-pity and withdraw from the world. She has done no such thing. Ten minutes after getting subcutaneous fluids (guaranteed to evoke Angry Sounds), Babs will leap after a wand toy, belying every one of her 15 years. She’ll nap in the morning sun as an appetizer for synchro-snoozing with lookalike mini-me Benny.
And she’ll do it all again, greedy for all the juicy joy a single life can hold.
She’s never been the “calendar cat.” She’ll never be a lap-lover. But by simply being and liking who she is, Babs has it all. In the words of St. Catherine of Siena:
Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.
With apologies to Katniss Everdeen, Babs, you are our girl on fire. Swirl on, you crazy vortex.
*Thanks for lending us your subarctic air mass, Siberia — you’re a pal. Now we can cross “pretending we’re in a real gulag” off our bucket lists.
Photo credits from de top: Flangela x2, Jess the MegaVolunteer x2.