Grandmothers, Daughters, and Cats
...the daughter in question...
"Lorelei, please don't touch that!" CRASH!!!
The tall, lean, brown cat lays in half and in pieces, its white, porcelain insides exposed. A cat that is older than me. A gift from my Grandfather to my Grandmother, given to her on their honeymoon in Mexico. A cat that is the only thing I wanted after my Grandmother passed away.
A regal looking feline with long, slender legs that curve into a seated position. A delicately arched back that leads to a sweetly tilted head that holds mischievous eyes. A cat that I had propped against a door, a beautiful doorstop in a dangerous world of babies and toddlers. I had the cat there because I couldn't bare to put it away and out of sight. I loved seeing it throughout my day, reminding me of my Grandma. When I think about it, it's actually remarkable that it's lasted this long without damage. Every other day my daughter ignored it, walked or ran or skipped past it without a second glance.
When the cat broke I rushed over to keep the girls from harm, head down so the tears spilling from my eyes wouldn't be noticed and cause more distress than was already apparent in my two and a half year olds face. As soon as my husband arrived on the scene I relinquished the shards and the children to his care, and excused myself to change my clothes.
I hadn't even made it halfway up the stairs when the first sob escaped me. From there I cried until I couldn't breath, perched at the end of my bed, hands covering my face, shoulders trembling and heaving with my efforts. Visions of my Grandmother laughing, cigarette in hand, spring to mind. Grandma always giving me sips of her fancy cocktail when we are out to eat, even though I'm not twenty one yet and my Mom shoots her dissaproving looks. Grandma sharing her delicious chocolates with me and telling me stories about "when she was my age..." Grandma seeing my tattoo for the first time and saying, "I thought it'd be bigger, it's quite attractive." The memories last only a few, precious seconds before I think of that night. That night I shot straight up in bed, pulled from a deep sleep, and a wave of sadness and freedom washed over me. Not five minutes later my aunt Betty called to tell me Grandma had died.
The cat was my tangible memory of Grandma, and now, at my daughters hands, it is broken. I should not be mad about it. The ruin was not intentional, and a toddler can hardly grasp the damage done by the destruction of a chunk of ceramic. But I let the anger wash over me anyway. Anger at my daughter for not listening when I told her not to touch! Anger at myself for putting the cat in such a precarious place. Anger at the cat for being so fragile! Anger at my Grandmother for dying before she got to meet her great-grandaughter who reminds me of Gram on a regular basis...who just broke the cat. My tears turn hot with anger that stem in that moment and from days long past. I let the madness simmer in me for a short time before taking a deep, cleansing breath. I hold it in and imagine the feelings of frustration and sorrow and fury and longing invading that breath. I hold it in as long as I can, and then I let it go.
This doesn't solve the problem. The cat is still destroyed and I do not instantly feel fine from some imagined breath. But I do feel a little better, and sometimes all we need is that small bit of OK to know we will find our way back to good.
My husband tries to put the cat back together for me, it's a Humpty Dumpty, heartfelt effort and I love him for it, but the poor porcelain cat looks like a hot mess. Now the cat proudly sits in a corner of my bedroom, away from the reach of tiny hands, and reminds me of the hot mess I am on any given day...And the love that brought me to where I am today, and keeps me together through the worst of times.