What I Believed I Learned from Loving My Kitty Ginger
My Tiny Kitty Changed My Thinking
My beloved uncle brought this darling kitten to the eleven-year old girl that was me back in 1955.
I didn't get to keep her for long, but her life made an everlasting imprint on mine. The lesson I learned stuck with me for decades, until I finally told the idea to an older friend and it was overturned.
One early Summer morning my uncle Franklin showed up at the door to our cottage-like home, on one of our small town's main streets. The width of his smile gave it away - he had some secret to share.
My mom's younger brother was to remain a fun loving bachelor for a few more years, and he habitually surprised my siblings and me with special gifts. This time he brought the cutest little kitten from a litter of one of the barn cats living next door to his country place.
The boys had a pair of black labrador dogs out in a large pen in the back yard. They were hunting dogs, full of energy and loving water. Luckily for them, we lived in Edmonds, Washington, only a short walk from the Puget Sound beaches. Dad sometimes backed our Rambler station wagon down to the old plank garage and close to the dog gate, and in a flash those two black dogs bounded into the car for a lake or river fishing trip.
While I loved the dogs, they were just too active and untrained for me. Although I joined in on romps down at the beach, I opted out of the rides with wet stinky dogs in the car. On one of those days, when the guys were off catching fish by hook or mouth, my uncle paid a visit. He retrieved the little kitten from his jacket pocket and set it in my hand.
Photo Credits Photographs Â© 1955 by Leslie Sinclair
Looks Just Like My Real Life Kitty
Gently, I felt the tenderness of motherhood flood through me as I cuddled the tiny creature. She was a beautiful long haired darkish yellow gray wonder, feeling like a tiny bag of duck feathers in my hand.
The most delicate little kitten just asks to be loved. If you can't get a real live itty bitty cat you might enjoy this highly rated stuffed toy.
It reminds me of how important it is for us to be tuned into the needs of others - especially the young, the elderly and the disabled.
I Found Ginger's Long Hair Elegant
What fun it was to be responsible for the life of such a delicate little mite. She could sleep in my room, on my bed, or anywhere she wanted that she could be safe.
I carried her with me constantly from that day on, until my mom took my brothers and me across state for a mini-vacation with Sybil, an older Alaskan family friend. Uncle Franklin came each day to water and feed our pets.
We Took Sybil Along to Spokane in a 1955 Nash Rambler Cross Country Stationwagon - during our 3 day jaunt my uncle cared for our pets
Returning home, I ran towards the front door, stopping when I saw my uncle's face. Clearly, something was wrong.— Papier
My Mom and Uncle Franklin
My uncle told Mom, and I heard the story: he set Ginger down outside the garage to feed the dogs, which jumped up against the gate leading into the dog shed, knocking over an old weathered door leaning against the gate.
Like being struck by a gust of wind, the door fell on my kitty. She died instantly, and he buried her right away to keep her body safe from raccoons and such.
Why I Thought This Happened to Me
By this time I had been attending Sunday School for about three years, but I hadn't formed any concrete idea of how the universe works.
My family wasn't religious so we children had never been baptized, and we didn't really talk about the meaning of life, at home.
I tended to see good as a package occasionally given to a person, and a nice gift to receive. The day I learned that little Ginger had died, I observed that for every good that happened, an equal bad would happen. That way the world would maintain balance, and it was our job to accept that.
The Subject Never Came Up Again Until Decades Passed
One day I shared a bit of my faith history with a lady with whom I was a close friend. She had grown up and raised her family in the church I had embraced a couple decades previous.
When she heard my tale of how Ginger's gift was so short-lived and what it meant to me - a confirmation of my natural stoicism when faced with trials - she was stricken. How I had maintained this idea throughout my church experience and my marriage was beyond her ability to conceive.
That surprise revealed the real gift of Ginger's short stay in my homelife. She was a touch of kindness, an opportunity to fill my heart with tenderness towards something fragile, to experience the tremendous responsibility for another's life. So both the receipt and the loss of that tiny creature was an expression of good.
My special uncle gave me a little new life to love, and when it was accidentally taken away he supported Mom and me in the loss, with compassion and kindness.
Compassion is the Gift of Loss
My friend's gift was the awareness that beauty and loss comingle for good.
Life is rife with love and death, newness and brittleness.
Part of the gift of Ginger was coming to embrace others in their times of struggle and loss, because I had felt it so strongly during those few weeks of the Summer of 1955.
After 50 Years My Cousin Steve Contacted Me
I wrote this article as a tribute to my uncle (George) Franklin Culver, who never failed to touch our hearts with love and vulnerability. He was sincerely compassionate. Thoughts of him always bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.
Tiny Love Becomes All Encompassing Compassion
The short time I had with Ginger seems to have altered my life. Although my childish conclusion of the meaning of the matter was short sighted and mistaken, it made sense to me at the time and I clung to it as a means of dealing with other hurts, large and small.
As I review the impact of receiving and caring for, and finally losing, this tiny bit of breathing fluff, the message seems loud and profound. Lacking a religious or faith framework, lacking the impulse or feeling of security in sharing my theory, I cemented the idea that enabled my innate stoic self (as modeled by a powerful family member, for whom that trait was of national reknown) to deal with other pains.
Then when a monstrous tragedy struck one of my children I accepted it as part of the good/bad dichotomy the child in me had constructed. I didn't blame the girl who drove the car, or the wet night, or anything. But I did set to work to challenge the injustices that followed in our legal, medical, rehabilitation, and government social systems. Stoic at the event, yet passionate overturning unworkable laws and policies.
As an adult my actions are governed by how well they synchronize with my ethos, my faith, my religion. I no longer believe that for every good that comes into my life I will also encounter a necessary bad.
What I feel is a tremendous compassion for the fragile, the unlinked, the infirm, the different, the powerless, and a drive, not unlike I felt for Ginger, to share this sense of tenderness for those who seek the fulfillment of God's generosity in their lives, in attainment of dignity.
Gregory Boyle is at the helm of an organization called Homeboy Industries, with the goal of diverting youth from gang related association.
Over a span of two decades one man's sensitivity to the significance of a downtrodden individual's life has resulted in a grand expression of compassion. For Boyle, this work is an expression of his commitment to meaningful life as a Jesuit priest.
He uses his intimate knowledge of the personal susceptibility to gangs that wield power in harmful ways. We all want to belong, to feel accepted, and Boyle taps into that longing in young displaced people.
Far to many youth in Los Angeles' Boyle Heights region satisfy those basic needs courtesy of organized criminal activity, from which they feel a sense of empowerment. Feeling weak on their own, it can be enticing to locate their self worth in the acceptance of bands of criminals.