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What I Believed I Learned from Loving My Kitty Ginger

Updated on September 23, 2013

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 © 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.

Hasbro FurReal Friends Lulu's Walkin' Kitties (White)
Hasbro FurReal Friends Lulu's Walkin' Kitties (White)

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

Ginger Kitty
Ginger Kitty

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.

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

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.

 

When Did You Grasp the Concept of Good and Bad, Love and Loss? - and did you change your conception over the years?

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    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR

      lesliesinclair 

      4 years ago

      @cookiebear98: Thanks for sharing about the effect of your dad's loss. Those huge family losses have the potential to lead us to greater understanding.

    • profile image

      cookiebear98 

      4 years ago

      When I was 34 and my father passed away very suddenly. Everything for me changed and my faith became much clearer. To this day my father still guides me through lifes adventures. Your lens is very thoughtful and inspiring. Also, thank you for liking my lens about Miss P's ramp. Have an awesome holiday season.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR

      lesliesinclair 

      4 years ago

      @Merrci: So funny, I never shared this before, just never thought anyone would be interested.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Not sure when. Might be ongoing actually. Very sweet lens. Enjoyed it so much.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR

      lesliesinclair 

      4 years ago

      @writerkath: Considering the play of the events of Ginger's short life, at this time in mine, brought back the all encompassing feeling that smothered me when I made my grand realization (transitory as it was) about the balance of good and bad. Granted, other religions teach this very idea, but for me it was merely a step along the pathway.

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 

      4 years ago

      I'm not sure when I first came to understand this. I was always a bit of a thinker, even as a small child, and so it probably just grew on me. I do recall a specific incident, when I was about 5 or so, when I saw my dad cry - his sister, and one of my favorites aunts, had just been killed in a plane crash at the small airport nearby that was holding an air show. So, that is probably the first time I experienced the concept, now that I think of it...

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR

      lesliesinclair 

      5 years ago

      @David Stone1: Of course.

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 

      5 years ago from New York City

      It's still happening and much to encompassing to wrap up in a neat package. The best we get is a good, general idea.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR

      lesliesinclair 

      5 years ago

      @smine27: I greatly appreciate your comment and wish for us all, beautiful stumbles every day.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 

      5 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I am grateful that I stumbled upon this beautiful story today.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR

      lesliesinclair 

      5 years ago

      @rob-hemphill: It sounds like you also think that is a healthy kind of sensitivity. For the years I've been in an apartment I've longed for a pet but don't feel like it's fair to one to keep it indoors. But, a move may make that an option.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It was much later for me. Although I know about compassion, often I still fail in it.

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 

      5 years ago from Ireland

      I worked with animals from a young age and developed that amazing bond with them, and suffered terribly over any losses. My children recently reminded me how distraught I was at the loss of my Burmese cat after 15 years, when they were still very small - they saw how a pet was very much a family member.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR

      lesliesinclair 

      5 years ago

      @socialcx1: Your comment pleases me, to know that you found value there.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR

      lesliesinclair 

      5 years ago

      @aesta1: It's not always automatic to feel compassion, but with me it happens more often than not. I think it's due to some sensitive experiences in early childhood - maybe my drowning at age 3, and being brought back to life by my other uncle.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR

      lesliesinclair 

      5 years ago

      @TanoCalvenoa: I was surprised, when I found this photograph again, at the emotional reaction. Of course, I was riding on the feelings of happiness at having just reconnected with a cousin, my uncle's youngest son.

      I've heard that my religion also teaches that we'll have our cats back in paradise. I can't imagine having a cat for 18 years, and to think that he lived through a car accident too!

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR

      lesliesinclair 

      5 years ago

      @TanoCalvenoa: When we think about the wholeness of life it would seem that a tiny common cat wouldn't count for much, but God's gifts are wonders. The image of having pets returned in heaven is surely comforting too. I can't imagine having a cat for 18 years, and to think that she lived through being hit by a car.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 

      5 years ago

      I enjoyed this lens, which was sad but also had great lessons in it. I think it's amazing that you have the picture of your precious cat from 1955!

      I had a kitten who died of a disease. I was seven years old at the time. We soon got another cat, and in 1987 she was hit by a car but lived. She survived until 2004, 18 years old. Pet loss can be very difficult for a child especially. However, I've seen adults cry in such situations.

      When a four-year-old cat of ours died (killed by a coyote) in 2012, I told my daughter she would see him again in the next life. We believe this to be true, and it gives hope rather than devastation. My daughter, now age nine, still says he was her best friend more than a year later.

    • socialcx1 profile image

      socialcx1 

      5 years ago

      Thanks, I enjoyed reading you lens.

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