“And her voice is what keeps me here…”

It occurs to me that I’ve never actually explained how Shoemom and I came to live together. The whole ‘living with your parents’ stigma isn’t as much for daughters as it is sons (and I am appropriately grateful that I’ll never see myself in a Will Ferrell character). But it it probably does still leave some readers wondering.

The short version is that when Shoedad left he stranded her with no other option. Certainly no financial ones.

It wasn’t that he didn’t know how to make money, you understand; it was his ability to keep it that was decidedly erratic. His lavish generosity was legendary – partly out of a natural gregariousness, and partly from a desperate need to ensure that people liked him in return. When things were good his family shared in the largesse; when they weren’t, his friends were still taken care of in full, and we took the brunt of his frustration and failure. This had the effect of throwing my parents’ marriage a bit…off, at the best of times.

This, as Shoemom explains it, is what women did back then: they got married. And it was Shoedad who finally walked out, twenty-odd years and three daughters later, when – to summarise a long and fraught story you really don’t want to hear – the same Christianity he had introduced Shoemom to meant he might himself have to face up to his own consequences. Save occasional mutterings about ‘we really need to talk…’ he dropped completely out of our lives fifteen years ago, leaving Shoemom to completely rebuild hers.

By God, she has. With the help of her family and her own strong faith, she relearned step by step how to be a person in her own right. It’s been a tricky business for her daughters – who are also our father’s daughters, after all – balancing our need of our mother, while at the same time reassuring her that it was totally, absolutely OK to say no to us, that her own wants had priority, her ideas and tastes were deserving of respect. An awful lot to ask, both of naturally self-centred young adults and the mom who’d spent her life catering to us in ways we were only dimly beginning to understand.

But we all managed to rise above in the end. She saw my one sister married, moved in with the other and worked for nearly a decade with her cleaning homes. She took an increasingly active role in her congregations, making friends, learning to understand and accept her role in the past…swallowing hurt at the sight of happy couples.

As my respect for her courage – and understanding of her reasons – grew, a friendship sprang up between us, over and above what we owed each other. Thus when five years ago Shoesis decided to move out, just as I was looking for a room-mate to help cover my move back to the city, the saga of My Mother, My Best Friend, and Could We Please Figure Out How That Works Before We Kill Each Other was launched.

Soppy tribute commences under the cut…

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Find the face you’ve seen a thousand times…

OK, so happiness is also about getting the sleep you need when you (desperately) need it, which is where yesterday’s entry went. In fact, sometime I may write an entire post on the sweetness of a good sleep, because frankly it makes me very, VERY happy to, say, wake up at 6am and then suddenly realise it’s Saturday.

(Parenthetically – anybody else have early-morning dreams in which they get up and start getting ready for work, only to hit some impossible snafu and get so incredibly frustrated they…wake up, all confused? Because I do, often enough to be bemused. I’ve missed imaginary busses and taken surreal showers in which I accidentally dump lotion on my hair. Several times I’ve theoretically left the house [ahem] half-dressed. Just very, very strange.)

Meanwhile, this post is about my waking hours, and a little detour happiness took this week.

Long story short: I met friend at services. Friend commiserates re: Lucy, as per all my friends, who come to think of it are a whole ‘nother entry in and of themselves. Anyway, this particular friend inquires if I’m planning on getting another cat. I hem and haw and say things like ‘eventually’; for now we already have another cat, and had about decided she would be enough.

Trouble is, as I’d been discovering to my dismay, Dolly isn’t really my cat. I mean, to all intents and purposes she’s not a cat at all, she’s a little person in a fur suit. We’re buddies well enough, but Shoemom’s the onewho fell in love with her as a kitten and has raised her since, so she’s the one who gets all the cuddles and the lap warming. That’s what I missed, not just the fact of a cat, but having a cat…

…Look, I’m not going to draw direct comparisons between pets and kids here; I find that whole ‘a boy is a pig is a dog’ line repugnant. But there are certain instinctive emotional needs that can find a satisfying outlet elsewhere when one has no offspring of their own species, is all I am saying.

This is where I am at when friend announces that she knows of a litter, five weeks old, available free to good home in another three. I’d better hop on the reserve list now, right? Besides…one of the kittens happens to be a tortoishell.
Um, I said. Heart leaping and then almost instantly hitting my shoes. How could I possibly be trying to fill Lucy’s place so soon? How could I fill it at all? Of course, I couldn’t. So clearly I was merely being completely selfish, trying to paper over her memory with a little helpless kitten, using it to assuage my own grief…

Just come and see them, said the friend. OK, I said.

And that’s how I learned that grief and happiness are not – should not – be mutually exclusive concepts.

Meet Jemima.

(The one who looks like she's auditioning for Two-Face in a feline production of Dark Knight Returns. I did think of calling her Harley Quinn, but just got funny looks.)

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty; that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

The fragrant velvet of a rose
curled lightly into my hand
This is my offering;
A solemn devotion,
dumb-show of ecstacy
Thine is this twilight hour, thine is the Kingdom

In the pageantry of Eternity I am strange and lost
But I can feel the cool relief of a summer rain
And afterwards the earth smells strong with growing things
the roses will come soon

–Shoebox, age sixteen (and fresh off TS Eliot in sophomore English)

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Yeah, I know, the real happiness is not having to read poetic efforts on LJ. But I really couldn’t figure out how to express today’s subject in prose without rattling on ad nauseum, and probably way too heavy on the nauseum to boot. You takes your happinesses where you find’em, is I guess the motto of this installment.

Put simply, I am and have always been receptive to the myriad graces of the natural world. It is my sure path to spirituality; all logical and scientific arguments aside,I find it impossible to believe that there is no further point to natural law. If only in the fact of our being able to respond to it with such peculiar intimacy, and at the same time, limitless awe.

*****************************************

when serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage-
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age

when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
-and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to close

when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn-valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude-and march
denounces april as a saboteur

then we’ll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind(and not until)

–ee cummings

If you wanna have fun, it doesn’t matter at all…

Happiness week @ Shoe Central continues with a theme of universal love, hope and brotherhood…

…well, OK, not exactly. We haven’t reached the ‘bang the tambourine at airports’ stage of happiness yet, and frankly, we hope we never will. We have fond memories of encountering George Carlin in a book of advice to young people: "Question everything. Question – and resist!"

Of course, we also recall a painfully apt line from the Barenaked Ladies: "I’m so sane/it’s driving me crazy…"

Somewhere in-between lies our enduring fascination with children’s media.

*********************************

So, can I drop the royal ‘we’ now? Oh, I already have? Great.

Ahem. Not to worry, I’ve already rambled on at some general length on this subject… no, not the third person majestic plural, children’s TV. And faithful readers will recall that the outlook at that point was pretty grim.

Well, guess what: this post is about the tiny little ray of sunshine that’s burst through since then. Big & Small. Airing on TreehouseTV, here in its native Canada. (Although I am linking to the CBBC version because it includes much more introductory goodness). Various points on the schedule. Fifteen minutes a pop. 100% pure, unadulterated happiness. Go on, try a clip. See if you’re not grinning like an idiot within seconds.

OK…so the Canadian version doesn’t have Lenny Henry’s voice. Everything else – the charm, the wit, the riotous imagination – is blissfully intact. Big is still a gentle giant who invents good luck machines and dreams of counting the stars. Small still has a pet sock named Fang and dreams of being the Best Camper Guy Ever and…looks like a cross between a bunny and a goldfish.

As it turns out, he and Big are actually Grogs. This recent discovery clicked everything into place for me, because it means they’re from the same creature shop that has been making me very happy indeed since ‘way back when their ancestors used to show up between YTV programs in the early ’90’s.
These are good people to have in your corner when you’re stuck babysitting on a rainy afternoon. They have the same understanding Henson & co. (the original generation at least) did – that using felt critters means that you can actually get away with a whole lot of good stuff. Because nobody would ever dream of questioning the motives of cute fuzzy puppets, would they now?

No, really. Despite decades of warning, you can still get away with a surprising lot. You can, for instance, create a realistically hyper, egomaniac little kid, pair him off with a realistically capable but imperfect guardian, give them a common fascination with all the world has to offer…and somehow sneak it onto the international kidvid slate without a single parental complaint (that I can find, anyhow). It is the last best hope for resistance against the perfection of the average: the human personality, in all its chaotic glory.

As it happens, that’s also the foundation of the finest comedy humanity has to offer, so it’s no huge surprise that the average Big & Small episode is a mini-screwball masterpiece. Pocoyo does something similar with childish attitudes, but it’s hampered more by its peculiarly British sense of mission. B&S on the other hand are purely North American, over-the-top parodies of the spoiled brat and ineffectual parent archetypes that’ve been pervading our ether since Dr. Spock.

In recognising them, you laugh at them; in laughing at them, you learn from them; in learning from them, you understand them…and hey presto, expanded horizons. I have never, ever understood why more kids’ series haven’t picked up on this very simple formula. Probably saves a metric buttload in Child Development consultants. Not to mention songwriters.

Right, enough gushing, more sleep. It’s impossible anyway to really convey the funnie of this series in print; the fun comes from watching the expressions and voices and reactions. So…go watch it, OK? Seriously.

Happiness is…

…the sudden realisation that I don’t, in fact, have to wait for the Happiness Meme to come back around before posting a week’s worth of things that make me happy.

This is good. Because I really, really need some cheering up. I have hit a patch where even attendance at a three-day spiritual feast seems to be more about pointing out what I’m not accomplishing than feeling good about what I am.

Recent events have made it wrenchingly clear that what I thought was security has actually meant the avoidance of natural growth; the refusal to embrace change. Now I’m sitting here realising exactly what I’m missing…and even worse, realising that to make up for it, my brain has elevated one of the causes – aggravation over a memory of a minor TV show – into a Big Huge Honking Dramatic Deal that’s worthy of being posted for all the Net to see.

In retrospect, sitting around eating Oreos and reading Etiquette Hell.com has probably not been the best way to handle this.

Yeah, it’s that bad. Double Stufs can usually beat ’em back when all else fails, but this particular crisis has all the annoying characteristics of a perma-angst. So…what I need to do is spend a little while among the genuinely good, not just feeling superior to the bad. Remind myself of all the good reasons there are to really reach out.

Let’s kick off with a tribute to the fuzzy little buddy that was providing this kind of therapy since before I even discovered the Interwebs, even. Seriously. Not many cats – nor humans, for that matter – have a default expression for"Mom, The Matrix is Just a Movie and You Really Should Relax Now, OK?"…but Lucy did.
 

Pretteh kitteh pics under the cut…