Today is the Chinese New Year and the beginning of a new moon cycle. I have not talked or written much in a week. Life is difficult in a way that is not aided by narration. It is difficult in a stop the clocks way, though that is not my story to tell. I have been in Massachusetts, and Gracie has been, too. Bringing her with me has proved ill-advised though she behaved beautifully in her carrier. She’s such a polite kitty. Sometimes I speak about her archly but the truth is I never feel alone so long as she is by my side; she is the truest of companions.
That said, my overfamiliar only loves me, which makes catsitting her problematic. She does not like when others visit when I am not home. She does not like staying in others’ homes when they are there, especially when I am not.
I brought her with me to Massachusetts as an experiment of sorts. Could I leave her with my goddaughters and their father in the Greater Boston Area while their mom and I journeyed further into New England for our annual mid-winter adventure? As it happens, it was a failed experiment. Circumstances drastically shifted, and I stayed with the girls while their parents braved the New England blizzard to face a different kind of storm. A bluer one.
Things fall apart.
It’s the phrase that’s been ringing in my head all week (all year so far), and it’s the only phrase I feel like typing. I know that things must fall apart so new structures can be built. I know that doors close so windows can open. But I do not like chaos, I do not like hallways, and I really do not like snow. Objectively I can admire its extravagant silence and extravagant beauty. It holds terrible memories for me, though, and now I feel incubated with hard times and those memories, stripped of the ability to rush into the world and rapidly recirculate my blood.
As a child, I just felt danger.
Grace being Grace, she takes my cues. As I have sat on couches and by the fire with the girls, talking of Little House in the Big Woods and listening to scratchy old records, she has hidden under beds and in closets, squeaking as she does when sad or scared. The girls and I periodically look for her, sometimes find her. But the only way we can keep her out is to sing to her, which is something we’ve done since all three of those little ones were even littler. The song that’s always worked is “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Once, when Luci was five, she cornered Grace and kept snatching and squawking until my normally gentle permakitten scratched her. It was only once and a very delicate scratch but still: Grace hurt my youngest godchild. That is the only time I have ever known my cat to be violent but it taught me something. Like me, Gracie Lynn Michael Jackson Rosman would not sacrifice herself to protect a predator, no matter how innocent their intentions.
While I was thinking of what to do, Delia—who was in a phase in which she liked to tool around on a toy electric piano—began playing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It was one of the few songs she knew all the way through, and one of the few to which both Luci and I knew all the lyrics. So the three of us began singing the old funeral hymn, quietly first and then with gusto and New Orleans-style improvisations. Eventually we scrapped the lyrics altogether and just belted out meows to the same melody.
And eventually little Gracie who was not just a permakitten then but a bona-fide baby kitten came sailing out from under the bed and onto Luci’s lap. My cat has not been able to resist music since Mr Oyster played his horn when I first found her and he first found me.
So as the snow blankets my godfamily’s house, as the clock crawls to a stop, as the clatter of daily life is replaced by an unwelcomed holy hush, we three sing “When the Saints Go Marching In” to my cat, and she joins our vigil. Today is a new moon, and I feel a compulsion to chart a new course. As long as the saints are marching in, though, it may be wiser to stay still.