Remember the love

Today this group is headed to the Best Friends Adoption Center.

We ended up naming them Salzburg, Linz, Wels, Vienna and Austria.  Picked up on May 8th, from Best Friends–described as “5 shy-ish kittens”–one of them got so upset on our way home, they pooped in the carrier.  We never have any real idea when we get a group what it’ll be like.  What their history in the world and with people is, how feral they are.  But typically, even if they’re “shy-ish,” hissing and pooping the first day, by the second or third in the kitten room–with the furniture and the boxes and the quiet– they’ve decided they’re safe enough.  Maybe will flee during transitions, loud noises, our movements, and toss a few side-eyes after quietly and slowly slinking up to the new canned food we’ve plopped down  but will give noticeable evidence that they are relaxing and curious.  Will gather excitedly when toys come out, skitter now and then just to remind themselves of their past, but dive back in soon after.

But not this group.  The five kittens in this group were all petrified.  And, for three of them, it actually got worse as the weeks wore on.   In spite of our efforts to elicit trust and offer them an optimal environment, it got to where Julia confessed a few weeks into it that she’d feel so depressed by the sight of kittens still in such fear of people who’ve spent weeks hoping to help them feel safe that she’d often have a difficult time going in their room to see them. It was discouraging to confront the reality that for three of these kittens, the tricks that had always worked weren’t, and that the absolute purity of calm, and love and devotion wasn’t enough to overcome whatever embedded trauma and fear they had already established in their little bodies.  When Julia admitted that, I confessed that I too had been surprised.  Best outcomes is they get back to the Best Friends Adoption Center when they’re still little–and more adoptable–in case there is a kitten surplus and they have to wait there for weeks before their family finally finds them.  Those outcomes are usually doable pretty easily but this group we just weren’t sure.

And I had a long work day in front of me–and was already exhausted from previous long days–so when I held formerly-fearful Linz to give her our pre-farewell “blessing of the fosters”—“we love you; if you need us, tell the universe to help you find us; may our love always serve to comfort you”—my tears started to flow.

Because in the short interim span between Julia’s confession and this morning came about the improbable growth that meant these kittens were ready for their new life.  That they themselves were reshaped, reformed, and anew.  And how does that happen?  I don’t really know.   I’m in this room saying goodbye and giving my blessing to kittens who a week before I knew at least three of them would be hiding behind the furniture at the adoption center to keep from being seen by potential adopters.

And last night, I’d spent some time falling into the experience of the 2018 Tony Awards.  The students of Parkland high school performed “Seasons of Love” from Rent, just a few months after the Valentine’s Day massacre at their high school.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes…

How do you measure a year in a life?

How about love?

Measure in love.

Remember the love.

And in the room with me were the kids of this tragedy, together on a stage, bursting the hearts of those around them with this symbolic gesture of hope and harmony.  Linz’s downy hair, and solid strong body relaxing into the trust we’ve built as I pick her up, and tenderly cradle her, telling me there is healing even when the world hurts us.  Even when we are vulnerable and wronged–traumatized and justifiably hopeless–there can still exist the part of our story in which we find our way into an arc of redemptive luminescence.  As if the universe sends us our very selves as a message of perseverance.  Compelling us to join our fellow injured on a stage and in unison make a different world together inside melodies speaking of love.

And my eyes were dripping, from love and tears and I crawl slowly over to Wels. A fluffy little man–once most frightened of all of them, in almost constant terror for many weeks–who’d somehow, suddenly, one random day, got his light switched on. Trekked across the kitten room to Julia and rubbed his head against her fingers in affection. And I raise him slowly, and kiss him slowly, closing my eyes, as I give the blessing.  I want him to know the singing.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes…

How do you measure a year in a life?

I want him to know that things are often hard, and moments filled with external love and safety will pass.  Want him to know (want myself to know) that when the kitten room is empty and their little ghosts run around in my memories, that though the math adds up to all of us passing at some point again into trauma, fear, and darkness, we can never unsing this beautiful moment.  Right this second is one we will always have when in the future dark times gather to make us doubt if that love was even real; when the singing to heal isn’t something we can muster, we can still never unhear being told how loved we are, or relaxing into the hands of a lady we came to trust for the quiet ways of patience, effort, concern and blessings.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes…

How do you measure a year in a life?

How about love?

Measure in love.

Remember the love.

And I finish, and close the door to head out for my workday, leaving the babies in their room for one last day. But with me–singing quietly to myself–I take the softness of their hair and the feeling of their relaxed bodies being held against mine, and the mysteries of healing, and the arc of an improbable story I have personally just been part of.

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