Tuesday, March 23, 2010


My best Saturday mornings are spent outside with coffee and a book. I keep meaning to pack a thermos and bike to a certain stretch of park a few blocks away so I can read underneath the shade of huge banyans, but so far the small porch outside the Treehouse door has suited me just fine. As I sit on the low stucco walls, eye level with the Gables' thick foliage, the sun makes even the coldest mornings tolerable.

A stray joined me this past Saturday. A female calico, skinny and fearless, a frequent visitor before Minime moved in. Something’s happened to one of her eyes. I’ve seen plenty of one-eyed cats before, but none coping with a recent injury. The way she canted her head at everything, so tentative in her steps and leaps, it broke my heart.

Her awkward jump to the wall beside me toppled a low table outside my door and sent my Zephyr Holdings, Inc mug tumbling down the slanted roof (I have an affinity for fictional propaganda: Dunder - Mifflin mugs, Vandalay Industries t-shirts, Stewart / Colbert bumper stickers). The noise startled the poor thing. She dug her claws into the roof, neck cocked at that odd angle as she tried to sweep her head in every direction at once.

I spoke to her in soothing tones as I set the table right. I told her she was fine and hadn’t done anything wrong as I stretched over the roof to retrieve my mug, which thankfully stopped short of rolling off.

I realized that for knocking over a plant and a nearly full cup of water (even though it was sitting out overnight and her water was fresh, she just had to stick her face in my cup…), Minime won herself a stamped foot and a sharp, accusatory call of her name. Not only that, she had to endure some withering admonishments while I mopped up water or cleaned up spilled dirt.

Some people treat what belongs to them negligibly, taking care only with things loaned or borrowed. Some prize their possessions but abuse things which aren’t theirs. I try to care for both equally, but I tend to treat that which doesn’t belong to me more delicately.

There’s got to be a metaphor for relationships in there somewhere.

When it comes to Becky’s son, have I discovered a well of patience I didn’t suspect simply because he isn’t mine? Or am I channeling those few moments when my own father took the time to teach me something?

What happens when I stop wooing Becky, when I start feeling entitled to her company?

To me part of being in love is looking with new eyes, making her feel special every day. My point is more about civility and respect, treating someone as an important new addition to your life instead of the other half of your self. I love that Becky and I have yet to exchange a harsh word (apart from an incident at work with a price gun which I won’t get into). I know I can’t expect that to last forever, but I think I’ve learned something about relationships which will prolong the honeymoon.

No one belongs to you. Even if they give their heart and soul, they are still an individual. Any time you win from them is grace, to be respected, cherished, and, if you’re lucky, nurtured into future moments.

Everything in this life is on loan.


  1. Perfectly said......

    I think too that patience with children comes from an unconscious state of awe at such an innocent, simple and direct world view. As a writer you're programmed to observe more than most too I suspect.

    great post AJC. Very thought provoking.


  2. Thanks, Al.

    Awe is right. You're looking at this unspoiled, wide-eyed, infinitely curious creature and thinking, “Please don’t let me be the one to ruin that.”

    He’s an egg. He’s a sculpture made of spun sugar. He’s a house of cards. I’m not about to make any sudden moves.