This first appeared in Kingston Life and More Magazine.

Every winter we doubt spring will come. But sure as anything, one morning we will wake up wearing a hat and mitts and by afternoon we’ll be wearing shorts and applying sunscreen. Climate change has made spring almost obsolete.

I love spring. Spring brings flower buds and new ideas and the bunny that brings candy. You have to admit, that’s one fertility story that went horribly askew. I never really bought the idea of the Easter Bunny. Neither did my daughter. When she was about seven, she said to me, “Mommy, the Easter Bunny doesn’t make sense. A rabbit couldn’t hop around the world in one-night delivering eggs.”

I thought to myself, This is a smart kid. She takes after my side of the family. I was about to spill the jelly beans and tell her the whole truth, but within a split second she turned to me and said, “The rabbit would definitely need a magic chicken.”

Of course, he would.


The point of this story is my daughter needed a magic chicken to get her through the winter and I needed a wild cat to bring me hope. Let me explain. Fifteen years ago, I went through a long dark patch. I could call it a dark night of the soul, but really it was an entire season. Winter for a long, long time. Dark when you woke up, dark all day, and dark when you went to bed. Even my SAD light was depressed. My kids had left home. My marriage had ended. I was shaken to the core.

When your kids leave, it’s called empty nest syndrome. Nowadays we need to call things syndromes so we can get a prescription. But having no man in your life? There is no medication for that, no patch you can purchase. In fact, all you get when your marriage ends is unsolicited advice. One camp says “Don’t worry! You’ll find somebody.” Another says, “You don’t need anybody.” Yet another group says “Don’t leave it too long.” I guess we’re like cars. We need to take them out for a spin or they’ll seize up.

But then there are people like my friend Rachel, who said, “You are grieving. This is just loss — there’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, there is a course you can take from a Buddhist temple in L.A. called ‘There’s Nothing Wrong with You.’”

          I was reassured to think that I could pay travel all the way to California to find out there’s nothing wrong with me.

In the middle of this dilemma, the kicker was my dog had to be put down. Most people sigh a big horrible sigh when I say this. They are fine with the kids going and the man leaving, but the dog dying really gets to them. It got to me too. It was like I was trapped in a country and western song and I couldn’t get out. I coped with it by making soup — pots and pots of soup. Containers upon containers of soup were lined up in my freezer, all in alphabetical order.

The only place I could keep it together was at work. I had to travel from hamlet to suburb being funny, and I realized I could turn on the charm for about as long as it took for the audience to clap and for me to collect the cheque and get to the car. But by the time I turned on the ignition, I’d be bawling again.

During this time I began talking to my cats, but I got nothing back. See, cats are a lot like drunks. They go out for three days and act like it’s your fault that you expected them home for dinner. I often wondered what is that cat thinking? but anything that stands there picking at the fabric of the couch over and over again is not thinking about much. They are not ruminating. Cats have OCD.

One night I heard something banging on the door. I thought it was the cat that usually knocks on the door, but when I looked down it was standing right beside me. So I went outside and snuck around to the garage and when I looked in, I spied a grey ball of fur with a pink thing on its head. As I drew closer, I saw it had an empty cat food can stuck on its head. A wild cat had gotten into the garage and got its head stuck in a pink can of Mr. Whiskas, and it was freaking out. So I took a broom and tried to knock the can off, but it didn’t help.

Then I called my neighbours and said, “I have a feral cat in my garage with a can on its head.”

“Have you been drinking?” they asked.

“No, there is a cat with a can on its head and it’s going to die.”

“So what? It’s a feral cat!” Amherst Island was crawling with them. So, after a few more attempts to get the can off, I concluded I would have to let it die.

I never wanted to be Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. I am not a character on “Little House on The Prairie.” I was fifty-two and alone, and I didn’t want to be that way. And oh, sure, I was older and wiser, but wisdom isn’t honoured in this society. There is no TV show called “Canada’s Next Top Crone.” I didn’t want to wear a red hat or go on a bus trip.
The next morning, I got up and got the shovel to bury the dang dead cat I knew would be waiting for me out in that garage. But when I opened the door there it was. Sitting there without a can on its head. I’ve never been so happy to see something alive — I looked at the cat and suddenly had an epiphany. I thought: Life is like this. Sometimes we get a pink can stuck on our heads and we run around trying to get it off but if we just relax, it’s all okay.

It may not sound like an Aha! moment but for me, it was almost as grand as when Scrooge raced through the streets on Christmas Day yelling “Merry Christmas, one and all!” I was so filled with love for that blasted cat that I bent down and petted it.

And it scratched me to shreds because that’s what a wild cat does.

Then I went to the hospital because I thought I had cat scratch fever, and they gave me a tetanus shot and said, “Go on home. There is nothing wrong with you.”

And I said, “I knew that.”  I went home and cancelled my flight to California.

So yes, the hard times go and the winter ends, and spring comes rushing in like a lamb or a lion. And the magic chicken helps the Easter Bunny get the chocolate delivered.

More importantly, that cat taught me two very important lessons. One: Always wash out cat food cans before you recycle them. And two: That which doesn’t kill you makes you funnier.


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