I pulled a picture from a box containing photos from the 1950’s. It showed me and two of my neighborhood cousins sitting on swings Daddy had made under two large cottonwood trees near the barn. I looked to be four years of age, which made my cousins four and five years of age. They were wearing shorts and sun tops, but I was in a floor length nightgown that was visibly soiled.
Holding the picture up for my daughter Tammie to see, I exclaimed, “Look at the adorable expressions on our faces. This must be one of the first times we played together. I’ll bet their dad Tony came to visit my dad and brought them along.”
Recently I have spent several hours going through childhood pictures, looking for just the right ones to put in the family history book I am writing. A glowing bubble of rosy, happy childhood memories enveloped me as I examined pictures of three-year-old me chasing a small flock of Guinea hens, two-year-old me on my belly watching how a kitty-cat eats and dozens of family line-up pictures. Worries about the pandemic seemed far away and in another world.
Handing several photos to Tammie, I laughed, “Mom had a thing about lining us up in birth order for pictures. She didn’t just do this when we were dressed in our best for school or church. She even did it when the kids were playing in the yard. Here’s one where everyone is holding a hotdog in their hand.”
Examining the pictures, my daughter exclaimed, “These pictures are a historical treasure!”
Deciding it was time to start making supper, I went to the kitchen and began to put a salad together. Tammie called out from the entryway, “Mom, You should let Shadow spend time in the office with us. He’s so sweet!”
The rosy bubble that I’d been looking through all afternoon popped. Shadow is a very naughty one-year-old tuxedo kitten with a number of bad habits. I grumbled, “No! If there is anything around for him to get into, tip over or damage, he will. His most recent bad behavior has made me very angry with him. Several days this past month, he’s pulled large sections of foam insulation tubing off water pipes in the basement. That isn’t so bad, but then he sat and chewed them into confetti-sized bits. When I scolded him, he just stared at me with his big green, remorseless eyes.”
Tammie pointed out, “He’s just a kitten, and doesn’t know he is doing wrong. Stroking him she added, “Look at how beautiful he is. His fur is very soft!”
Shadow rolled onto his side so we could rub his tummy. His loud, rumbling purr filled the room. I admitted grudgingly, “He is beautiful and very soft.”
Tammie suggested, “Maybe he does naughty things because he’s bored. Also, he’s still a baby. When he gets older, he’ll settle down. Do you remember how naughty Louie was when he was a kitten?”
I nodded, but pointed out, “Louie only scratched and bit. He never broke multiple canning jars, climbed the walls and dismantled the basement insulation.”
Shadow licked my hand and purred even louder. I felt guilty for being angry at him.
After supper, I went back to going through my four-generation collection of pictures. As I worked, I thought about how I spontaneously love my family and the places we have lived. Unlike the warm, soft feelings I have when thinking about my family, my feelings about Shadow were cold and prickly. I needed an attitude adjustment.
Getting up to open the office door to let Shadow into my office, I thought, “Unlike Shadow, I am able to consciously decide how I’m going to behave.”
A moment later Shadow began to leap at a window curtain moving in a breeze, when I got up again to chase Shadow out of the office, I told my daughter with a sigh, “I’ve decided I love the crazy little fur-brain, but that doesn’t mean I have to have him in the room with me.”