Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Artless Emotions

No post yesterday because our favorite cat died, and we were all too damned sad to accomplish anything. I'm not much of an animal lover, but this was a special cat, and to my great surprise I miss the hell out of him.

The worst part, of course, was telling the kids--Rhian and I discovered what happened right after they left for school, and we had to greet them with the news upon their return. Just a terrible day all around, and for the kids, probably a profound and memorable experience.

Here's the flip side, though: a memory from several years ago. Our kids spent one summer obsessed with these little plastic aliens--I think we got them out of a vending machine at Best Buy, or maybe it was a local toy store. They cost maybe a buck, and came with parachutes, and you could get them in several different poses. If I remember right, they were engaged in various sports.

So they had a bunch of these aliens, and one day we discovered you could get silver ones in bulk from Oriental Trading. We ordered something like 50 of them--they were really cheap, like five dollars for the lot of them. And then those arrived, and kept the guys occupied for maybe two months. I mean, they were gooned on these things...I don't think they'd had such sustained interest in anything in their lives.

Finally, one day Tobey was out with Rhian and they found glow-in-the-dark ones. For him, this was like a dream come true--and I mean that literally, it was as though he had dreamed this super special perfect thing, and then woke up, but instead of it being a dream it was TOTALLY REAL. Rhian said that he exited the toy store clutching the aliens and saying, "I can't believe this is happening."

It was hard to even listen to this little story when Rhian came home--I found it painful to even consider the level of unbridled joy our son was feeling. Would he ever be that happy again in his entire life? The purity of it was blinding.

As a writer, what the hell do you do with emotions like these? Grief because your cat is dead. Joy because the thing you most desired is now yours. These aren't the kind of emotions you put in books, they're the kind you put in greeting cards. They're not interesting--they just are. They are there to be felt, and just about any conceivable analysis of them comes off as pure saccharine. Maybe the power in them is their incapacity to be molded into art.

Or maybe you can write about them. I dunno. I'm not going to, I don't think. I would find myself trying to undercut or enhance them--it would be like de-faceting a diamond and burying it in the ground. And I'll bury my cat sorrow in recording magazines and Ithaca Beer.


Jeff said...

My condolences. I lost my dog of 14 years two weeks ago and I still find myself looking for her every day when I get home.

jrlennon said...

Yep...looking out onto the porch as I type...expecting him to hop up the steps as always.

gnomeloaf said...

I'm so sorry about your cat. Funny how sometimes they really just get under your skin, and it sneaks up on you.

If you've never read it, you might want to have a look at Judith Viorst's book The Tenth Good Thing About Barney. I had someone recommend it to me once -- even though there wasn't a death to precipitate the recommendation -- because it's not at all maudlin, and remarkable for that.

the individual voice said...

I love this post. "I can't believe this is really happening" applies so aptly to both the wonderful gains and the empty losses. We love our cats too.

laura said...

Geez. I'm so bummed. I can't even break it to the girls. At least I've been able to desensitize them somewhat for our cat's demise (she is 16). The shock and loss must be profound. Ugh, I dread those moments.

jrlennon said...

Thanks, sis, break it to 'em gently...