Monday, May 27, 2013

Kitty Talk

© 2013 Linda Goodman

I cannot remember a time that I did not love cats. When I was little, any kitty would do. I loved having a little ball of fur curled up on my lap while I scratched behind its ears and listened to the little motor inside it, the one that purred until my fingertips tingled.

In 1970 I was given a seal point Siamese cat as an engagement present. I named him Beau Garcon, and I did not expect to like him. I had seen Lady and the Tramp, and the Siamese cats in that movie were EVIL!!! Beau, however, turned out to be my dream cat. He followed me from room to room, and whenever I sat down, he jumped onto my lap immediately and stared up at me with his sky blue eyes. He loved to have his ears scratched and his purr was a lullaby. Beau was also vocal. His meows and his whyyyys filled the house, especially when he was annoyed or excited.

After Beau passed on, I had three other Siamese cats, and they all possessed that same sweet temperament, that same degree of affection, and that same vocal hardiness. It would have been impossible for me to not love them. In fact, I spoiled them rotten.

When my daughter was born, however, my cats had to play second fiddle. I could hardly believe that this delightful little red-headed infant who never stopped smiling was my child. I was so fascinated with her capacity for joy (an enigma to me) that nothing else seemed to matter. Every free minute I had was hers.

Years later, though, my daughter went to bed one evening a normal kid and woke up the next morning a teenager. Being seen in the presence of her parents was a rare form of torture to her. Trying too hard to win back her affection just made things worse.

Instead of mourning the time I had once spent with my daughter, I adopted a petite seal point Siamese cat that I named Marisa. She was the runt of her litter and had been neglected by her mother. Every other cat I ever had knew instinctively how to use the litter box. Marisa was the first cat that I had ever actually had to potty train. She was quite pitiful. She needed me, and I needed to be needed. I lavished all my pent up affection on her. She adored being the light of my life and we became inseparable.

In 1988, my father passed away and my mother came to live with me. Mama did not like cats, and she wanted to make sure that I knew it. As we left her Virginia apartment and began driving the ten hours to my home in Connecticut, she asked, “Do you still have that cat?”

“Of course, Mama,” I told her. “You know that I love that cat.”

A few hours down the road, Mama said, “You know I don't like cats. They can take your breath away and smother you in your sleep.”

“Mama, that is just an old mountain superstition,” I insisted. "Marisa sleeps with me every night and hasn't smothered me yet."

A few more hours down the road, Mama warned me, “Cats will tear your furniture up with their long, sharp claws.”

“Marisa has been with me for years and has never clawed any of my furniture,” I assured her.

When we finally arrived at my house, I helped my mother to the kitchen door. Marisa was waiting for us. She and Mama glared at one another for a minute or two before Marisa retreated to the far side of the room.

The next day, while I was making dinner, Marisa rubbed her lean body against my leg as Mama watch us with extreme distaste plastered all over her face. “I don't see how you can stand a cat in the kitchen!” she snapped.

“Mama,” I said sweetly, an idea forming itself in my head, “what you don't understand is that Marisa is special.”

“I don't see anything special about it,” she retorted.

“Mama, that's because you don't know that Marisa can talk,” I informed her.

“Huh!” she barked in disbelief. “Cat's can't talk!”

As if on cue, Marisa walked slowly and elegantly to the kitchen door and cried “Meow!”

“See,” I told Mama, “she said 'Me out'.”

Mama, her face as pale as a ghost, gasped! “Why, it did sound like she said “Me out'!”

I looked a Marisa and said, “No, Marisa, you can't go out.”

“Whyyyys?” was her plaintive response.

I looked at Mama and said, “See, she wants to know why she can't go out.”

“ did sound like she asked you 'why'!” Mama was beside herself. “What else can she say?”

“Marisa is a cat of few words, Mama,” I confided. “She mostly likes to listen. And she is real good at keeping secrets.”

After I finished the dishes that evening, I went downstairs to the family room. As I approached the doorway, I could see Mama sitting on the sofa with Marisa curled up beside her. Marisa's sky blue eyes stared up into Mama's as Mama gently rubbed the top of Marisa's head. Mama was whispering to Marisa, telling her about my father and how hard it had been to lose him.

They did not know that I was listening, and I did not want to interrupt this most special moment. I walked back upstairs, knowing that I would have to get used to sharing Marisa's affection for as long as Mama chose to live with us. I hoped that would be a long time.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WWII Letters Make for Fascinating Book

Destination Unknown: Adventures of a WWII American Red Cross Girl

By LeOna Cox + Kathleen Cox

Available from for $15.00

Published by Kathleen Cox,

Book reviewed by Linda Goodman

This book, through letters written to her family and lovingly put together by her daughter Kathleen, shares the story of LeOna's Cox's time working for the American Red Cross during World War II. As I read the book, I realized how much I miss the ancient art of hand written letters, and why I cherish my father's old letters so much: they are something personal to hold onto, something touched and touching. As I read LeOna's letters, I felt as thought they had been written to me.

In 1943 LeOna Cox, a selfless young lady from Minnesota who put the needs of others before her own, left her job as a teacher of business studies at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA to go to work overseas with the Red Cross. While others got seasick on the journey to an unknown destination, LeOna saw the bright side of this adventurous excursion and stubbornly decided to have fun. “People hate me for enjoying myself when most of them are so miserable,” she confides. Talk about seeing the glass half full!

During World War II, the Red Cross sought out college-educated girls of good reputation who were 27 years of age or older. At its peak, the Red Cross ran close to 2,000 recreational services facilities overseas, staffed by 5,000 Red Cross workers and more than 100,000 volunteers.

According to this book, Red Cross Girls felt that their greatest gift was “compassionate listening.” LeOna certainly had that gift and used it to good effect: had it not been for her quick thinking and compassionate listening skills (as well as her willingness to put herself in harm's way), a distraught young man from Iowa would have killed a fellow soldier. This young woman deserved a medal for bravery.

There is never a dull moment in LeOna's story. In the midst of a super busy schedule, she has numerous adventures: a visit to a dentist who uses a drill powered by a bicycle; an invasion of locusts; and true love that leads to a most magical wedding, in spite of family opposition.

There is plenty of heartbreak, as well. War, after all, does result in the loss of life, especially cruel when among the fallen are those you know and have come to love.

G.K. Chesterton, the English poet, wrote that “men fight not because they hate what is in front of them but because they love what is behind them.” Red Cross girls, like LeOna, reminded these brave men of the home they were fighting for. Her story is one of courage and strength that you will not soon forget.