Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cats in Red Wagons (StoredStory # 9)

Children are quite impressionable. They also like to act. We call it playing or make believe or dress up. But, kids reenact what they see.  I know I did.

Being raised in the Church of Christ, I saw many baptisms. They dunk you in all the way, too. I also heard many sermons that seemed to last whole afternoons, right during the best play hours on the day before school started again. But nonetheless, I often emulated the things I saw.

I once (probably more than once if we’re realistic here) gathered all my babies, as I called my stuffed animals, in a throng of adherents around the coffee table. Upon the coffee table, I placed my dad’s vintage (Elvis style) microphone and stood before it as I began to preach to the masses. The pound puppies barked their “amens,” and the cats meowed up songs of praise. If I had a pig, I’m sure he oinked.
A year or so later, after a rainstorm, I saw that my red wagon was full of water. The outdoors were still gray and damp, and the air was full of moisture as if ready to seep tears.  Two of our cats just happened to be walking by, and as I gazed from them to the red wagon, I decided they needed to be baptized. So I took up one, and began, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, (Meow) and the Holy Spirit (Meooow!!).” The poor cat clearly was not ready for such a shocking bath of rainwater. He tore away from my hands, and reached a safe distance where he began shaking the water from his feet.   
My parents used to love to tell this story to people. This story -- one among many embarrassing stories--evoked laughter and smiles. Perhaps pride. Pride in the idea that I (this little boy) would be part of a continuing tradition. But, when I think of this story now, I often feel bad for the poor cat. Now I can think about how it must have been for him, which I wasn't able to do yet as a little boy.
Play-acting continues for a lifetime, I think. We perform the lives we see every day, the ones we have internalized, and the ones we envision. Cat-baptism is not part of my script anymore, but remembering it is. Our lives are wagons of reflecting rain water that hold onto old scenes. And, the instant replay is perhaps one of the most defining traits of being human.

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