Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Gifts

Yesterday was one of those days.

It started very early. All I wanted to do was write, but instead, I got a head-scratchingly complicated last-minute editing job with a pressing deadline, and it took me ages to finish. During the time I was working, the stray cat who is felina non grata all over the neighborhood because of a spraying problem, got into our flat and let loose. Our own cats, worrying that the overpowering smell of cat pee would tempt us into welcoming this incontinent Wandering Tom into the bosom of our home, thus reducing their daily ration of Whiskas, decided a special gift was in order.  Unfortunately, we weren't quick enough to claim it. When I went downstairs to get the mail, I found masses of feathers, blood, and a few grisly bits of leftover bird everywhere -- especially in all the hard-to-clean places. Later, to further secure my affection, one of my cats topped this treat  up with an entire litter of some kind of rodent, all pink, hairless, and dead as doornails on the porch step.  I thought of the mother-rodent coming home to her empty nest and felt like bursting into tears. Until I saw what I'm pretty sure was her a few feet away -- headless.

The cat pee smell would not go away, no matter what I did. The feathers in the hard-to-clean places stayed right where they were; I reasoned it was just a matter of time before they took down another bird, so why bother cleaning it up?

I was feeling bad enough, but when I started skimming the new textbooks I'll be using this term, I felt even worse. There is no key, I have no teacher's manual, and some of the exercises were too hard for me to do. I sat for twenty minutes, staring at a graph and  feeling colossally stupid. How can I ask my students to do what I personally find challenging?

I went to  bed with a pounding headache, after barely finishing my lesson plans, and the smell of cat pee kept me up. I did not feel one bit like teaching. I did not feel warm, fuzzy feelings towards my cats.

When I got to work, I still had the headache. But hurrying from one class to another, I ran into two students from last term. The minute they saw me, their faces lit up and they shriked my name: they'd passed their exams and they were giddy with joy. Two minutes later, I ran into a few more who had passed too, then three more. I don't know by what miracle I managed not to encounter a single former student who failed today -- I know they're out there -- but I didn't. There is no greater reward than the grinning face of a student who has passed an exam she was positive she'd fail. After that, despite my lack of sleep and cat-pee headache, I was able to understand the new textbooks, and my classes went well.

When I got home and sat down to write, both my cats came into the room. One sat at my feet, the other curled up on my lap. And neither one had a dead rodent or a bird.

Now that is a gift.


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20 comments:

Lisa Shafer said...

SOOOOOO glad I don't have pets!

Great tale. :)

Vijaya said...

Mary, your cats are a menace. They do have their lovely moments though ... when they're not decapitating mice and birds. You should write a PB about them :)

Anne M Leone said...

Goodness knows, we need those gifts some days! Glad to hear whatever powers that may be came through for you. And honestly, most days the only good part of teaching is the kids!

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm always amazed when something works when I know I'm dead tired. It may not work for long but sometimes things do come through for you.

Postman said...

Life always surprises us with those little consolation prizes on the heels of major disasters, don't it?

Ann Herrick said...

Glad your day ended on a positive note!

Mary Witzl said...

Lisa -- You'd be even gladder if you'd seen what one of them left for me on the sofa this afternoon. Sometimes I wonder what they're there for. :(

Vijaya -- The bird thing is really getting me down. I know I should keep them indoors, but I'm not sure I could take it. But we're definitely going to get a bird feeder they can't climb.

Anne -- Connecting with the people you teach makes it all worth while -- a true gift. But I'll bet nobody goes into teaching because they can't get enough administrative work, or teachers' meetings. :(

Charles -- Have you ever taught a great lesson after not putting much work into your preparations? And have you ever taught a terrible one after hours of careful thought? I had the former happen on Wednesday, and it was a welcome relief.

Postman -- I can't remember who said that life was a series of tiny disappointments interspersed with the big ones, but it's been like that for me lately. But Wednesday -- ah, that was different.

Ann -- Thank you! I was pretty happy about this too. :)

Mirka Breen said...

One of THOSE days, ey?
If I didn’t love, cherish, admire and adore cats so much- I'd be tempted to say something not nice.

No felines in mine, but in some ways our blog posts might be siblings...

Ruth Kelly said...

The only time I smell cat pee is when the litter needs changing which I keep way down i n the basement.

angryparsnip said...

Goodness what a day/night ? you had but so glad about the smiling students. That feeling must have made the headache vanish.

As for the cat, I would report it or catch it and send it to the SPCA.
Or if it has an owner send cleaning bills to them every time this happens.

We seems to generally be a polite people but by letting someone's cat and it owner treat everyone in your neighborhood with such disregard is wrong.
Besides spraying he is probably not neutered and adding to the cat overpopulation.
As you can tell I am involved with the Local Animals Shelter.
I read an article about the declining bird population do to outdoor cats. Especially the France to UK bird routes.
So as a people we need to put a bell on our outdoor cats or teach them to take over the jobs that birds do in our circle of life ecology.
Where I live no one lets their cats outside. They are just food for the coyotes, hawks and cars.
Goodness I rambled on....

cheers, parsnip

Kim Ayres said...

One of a couple of reasons we don't have cats...

Glad to hear about your students though :)

inluvwithwords said...

What a day, Mary! I'm glad you were gifted with those smiling students. Helped to put things into perspective, I'll bet.

Pat said...

Isn't it great how one's spirits CAN rise again.
I echo Lisa:)

Pat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carole said...

Hilarious. Glad your students had such excellent results. That way your day was a total loss.

Aledys Ver said...

All of a sudden you realised you had made a difference - thanks to you, those kids had their moment of glory. Your sleepless night and all your sores were gone as if by magic... :)

Bish Denham said...

Ahhh gifts, they come in all shapes and sizes, wrapped and unwrapped. The ripples of the stones you throw into the still pond-minds of your students is paying off, the best gift of all.

Carole said...

What I meant was, WASN'T a total loss.

annebingham said...

I know products exist that are effective at neutralizing cat spray; if your kindly neighborhood vet does not have something to recommend, I bet you'd find something online.

As for the deposits your own cats are leaving, look at it this way: you'll never go hungry.

Robin said...

Could the rodents have bitten off each other's heads? We once went to get a baby hamster for Alex, and there were headless baby hamsters in with the live ones. We asked the pet store guy what happened and he explained that baby hamsters like to eat each other's heads off. Needless to say, we didn't get a hamster. Ew.