Friday, June 15, 2012

Here's Why Rats Pack

It’s hard to explain my Fluffy.  I see her every day.  She looks down from her perch above the racks in my closet, googley eyes frozen into a dazed stare. 

I have a picture of myself at 5 years old, sitting on the front porch of my parents’ starter house in Tulsa, grinning, proud, holding Fluffy by her felt ears.   

What causes a person to save such a thing as this raggedy stuffed cat?   

Had to replace her eyes some years ago.  Actually, that was the second time I replaced them.  My first effort consisted of carpet tacks pushed into Fluffy’s face where her original eyes sat.  One had fallen out and disappeared.  To my little girl way of thinking, at least she could see again, even if the tacks had no pupils and rusted in their sockets.   

More recently, I found myself in a bead store running my fingers through a bin of green eyes on stems.  They’re like Lasik for Fluffy.  A miracle. 

Why I bothered…unsure.   

I still take her down on occasion and commune with her.  Turns out she’s not a plush toy at all.  Not like the teddy bears and Elmo’s of today.  My Fluffy appears to be made from a complete rabbit pelt.  Well, almost complete.  No true legs or telltale rabbit’s feet.  She doesn’t stand, but rather lies on her belly with nubby legs splayed.  Just visualize a rabbit skin spread out like a bear rug.  Toymakers took that, wrapped it around stuffing, stitched it closed and voila!  Fluffy, a little girl’s kitty. 

She’s got rabbit fur and leather hide and she’s packed with straw – I found this out long ago when her tail came off, gone the way of her original eye. 

They attached felt kitty ears since keeping the rabbit’s ears would have been impractical.  No doubt over time they would have stiffened and cracked.  Not to mention the fact that rabbit ears would have made a bunny, not a kitty.  Though admittedly, I still could have called her Fluffy. 

Last week I made the mistake of introducing Fluffy to my macho year-old Burmese cat, Jesse, king of the Plath jungle.  He seemed quite stunned that I’d kept another feline (except Uma, his mate) in the house without his knowledge.  With cat-like reflexes (sorry) he lashed out at Fluffy and hooked her with his claw.  After a brief skirmish during which his pupils enlarged and his focus never wavered, I rescued her, smoothed her remaining fur and returned her to her shelf, high in the closet.   

But now Jesse knows she’s there and he continues to stare upward, plotting, humorless.  My task is to divert him and hope he forgets.  Have you ever known a cat to forget where he saw a mouse?  Me neither. 

I could pack her away.  But, but… 

I think my parents gave me Fluffy to distract me during our upcoming trek across the globe.  My dad took a job in Iran when I was five and we were packing for a series of long flights to get there.  No jets, we crossed the Atlantic in a four-engine propeller driven TWA airliner.  My brother and Fluffy and I slept under the air conditioning vent in a fold-down cot where overhead luggage is stored today.  Tulsa to New York to London then Paris.  Damascus to Beirut to Abadan.  Then two years in the desert - a lot to take in for a little girl and her Fluffy. 

Oh, I’ve read the advice from those meddling do-gooders, the terminally tidy who click their tongues when they see Tupperware tubs filled with photos-to-be-sorted and drawers devoted to handwritten letters of uneven sizes.  They know just what to do with refrigerator magnets and knick-knacks and do-dads and childhood toys still living at home.  

Decades of nostalgia could be uploaded, categorized, and stored, untouchable, in the cloud.  Even mementos can be photographed for efficiency and donated or dispensed with, leaving desktops and chests of drawers clean and serene. 

If they had their way, my house would be streamlined, orderly, positively Scandinavian. I’m not sure I’d be at home in that place.   

And what would life be without Fluffy?