March 28, 2018

happy rat list

I do not remember if someone sent me this or if I just tripped over it.  I thought P.J. sent it to me but it turns out I sent it to her.  Neither of us is strong in the memory department these days, which comes in handy this week because we can hide our own Easter eggs.  The point is ... I mean, just look at it:

Found via Pinterest via CuteOverload,
and also on MemeCenter, so I don't even
know how to credit this, but I didn't take
it because he's not my rat.  God damn it.

I cannot look at this and not be happy.  Look at it!

I've long thought that I need to organize an arsenal, a combination of pictures and quotes and memories and objects and snippets of music, a box of things that bring me joy - because joy so rarely comes to me - so I'd have it in times of dire need, when I'm lying on my back at the bottom of The Pit with the breath knocked out of me from the impact.

This rat is totally going first.  Into the box with you, little fellow.  I think someone said his name is Morris, or maybe Morton.  Morton and the Milano and why wouldn't he be happy because Milanos are proof, atheism aside, that there is a beneficent god or goddess that loves us and wants to give us all good things.  "For me?  You really shouldn't have!  OMG, a Milano!  All for me!" he says.

I want a rat, but there is a one hundred percent chance that Rose would eat it.  The same thing goes for a hedgehog, but the rat wouldn't stick in her throat.

Other things that would go into the box:

1.  Listening to the end of Beethoven's Ninth, performed in 2004, my first time singing with our local symphony.  High school and college students from the School of the Arts made up the entire orchestra and they rocked the whole work.  I can't listen to the finale of this recording of us singing without smiling and then getting tears in my eyes, because I was so fucking proud of those kids, even when they left the conductor in the dust, flapping his hands pointlessly, and took off with it at warp speed, so full of joy themselves.  We could scarcely spit out the words.  It sped up and sped up, but they kept it tight, and the last note grabbed everyone and they jumped to their feet and whistled and cat-called and cheered with their hands clapping above their head.  My ex-father-in-law is a Beethoven expert and said that it wasn't the best recording he'd ever heard, but it was far and away the most energized and enthusiastic, not formal, the freude matching the words we sang.  See?  Tears even now.  It gets me every single time without diminishing returns.  Into the box it goes.

2.  The first printing of the first American edition of Good Omens that sits in a place of honor on our living room bookcase shelf.  P.J. gave me this for Christmas two years ago, and it is signed by both Pratchett and Gaiman, which is a very rare thing.  Sometimes I brush Terry Pratchett's signature lightly with the tip of my finger and know that he touched this and now I'm touching this and even though he's dead and so much dust, we're somehow connected by that, through time and space.  He touched it.  Awe and joy.  Into the box (very, very carefully).

3.  The memory of P.J.'s face when I gave her a Christmas present two years ago.  It was a set of four one-of-a-kind, small square baked-glass plates, each of which depicts an illustration of a fragment of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree".  I shall have some peace there.  These were intended for a cabin in the future, a declaration at the time of hope against all odds.  Now there is a place to hang them, but these, too, oh-so-carefully.  The memory of the light in her eyes, though, is not breakable.  She stared at them with tears streaming, speechless.  I had touched her to her core.  The power to do that is its own joy.  Into the box.

4.  Singing with Kate Campbell.  My best friend and I were at an atypically sparsely-attended concert in Carrboro one Sunday night, listening to Kate and Sloan Wainwright play together.  During intermission, my friend and I were both reading books, sitting on the front row, and Kate came over and made fun of us for having our noses down in books.  Even that felt good, but a short while later, Kate was trying to think of the next number she wanted to play in a very loose set list, and looked down at me and said, "Hey, want to sing one?"  I hopped up onto the stage and we kicked off "Visions of Plenty" and I sang harmony and there is nothing like being wrapped up in making music, far beyond singing along to the radio, far beyond humming to yourself in the grocery store.  It was a melding moment, and a gift.  Into the box.

5.  Sixth grade math class, when the Teacher wrote "Happy birthday, Lille!" on the chalkboard, all the way across it.  She never did that for any of the other kids in the class, and Lille felt incredibly special and loved and in love.  Even everything that came after has not touched that memory.  It's in a protective bubble, and I can climb into it sometimes and remember that unmitigated pure-strain child-joy.  Float the bubble down into the box.

6.  Reading "The Road Not Taken" by Frost.  It's an affirmation and it can pull me out, at least a little, of anything.  Simplicity that can be repeated without starting to sound weird, immune to linguistic saturation.  Into the box.

7.  Hugs from my brother-in-law.  He gives real hugs.  I never lose a sense of being grateful that I have been accepted into P.J.'s family, especially since the idea of a sibling that one actually wants to be around is otherwise foreign to me.  A pile of those hugs into the box.

8.  The first time I saw the Milky Way.  I was thirty-four.  P.J. held my hand and showed me the Universe.  But in this case, the Universe will fit into the box.

(Schrödinger's joy?)

I will keep adding to the happy rat list when something comes to me.  I know there are more things, and maybe some of them haven't even happened yet.  The box will always have room.

Update:  9.  My dog (the dumb one) is lying here, almost napping, ready to nod off, but I'm typing on my laptop and I look up and she's just staring at me.  Kind of worshiping, in a dog sort of way.  I look back and it makes her wag her tail.  I have the power to do that.  I speak sweet sleepy words to her and she sighs with contentment and puts her head down, closes her eyes, falls asleep.  She just needed that from me.  She was watching me.  A creature with a pure heart loves me unconditionally.  That dog and I are connected and more like each other than I realize.  She is highly attuned to my moods and comes to me when I'm upset, needing to reassure and receive reassurance.  She knows.  Oh yes, into the box.


  1. I actually like rats too and this photo of one is great. If my cat brings a mouse to me as a pressie, I prise it of her and let it go. They are great creatures and very cute.

    1. A rat is definitely going on my "someday" list - they say blue rats make great pets and are highly trainable. :)