Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

December 17, 2007

Cats Are Family Too

The envelopes are rolling in, just like they do every year. For the most part, I like getting these photo holiday cards from my married friends around the country. For many of them, it's become the only way we stay in touch as our lives diverge more and more each year. I enjoy noting the resemblances in their children, the decorated mantels in their living rooms, the choices of formal or casual poses. It's all very warm, festive and familial and I count myself lucky when I come home everyday and see my refrigerator covered with a collage photos of smiling people I've known for years.

But along with these emotions, I'm aware of something darker that simmers just beneath my supposedly cheery holiday surface. Resentment.

Just like my married, procreating friends, I too had a busy, exciting year full of adventure, mishaps and joy. I may not have a gap-toothed three year old to show off, but my life is full of things that are just as photo-worthy as their families.

The stack of cards grew each year as more of my friends had kids, and my dark side grew right along with it. Then last year I just decided enough was enough. Sitting passively by and resenting was nothing but a waste. Nobody actually ever said that I couldn't send out a holiday photo card because I wasn't married and/or had kids. This was just something I chose to believe. So why couldn't I just jump in the fray and make my statement? This is who I am. And I am worth sharing. So there.

So last year I sent out my first "family" holiday card which consisted of me and my beloved cat AppleButt (name changed to protect her anonymity) posed over the warm glow of the Hanukkah menorah. I modeled it after a photo from my childhood of me and my three older siblings watching my mom light the candles. There I stood with my thumb in my mouth, stomach and diaper jutting out, eyes transfixed on the flames. A moment frozen in time - and worth replicating.

So I asked Only Child to come over with his fancy digital camera and take some shots in front of the little Hanukkah "set" I created in my kitchen using dradel gift wrap taped to the wall and shiny silver paper under the menorah to add to the glow. I held poor AppleButt up to the flames while I pretended to light the last candle. Unlike a real child, AppleButt was not quite so entranced, but with a little help from Photoshop, it almost looked like she wasn't in total hell.

I signed it "Happy Holidays from The [Troopers]" and sent it to everyone I knew, curious to get their reaction.

I thought it was hysterical and meant it entirely as a sarcastic joke. Unfortunately, the only people who actually got the joke were my fellow Troopers. Everyone else told me it was "really cute." But I'm sure they all thought I was finally becoming the Crazy Cat Lady.

No matter what the reaction, this little act of rebellion transformed what used to be a negative time for me into something mischievously festive and I couldn't wait for the following year to top it with something even more elaborate.

When I booked my cruise to Alaska, I knew I found my theme. As I smiled for photos throughout the trip, I wondered, "Is this the one?"

It wasn't until I got home and sifted through the hundreds of photos that I found the perfect image. It was from my favorite day of the trip (and probably my life) when I hiked eight miles to a glacier where I sat on a rock, sipped hot cocoa from a thermos, ate a sandwich, and gazed at the ice all around me. Pink-cheeked, decked out in a hat and windbreaker, I'm smiling with true joy. The only thing that could have made the day better was if I could have shared it with someone special.

With a little help from Wine Guy's amazing Photoshop skills, I got my wish. And AppleButt got her first vacation.

I mailed them out on Saturday to about 50 people and the calls and emails are already starting to roll in. "You took your cat to Alaska??!" What the F*&#k!?

I can't stop giggling. I wish I could stand next to them as they absentmindedly open the envelope on the walk back from the mailbox, expecting yet another posed family photo and instead laying their eyes upon a beautiful, rocky glacier, a smiling hiker, and her startled black and white, fuzzy cat perfectly placed in her arms.

Happy Holidays!



Greendaze44 said...

Dear Trooper,
I think that is great that you sent out a Christmas card with your picture on it and Applebutt too. I think more single people should do that. You are so right, that we are people too.
I left my husband back in August and am in the process of getting a divorce. You know those letters everyone sends telling of all the exciting things that has happened to their family in the past year? I should send one of those out, talking about the first half of the year and my two wonderful girls accomplishments and then finish up the year with my wonderful accomplishment of finally leaving my husband.
Dear family and friends,
I was finally brave enough to leave that asshole husband of mine and am so looking forward to a better year next year!
much love, greendaze44
P.S. If you want to send me a gift for Christmas, I could really use the money this year.
Whatcha think, Trooper? I think it would be pretty darn funny. I bought this great little Christmas book this year, thas has all these little sarcastic Christmas remarks in it. One of them went like this.....Going to see my family at Christmas is always a trip......A trip to the liquor store! I want to get some black Christmas cards and put funny things like that in it. I'll be home for Christmas......and in therapy by New Year's. Ha!
Well, when I was married, the most fun Christmas card picture we ever did, was put those reindeer antlers on all of our heads and we all made a silly face and that's the picture we mailed out. It's my favorite ever.
You are a strong and good person. Keep up the good work!

kristin said...

ok, I'm really looking forward to getting my mail today!
I have the utmost respect for anybody who even gets holiday cards in the mail, I have some sort of mental block in that area. Maybe New Years cards? (I always say that.....)

The Maiden Metallurgist said...

That is hilarious, I will totally rip off that idea if my married pals ever become pompous and insufferable assholes about my single status.

a&v said...

I love it!!

Michele said...

OMG: I am laughing out loud. I too had photos taken with my cats when I was single and sent them out on holiday cards. I said something funny in the card about the cats being naughty and not getting anything for the holidays, etc. A few people thought it was funny but most were a bit freaked including one guy who told me to "get a life." What is it about single people and photo holiday cards that threatens the married with children? I'm not married with one child and I'd love to get a photo card like the one you sent. I'd think you were soooo clever : )

Mendoza Line said...

Ahhh, this reminds me of the year I was particularly resentful: I mailed out "Happy New Year" photo cards and added the 50%-sarcastic note for people to "Keep in Touch!"

In the photo I was posed in front of the Manhattan skyline with my platonic male friend and our mutual friend's African-American baby daughter.

If people had not "kept in touch" they sure got a surprise that year!

Melissa said...

We got our's yesterday and LOVE it! You're giving me an idea... How about a pict of our toddlers on top of Mt. Everest or in a hastily-crafted raft in the middle of the ocean? Photoshop isn't just for singles! Can't wait til next year's!

Anonymous said...

That is an amazing job you did with that photo. Great card!!

You think it's hard getting those when you are single, try when you are in the throws of infertility. Ashamed and depressed because your body doesn't function like a woman's should and then you receive card after card of babies and KIDS. Things you will never have. The holidays have become extremely painful.

I wish I had your spirit.

Happy holidays. Happy New yEAR.

Samantha said...

OMG! This made me laugh so freaking hard that I started to cry! That is a fantastic idea and you are wonderful and a real "trooper." I seriously need to think about doing that with my cat too!

Loverville said...

Yup. Sharing your sentiment -- I also have a pile of holiday cards of freinds' kids!

CrankMama said...

A girl after my own heart. Way to shake things up!

The City Gal said...

Hey Trooper!

I loved this post! So true and so good!

Next year, instead of sending some boring card, I will also send my picture with Pishi (our cat).

Just-Me-Jen said...

This cracks me up! Of course, I have several friends who have pets & no kids, and they've always done the pet photo card thing - I never saw anything wrong with it - those are their "kids". :-)

lizriz said...