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Child sitting on parachute: "Don't shoot me up too high, okay?"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Carolyn Out in the Snow

Happy holidays to all of you, and especially to Carolyn, out in the snow.

As an overly sensitive child, I remember being distressed by how casually the singers of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” would sing perkily about how there’d be, “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and Carolyn out in the snow…”

I would puzzle over how people could be celebrating in their cozy, festive homes, while they knew perfectly well that poor little Carolyn was standing out there in the snow. It was definitely NOT the hap-happiest season of all for Carolyn. I would expect that summer would be her happiest season. At least she wouldn’t be freezing to death.

The picture that always came to mind was as follows: It was early evening, and the temperature was about 5 degrees...cold enough that the sides of your nose stick together when you sniff. Carolyn did not have a hat or gloves; just a hand-me-down coat and boots that were two sizes too big. She was not one to complain, so she would never think to ask to come in, but she did enjoy looking in on the happy scene with people dressed in their holiday finery, toasting one another. She would particularly enjoy looking at the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree, and wondering what kinds of things were wrapped up in the beautiful presents beneath the tree.

If I continued in this vein for too long, I would eventually come to tears. Who was this Carolyn that she got a special mention in the song? I would wonder. Why was she out in the snow alone? Where on earth were her parents? Was she lost? Maybe she ended up dying, like the little match girl. Good grief, why wouldn’t anyone let her in if they saw her out there?

I remember singing in an assembly during elementary school, and the song that our grade sang was “Bless the Beasts and the Children” (for in this world, they have no voice…they have no choice…for this world can never be, the world they see…) singing this song would hit me like a ton of bricks every time. I would picture all of the little helpless children like Carolyn, and lost puppies and kittens. My throat would swell up into a lump, and I would squeak through the rest of the song, while the kids next to me would shoot suspicious looks at me out look of the corners of their eyes.

To this day, I am still often gripped with agony over the plight of the beasts and the children. I once risked my life pulling over on a highway, to save a cat that was on the median. It turned out to be a stuffed animal. I held up traffic on Route 4 saving a baby bluebird that was standing in the middle of the road. I spent one Easter driving a stray cat to the vet, and a shelter. My husband’s “potential animal-in-distress radar” kicks in pretty quickly, and he attempts to diffuse the situation before I can say anything: “It looks well-fed. It has a collar. It knows where it’s going…you can tell.” Children are part of my protection program as well. I hang around whenever I see a child who appears to be too far away from his/her caregiver in a store, just to make sure that everything turns out okay. Children standing up in grocery carts, leaning too far over bridges, wandering alone in store aisles, or standing too close to the road are all potential problems. I also rescue children that I see being bullied.

An animal or child in trouble can put the brakes on whatever I am doing during the course of the day, no matter how important. I have seen ads in the Yankee Flyer for lost cats, and then see ads in the Foothills Trader for found cats that fit the description, and make the necessary phone calls in hopes of a match. I won’t even get into the lengths to which I went to “rescue” a parakeet that was loose outside near the office. It is a long, sad story, with a tragic ending.

Every story that I hear that involves a child or animal in pain leaves a permanent scar in my mind, that never seems to go away. So, if I get upset over a current animal in need, I have to revisit the cat that got hit by a car, the parakeet that died in my hands, the dog that was left out in the cold, the horse that was abused…and on and on.

I am sometimes concerned that my feelings for animals and children are disproportionate to my feelings for, say, the rest of the world. (Do you think?) If I am watching a movie, and a few adults die, well, that’s life. But if the movie is about a dog that dies, I am a mess. I won’t read many books that are stories about beloved pets, because I know how it’s all going to end. Books about the tragic loss of lives during wartime…it’s a shame and all, but I just don’t feel it on the same level.

Being overly sensitive complicates my life, and causes me a lot of unnecessary stress, but I guess that I'd rather feel too much than too little. So, if you see Carolyn out in the snow, please let me know; I’ll be right there.

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