The Contented Little Pussy Cat

If you know me, you know I love old stuff. Probably more than I should. Old books are my absolute favorite thing (right ahead of vintage tablecloths and pillowcases), and I’m excited to start featuring some vintage favorites on Wednesdays.

To kick things off, I’m welcoming a guest blogger to the class. Jennifer happens to be my logo and web designer – but, most importantly, she’s my friend. My kids potty-trained her kid, so that alone should tell you there is a special bond. (<– Jennifer wrote that bit about my kids potty-training her kid. Really, it was just sort of them giving her some inspiration.)

IMG_3686

While perusing my favorite bookstore, Bound to Be Read in East Atlanta Village, my heart skipped a beat when I discovered – for the first time, oddly – that they have a vintage children’s book section. Cue the hallelujah chorus and heavenly light beaming down from on high. (I almost didn’t want to share this “secret” with the public so I can covet all those vintage books for myself, but that wouldn’t be very nice of me.) I walked out spending $30 more than I had intended, and I’m not sure if the purchases were more for my daughter…or me. I’m a sucker for vintage.

One of the books we made off with was “The Contented Little Pussy Cat” by Frances Ruth Keller. I’ll be honest. I barely flipped through the book before deciding I wanted to buy it. As soon as I saw the beautiful vintage illustrations (by Adele Werber and Doris Laslo), I knew I had to have it. It’s copyrighted 1949. How gorgeous is this inside cover? Can I have this made into wallpaper? Not for my daughter’s room…oh, no. For a powder room or stairwell or something.

IMG_3687

Little did I know what a profound lesson this book has to offer for adults just as much as children. And here I thought it was just going to be “cute.”

We start by meeting a little kitten named Abner who just seems content all the time. Other nearby wild animals observe him from afar and converse amongst themselves about what can possibly enable Abner to feel happy so much of the time.

Then a poignant question is posed by – who else? – a wise, old owl. He asks the other animals why they are always complaining about wishing they were happier but never seem to DO anything about it. This is something about human nature that drives me crazy, for myself included, so I was struck by the honesty in a question like that in a children’s book.

And why not? Why should we be anything less than raw with children, as if they aren’t already genuine souls who have a way of telling the truth like no one’s business? (Even if that truth means pointing out your brand new zit or gray hair.)

So the animals decide they will do something about their situation after all and go talk to Abner. He is surprised when they question him about what makes him so content. After all, he’s just kind of always been that way. Sort of comes naturally to him, just as it seems to come more naturally to some people, while others seem to have to work a little harder to feel it. He thinks and thinks.

Is it because he gets up every morning and tries to look his best? No, the rest of them do that too.

Is it because he tries to be kind and loving to everyone? Maybe, but they all do that too.

He finally realizes that it’s because he doesn’t dwell too hard on the past or worry too much about the future. So simple, yet so brilliant.

IMG_3689

But HOW does one not worry? they wonder. After all, there are so many things in the world that can trouble one. Losing your favorite feather, for instance, or the threat of rain the next day. He reminds them that the worry doesn’t actually accomplish anything. And he remembers that when he was learning how to chase his own tail, it took practice.

“Why, no good thing was ever learned without practicing,” he tells them. Including learning to be happier and worrying less.

When I was first taking my freelance side business to my only gig, my coach would often remind me of how my daughter didn’t give up when she was learning to walk…that, in fact, it never even occurred to her that she might not be able to walk. She just kept getting up and trying it. It was an analogy for running my business when I got overwhelmed or doubted myself. I found myself thinking back to it again because of Abner and found that it can easily correlate to happiness.

Why shouldn’t happiness take some practice too?* And why should we ever assume that we can’t feel happier, any more than a child questions if they will ever learn to walk? 

It was reading this book that made me realize with that sudden, beautiful knowing that I was ready to adopt a new kitty, after a lot of loss in a short period of time. And I decided I would simply have to name my kitty Abner. I thought if it ended up being a girl, I might call her Abby. Or leave her an Abner. Who knew.

My real-life "Abner."

My real-life “Abner.”

When the kitten came into my life just a couple of days after proclaiming that I was ready, Abner and Abby didn’t seem to fit her. It took a few days to settle on the right fit, which is Callie. But every time I watch her chasing her tail, every time she lies on my heartbeat and purrs, I remember the lesson in this book and worry a little bit less about the past and future. I take time to just stop and breathe and think about how grateful and content I am. In fact, she’s curled up next to me – purring – right now as I type. The real “Abner” and the story Abner will also remind my daughter as she grows, and it will be something she and I practice…together.

 

And if adults can model a contented way of life a little more of the time, maybe it’ll go a long way in shaping happier kids.

So, my friends, I have just offered you more proof of how a book can literally change your life in ways you never imagined. 

*For the adults in the crowd who would like some tips on practicing how to be happier, I highly recommend the book “Happy for No Reason” by Marci Shimoff. But that’s a post for another blog!

IMG_3688

Jennifer B. Jacobs is the one-stop-shop virtual marketing department for entrepreneurs who have been suffering through DIY-itis! Now is the time for you to get cured…and to remember what it’s like to sleep again. She especially loves helping women succeed in their businesses (like Sarah – Jennifer is behind the new Read It, Make It! logo and website). In a world where people no longer think grammar is that important and assume they are fine squeaking by with haphazard marketing, in swoops a cape-donning heroine with a toddler on her back. And red lipstick. Don’t forget the lipstick. Find out more at www.jenniferbjacobs.com, and check out her blog for girls and women that celebrates self-love: blog.theclosetnarcissist.com.

Comments

  1. Thank you for letting me do this guest post! I really wanted a written record of the day I realized it was time for my next kitty to come to me, as well as the profound message of the book to hopefully inspire someone out there. Read It, Make It! was the perfect place to do that because I LOVE what you are doing here.

    Yay for vintage books!!!

  2. I have this book and still enjoy reading it as I did as a child. The orange hard back is of very good material and still looks great.

    Cathy

    • My mother read this book to me as a child. I still own this book and share this life lesson of being content with others on an average of once a month in conversation. I was born in 1949 as too was this book published in that same year. I taught for 38 years in a public school system in Wisconsin. I became a public school librarian, and because of my heritage the same meaning as bibliotech (librarian in Norway). I have enjoyed reading this book to thousands of children in our PK-5 graded elementary IMC from the years 1974-2009 before I retired. This book has taught others and especially me to enjoy the moment without worry of the past and the future. I love this book and would recommend this life lesson and character word of “contentment” to all, even without owning a Kitty or a cat! In Christ, Gary.

  3. Molly Porter says:

    I still have my copy from the early 1950’s, paper cover and all. I also still tell people it is the best book ever written and I try to live by life like Abner. It had a profound influence on me as a child obviously! It is the one book (besides the Bible) that everyone should read! Thanks for highlighting it here.

Speak Your Mind

*