Patti Smith is No Crazy Cat Lady

“Crazy Cat Lady?” Step a little closer.

Reading from her memoir at Town Hall—a renovated old church, still replete with stained-glass windows, wooden pews, and a domed ceiling—Patti Smith mentioned her cats. A lot. Unapologetically. Her cat named Cairo is the color of the pyramids, she said.

The term Crazy Cat Lady bothers me, primarily because there is no male equivalent. There’s nothing pathetically female, nothing crazy or less than empowering about balls-of-brass Smith or her strong bond with her cats.

The next night, the Man I Married and I had a difficult scene with the Little Monkey.

I poured LM a hot bath, which he took, still furious. He growled and muttered and wailed. Afterward, we rubbed special lotion on the fingertips he has been nervously peeling—one hand is missing an entire layer of skin, the other is not something you’d want anywhere near a communal bowl of chips. He used to gnaw and chew his sleeves, but now that he has a special Seahawks jersey, he’d rather shred his own flesh.

When we finally got him to bed, still crying, I went in search of the kitten. She pulled her I’m always going to be six inches out of reach routine, but I finally snagged her and carried her into LM’s dark room. I held her up to his top bunk. LM sat up and held out his greasy, mauled hands. She touched down between us and then was scooped into LM’s arms.

In that transfer of soft fur, we transferred everything that needed to be communicated: I love you. I forgive you. I forgive myself.

The frantic energy of the room diffused. The bunk bed creaked as LM, now quiet, lay back down, snuggling nine pounds of communion. I crept out of the room, worried the cat would follow, but she stayed.

Cairo’s Great Pyramid of Khufu, the largest of a complex of three pyramids, is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the World still intact. A pyramid’s distribution of weight—most of it close to the ground, with less stone higher up to push down from above—allowed early civilizations to create stable monumental structures.

We might not be unshakeable, but here we three still stand, resisting sometimes crushing pressure to concede defeat. I am the most pyramid-like in this family trio, with most of my weight low to the ground. I raised up my offering, and this divine being healed us.

There’s nothing crazy about that.

* * * * *

Patti Smith
Iron-haired woman

At the conclusion of her reading and Q&A, Patti Smith sang four songs with one backup musician. Click here to hear the full setlist.

Image: copyright Melanie Smith

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