My grandson Whit’s first word was “cat.”
Actually, that’s not entirely true. When Whit was 9 months old he started saying “mama” but his parents said it didn’t count because “mama” could mean anything from “I’m tired” to “pick me up” or “more Cheerios, please.”
Whit’s first single-meaning word was “cat,” or to be precise, “cat cat.”
That’s what he calls Reggie, the red-striped fur ball that his parents adopted from a New York City pet shelter before Whit was born. Reggie’s bunkmate in their Brooklyn apartment is a chicken-legged, balloon-shaped street cat named Clive who walks with a limp, but not so much that he can’t stay out of the grasp of an 11-month-old.
Reggie, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to mind being tugged, poked and fallen upon by Whit.
The fact that Whit’s first word was “cat” was a surprise to no one.
The boy comes from a long line of semi-deranged cat lovers.
My wife’s parents, Knox and Frances Craig, had cats in their World War II-era, Drake-area apartment long before my wife and her older sister were born. Their cats had stranger names than Reggie and Clive. In fact, their favorite, a deaf, longhaired white cat, was named Stranger. There was also Yapp, Jocko and Scribbles.
When I married into the family, it was understood that we would also provide homes to a revolving number of paw monsters. Forty years later, the total is 12, but I expect it to climb when Teeny Bader Ginsberg, our 22-year-old feral kitten, passes on.
At one point, I tried to slow down the accumulation by pointing out that I’m allergic, which I am.
Nonsense, they said, try immersion therapy. I did. Many times. But my eyes still swell up if I touch my face after petting one of our meowzers.
Our children, including Whit’s father, appear to have benefited from daily doses of fur, even if I didn’t. Neither exhibited the kind of reaction I have when I’m around cats.
As a child, Whit’s father slept with his arm around a big red Persian named Winston. If you looked at them in bed, you would have thought Winston was a teddy bear or rag doll, the way he allowed himself to be cuddled and squeezed. When Whit first said “cat cat,” the phrase had a single meaning.
But in our family, cats rarely have a single purpose. Once Whit said “cat cat,” the phrase took on the additional meaning of approval.
When Iowa State’s basketball team won, I told Whit’s father the game was “cat cat.” In Whit-speak, a good movie is “cat cat,” as is a well-made martini.
Economist Jim Paulsen said recently that investors are worried that the recent run-up in the stock market — 14 percent since the election — is a “Trump Bump” that could collapse as our new president’s missteps multiply or when he fails to deliver on campaign promises.
But Paulsen isn’t sure that’s the case.
“Lost among the daily obsession with U.S. politics,” he wrote, is the fact that for the first time in this recovery cycle there is consistent economic policy around the globe.
“No longer do we have U.S. economic stimulus in direct conflict with Eurozone fiscal austerity, Japanese policy indifference, or China’s earlier quest to moderate their recovery,” Paulsen wrote in a newsletter for clients of Wells Fargo Asset Management.
Global economic improvement is driving U.S. stocks higher and could continue to do so for a while, he said in the article, which carried the headline “Vroom.”
As we say in Whit-speak, this bull market is “cat cat.”