In my childhood “pretend” games, I always wanted to be called Cindy Fronz. I wore my hair pulled tightly back into a bun (which, from the back was always super crooked), a blazer from the dress up box, red lipstick, and, of course, an arm full of file folders. Obviously. But Cindy Fronz wasn’t just a businesswoman. Nope. Sometimes she was a dentist, a veterinarian, an archaeologist, a zookeeper, or a lawyer. Or sometimes a ballerina, a police officer, or a paramedic. Cindy Fronz was multi-talented and had as many hats as she did professions. She could also do a pretty sweet high-kick thanks to after-school tumbling.
But here’s the thing about Cindy Fronz. No matter what I wore to become her, I always smelled like cat pee. Our four cats somehow consistently mistook our costume box for a litter box, adding an interesting twist to even the most straightforward game. Dentist became, “dentist who had fallen on tough times.” Cop became, “cop who had an unfortunate run-in with wildlife.” And Paramedic became, “paramedic whose terrible body odor could wake the dead.” The pee smell was never ignored (mainly because it couldn’t be) rather was incorporated into the game, written in like a character flaw.
Although these spiteful, idiot cats technically ruined the best dress up box on the Eastern seaboard, they also gave us a gift. See, most kids would have hauled off and thrown these garments in the trash, but my sister, friends and I never saw that as an option. Yes, my mom would wash the clothes, but the cats always found them again. So we made the best of it and exercised creativity. Instead of finding a way to permanently remove the odor or, you know, playing a different game, we made it work for us. Our games were dramatic, epic, and as long as summer days that stretched on well into the evening.
Now, years later, I look at those who participated in these ridiculous games and I see some of the most creative, artistic people in my life. People who paint and draw, arrange flowers, write, and simply make time to nurture themselves this way. They are patient with things that inspire them, making it a priority to create things they’re proud of.
So, am I saying I’m a creative person because of cat pee? Probably not. However, I’m convinced that it didn’t hurt. . .maybe even helped. After all, I learned about character development by dreaming up insane scenarios that could lead to life-ruining body odor. And thanks to these cats, I’ll never have a hard time writing a novel from the perspective of a zombie. “The scent of his rotting flesh stung his own, still functioning nostrils. A hint of pungent acidity hung in the air as he ambled toward the horizon.”