Our trip to the library yesterday has replenished our stock – yes, we have lots (and I do mean LOTS!) of books at home, but new books are always welcome anyhow. Mrs. Katz and Tush, by Patricia Polacco, is one of them.
While I was preparing food for a new mama with Baby Boy asleep on my chest in the Ergo, Matthew read to Baby Girl. In the book, Larnel, an African-American boy, gets his neighbor Mrs. Katz, a childless, elderly Jewish immigrant from Poland, to take in a homeless kitten by agreeing to help her care for it. A friendship burgeons and blossoms, and Larnel learns how similar their pasts are, full of oppression but of love, too. It’s educational and informative but isn’t preachy. It’s touching without being maudlin, in spite of what could seem like a contrived relationship. For the record, it does not come off that way – it is as genuine and believable as any relationship one might have with a neighbor. (I had a neighbor Grandma Grace as a little girl…maybe some of you had someone, too?)
When her cat, Tush, about whom she often adds, “Such a person!” has kittens, she says she’s finally a bubee – a grandmother.
The story end in the way a story about a grandmother figure often does:
“As the years passed, Mrs. Katz, Tush, and her descendants became part of Larnel’s family.
There were graduations, weddings, new babies, and finally a kaddish.
Larnel stood in front of the headstone.
He read from her book.
He placed a small rock on top of her headstone.
Then he, his wife, and their children read the inscription together.
MRS. KATZ, OUR BUBEE…SUCH A PERSON.”
Matthew paused on many pages, as it’s the kind of book that gives you a bit of a punch in the gut. He didn’t read the final page aloud, either.
After this, Baby Girl needed to go potty. As she headed off, he told me how, when they went to Mrs. Katz’s husband’s grave, Baby Girl said, “We will die. But it will not be for a long time.” He then had me read the last page, which I hadn’t heard. We teared up over the nature of life, the nature of death – they’re sort of a package deal.
From the potty, we heard, “Daddy, I peed out! Daddy, my pee got on the floor!”
Thank God for children. They’ll have you crying in your soup one minute and laughing the next. Sometimes, you’re doing both. Just be sure the soup doesn’t come out of your nose.
Polacco, Patricia. Mrs. Katz and Tush. New York: Doubleday, 1992.