This week’s guest post comes from an author many of you will know. A good friend of Paul’s, he and Paul shared an affinity for good conversation, small towns, and cats.

By Y. Aronson

One of the reasons Paul and I got along so well was because of his quirky personality. He had a witty, sometimes dark, generally off-color and usually random sense of humor. We would be talking about a serious issue and then, suddenly, he was comparing the best brandy to pair with chocolate. Half the humor for him, I think, was in seeing his friends’ reactions to such an abrupt change of pace.

There is also the cat thing.

Paul and I shared a love for cats. Paul was a true cat lover. He loved his Billysky, the true queen of the home/castle, and posted many stories and pictures about her on this blog.

I could not be more polar opposite; I have never owned a cat. I am allergic to them. In fact, I’m by far more of a dog person. But I love the idea of cats.

Case in point: the cat rack picture on this post. My wife woke up to that one morning, helpfully holding our umbrellas. She will likely get a cat birthday card later this month. And, usually, she can expect to hear “meows” throughout the day whenever I pass by our home office.

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As a teacher, I also worked to build what can only be called a “cat-centered classroom.” Word problems involve cats, positive posters in my room all contain cats, my students could expect a pass-by “meow” if they were not doing their work…or even if they were. I even added a co-teacher to my room, Princess Caroline, a stuffed cat that one of my students gave me after cleaning out her neighbor’s attic.

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A cat poster in my classroom.

One year, the Department of Education did a walkthrough of my room and one of the officials looked at my desk, bullet boards and classroom and said, “Boy that’s a lot of cats.”

What a way to build a space that is comfortable, friendly and accessible, whether in school or in my home.

Cats are not for everyone. While 99% of my students got it, some did not. A few poor souls dismissingly called me “the cat guy.” My wife, bless her, is still deathly afraid of cats. Whether that was Billysky or an outdoor cat walking along the street in our neighborhood.

Paul would always encourage my wife to feed Billysky, play with her, even empty her litter box (he had a way of getting people to do things for him). Paul and I had grand plans for a major blog post about my cat classroom. I think he would have been shocked, SHOCKED, to see just how cat-centered my class truly is.

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As we are all settled into our now home-based lives in quarantine those cats have slowly found their way here as well. There is the cat hanger holding our umbrellas of course, and now cat figures, cat stuffed animals and, of course, more than a few passing meows. Princess Caroline is still stationed on my desk at school, keeping watch (also, my wife won’t let her in the house).

I wish you all the seemingly care-free life of cats, especially in these stressful times. Perhaps, a bit more cats is just what we all need. I know Paul would have supported that; the man was just ahead of his time on the healing power of cats.