My boyfriend gave me an assigment today — to read an Archy and Mehitabel story.

Don Marquis was obviously using his characters — Archy, a giant cockroach who is friends with Mehitabel, a cat — to portray human types, not animals. Mehitabel laments having had babies instead of a "high life".

Real cats, of course, don't suffer when they are caring for kittens, and they don't "sacrifice" anything. They know how to take care of themselves, unlike humans who often either neglect themselves, or their kids. If a cat is hungry, she will go hunt and eat, and not get worried to death about her kittens being alone for a while and getting so psychologically damaged they will need therapy when they grow up.

Like Mehitabel, my grandma would have loved to not have children, or not so many, and she would have loved to learn and be a nurse. She felt inferiour for being uneducated — as a child under the Nazi regime, she had been allowed to attend school for four years only, and then she got crushed by having six children, and never found the courage to just say, "Fuck you all, for the next hour, I am going to read a book!"

She even felt guilty when she gave one of her children to her sister who couldn't have children. She needed to be told that this was a wonderful thing to do! After all, her daughter was still hanging out with her siblings, she was not suffering from hunger, had good parents, and later inherited their house and farm. My grandma's sister got the child she wanted, and my grandma had one hungry mouth less to feed. These were very lucky circumstances — the proverbial good luck hidden in bad luck — if you have the courage to look at them the right way, and say goodbye to traditional concepts about what it means to be a good mother and sacrifice yourself for a silly idea.

When I was studying history and literature, I fell ill with university victimization by proxy — over-identifying with the victim aspect of everything. I was so obviously shaken by the mistreatment of large sections of the medieval society that a friend said to me, "All those people who died on the pyre in 1349 would be dead by now anyway". That is very smart — I just wish she had added, "Care for the living instead, dufus!" That is something I needed to be told!

I did feel sad when my grandma died because I was still single then, and I would have loved her to meet my children and my boyfriend. But in the end, it is better I have my own life and not repeat her mistakes, just as it would be utterly pointless to go out and seek revenge for a witch or a Jew who were burnt to death in 1349. People have suffered so much, for all the wrong reasons. To be unhappy over what happened centuries ago would be wrong and selfish — in a bad way, as this is not helping anybody, including the noble person who decides to suffer.

We all feel sad at times that we didn't give more. But often giving more would have meant turning away from the growth process and betraying humanity. Everything important that my grandma could possibly pass on is still alive in me, and everything I wish I could have given her I can give any person I deem worth it.

The new paradigm will no longer be "giving back" but "giving forward". You never really repay your teachers except by helping the next generation.

— Dean Hannotte , from , by Don Marquis, 1927:

well boss
mehitabel the cat
has reappeared in her old
haunts with a
flock of kittens
three of them this time

archy she says to me
the life of a female
artist is continually
hampered what in hell
have i done to deserve
all these kittens
i look back on my life
and it seems to me to be
just one damned kitten
after another
i am a dancer archy
and my only prayer
is to be allowed
to give my best to my art
but just as i feel
that i am succeeding
in my life work
along comes another batch
of these damned kittens
it is not archy
that i am shy on mother love
god knows i care for
the sweet little things
curse them
but am i never to be allowed
to live my own life
i have purposely avoided
matrimony in the interests
of the higher life
but i might just
as well have been a domestic
slave for all the freedom
i have gained
i hope none of them
gets run over by
an automobile
my heart would bleed
if anything happened
to them and i found it out
but it isn t fair archy
it isn t fair
these damned tom cats have all
the fun and freedom
if i was like some of these
green eyed feline vamps i know
i would simply walk out on the
bunch of them and
let them shift for themselves
but i am not that kind
archy i am full of mother love
my kindness has always
been my curse
a tender heart is the cross i bear
self sacrifice always and forever
is my motto damn them
i will make a home
for the sweet innocent
little things
unless of course providence
in his wisdom should remove
them they are living
just now in an abandoned
garbage can just behind
a made over stable in greenwich
village and if it rained
into the can before i could
get back and rescue them
i am afraid the little
dears might drown
it makes me shudder just
to think of it
of course if i were a family cat
they would probably
be drowned anyhow
sometimes i think
the kinder thing would be
for me to carry the
sweet little things
over to the river
and drop them in myself
but a mother s love archy
is so unreasonable
something always prevents me
these terrible
conflicts are always
presenting themselves
to the artist
the eternal struggle
between art and life archy
is something fierce
my what a dramatic life i have lived
one moment up the next
moment down again
but always gay archy always gay
and always the lady too
in spite of hell
well boss it will
be interesting to note
just how mehitabel
works out her present problem
a dark mystery still broods
over the manner
in which the former
family of three kittens
one day she was taking to me
of the kittens
and the next day when i asked
her about them
she said innocently
what kittens
interrogation point
and that was all
i could ever get out
of her on the subject
we had a heavy rain
right after she spoke to me
but probably that garbage can
leaks so the kittens
have not yet
been drowned