Just before falling asleep, Phil and I got to talking about cats.

It was a good thing after watching the news and reading about all the horrible stuff going on in the country.

Sometimes you just have to change the channel in your head.

So I told him the story about Jinx, the cat my mother had when she was a teenager in the late 1930s.

My mother has been gone three years now, but whenever I need to think of something positive in these tumultuous times, I remember the story she told me before she died.

My mother and her family were driving from Cornville to Jackman, where her father was a principal at the high school. My mother’s mother was a teacher. They lived in Cornville during the summer, but her parents taught during the school year at places such as Rumford High School and Dow Academy in Franconia, New Hampshire, where they would live temporarily. They always returned to their summer house in Cornville for the warm months.

In the late ’30s they were in Jackman and my mother graduated from Jackman High in 1939.

On their drive from Cornville to Jackman, somewhere around The Forks, they stopped the car for a break and Jinx, Mom’s short-haired grayish tiger cat, escaped from the car and took off up an incline between some rocks and trees and disappeared.

My mother rushed to find him, but he was nowhere in sight.

She called and called him and they waited, and pretty soon her father said that they must leave, as they had to get to Jackman.

Mom loved Jinx and was sad and upset, though she did not want to disrespect her father.

So they drove to Jackman and her mother prepared supper.

During the meal, my mother could not eat or speak, she was so devastated to think that Jinx was in the woods somewhere, lost and scared.

Her father, a quiet, academic man who was focused on his work and not particularly warm and fuzzy, apparently noticed.

After supper, he asked her if she might like to take a ride with him to try to find Jinx. Money was tight in those days and gas was used sparingly, so the extra trip was a big deal.

When my mother told the story, she said she was overjoyed and surprised that her father proposed they drive to look for Jinx. He really was a compassionate man, despite his seemingly cool, intellectual nature.

So they got in the car and he drove to the spot where the cat had disappeared.

“I got out of the car and climbed the embankment where I last saw Jinx,” my mother said. “I called to him over and over — ‘Jinx, Jinx!’ and pretty soon, I heard a meow and then another, and by God, Jinx appeared from behind those rocks.”

Mom was never so happy to see a cat in her life. She took him into her arms and hugged him fiercely, and turning to carry him back to the car, she saw her father standing there, beaming.

It is a story I return to in my head when I think of my mother and her love of cats. It also reminds me of how a simple act of compassion can change everything.

Phil and I have two cats: Bitsy, who is 11 and looks like a Maine coon cat; and Thurston, an 8-month-old orange tiger. Bitsy is sweet and affectionate. Thurston, whom we adopted when he was a tiny kitten, is a wild cat with a ton of energy who tears around the house like a flying Wallenda, leaving a trail of debris in his wake. Though he can be annoying at times, he is beginning to calm down as he grows and is more aware of his actions and our reactions to them.

Bitsy, who abhorred him at first, has grown not only to tolerate him, but to embrace him as family. When they go outside, which we have been allowing Thurston to do for short periods of time, Bitsy, like a doting mother, watches him like a hawk.

It’s terribly nice to have cats around when the world is out of whack and you need a good dose of lightness.

Cats don’t complain or criticize, insult or denigrate. They just purr and nudge and hope that you scratch their ears.

They play, sleep, entertain and love you — nothing more.

They’re a pretty good antidote to stress in a society that seems to be ailing miserably.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 30 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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