Yesterday after a long session of chasing each other, Virtute and Gumption took a moment to relax and hang out in their favourite Amazon.ca delivery box. Lately, Virtute and I have been having these ongoing conversations about friendship and I thought this would be a great time to pick up where we had left off. Virtute and I tend to suffer from the same affliction, we are predominantly loners but are also very emotionally desiring of the company of others. This makes for many contradictions and is also quite taxing on the people that are closest to us.
So I asked him about the types of strategies he uses to deal with that paradox. He flinched at having the discussion in front of Gumption, but then relented, “I think tradition and ritual play very important roles in maintaining friendships. From the most mundane moments like when we are looking out the window at squirrels together to the most exciting adventures like our game of catch that takes place every afternoon around 3pm.” I told him that was insightful and that I had been trying to really emphasize periodic and annual traditions with friends and family too. He leaned back as Gumption rested her arm around his neck and then responded, “Jenny always tells me that I need to push myself; that I need to make new friends; and that I need to make sure I keep in touch with old friends. I know she’s right, but time and space are weird for me – the more I spend time alone the more anxious I am to hang out with others and the more distant I become. That’s why having ritual is important. There’s something to be said about just hanging out but being very deliberate about it at the same time… I dunno.”
I felt like we were both stuck, so I turned to Gumption to ask what she thought. “Me and Virtute are best pals,” she stated emphatically. I asked Gumption what made her so sure. She smiled and then looked at Virtute and whispered “pals”. I could hear the faint sound of purring coming from Virtute’s direction as he put his head down shyly. I could also relate to that exact feeling that comes from a friend affirming your friendship so simply.
Sometimes I guess we can just be pals.
This weekend Jenny and I engaged in a time-honoured tradition. Since we would be leaving Virtute and Gumption for a few days as we travelled to visit various family throughout southern Ontario, we would try to stop at pet stores along the way to find one of the most rare treasures: the one-inch mylar crinkle ball. For over a year and a half we have scoured the shelves of big box and local independent pet stores, dollar stores, grocery stores, department stores – from Cooperstown, New York to Tokyo, Japan – in search of these gems. Jenny’s even searched the world wide web only to find a blog post from 2009 in which another person was searching for the same toy for their pet only to eventually give up. We’ve brought home many toys: 2-inch standard issue crinkle balls, mice with jingle bells, sponge balls, magic wands and none has satisfied Virtute’s play tastes. He’d seem excited for a split-second but once he realized that these objects were not, in fact, the one-inch mylar crinkle ball he would cast the toy off to the “Gumption plays with everything” pile and sink back into his resting place with a sullen expression.
Finally, I had to ask why he was being so picky. Taken aback by this question he responded tersely, “I’m not picky. I’m precise. What I appreciate most about the one-inch mylar crinkle ball is its density and portability. How is one supposed to play fetch or knock the ball around the house if these variables are continuously changing? To be precise means to care about the small details that create experience. It means we have to be cautious not to become too comfortable with the vague and broad desires that consumer culture expects of us. Humans do this sort of thing all the time. You construct broad and vague holidays like Thanksgiving without ever discussing the precise historical conditions of colonization and settlement that underlie this holiday.”
Recognizing the profound nature of Virtute’s preciseness made it even more desirable to locate these special gifts. So we were elated to find hanging on the shelf of Ren’s Pet Shop in Aberfoyle, Ontario, 4-packs of the fabled crinkle ball. We purchased three packages, twelve crinkle balls in all and returned home with them. It is no guarantee that they will be precise. We are still learning the ins and outs of Virtute’s conditions for acceptable crinkle ball play. But we’re hopeful, just like we’re hopeful that people are beginning to brush off the shine of pre-packaged histories.
Virtute is hopeful too, “You’ve done well my friends,” is all that he said before scampering up the stairs with his new toy.