By Scott Campbell
Lima, Ohio 45802
Wow! Thank you for the memory!
Where on earth did you find this photograph of me and my young friend? Oh my, what was the name I gave her? It had something to do with the part of town I found her in. I vaguely recall the day this was taken, it was sometime in the early 1960s. It seemed like a normal English afternoon, overcast and typically damp and dreary, or maybe that is simply a reflection of the overall mood at that point in my life, which was equally unpleasant. The man that took the photo was kind enough to offer up a few dollars for a hot meal and a saucer of milk, which was much, appreciated and kept us going straight away for another day. My thoughts have occasionally wandered into his life and what might have become of him or the picture he took, his name was Butch or Bruce, I think. It may have even been David or Davis something. Nonetheless, every sunrise was another step, another meal acquired and another night survived.
I can’t exactly replay the details that led to my predicament of wandering aimlessly through the streets and alleys of London’s Hyde Park and Knights Bridge neighborhoods, it all becomes a blur at some point as you patiently wait for the tide to turn to a better day. Thoughts of the past and happier days flood your mind because it’s what you remember more passionately. The past is easier to recall than it is to conjure visions of a brighter future, especially as you huddle and shiver in the wet corners of a dark alley to avoid harassment by some London Bobby. I do recall a typically large family in the early days though, there were at least six or seven siblings always scrambling about for momma’s attention. There was barely enough food to go around, let alone an abundance of attention, but mother always had a warm lap and gave what she had to protect us as best she could. My brothers and sisters and I were born in a humble flat with an overflow of initial love and care, but they say all good things come to an end. There simply weren’t enough resources to care for everyone and we were permanently separated at a young age and sent to the homes of friends and relatives with a hope for a better life and to have the needs of young ones fulfilled.
My headstrong ways and thirst for independence, an apparent genetic groundwork laid before my birth, led to my downward spiral and I was quickly dispatched from the home of an unknown family friend who probably didn’t have much need for me from the start, but had grand notions of this little one in her lonely, yet busy life. Being young enough to know everything, I set out to survive on my own and take the world by the tail. I had grand visions at the time, and had gladly accepted the notion that I could survive on the street if necessary for a short period as I put my life’s plan together.
A life of living on the street may initially present a false notion that there is plenty of time to put a road map for living together, after all, what else is there to do? Hours become days, weekends become meaningless, and weeks turn into months on end. But it’s hard to focus on the visions of a calm and secure future when your stomach is screaming for sustenance and your scalp is cold from your wet matted hair. At some point in your repetitive day, you simply crawl back into your roll sack for some warmth and hibernation away from a world that doesn’t miss you, and may not even know you exist.
Call it a natural instinct for survival or an unexplained, deep seated thirst for something better, but self preservation eventually kicks in and you have to pull yourself out from under the covers and find the sunlight. There had to be something out there that I was meant for, or someone that needed me as much as I needed them. I suppose it is possible that we are all born with an inherent need to be held when we’re cold and fed when we’re hungry, and at a minimum we are forever in search of fulfilling these basic needs. At some point on the journey, my lost, frightened little friend and I became separated physically but were forever linked in the same quest for the same basic needs. I suppose she went off in search of something in the middle of the night, I hoped she would find it and be happy. All I know is that one morning she was gone. So there I was all alone, again.
In retrospect, it seems like it was a quick awakening that all of a sudden I was bound and determined to make a change and set out to improve my situation, but in reality it was a slow gradual process of coming out of the muck. Eventually, you simply need to make the decision to commit to the change and not worry about whether or not it will work out. The net will be there, it may have always been there and I simply wasted time worrying that it may not be.
It has been a glorious journey indeed with a relatively moderate level of success. It would certainly depend on what criteria you would choose to measure success or progress on the grand plan of your life, but for most of us, it is our own standards and expectations. I am alive, healthy and content, can I really expect more? I have no information on my dear little friend from many years ago, I am confident she came to the same realizations that I did and landed solidly on her feet, I know I did. That’s what we cats do.