Aeons ago, I loved Walt Disney’s cartoons. Somehow I feel now the Walt Disney studios have turned kind of phoney... Of course, I’m a little bit older, this explaining that, I guess.
My inner child (how cute) would rather watch «Antz» or «The Ice Age» one hundred times than «A Bug’s Life». And my older self (less cute) does watch «Antz» and «The Ice Age»!
I admit I still love some Walt Disney’s cartoon movies without feeling pathetic!
Walt Disney’s productions had something magical because they were more than cartoons. They told stories I knew so well and loved a lot.
As a child, I did not have an easy life. Very soon, I discovered that in order to ward off the «unpleasantness» of our family everyday life, there was reading. And so I started reading and reading... and dreaming, dreaming... in the soft cocoon I had created for myself.
So I knew almost by heart every tale by the Grimm brothers, Andersen, folktales and many (translated) books by English authors.
The first great movies by Walt Disney were based upon my favourite readings. But the drawings, the voices (very carefully chosen in French), the songs, all added to a very magical feast.
This was a time without television. The only way to watch a movie was to go to the movie theater. I was lucky enough to live in a city. So every once in a while, there would be a Disney movie coming up, especially at Christmas time or during school holidays.
For a start, going to the movies didn’t happen very often. So it really was a happy moment in our lives. (At the time, I had one younger sister and one even much younger brother.)
Going to the movie theater meant something else: a few hours of peaceful and enjoyable time. Our parents would quit bickering/fighting at least for a while as soon as we were seated... and there would even be happy times when we’d bring back the movie/story over and over and we’d sing the songs you could hear on the radio. A Walt Disney new movie was quite big news in France.
I could have fallen for Cinderella or Snow White. Well, I did... What could be more wonderful than to sing «Someday my Prince will come» when you get into your teens? You’d sing the song and then a big sigh! After all, I was 13 or 14, maybe 15.
Actually, not 15. This was the year of "The Sound of Music".
Back to Disney. So I loved all his movies but one of them did strike a chord in my heart: «One Hundred and One Dalmatians».
When the birds help Snow-White clean the dwarfs’ home, it’s wonderful but not quite believable. Kind of cute tho.
But so many lovely dogs and one delightful cat, this was a real feast!
I had always liked cats and dogs but we never had any, except twice and the two of them met a very early, untimely and awful end which I don’t even want to talk about.
So no dogs and no cats. Until one day...
I was 13 and I don’t know why my mother said I could have a cat. Wow, miracles do happen.
Our neighbours’ cat had had kittens. And I got to choose an adorable female kitten. Our plain European breed. Yesterday, I tried to find a picture of her and couldn’t.
But she looked just like this one except that I keep remembering her in black and white like the few pictures I had of her.
And guess how I called my pretty female cat: Sgt Tibbs. You can feel that somehow I was already going through a very strong streak of feminism!
In French, it sounded like: «Sergent Tibbs»... which actually was very quickly shortened into Tibbs! And Tibbs liked her name and she loved me.
From time to time, when things got really messed up at home, I’d grab Tibbs and tell everybody: «Ok, Tibbs and I, we are fed up. So we are leaving. Bye.» Of course we did not leave and so my mother would turn the whole thing into a joke. But it really was not a joke... But in the 60s, in my family background, you couldn’t grab your cat and a bag and run away.
So Tibbs and I, we stayed together. She loved books. Most cats love books, letters, homework, everything that contains words and thoughts! You don’t believe me? Think hard. How many writers live with dogs? Some have dogs but lots have cats which spend the day/night curled and asleep on their desk or writing table.
Happy months went by. And then, one day, Tibbs went missing. I looked for her everywhere... I felt miserable, so miserable. Seeing your pet die is never a good experience but when it goes missing, it is terrifying because you don’t know what happened to it/her/him.
Four days later, Tibbs came back, ravenously hungry. She looked exhausted too. But what do you know when you are 13, especially in the 60s?
Of course, she started putting on weight and 9 weeks later, guess what? I don’t remember how many kittens were born. Tibbs and I, we got to keep one. (The others were probably «cleared» by Cruella De Vil.)
Tibbs was delighted... So was I. Except that it was getting harder to run away! Try to grab a mother cat, her kitten and a bag filled with books... Of course, I could have opened the bag, put Tibbs and her kitten in it but then I would have felt like being Horace and/or Jasper revisited! (Watch the movie, you guys!)
Summer came. We started to pack our suitcases because it was time to go stay at Bon-Papa and Bonne-Maman’s place.
The day before we left, I was told that Tibbs would be coming along but the kitten had to be given away that very night. I think I threw a tantrum (small word, I imagine). Tibbs got very upset too... But to no avail.
We left as expected. I kind of remember the trip being hellish with Tibbs meowing like crazy all the way up to Arfons and me crying my heart out.
When we got to the house, I made sure Tibbs was securely locked up in my room because she was still looking for her kitten and acting very crazy.
But of course, someone (I won’t tell, I could but I won’t) let her out, making sure to show her the way to the street and the wild.
She left grieving about her kitten. She left me.
There was no way I could find her. The village was small and surrounded by fields and woods and a huge forest. Besides we were 125 miles from Béziers where we had left her kitten.
And then, being such a dreamer, I started lighting matches to keep the cold and sorrow and fear away like in Andersen’s tale.
I thought a lot about the «101 Dalmatians»... Hope came back slowly. After all, Pongo and Perdita had found their 15 puppies along with 84 other stolen ones.
I also relied on the «true» stories of cats and dogs finding their way back home.
Tibbs had not left me. She had left to go back to Béziers and find her kitten. I’d find her on our door-step in September.
I kept dreaming and crying and hoping and crying.
When we got to Béziers, no one had seen Tibbs again and her kitten was happily growing up in his new home.
After all, «The Little Match Girl» dies at the end of the story.
Mr Walt Disney, I loved you but I definitely quit believing your stories. (And don’t tell me it was just about time!)
*Good Night, and Good Luck*