A sea­son of sec­ond chances for flora, fauna and fam­ily

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION - By Ja­son Le­clerc

Last Jan­uary, driv­ing through our neigh­bor­hood, we dis­cov­ered a cache of poin­set­tias — still in their sil­ver and gold Publix­foiled planters — by the curb for trash pickup. Gen­er­ally con­sid­ered a dec­o­ra­tive yet dis­pens­able win­ter burst of color, our neigh­bors were ready to cast them off af­ter the hol­i­day sea­son. These poin­set­tias, even in such a state, had ev­ery right to live: a voice­less yearn­ing that we heard.

Not too proud, we backed the car up and filled the trunk with the wa­ter-starved, ema­ci­ated plants — what a friend of mine lov­ingly calls “wil­ties.” We brought them home, trans­planted them, and heaped the same at­ten­tion we give to our mums, roses, and im­pa­tiens upon them. For the past year, we have watched those for­merly, nearly dead plants grow into trees with two-inch thick trunks and four-foot di­am­e­ters.

Now, they’re blush­ing bright red. Last July, we en­coun­tered a lit­ter of kit­tens, silent in their cages at a res­cue. They reached out for sal­va­tion from im­mi­nent eu­thana­sia.

We went home and fetched the same car­rier in which we, just days be­fore, had brought our 25-year-old fe­line best bud to the vet’s for his fi­nal trip. We chose the one we could help; we wel­comed a new kit­ten, bloom­ing with nose-nuz­zles, into our home.

This De­cem­ber, in the shadow of gi­ant poin­set­tias, our kit­ten is tak­ing on the Christ­mas-tree-de­stroy­ing task that ev­ery kit­ten knows in­nately: re-strewn gar­land, tossed tin­sel, and bounc­ing glass bulbs tes­tify to the youth’s (re)dec­o­ra­tive eye. We stand at the con­flu­ence of vigor and color this hol­i­day sea­son — made beau­ti­ful by hol­i­day plants and made alive by the sal­va­tion of a sweet-clawed tabby mix — in which we cel­e­brate birth, life, and sal­va­tion. We cel­e­brate in the pres­ence of ripen­ing youth all around.

How we color and count our lives — in cat years as much as sea­sonal blooms — is as much a func­tion of our dot­ing as it is in­nate­ness.

This sea­son, of­fi­cially con­cerned with birth — and re­birth — makes the Amer­i­can ideal of sec­ond chances all the more alive. If we can nur­ture cast­away fauna into bright-hued, thick-trunked trees and if we can res­cue a nine-lived crit­ter who’s al­ready on his eighth and in­tro­duce him to the play­things of imag­i­na­tion, then we should be un­wa­ver­ingly ob­sessed with our neigh­bors’ op­por­tu­ni­ties and well-be­ing.

For our fam­ily, such truths are ev­i­dent: our fam­ily is in its own re­birth.

Since our fam­ily’s pa­tri­arch passed this sum­mer, we are brought to­gether for the first time since the fu­neral — on the only ran­dom day be­tween Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas that ev­ery­body could at­tend — like the bunch of “wil­ties” that we are: a rag-tag of bad-luck and bad-de­ci­sion sur­vivors who are ready to dwell on the hero­ism of ser­vice over PTSD, the brav­ery of so­bri­ety over ex­cuses, the per­sis­tence of hard work over fail­ure, and the re­union of fam­ily over dis­cord.

Like other Amer­i­cans — like our Amer­i­can fam­ily — we are a fam­ily in the throes of res­ur­rec­tion.

The hol­i­day sea­son, those months in which we cel­e­brate bounty and the birth of a sav­ior, is but the back­drop for our quest to be a fam­ily again: to bask in love and re­newal.

The story of our fam­ily is the story of Amer­ica, es­pe­cially dur­ing this sea­son. De­spite the out­sized par­ti­san dif­fer­ences echo­ing through Wall Street, K Street, and small-town Main Streets; de­spite that, in a way, we’re all crazy un­cles and shrill aunts and awk­ward cousins looking for our voices; de­spite our in­di­vid­ual and col­lected wiltie-nesses, we have this in com­mon: we are Amer­i­cans. We are neigh­bors and lead­ers and en­trepreneur­s and broth­ers and sis­ters and Repub­li­cans and Democrats and In­de­pen­dents who are all in this to­gether.

As much as there are wil­ties long­ing to bloom, there are Amer­i­cans ea­ger to pick them up from the bar­ren curb­side and love them back into stur­di­ness.

As much as there are kit­tens who’ve never purred, there are Amer­i­cans yearn­ing to res­cue them and love them into bright-eyed ca­ma­raderie.

As much as there are fam­i­lies hurt­ing, cob­bled of bro­ken spir­its and ne­glected op­por­tu­ni­ties, there are Amer­i­cans to love them back into the bounty and re­birth — and sec­ond chances — that make Amer­ica’s spirit great.

Like any fam­ily, there are tri­als.

Like any fam­ily, we should be clam­ber­ing to be the pick­ers-up and res­cuers — clam­ber­ing to be the first to re­nounce petty prej­u­dices and grudges.

Like a sin­gle fam­ily, let’s — earnestly, faith­fully, and with thanks­giv­ing — gather to­gether, em­brace the wil­ties among us, and make this the sea­son of re­newal we need for each other: for our na­tion.

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