I don't own these characters or profit from them.
Warning: While this fic is completely age appropriate for all members of the family, some parents may not like the particular subject matter. I don't really care, I actually enjoy angering the kind of people who would get mad about this, but the whining gets on my nerves so I'm telling you up front. So now you know and unless you have something constructive to say in the review I don't want to hear it, got me?
The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That: Special Families
By, Clayton Overstreet
Usually kids enjoy the end of the school day, but today Nick and Sally came home looking sad. Their moms were in the kitchen talking. Sally's mom looked up and said, "Sally, is something wrong?"
"No, it's nothing," she said.
Nick nodded. "We just had a long day at school."
Nick's mom said, "Well just take some time and enjoy yourselves. Tonight we'll go out for pizza. How about that."
Both kids brightened up. "Yay!"
Sally's mom said, "Now you two head out back and have fun."
Dropping their backpacks by the back door the kids ran outside, but when they got there their bad mood returned and they just walked over to the teeter-totter and sat down. In slow moves they each kicked off from the ground, but neither of them showed any real enjoyment.
Suddenly a familiar shape appeared next to them. "Well look at you two, you look so glum, please tell me what can be done."
"Hi cat," they said sadly.
"Have I done something wrong?"
"It's not you," Sally said.
Nick told him. "Some of the kids at school were making fun of us today. Some of their parents were saying things too when they came to pick them up."
"Well that's silly. What could they be picking on you two about? I've rarely seen such fine upstanding kids in all my days."
"They were teasing us about our moms," Sally said. "Ever since they got married and moved in together people keep saying things about them and us."
Nick said, "I thought it was great having Sally as my sister at first, but now…"
"I see," the Cat said. "Well that's hardly fair is it? But you shouldn't let them get you down."
"We wouldn't," Sally said. "If we knew what it all meant. I mean, don't you think it's a little weird? Nobody else's family in our school has two moms."
"Though Jimmy has his dad and his 'uncle' Fred," Nick said. "But he gets picked on all the time for it. I don't want that."
Cat was looking nervous as he said, "These questions you ask are hard to explain, though I suppose we should or you'll just ask again. So we'll go on a trip, one I know you will like, to the Freedom Springs Artist's Colony, where my friends Hana and Sherry can explain what it means to be a… special kind of family."
Nick and Sally smiled and ran to their back door, "Moms! Can we go with the Cat to an artist colony in the Freedom Springs Artist's Colony to learn about…"
Both Moms said, "Yes! Go! We could use some alone time! Just have fun."
Nick and Sally ran back and jumped happily. "We can go! We can go!"
Cat nodded. "I know, I know! To the thing-a-ma-jigger!"
Fish popped out of his bowl and sniffed his fin-pit. "Is that me?"
"Hi Fish," nick said. "We're going to the Freedom Springs Artist's Colony!"
"Cat says it'll help us understand about our moms," Sally said.
"Why that's a super idea," Fish said. Then he leaned over near the Cat and whispered, "Are you sure about this?"
Cat whispered back, "Do you want to explain it to them?"
Fish paused. "Let's go kids!"
Nick and Sally buckled up. (Insert stock footage of a certain song about going on an adventure as their ride takes off.)
They flew over rivers and valleys. Nick and Sally pointed and laughed at the scenery.
"Look a deer."
"I see a seagull!"
"Oh and there's a bear!"
Cat smiled and said, "Yes for you see kids Freedom Springs is a national park."
"Then how can your friends live out here?"
"Why it's simple as can be. Hana and Shelly were the ones who got the land protected you see. They filed some papers, held rallies and protests, claiming that deforestation would harm the birds and their nests. So finally the state made some new rules, that left them alone to do what they do."
"Is that it down there?" Sally asked, pointing down. In a clearing they saw a lot of cabins next to a small lake.
"Indeed it is. We're going in for a landing."
"It looks like a summer camp," Nick said as they landed.
Cat told them, "It used to be, but it closed a long time ago. Hana and Shelly fixed it up for them and their friends and their families."
When they landed Nick and Sally got out, looking around the place. There were people everywhere. Some were making paintings others were weaving rugs or carving things out of wood. Some were doing plays and others were working in gardens. All of them had long hair; rainbow colored clothes, and were either wearing sandals or going barefoot.
"They look like those pictures of my grandma back in the sixties," Sally said.
A short but older woman with long gray hair done in two long braids came over and said, "The sixties were a great time for a lot of people. Time may move on but a lot of us still remember the good times." She smiled up and said, "Cat, it's good to see you again."
"Hello Hana," Cat said, rushing forward to hug her. "It's been too long."
Hana laughed. "I'll say. What brings you all the way out here to see us old hippies?"
"My two young friends Nick and Sally have questions that I thought you might be able to answer, but if you don't want to we won't be a bother. You see their mothers recently got married and moved in together as wives will do. At first they were happy and enjoyed their new family, but now I'm afraid they're having problems at school." Nick and Sally looked down at their feet, a mix of embarrassment and sadness on their faces.
"I see," Hana said. She bent down and smiled at them. "Would you two hip-cats like to join me for a little afternoon snack? We have strawberries and homemade whipped cream."
"Yum," Sally said.
Nick nodded. "That sounds great."
"Well then come on."
They hurried to a nearby cabin. Inside was another lady a little older than Hana. She had short hair with a ring of flowers in it and wore a long white dress. She was much taller than Hana and even though she was older she was still very pretty.
"She looks like an angel," Sally said.
The woman smiled. "Why thank you dear. Hana who are our guests?"
"Shelly you know the Cat. These are his friends Nick and Sally. I invited them over for strawberries and cream. They have some questions about their mothers' new relationship and the cat wanted us to help explain things."
"Well then let me get everything ready," Shelly said, going to the ice box.
"Your refrigerator is made out of wood?" Nick asked.
"We don't have electricity out here," Hana said. "This is how they used to work before people have power."
"Then how do you get the ice?" Sally asked.
Setting a bowl of strawberries and a bowl of whipped cream on the table, Shelly said, "Now you say you want us to explain something?"
Sally and Nick had already taken some berries and bitten into them, juice on their chins. Sally said, "Well our moms already sat us down and explained that they love each other and wanted to make sure Nick and I were okay with them getting married."
"We thought it would be great," Nick said. "Sally is my best friend and having her be my sister is pretty okay. But…"
"Now come on Nick we came all this way," the Cat said. "Tell them exactly what you wanted to say."
"Well it's just that everyone keeps saying things and treating us different now."
'Everyone?" Hana asked. "Even your friends?"
"Well no," Sally said. "At least not all of them. But a lot of the kids at school and the parents… and I think I overheard our teachers saying some things in the hallway. Mom didn't say anything but I know she was asked to quit the PTA and some of the kids were taken out of our Girl Scout troop all of a sudden."
Hana and Shelly shared a look. Hana said, "Is this the first time you've ever been teased for something you can't help?"
"No," the kids said.
"I remember a while ago someone called me… a bad name because I… I have dark skin," Nick said. "It sort of scared me until my mom explained that it was okay."
Sally said, "And I get teased because I'm blond. A lot of the kids like to tell blond jokes and it kind of bothers me because nobody ever really does anything about it and I'm not stupid."
Shelly nodded knowingly. "I know how that is. Adults will tell you that sticks and stones will break your bones and words will never hurt you, but that's not always true."
Cat said, "I know what you mean and I've heard some names bullies will call. People who taunt you for things you can't help at all. Freckles or skin color, religion and wealth; I remember one child who was teased even though he was in poor health. He had treatments for cancer and lost all his hair, but the children who laughed at him just didn't care."
"That's not right," Sally said.
Hana gave the kids a hug. "You just have to ride it out kids. These days it's a lot easier to do that sort of thing than it was in our generation."
"Back in our day the people used real sticks and stones," Shelly said. "When I married Hana we had to put up with a lot. In the end we ran away and ended up out here."
"But isn't it wrong to just run away?" Sally asked.
Nick said, "We learned that if you run from bullies it just makes things worse."
Cat said, "That is usually true in a fair fight one on one, but when it's a million to two, all you can do is run. Especially when there's nobody who cares enough to stop them from throwing you straight down some stairs. A fox against a gorilla or one wolf against a herd of moose, the smartest thing is to move your caboose. A snowflake will land softly and melt in your hand, but a blizzard will cover you and the land."
Hana said, "Sometimes when you're different than everyone else and do things they don't like people can be mean, like the kids at your school. People were even less tolerant than now even though we weren't hurting anyone or trying to make them be like us. So we traveled a bit and found other people who did not fit in with what people wanted and moved out here to do what we like."
Shelly said, "We do art and sell it in a little shop off the freeway to pay for things we need. Since this is a protected place we can't plow it down to build a farm after all."
Sally looked outside. "It looks like you guys have a lot of fun."
"It's not easy to live alone away from the world that most of us have known, but Hana and Shelly had a plan and live every day the best they can," the Cat said cheerfully.
Hana hugged Shelly. "We do. And as time moves on the world changes and these days most people don't put up with the kind of hatred and bigotry we had when we were young."
"Not that there aren't still foolish people in the world," Shelly warned them. "Nick and Sally, no matter what you do people aren't going to like you because of how you look, the clothes you wear, or the people you know. The key is to just enjoy being with those who do care about you." There was a rumble outside of an engine and she smiled. "But don't take our word for it. Come out and meet someone who really knows."
They went out the door and outside was a van. Coming out were three adults. One man and two girls. The man was dressed in a business suit, one of the women was in a pair of coveralls an a pink shirt that looked like some that Sally's mom owned, and the other woman was in a ranger's uniform.
"Hey moms!" They said in unison.
"Moms? Are these your kids?"
"Yes," Shelly said. "These are Mike, Francine, and Gem. They buy and bring in our supplies for us a few times a month. Kids, meet Nick and Sally. Their moms just got married and they were wondering how to get a handle on it."
They were opening the side door and unloading boxes. The man said, "Well if you don't mind helping unload we can talk with you."
"Sure," they said and rushed forward to help.
"Well it can be hard," Mike said as he haled out a box of food. "We grew up out here, but we still had to go to school and kids can be kind of mean."
"Still," Francine, the forest ranger, said. "That can be a good thing since it lets you know right away who is really worth being friends with. You wouldn't want to be friends with anyone who would be mean to you over something silly like this would you?"
"No," Nick and Sally admitted.
"I always tell my kids, sometimes it's hard to know who is a really good person if they are never in a situation that makes them uncomfortable."
"You have kids?" Nick asked.
Mike and Francine both laughed. Mike said, "Actually I do too. I'm a teacher at the local high school. I teach biology and zoology." He looked at the Cat. "I'd still love to see you in my class sometime Cat."
"I'd love to really, but that's not my thing. Especially since I'd probably end up in a jar in the science wing." He paused and rubbed his chin. "You know that's a lot of boxes and so much to do, why don't you talk to the kids while I get help from Thing One and Thing Two?" He whistled and the two Things hopped out of their compartment in the thinga-ma-jigger and ran over to help unload the van. The humans happily moved out of their way to let them work.
Gem said, "Actually I'm the only one of mommies Hana and Shelly that… take after them." Gem said. "And I was adopted by them when I was a teenager. You see I told my parents how I felt about my girlfriend at the time and… they didn't take it well. Actually they did their best to make me miserable. So when I could I ran away. Eventually I found this place and Hana and Shelly took me in."
"Didn't your parents feel bad at all?" Sally asked. "My mom would be very worried if I just disappeared."
"Mine too," Nick said.
Gem shook her head. "No. But I got lucky and I found a family that did care for me."
Francine said, "She's my kids' favorite aunt. Gem spends most of her time baking cookies and things. She and her wife own a bunch of bakeries and Gem is in charge of all their best recipes. Have you ever eaten at Claudia's Cookies?"
"I have!" Nick and Sally said.
"I love those almond ginger snaps," Sally said.
Nick rubbed his belly. "And my mom buys me a bag of their brownies on my birthday."
The things came over rubbing their bellies and licking their lips, gibbering happily. Gem smiled and promised them. "I'll send you some of your favorites later." They ran off, hopping back into the thinga-ma-jigger.
"Of course it helped," Mike said. "That when we were younger we had the Cat to take us on adventures and teach us things."
"I do what I can," the Cat said smugly. "So do you feel better now that you see, the only thing that really matters is family?"
"Yes," the kids said with embarrassed smiled. Nick added, "Though that last rhyme was stretching a bit."
"We really love our moms," Nick said.
"And they love us," Sally added. "So I guess listening to anyone who doesn't even really know them saying things about them isn't very smart."
The Cat put a paw on their shoulders. "And that's a message you can take to heart." He loked at Nick. "Better?"
"But I also wanted to ask about something I saw last week," Sally said. "I walked into their bedroom the other day and our moms were sort of wrestling and tickling each other—"
"Well look at the time," The Cat said loudly, interrupting Sally. "Hana and Shelly this trip was a real winner, but if we don't hurry home the kids will miss dinner."
Smirking knowingly the two women said, "Come back any time."
"We will," Nick and Sally said.
"Next time you can teach us how to paint and make whipped cream," Nick said. "Our moms really like whipped cream."
"Yeah, even though we're not allowed to eat in our rooms sometimes they take a whole tub in their room and empty it out all by themselves." She paused. "Why is everyone blushing? Do you do that too?"
"It's time to go kids," the Cat said quickly. "Bye everybody!"
"Bye," everyone said, waving them off.
They got in the thinga-ma-jigger and buckled in. Fish said, "So did you find out what you wanted to know?"
"I guess," Nick said. "Though we still have some questions."
"At least we know what's important, right Nick?"
The Cat said, "Then let's head for home." The strange contraption rose into the air and flew off over the horizon.
Nick and Sally arrived home just as their parents were calling them. "Nick! Sally! Time to clean up to go out for dinner."
"Coming," they said, running to the back door. When they got inside they grabbed their moms together in a big group hug.
"Well, well," Nick's mom said. "What's that for?"
"We just wanted to let you know we love you," Sally said.
Nick nodded. "And that we're really happy that you love us."
"Aw, thanks," they both said and hugged them back.
"Now hurry up and get cleaned up," Sally's mom said.
"If you're good we can swing by Claudia's Cookies on the way home for desert," Nick's mom said.
"Yay!" They hurried to wash their hands.
Putting her arm around Nick's mom's shoulder Sally's mom said, "We have some good kids there."
"Of course we do," she responded, leaning her head on her wife's shoulder. "They're our kids."
So far PBS prefers to play it safe with the lessons in their lessons in their TV shows. When it's something like this they're more likely to have a kid raised by wolves explain how he feels different than his family than to have the more realistic options discussed. Which of course leaves kids in actual situations with nobody to help them understand and learn about it.
Now I get why people don't talk to their kids about sex. They're all a handful of years away from a growth spurt that's going to leave them physically capable of and wanting to do things they are not mentally and emotionally ready for. However it's my experience that this'll happen anyway and being overprotective is like leaving Curious George trapped alone in a fireworks factory with a shiny lighter and not explaining what either one is. Just leaving the monkey, lighter, and fireworks sitting quietly in the dark and expecting them to sit there indefinitely with the lighter glittering in front of him (right in arm's reach in fact) and not to get curious about what it's all for. Yeah… that'll end well.
Then again how far do you go? Do you explain how the lighter works? What happens when you touch it to the fireworks? I'm sure they've seen the outcome at least once somewhere. How do you explain to them that something that people clearly enjoy playing with and may even be necessary in certain can when used right be a beautiful and good thing but will burn them if misused?
Then what? Just truth him not to use the shiny lighter and set off one of the fireworks in what could be a brief display or a chain reaction that could cause massive damage to the monkey, the building, and other people? You can't just take the lighter away… it's theirs and even if you're careful and send him elsewhere he'll still have it and someone with fireworks could be anywhere. (Man, can I push a metaphor or what?)
In these semi-enlightened times all kinds of situations arrive that either a parent has never experienced before come up or that were handled differently by their parents. With indifference (because that sort of thing could never happen to "us", right?) or intolerance which was perfectly acceptable in their time.
Up to about a hundred years ago kids like Nick and Sally would have been engaged as part of a business transaction and married by twelve shortly expecting their own children if they lived that long. Heck most people back then did not own shoes and only the very rich had some made specifically for left and right feet. Nobody saw anything wrong with this. These days people take for granted the hatred for bigotry and intolerance that it being encouraged in America and many forget that in many places around the globe they still torture and kill anyone who shows the slightest bit of independence and deviation from the established society in which they live.
Or that there are people in this country who could and would do those things to people here if they have half a chance. People who kill and main someone who is the "wrong" color, religion, height, nationality, sexuality or just wearing the wrong clothes. People who are convinced that they are right and that it is the correct action to try to force these people into the mold they want or simply eliminate them.
At the same time there is some logical basis for discrimination. Predators who prey on children and anyone weaker than them, people who kill hundreds for their religion or race or country (which means they are probably being encouraged to do so), or even those who have been driven to hide their feelings for so long that they use them to lash out and hurt the parts of their own society that has forced them to hide those parts of them. Or people who are just plain messed up.
Most people are busy with their own lives and sometimes when a person with a specific characteristic does something that hurts others it's easier and maybe safer to just assume everyone with that characteristic is the same way. Like how all wild tigers may not be man eaters. Some or even most could be cuddly and friendly. (Well they could.) Still you are not personally going to have to time to check every one, especially if you or someone you care about has been attacked, and see if they are friendly. It's easier and quicker to just not let the kids play in the jungle. Even if they seem nice and playful you do not leave an innocent and unprotected child alone with them in a room. Humans are even more dangerous and there is a reason we all have locks on our doors. China built a wall.
So where does the line between tolerance, understanding, and acceptable caution get drawn? Will the line still be in the same place tomorrow? What if you draw it in the wrong place and end up causing more harm than good? Suppose other people disagree with where you put the line even if you feel it's in the right place?
All of these are viable points and explain why humanity has been at war over these things since recorded history and why we're all expecting to see the flash of nukes at any time. Insanity is a deviation from the baseline of what is considered normal, varying to degree. Unfortunately nobody has ever been able to get everyone to agree exactly what that baseline is.
So why did I write this, other stories like it, and several books for varying age groups available online under C.D. Overstreet? Because I have had my own trouble fitting into society and a certain empathy for others who are treated with intolerance for physical and personality traits that they likely do not want to change and are only unhappy with because other people do their best to torment them for it.
Maybe it's the opposite and instead of being shunned they are being used by people who enjoy having an associate who is different in a cool way. Stronger, better looking, rich, or with some special skill that sets them apart. The person they are does not matter, only what they can do. You can be as alone in a crowd as you can alone at a table.
Which is why I promote indifference to anything that does not involve someone getting hurt, rather than acceptance and tolerance. Tolerating and accepting differences is simply the other side of bigotry. History has shown that accepting someone's differences still separates them from society, though often in a more acceptable way. It's not something people are particularly good at anyway. We're all paranoid psychotic apes after all. You've read "Lord of the Flies" or… I don't know… any history book ever written?
Indifference however means that people stop caring. In older days an unconventional couple might walk down the street and get dirty looks or a smile. These days it's getting to the point where in some places a black man and white woman, two women with Adam's apples, or an elderly woman and a handsome young man can walk down the street and almost nobody notices. They don't stare or wave or make comments or even remember then a few moments later.
When a grown man hangs out watching children at a playground, a stranger seems to be following you, or someone shows up with injuries that they refuse to explain then you should show concern and attention. If someone needs a friendly ear to tell their problems to, especially when it involves how they are treated by someone else, it's good to listen and care. But when someone is happy with someone they care about or being who they are and are just trying to go about their lives, indifference is best. Because unless someone is being hurt by what they are doing, then there is no need to despise or accept it. It is a thing that is, like having to urinate. Unless they are doing it in an inappropriate location or time, is it any of your business? Do you blame them for it? (Well okay, maybe the Catholics do or the guy who has to clean the bathroom, but you get my point.)
To sum up what I realize has been a long rant that many people probably won't even read, I intended to show people something that a lot of people can't decide is or is not acceptable. I feel I kept it kid friendly with no curse words, descriptions of anything that is considered an "adult" nature, while at the same time doing my best to give enough information to help people who may be in a similar situation and keep the story interesting too. I hope I succeeded and you enjoyed it.