Tiger and me

It is the Chinese New Year, Year of the Tiger. I felt it was time to write about how the Tiger has affected my life.

I’ve always loved all animals (well, not bugs, but they don’t count). Tigers held a fascination for me, but it was only around 1999 that I was to discover just how strongly Tiger figures into my life.

It was around that time that I was a member of the New York Times’s film forum. It was a place for contributors from all over the world to talk about, review, recommend films. There was also a book forum, a television forum, and a movie forum – all of which I visited frequently.

One day, someone posted a link to a nickname generator. These were big in the beginnings of the Internet; users put their names into the box, hit “generate,” and got a nickname relevant to the type of generator it was. Cartoon nickname, superhero nickname, etc.

I don’t remember which one this was, but the regulars (some of whom are still friends today) posted theirs. They were awful! “Vomitous Alleyway,” “Gangrenous Leg,” and the like.

I decided to try my hand at it, but wouldn’t tell anyone I was doing so – just in case mine was as terrible as the others.

To my surprise, and delight, I got “cybernetic tiger,” which I reported to the group.

I had not yet signed up for a hotmail account, so I did – using “cybernetic tigress” as my handle. Things took off from there.

My friend, Bill, and I had “met” in discussing music, and he quickly became a supplier for my collection of artists. Bill loved jazz and blues, and introduced me to artists I had never heard of – but whose music is on my phone and whose albums I get with every release. Bill passed away some years ago, but his influence on my music collection continues to reign.

In 1999, I was chatting on the now-defunct MSN Messenger with Bill. It was midday, and I had to do some shopping. I told him I had to go to the grocery store.

“Cupboards are bare?” he asked.

“Yes, but I’m out of Diet Coke.”

“You’d better go, then, the tigress needs her Diet Coke!”

We signed off, and I went shopping. The store is laid out so that the soft drink aisle is second to last. I did all my groceries, and when I finally reached the soft drinks, Cokes were toward the end of the aisle.

When I approached the Diet Cokes, there, atop a display of cans of Diet Coke, was a large plush white tiger. It startled me – was this coincidence?

I couldn’t wait to come home and message Bill. He asked if I had bought the tiger. I sure do wish I had.

That weekend, we took the kids to the downtown shopping center where our hairstylist worked. On the way out, I saw a store which carried gems and stones. Having just learned to meditate, holding a stone in my hand, I was seeking one of my own. Up until that point, I was part of a group of friends which would gather weekly, talk about all sorts of things, and spend time meditating. The group leader was the one who distributed the stones. She had told me to “go to the store, hold each one. The one that wants to come home with you is the one you should get.”

I went in, while the kids waited outside with their dad (they were too young for me to even consider letting them loose in that store!). I looked around, held jade, quartz, and all kinds of different stones. Discouraged that nothing felt right, I exited the store.

Just as I got to the threshold, something told me to go back. I did, making a beeline for a cabinet. There was a surface underneath it, and I peered into the darkness. There was a basket of stones – all tiger’s eye.

This was too good to be true! I picked one up and it was perfect; no chips, no scratches, and when I held it in the light, it glowed. It was my stone.

Taking it to the cash register, I was prepared to pay a substantial price for it. However, I got another surprise when I was charged $3.75. The store was having a clearance sale, as they were moving (the following week, as it turns out), and everything was on deep discount.

Already, the Tiger was starting to show up.

On Labor Day weekend, we left the city to go to the family home in Vermont. as we sat in traffic behind all the other holiday drivers, one of my kids said, “Look! It’s a tiger!”

Sure enough, outside my window was a large billboard, on which was a large photo of a tiger. I smiled again.

We used to visit the South Burlington County Fair with my parents every year. That weekend, one of my kids went with my parents, and the other came with us in our car. We got separated along the way, so we entered the fairgrounds through a gate we’d never been to before.

As we stood in line waiting to get our tickets, I glanced next to me. There was a man standing there, wearing a muscle shirt. On his left bicep was a large tattoo of a spider web.

However, in the center of the web was no spider: it was a large tiger’s head.

These are just some of the ways in which Tiger makes itself known to me.

In the fall of 2000, my mom was diagnosed with a metastatic brain tumor. While waiting for her to have the surgery, I went into the small hospital chapel. Taking my tiger eye stone, holding it in my palm, I said prayers for a safe and successful surgery.

Talking with family members as we waited, the topic came up, because my tiger’s eye was still in my palm. One of my siblings asked, “what year were you born?”

Piqued, I had to wait until I got home (smartphones were not yet de rigeur). Sitting down at the computer, I looked up my birth year. By now, you won’t be surprised to find out I was born in the Year of the Tiger.

Flash forward to 2010. That February, my younger son was going to be bar-mitzvah’d. The bar-mitzvah was scheduled for February 14, a Sunday. This would allow us to have a photographer and videographer (not allowed in synagogues on Shabbat/Sabbath). As well, it was the first day of the Chinese New Year – Year of the Tiger.

I had to do something to mark that special occasion. I mentioned it to the woman in charge of tablecloths at the rental place, and she said she’d look for something appropriate.

We had chosen a tablecloth already, when – a week prior to the bar mitzvah – she called me in abject excitement.

“We just got a shipment of brand new tablecloths. You can come see them if you’d like, but trust me when I tell you, this is the tiger theme you want!”

I trusted her.

I had already bought an outfit to wear, and needed one more piece to complete it. Just four days before the party, I went into The Bay. Passing one of the departments for dresses, I stopped short. There, on the rack, was an outfit I knew I had to get. If only they would have my size…

The outfit is a skirt and blouse, with a camisole underneath. There was one full set left on the rack: my size. I bought it instantly.

When we arrived at the synagogue on the Thursday prior to the bar-mitzvah, the director of the synagogue took us into the reception hall which was partially set up for our event.

We were dressed in our outfits for that Sunday, as our photographer was going to take formals that evening. This would spare us all the time and stress of having to take the photos on the day of the bar mitzvah, and allow us to just enjoy the party.

As I walked into the room, wearing my outfit, my kids started to laugh.

The table settings for the bar mitzvah

“Mommy, did you plan to match the tables?” It was rather uncanny, and became a topic of conversation throughout the day at the bar-mitzvah.

Never one to shy away from a microphone, I gave a speech

A few years earlier, I had bought tiger’s ears to wear for Halloween, as I opened the door to trick-or-treaters. On a whim, I brought them to the bar mitzvah.

At the reception, I mentioned them to the photographer. He said, “put them on.” When I did, he said, “okay, now that is a picture I need to take!”

The party was on, the formal part of the bar mitzvah was done, kid knocked it out of the park, and I was relaxed, feeling playful. Does it show?

(One more – because the kid in me had to monopolize one of the pinball machines I had arranged to join the air hockey and foosball games for the day)

It was all I could do to become a hostess again, I was having too much fun playing

Just a couple of other ways in which I embrace my spirit animal:

Theo enjoying the tiger throw on my sofa
A true “find” – one of my favorite collectible mugs

Those who know me know two identifiers that are instantly associated with me: the color purple, and Tiger. I have several stuffed tigers, have adopted a tiger via the WWF, and never stop looking for ways in which it shows up in my life.

It isn’t so bad to have the influence of such a strong, majestic animal totem.

In this, the Year of the Tiger, I wish you all a wonderful year of strength. May your spirit animal find you as mine found me all those years ago. Just keep your eyes open; you’ll know.

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