Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuki Flicka

I've been living with a very small cat, whose name I have always spelled "T-U-K-I F-L-I-C-K-A" because I was under the impression that she was Finnish. And that Tuki Flicka meant "crazy girl" in Finnish. I thought. That's what my Beloved's Finnish uncle said, anyway.
I knew that flicka means "little girl." Because I remember the classic 1943 Roddy McDowell movie My Friend Flicka. So the flicka part: Finnish for "little girl."
Tuki, on the other hand, is not Finnish for "crazy."
And the rest of my Beloved's family is Norwegian.
And Swedish.
At any rate, I found some on-line translating device, typed in "tuki" and input the language "Finnish." It said that tuki, in Finnish, translates to "buttress, mainstay, endorsement, crutch, prop, aid, support, strut, brace, stake."
Seems pretty solid, doesn't it? Not exactly "crazy" is it? More "sturdy," wouldn't you say?
Now, because nothing there is that isn't at once a reference to some other thing, I remembered the story of one Fletcher Christian, late of my old ride.
Ol' Fletch gone bamboo, precipitating that zany mutiny thing that they keep making movies about. The Tahitian woman he loved and married was very tall, at least 6 feet or so by most accounts. The English crew, probably teasing Christian about his crush on his cousin's wife, called his native bride "Isabella." The daughter of a chief, her Tahitian name was probably Mauatua, which I remember as meaning "spirit of the mountain."
Fletch tried to wrap his Manx embouchure around maUatua, but it came out something like maVatua, which means "sea sick."
Many ha-ha around the chief's table that night.
Unfortunately, the rest of the kids started calling her "Sea-Sick", or Mai-miti (mimitti?) and that name stuck.
And, as will often happen aboard ship, guys develop their own working vocabulary. Some hand called Christian's partner "Mainmast" because she was taller than the 5'9" Christian. The speculation around the fo'c'sle, I'm sure, probably included the term "worth the climb." Salty. Even by Eighteenth Century standards. But you know how sailors talk. (The man who played Fletcher Christian in the 1964 movie, whose jacket I am wearing in the above ID photo, was the grandfather of Versace he-model Tuki Brando. Tuki Brando says that his name means "heartbeat," possibly in Tahitian. But you know how models talk.)
Now, a main mast isn't a "stay" or even a "brace." A mast actually requires a stay. A yard requires a brace. But there is a solidness assured in all of those elements. A solidness that isn't assured when you see a tiny cat.
But our Tuki was the mainmast of the family barque, the peacekeeper who would toss her 3 pounds into the fray to stop the other much larger cats' hissing and scratching. I once saw her try to bite someone who was talking too loudly. She would run into any room where someone was crying. She taught the new guy, Tommy, where everything was and the good places to lay in the sun and how to play with the toys and the people. (She had a mean -- I mean brutal -- swat for that CatDancer one.) Since she was recruited 15 years ago as a companion for him, she had an especial fondness for the late Mouse† (shown here with her, obviously before red-eye removal).
Tuki had a silent purr when I first met her. You couldn't hear it, but you could feel it when she crawled up the bunk and stuck her face in yours, reminding you that the top and sides of her head required that nightly rub. As she aged, the purr became more and more audible, a soft, steady, and supportive hum.
That purr ceased forever yesterday afternoon.


In the good-intentioned realm of delusional and comforting myths, my favorite is the one about "Pet Heaven." If you ever indulge in that kind of fiction, remember My Friend Tuki Flicka.

5 comments:

bitterandrew said...

I'm sorry to hear that. The Queen of Animals and I offer our condolences.

Dr. Momentum said...

I will raise a glass in toast to your friend. A good companion remains in your thoughts forever.

karie said...

Thank you, both, for your thoughful comments.

Tuki did an excellent job in this lifetime... being a tiny-little ninja cat, caregiver and peacekeeper! She chased around the house, all-kittenish, until just before the end. We'll always hold her memories very dear!

Mart said...

Sorry to hear your sad news.

We have 3 ships cats ~ Teddy, who's 6 years and brothers Alfie and Mouse (glad to hear someone else called their cat Mouse!) 8 months. The ships dog, Jess is 5 years old.

Had to pipe 'both watches turn-to' on Monday this week, when Mouse was adrift at pipe-down (they don't get all-night leave) and was AWOL for 48 hours. Returned on board safe and sound on Wednesday morning.

Think he got shanghaied by some wanton wench with a sea-story or two to tell !

ThirdMate said...

Thank you. I'll remember your kind words.