Three O'Cat Is Still a Game

De La Torre, Lillian

  • Lillian McCue (pseudonym Lillian De La Torre) describes how growing up in a family of seven children shaped her beliefs that she must carry her own weight in the world, that being angry only hurt herself, that it is important to be needed, and that happiness is a habit. This episode is a rebroadcast of an earlier airing.
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And now, This I Believe. We bring you an earlier broadcast, which is being repeated because of the special interest it aroused. Here is Edward R. Murrow as he first introduced the guest.
This I Believe. Lillian Bueno McCue is an author and playwright. Between books and plays of her own she appears in other people’s plays in a variety of radio roles and is a Colorado College faculty wife. Lillian Bueno McCue finds time for thinking too. Here is her creed.
What do I believe? What laws do I live by? There are so many answers—work, beauty, truth, love—and I hope I do live by them. But in everyday things, I live by the light of a supplementary set of laws. I’d better call them rules of thumb. Rules of thumb aren’t very grand, but they do make the wheels go round.
My father and mother sent me to good schools, but the finest thing they did for my education was to have seven children. I was the oldest, and my brothers and sisters were my best teachers. Here are some of the things I learned.
First, to pull my own weight in the boat. A bunch of kids making a bobsled have no use for the loafer who wants a free ride. Neither has the world. I learned to make the bed I slept in, and wash the glass I used, and mend what I broke, and mop up where I spilled. And if I was too lazy or too dainty or too busy, and left it for somebody else, somebody else soon taught me different.
Then, the same way, I learned that anger is a waste. It hurt nobody but me. A fit of the sullens got short shrift in our house. It wasn’t pulling my weight in the boat. It was spoiling sport. And among seven children, it got me nowhere. It might reduce four o’ cat to three o’ cat, but the game went on just the same, and where was I? Out of it. Wasting my time.
Better go in and join the group around the piano and forget my grievance. Better still, next time don’t fling down my bat in a tantrum; keep my temper and stay in the game.
Here’s a rule of thumb that’s important, and the older I get, the more important I think it is. When I can do something, and somebody wants me to do it, I have to do it. The great tragedy of life is not to be needed. As long as you are able and willing to do things for people, you will be needed. Of course, you are able; and if so, you can’t say no. My mother is seventy-seven. In seventy-seven years, she has never said no. Today, she’s so much in demand by fourteen grandchildren and countless neighbors that her presence is eagerly contended for.
And when I want to see her, I have to pretend I’m having a big emergency at my house.
Then there’s the rule of curiosity. Your body would die if you stopped feeling hunger and thirst, and your mind will die if you lose your curiosity. This I learned from my father. My father was a naturalist. He could see the beetle under the bark, and draw it forth unharmed for us to squint at through the magnifying glass. He sampled the taste of thirty-three different caterpillars. Fired by his example, once, my sister at an ant. In case you are wondering, caterpillars taste like the green leaves they eat, and ants taste of lemon.
I personally haven’t tasted any entomological specimens lately, but I’m still rejoicing in the limitless curiosity that draws me to books and people and places. I hope I never lose it. It would be like pulling down the blind.
Finally, there’s the rule of happiness. Happiness is a habit. I was taught to cultivate it. A big stomachache or a big heartache can interrupt happiness, but neither can destroy it unless I permit it. My mother simply wouldn’t have unhappy faces moping about the place. If it was stomachache, she dosed it; if it was heartache, she administered love and understanding and lots of interesting things to do, and soon the sun came out again.
Even the heartbreaks seemed to yield to the habit of finding happiness in doing things, in love, and in the memory of love. I hope I never lose that habit, either. It would be like putting out the light.
So I learned to live, by the great laws, and these little rules of thumb. I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any one of them, and I wouldn’t take a million times that for the years at home that taught them to me. My mother lives in Tucson, Arizona. My father died four years ago. I hope they are both listening.
That was a repeat of an earlier broadcast by Lillian Bueno McCue who writes books and plays under the pen name of Lillian De La Torre and in private life is married to a professor of English.