Sunday, January 2, 2011

me and cats

My love for cats goes way back.

The first cat I fell for was a stray kitten that followed me home from first grade. Or perhaps I saw it on my way home from school and noticed it walking behind me for a few steps because that's what kittens do, and then I picked it up and carried it the rest of the way home with me.

I don't remember having a plan about how I would take care of it and I didn't think of it as stealing someone else's kitten--I just thought it was adorable and I wanted it, so I kept it. After all, I was only six and it was cold outside and obviously it wanted to be with me, right?

Somehow, I got the kitten past my mom's ever watchful eye and into my bedroom. Even at that tender age, I had figured out that there was a high likelihood that she would say no, go put it back where you found it (remember, the day-after-Halloween trick-or-treating with my younger brother had already happened and I sure didn't want to go through that nightmare again and have to apologize for taking something that seemed so reasonable for me to have), so I closed my bedroom door and played quietly with the kitten for the rest of the day. Looking back, it is amazing that I got away with that part--the closed door part--because my mom was a huge fan of leaving the bedroom doors open--well, except for when she wanted the doors closed and kids in their rooms being quiet, so she'd close the door and hook the latch she'd installed at the top of the door. At some point in my life, I realized that not everybody's mom locked them into their rooms, but at the time she did it, it just seemed like one more way that she was clearly in charge, she was big and I was little, get used to it.

Anyway. The kitten. We played all afternoon together and I fell madly in love with this sweet little fluffy baby. When my mom called us to dinner, I panicked just a bit, but then realized I could just close my bedroom door and the kitty would be there, safe and sound, when I returned.

I had never finished my dinner so quickly. Because I was so young, I wasn't allowed to help with the dishes, so as soon as possible, I slipped away from my chair and headed back to my room.

That is when I realized I had adopted a magical kitten. It had disappeared. I was totally baffled. I knew I'd shut the door tight and nobody had been in my room, but the kitten was no where to be found. I was heartbroken and convinced that not only had my mom found the kitten and disposed of it, but she was being extra cruel by not even admitting it to me.

I began quietly weeping. And that's when I heard the little mew. Startled, I looked around, certain that my brothers must be in on the joke and were playing an even more cruel prank. But they were nowhere in sight. I listened intently and heard another mew. I began calling, kitty? kitty? and before long, I located the kitty. It had scaled my closet shelves and was up on the top shelf, high out of my reach.

It was about this time when my mom poked her head into my room and found my tear-stained cheeks. She followed my gaze to the top of my closet at about the same time that the kitten mewed again. I believe her response was a combination of: "What is that doing in your closet?" and "Oh my, what a cute little kitty." My explanation tumbled out--it followed me home, it's so cute, I love it, can't we keep it, as my mom coaxed the little fluffball off of the shelf and into her arms.

I had never before seen my mother behave so tenderly. You see, she has a soft spot for kittens too.

She was amazed that I'd been able to keep it from her for so long and explained that we could keep it but it would have to live outside. We got it a bowl of milk, which it eagerly lapped up. At some point, my mom found some yarn and showed me how kittens like to chase things, and after all of the feeding and holding and playing, I heard the kitten's rough purr for the first time. I was smitten with kitty love.

I remember feeling very sad about not getting to sleep with the kitty that night, but my parents assured me it would be fine outside and I could play with it when I awoke in the morning.

I'd like to say that I had that cat for many years, that we spent lots of Purina kitty chow moments. Unfortunately, the kitten had an accident that involved my dad's truck. My parents were devastated when they told me about it. Within a very short time, my mom found a new kitten, Mimi, a Siamese, who lived for several years and was followed by Sammy, another Siamese, who lived until I was 19.

Yesterday, I decided to clean out the storage room in our basement where the cats have been living since Gus joined our family. Let's just tell the story in pictures:

My injuries were not life threatening. As much as I like Gus, sometimes, I wish he would just shut up about how much he wants to play with the kitties and maybe even just let them sleep on my bed with me occasionally. That would probably help out the 3:00 am wakings. There's nothing like sleeping with a cat curled up next to your back or legs to help you feel safe and warm. I learned that back in first grade.


Amelia said...

What a sweet story.

Johanna said...

Ah, something that you and your mom share. That's nice. And I can really see you as that little girl playing with that kitty in your room.

By the way, my mom locked us out of the house for hours on end on long, hot summer afternoons so she could sleep. I never thought a thing about it. Strange.