That Old Kitten Spirit

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My BFF, Buster Kitty, passed away this fall.  He died suddenly, and unexpectedly, from what we believe to be a common heart problem that plagues cats.  We came home from a day trip and found his body at the base of the stairs.  It was unspeakably horrible.  If I never go through anything that awful again, ever in my life, I will count myself fortunate.

Ten years ago, when Tybalt, the Black Death, my Buddha Cat, was on his last legs, I discovered that in the 18 years I’d known him, I had somehow forgotten to live without a cat.  And that’s when Buster Kitty entered my life.  When Buster Kitty unexpectedly shuffled off his mortal coil, I remembered that I had forgotten how to live without a cat.  Roy, bless his heart, said “We’ll get another cat.” meaning “We’ll get another cat in the spring”.  He’s a little slow sometimes.  He gets there, but he takes the Local Train.  He was planning to get engaged four or five years after we met, even though it was perfectly obvious from our first date forward that we were headed directly to the altar.  I had to take things into my own hands on that one as well, but that’s a different story.  Roy said “We’ll get another cat.” and all I could think was “How long do I have to be here without a cat?”

You know, unless you are hopelessly Cat Averse like my mother, that there is power in the purr of a cat.  There is no dreadful event in my life that has not been improved by a purring cat on my lap.  Or, rather, my experience of every dreadful event has been made less horrible, less weighty, less burdensome, through having a purring cat on my lap.  The sudden loss of Buster Kitty was certainly a dreadful event, and made even worse by the fact that the loss of my usual antidote to dreadful events, the purring cat, was the dreadful event itself.  It was the ultimate in Negative Synergies.

I lasted one week.  I knew quite well that Roy had some totally absurd time horizon in mind, and with the expertise of the long-married, I utterly disregarded that.  I launched a conversation with him about this Hypothetical Event of securing another cat for the house. I ran across this magnificent article that explained my perspective perfectly.  Buster Kitty occupied a completely unfillable Cat Track…but the household had at least one Cat Slot, and it was vacant, and it very badly needed to be filled.  Really.  The post I linked to there is totally worth reading. Anyway, filling the vacant Cat Slot was First Priority, for me. I wasn’t going to be having any vacant Cat Slot for months and months.  Who could stand it?  Anyway, my Cat Slot had been continuously occupied by adult cats for 28 years at this point, but suddenly, Overhead Control alerted me to the fact that the specs for the job had been changed.  My Cat Slot had been converted, without my permission, acquiescence, or agreement, into a Kitten Slot.  I don’t know why.  The decision was handed down by Top Management.

While the Cat Slot Conversion paperwork was getting processed I sounded Roy out on the topic of Multiple Cats.  Because, why not.  Starting fresh is starting fresh, and it might be interesting to have more than one.  He was not in favor.  His idea was: 1 cat.  Not 2 cats.  I hadn’t yet been alerted to the change in status on the Slot, so I was unable to obtain his feelings on the subject of Kitten.  I was pretty sure I knew what they were going to be, anyway.

Fortunately, about that time, Roy headed off for a conference.  One of his very favorite sayings is “It’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission.”  I think this position has merit, and was fully prepared to deploy it in the face of his inevitable protest. I called a good friend to come visit me for purposes of Cat Shopping.  Or, as I understood it at the moment, Kitten Shopping.  When I was informed of the conversion of the Slot from Cat Slot to Kitten Slot, I was also informed that we had been given an extra Slot in acknowledgement of the inconvenience. So we were not shopping for one cat, we were shopping for two kittens.

Plan A was to hit several of the area shelters, meet all the kittens they had on hand, and pick from that selection after several hours of Kitten Shopping.  As they say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  Plan A was derailed pretty much instantly when I met my First Kitten, a tiny little tuxedo cat, who nestled himself in the angle between my neck and my shoulder when I picked him up, purred loudly, and then licked the end of my nose.

“Friend,” I said to my buddy, “I’m gone.”

Meanwhile, she had discovered a contender in the form of a fluffy blue kitten with more toes than whiskers, who pitched the World’s Tiniest Temper Tantrum when she did not immediately open up his cage and take him out.

“Lori,” she said, “I”m gone.”

And so it was that we set out to obtain Two Kittens, and took home the first two kittens we met.  Later that day, I spoke with Roy on the phone.  “I have a confession to make” I said. “You got a cat” he said. “No,” I said.  “You know how you’re always saying it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission?” “What. did. you. do.” he said. “Well,” I said, “We went to the animal shelter.” “But you said you didn’t get a cat” he said. “That’s right,” I said.  “I didn’t get a cat.  I got two kittens.“. Silence reigned.  “Two.” he said.  “Two…kittens.” “Yep. You’re going to love them.”  My friend had already pointed out that if Roy kicked up a dust, we’d just toss the fluffy one at him, and the kitten would work its Fluffy Kitten Magic, and that would be the end of the protests.  And that is, more or less, how it worked out.  These kittens were so unbelievably cute – even our vet, who specialized in cats, melted when I brought them in – that Roy didn’t have a Chance.  It took him more than five minutes, and less than two days.

Now we’re one bigger, happier family: me, Roy, Max, and Baxter.  Max is the fluffy blue one, who turns out to be a volunteer shoot on the Maine Coon family tree.  Baxter is the tuxedo cat.  Both are shaping fair to be enormous.  Baxter was 10 lbs at his six-month checkup, and Max wasn’t very far behind. I’m told that Maine Coons take a long time to grow into their full magnificence, though.

Now the kittehs are sad.

I have a hanging sculpture in my bay window. It has a big swarovski cut-crystal ball hanging from it. Around 4pm at this time of the year the sun is at exactly the right angle to shine through the crystal, which puts dozens of rainbow-colored dots on the wall. If I give the sculpture a spin, the dots chase around the room. It’s like having 50 laser pointers, all going at once, in a seemingly random pattern on the living room walls, furniture, and the hallway stairs. It’s not random, I’m sure there’s a mathematical equation that perfectly describes it, and I bet my friend my kitten-shopping buddy the physicist could tell me what that equation is. But to the kittehs, it’s like having hundreds of multicolored mice racing randomly EVERYWHERE.

Kittehs learned very quickly that Mama Makes The Sparkle Dots Dance. Now they congregate in the living room around 4pm, with expectant looks on their little furry faces. I don’t know what it is about their looks that’s expectant. I just know it is. They see me coming and they want me to make the Sparkle Dots.

It has been cloudy for the last five days in a row. We’re in the throes of mud season, and it’s sleeting, snowing, raining, and just generally depressing and gloomy without being attractively atmospheric, like it is in the fall.  It’s just grim.  Mud Season.  End of Ski Season. Something to endure.  Thank heavens for the Sugar Shacks, because they’re the only thing that makes life worth continuing to live for the six weeks it goes on.

No sun = no Sparkle Dots.  On top of swimming through puddles on the sidewalk everywhere, on top of random warnings of three inches of nasty, useless, wet snow, on top of the crushing of the spirits that comes with the end of ski season…I have to disappoint my kittens every. single. day.  They don’t understand the pivotal role of the sun in the Sparkle Dot picture.  They just know Mama has the Sparkle Dot Magic, and refuses to use it.

God, please bring me a sunny afternoon.  I can’t stand crushing the hopes of my kittens every afternoon much longer.

In a happier time:

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About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner Oldsmobile...it will take you right there.

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