The Best Things in Life are Free but Eat a lot
Warning: the following post talks about cats. It talks about other things, kinda, but mostly cats. If the thought of catblogging gives you hives, you probably want to not click through. The point of the post, however, is that good things just sort of happen sometimes and those things tend to be surprisingly better than anything we might plan for ourselves. Oh, and there are also cat pictures.
Before we even started dating, Maribou had adopted a cat that we think was named after Noam Chomsky. We dated, we got our first apartment, we married a week later, we got our second apartment, we became homeowners, and Chumky was there all along, sturdy, affectionate, and violently opposed to the idea that we would ever have more than one cat, EVER. Finally, the day came when we had to have THE conversation, and the day after that came, and then it was just the two of us. We wept until it wore us out, and then, one day a little more than a week later, Maribou and I found ourselves running errands and we said, “Well. Let’s just *LOOK* in Petsmart. Maybe there have been advances in feline technology in the last few years.” We looked, cooed, and went home agreeing that we were going on summer vacation soon, and it wouldn’t be fair to adopt a cat just to put it in a cage while we went galavanting across the country. Later that night, we found ourselves in a top-of-our-lungs argument in the basement that neither of us really wanted to be in or particularly cared about the outcome of, and, during a break, where we looked at each other with facial expressions that asked “what the hell are we doing?”, I asked, “Are you thinking about the fat one on the top shelf?” and she said “Yeah.”
We adopted Cecilia that very night. (We put her in a *NICE* place while we went running across the country.)
Around this same time, we noticed feral cats in the back yard. Vast herds of them quarreling and snuggling and pouncing bugs, and then finally … sigh… some kittens. We called the adoption place and asked “What should we do?” and we got hooked up with two raccoon traps and instructions about how we needed to catch the kittens This Very Minute and socialize them so they could be adoptable and we needed to catch the adults and have them spayed or neutered and then released back into the wild. “Use Kentucky Fried Chicken,” we were told. “They love that.”
Well, over the course of the next year or so, we caught 16 (not a typo) cats. 4 kittens, 2 queens, 10 toms. Most of those happened in the first few weeks. My main rule was this: We won’t name the cats, we will just give them definite descriptions. If we give them names, then we will get far too attached to them. With that in mind, we started setting out traps. When we caught the 3 kittens who started us down this crazy path in the first place, we put them in their own special cage in the laundry room with a radio (NPR) and we spent several hours every day holding them, feeding them, playing with them, giving them deworming medicine, singing to them (this song got a lot of play), and doing what we could to make sure that they were adoptable. The oldest kitten was brave and true and adventurous and kind. He looked like the Clinton cat and so we gave him the definite description of Socks, and he became the cat of a young couple who were just married, and wanted a cat who would grow up with their soon-to-come oldest child. The girl kitten was slinky and wild and liked to stir up trouble almost as much as she liked to lie quietly in someone’s arms and purr. She was given the definite description of “Blackie” (given that “Midnight” was taken by the cat of a friend of ours). Maribou quickly started calling her Lilah, and she lives with our good friend spivak in New Jersey these days; by all accounts, she hasn’t changed much. The youngest kitten was fierce and smart and playful and loving. Clearly, this made him totally unadoptable, explained Maribou, so Tiger got to stay with us. (He, at least, retains the definite description we originally gave him.)
As the summer wound down, we’d regularly find Tiger sitting in the window of our half-sunken basement and one of the other cats (the cat we had named “PDC”, for Putative Daddy Cat, back when he was teaching the kittens to chase bugs out in the yard) would sit on the other side and they’d meow to each other. “Oh, he’s talking to his hobo daddy!” we’d say to each other. We’d go outside, and he would come to see if we had any treats for him, and wind around our legs, and otherwise let us know there were no hard feelings from the whole kidnapping/neutering/ear notching episode. He was such a nice cat that Maribou renamed him Angel, though obviously he wasn’t a tame cat, really, and besides which, we already had two cats of our own. Well, one day, I was in the basement and Maribou called to me in a panic from the main floor. “Jaybird, Jaybird, Jaybird!” I ran upstairs to find Tiger and PDC sniffing each other and mewing in the middle of our front room. With the door closed. “Angel got inside!” “Well, put him back outside!” I said. When I had this conversation a second time, I began to suspect that this was happening deliberately. The third time I just yelled up the stairs, “Fine, if you want to keep him, keep him.”
Our new equilibrium was all well and good until we started sitting on the porch in the waning part of the year while discussing the events of the day. Mister Baseball, the putative grandfather cat, who only had 5 teeth left in his head and who kept getting in the way of later trapping endeavors by springing the trap (secure in the knowledge that Maribou would come let him out about the time he’d finished off the fried chicken), would come and sit at the bottom of the porch, and then on the porch steps, and then on the porch itself. (He wasn’t named after the Tom Selleck movie. It was that his face looked like a baseball jersey and when we found out that he was probably old enough to be the grandfather of the kittens, we felt he deserved an honorific). One day, not too long after Maribou had finally cleaned out all the burrs and mats in his fur, he jumped into my lap, purring loudly, and demanded all the petting we could give him. When friends came over to sit on the porch with us, he’d jump in their laps. When my mom came over to sit on the porch, he’d jump in her lap. If anyone at all came out of our house, and then sat on the porch, he knew he needed to be in that anyone’s lap. When we’d go inside, he’d keen at the door for an hour or so before going back to kicking other boy cats out of his backyard (despite his age and lack of weaponry), and curling up in the sun with one or the other of the (now-spayed) queens. One day, I came home to find Maribou sitting in the dining room, holding Mister Baseball in her lap, petting him, and crying. I just sighed and went downstairs.
We never intended to be a four-cat family. It just sort of happened.
So, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Eid, Happy Kwanzaa, and Joyous Yule (or, if you celebrate something else, happy whatever that is). May good things just sort of happen to you in 2012, and may you be as pleased by them as we are.