the life and times of owning pets, and the reason i renamed my cats
long ago, probably about five, six, maybe seven, eight years ago brad announced he knew someone, or talked to them in passing, or something, and mentioned that the person had told him about a cute, little, itty-bitty, barely-born, newly-arrived kitten.
he wondered if he could have it.
i have forever been opposed to pets because kids tend to think all they have to do is pretty much nothing. just occasionally (operative word here) engage with their newly obtained hobby. goldfish died due to an overload of food. while on the other hand, hamsters starved to death.
for me, it was too much to handle. little kids running around asking mommy this, mommy that, mommy, mommy mommy, which caused me to forget there was a pet in the house. i had tunnel vision. hence, supervised kids. unsupervised critters.
which meant no more pets. no. never. not on my watch.
until brad showed me, and roberto (a huge pet advocate), an adorable photo of the kitten he had mentioned. he caught me off guard. sly kid. the kitten’s big green eyes and fluffy fur was hard to resist, for all of us, apparently. please, please, please they both whispered, hands clasped into steeples, prayer-mode.
ok, i said.
say what? what did i say? i asked myself.
really?! they both screamed.
really, i mumbled.
as they were walking out the front door, i said, bring home two. (again, what the heck was going on with me?)
two? you sure?
yeah, you know, to play together.
within the hour they brought home Cassandra and Skyler (named later that afternoon by the boys). fraternal twins. one black, one multicolored. both with green eyes.
i was smitten.
roberto recently moved out and brad is a busy 17 year old. both engaged elsewhere, most of the time. so, aside from brad allowing them to sleep in his room, the girls belong to me. i tend to them 99% of the time, and i even renamed them. (the kids don’t know this, they’d probably think i’ve gone bonkers, but oh well, a caretaker’s got to do what a caretaker’s got to do, right?)
cassandra’s now-name is chicka-chicka-boom-boom (which, ironically, is the title of an adorable kid’s book about the lower case letters of the alphabet climbing a tree, thinking they know what’s what) because of her diva personality and i refer to skyler as skitter. so sweet, yet so nervous. she has never been able to fully relax.
ah, there she is. I can hear chicka-chicka-boom-boom’s deep guttural mew call me. she wants in the house for a quick nibble of chow and a full-on vigorous back rub. she likes her cheeks gently caressed as well.
spoiled. i know.
Ode to Chris, my Sis
Chris had always been a person in my life, a sister who, no matter what, came through, was always there for me. Sitting here, thinking about her, how she was a part of my life, my relationship with Rudy and eventually the perfect aunt for my kids, I’m remembering when Elizabeth, was born, and how Chris needed to take charge because Rudy and I, both thirteen years younger than her, were very anxious about me giving birth, an unknown territory for the two of us.
Chris, the oldest of 11 children, knew exactly what was going on (not only because she was like a second mother growing up, but because I don’t even know how many times, she helped feline after feline, dogs too, give birth to their new offspring). You wouldn’t know it, but I’m telling you, those lessons she learned were a definite asset for anyone feeling the pains of labor. She could read the situation and help the process move along smoothly. Chris knew the signs of “It’s time!”
When I was in labor with Liz (yet didn’t realize it) and Rudy, assuming I was just a little uncomfortable (because that’s what I told him “Oh I’m just a little uncomfortable”) was grabbing his jacket and heading towards the front door just as Chris walked into our tiny apartment.
“What?! She looked at Rudy, stared him down. “You are leaving? Going to work? Why? She is going to pop this baby out any moment! You can not leave! I won’t allow it.”
My sister. My older sister. My only sister was the boss. At that moment, regardless of any reason, viable or not, she was not going to let him leave.
“I don’t think so! She’s in labor. Daphne is going to have this baby today,” my sister said, giving Rudy no other reason to dispute her. “You need to call work! Tell them you will not be in.”
“Alright,” Rudy mumbled, which is not an easy task, trying to sway Rudy to an opinion other than his own. But, I think like me, he sensed arguing was pointless. Chris seriously knew her stuff.
I suddenly felt a jab, a painful ache, something more defined than I’d experienced as the days of Lizzy’s birth grew closer.
Chris was right. Rudy needed to get me to the hospital.
Driving there, a 20 minute trek, seemed to take forever. And the fact that the pains grew stronger didn’t help.
We were both anxious.
“It will be okay. You will do fine,” I heard Chris’ voice tell me. She was in my head.
“We are going to be fine. This is it!” I told Rudy, cringing as another contraction surged through me.
Within the next several hours, three to be exact, our dark-hard baby girl was born, using every inch of her lungs to cry out, as if telling us, you did good.
And there was Chris, waiting in the lobby, waiting for the news. Is the baby a boy? A girl? Is Daphne OK? Rudy walked up to her and hugged her. Tight.
“Thanks for making me stay home, for making me call into work to say I couldn’t go in.”
She hugged him just as tight.
He walked with Chris to the baby window, arm around her shoulders. They both smiled. Gazing at Elizabeth, a wee child that Chris would spend a lifetime adoring.
cassandra is dark chocolate brown
skyler is layered with a multitude of hues
both have green eyes
cassandra is an extrovert
knocking books off laps
looking for a comfortable place to rest
skyler is an observer
tucking herself in next to those who love her
early in the morning
when the day is beginning
for the garage door to open
to peek out
spending their day
wonders of the world
Watch This. Listen, too.
I seriously love to people-watch. I am enthralled with the social aspect of human nature.
Every avenue of relationships pique my interest. I am oh-so curious how people, all kinds of people, everywhere, all over the place, in various situations react to this, that, and the other.
I like to dig deep into what is happening, simply by watching. Watching. Watching. Watching. And listening. Trying to decipher what is really going on. Deep. Down. Below. The. Surface.
I wonder, quite often, what would I do without people. People all around. People adding a dimension to my life that deepens my feelings toward the world at large.
The windows are shut tight, yet, the faint rhythm of music that gently flows from someone’s radio is swaying over the ivy-covered walls, seeping into the crevices of the window’s frame, into our home. Other than that, the outside world seems shut off from inside this small room. Peacefulness is felt, but it’s wrapped tightly around angst.
I am at peace in the quiet confines of my sanctuary, but I worry because my son worries. He’s concerned that Rudy and I are arguing because of something he did. Something that should not have happened. But I assure my son that the anger has nothing to do with him but everything to do with hopelessness.
Rudy is drowning. On some days. Floating on others. His mood is all over the place. Aimed at everyone. And no one. And all the while I am simply trying to figure out how to hold it all together. To maintain a sense of balance so that my son will believe that everything will be OK.
The ceiling fan spins slowly, round and round, tossing puffs of air towards me. Cooling me and my thoughts. But then, suddenly, I hear a door slam from somewhere at the other end of the house. And that’s when my toes curl, my feet stiffen, and my heart seems to skip a beat.
A moment later a child laughs and a puppy barks. Over and over. So much so that my mixed emotions fade and I’m tuned into the wonderment of what’s happening beyond my life.
the boy and the donkey
A donkey wandered around the backyard, minding its own business, when, suddenly, a young boy plopped a colorful wool blanket onto the unsuspecting animal’s back. That little kid jumped aboard, straddling the animal, just like he’d seen the older boys do. A friend grabbed the donkey’s rein and nudged the calm creature around the fenced in yard. Six or seven boys took turns climbing up onto the donkey’s swayed back and enjoy the slow pace of the animal.
Now, these boys were young, in first grade most likely. Boys being boys. Finding something to do to pass the time. The first boy to ride the donkey was in charge of this small-time circus, well, because, it was his grandma who gave them permission to entertain the donkey. Now, this was exciting considering these young lads had never before been allowed to enjoy such a treat. The boys laughed and laughed. They were enjoying themselves when out of nowhere – it seemed – a voice asked, “Can I ride?” It was another friend, the one who always seemed to get himself in some kind of trouble.
“Before you can ride the donkey you need to pull the donkey around the yard first,” the ring master told his friend. The newly arrived boy grabbed the rein, but none of the other kids climbed onto the donkey’s back, which was actually kind of nice because it made it easier for the trouble-maker to guide the animal around. The lone boy circled the yard but then decided to be a bit daring, so he oh-so-slowly maneuvered the donkey into the space below the house. Enough space to get through, but confined enough that he needed to stoop to walk from one end to the other. Except, well, the problem was, the boy didn’t stoop enough, or properly, or something, because all that the other boys could hear was “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” every time the boy smacked his forehead against the wooden pillars protruding down from below the house. The boy exited the other side holding his hand flat against his flaming red forehead. “That hurt,” is all he said. The other boys laughed, not surprised by the trouble-maker’s shenanigans, while the ring-leader jumped onto the donkey for another ride.
On the porch. With me. In the early morning. Eating. Off a porcelain tea saucer. I pet her. Her tail responds. Stands straight up. Her back arches. Eyes close. Chin juts out. Quietly. I open the front door. She glides inside. Runs down the hall. Looking for solace. Yet. Suddenly. Hesitantly. She stops. Mid-step. Hears a noise. Feels frightened. Until she hears my voice. My trusting voice. She relaxes. When she hears my cooing. That’s when she knows she’s truly safe.
Looks at me. Stares at me. Trusts me. Connects with me. She wraps her body around my ankles. While a soft meow escapes her. She wants to stay. To cuddle. With me. Inside the house. But more than that, she wants to leave. Go back outside. Out into her world. I open the sliding door. Walk out. Into the backyard. After Skyler. That’s when I notice. She’s thinner. Still furry. But her body is smaller. She turns toward me. Looks. It seems. Deep into my soul. I sit. On the cold cement step. I hold her. Rub her face. Her eyes. Her ears. Her chin. I comfort her until she no longer wants comforting.
She jumps down. Out of my arms. Lies next to my feet. Meows. Lovingly. Then she’s off. Walks away. Swishing her tail. Greeting the morning’s sunrise.
man vs. cats
Our cats came into our lives, unexpectedly, a few years ago. I was a bit sneaky about the idea of the fluffy twins, taking advantage of the fact that Rudy was living and working in Arkansas, when Brad first approached me with a photo of their newborn cuteness. After a lot of thought, seriously, quite a bit, because, well, Rudy is allergic to cats. But, since he was permanently positioned in another state it made sense that during his visits we could make sure the kitty-cats steered clear of him. In the end, I told the kids Sure. Let’s do it. Let’s get ourselves a few cats! And so we did.
The girls joined our household, fit right in with our lifestyle. Enjoying a sense of well-being and comfort. All was good.
Except when Rudy first found out about the fact that, like never before, we were entertaining a pair of pretty kitties, in his absence. He ranted. He grunted. And did so for weeks until he was left with nothing more to say. Nothing more to add to the many reasons we should not have cats. Realizing and considering that he was there and they were here. So, instead, he slowly, over time, began to adjust to Cassandra and Skyler.
By the time he returned to California, living here, for the long haul, Rudy had begun to accept their presence.
Feelings began to imprint.
Last night, Rudy quietly opened our bedroom door, not wanting to interrupt my much needed shut-eye and whispered, firmly, without a show of passion, and refusing to say Skyler’s name,
“That colored cat is sitting out there, by the front door.”
“Oh, ok,” I attempt, running a hand through my already messed-up hair. I know he’s telling me this because no-way-no-how is he going to pick her up, because, obviously his allergies will attack, big time. As I was walking down the hall, toward the front door, Rudy continued.
“I saw her sitting out there, way out at the end of the steps. She was just sitting there, staring at the front door, so I opened it, figuring she’d walk in, and go straight to Roberto’s room.”
Roberto’s room. The room with a door to the backyard. Their home within our home, I think to myself. I smiled, knowing how hard this task must have been for Rudy, yet he was doing it for me, because he knows how much I care about our sweet cats.
“She walked to the door, then stopped. I guess she saw it was me and wasn’t sure if she could trust me.”
Probably, I think.
Out loud I say, “Yeah, she’s trying to figure out what you mean to her. It’s not like she doesn’t like you, but she hasn’t developed a relationship with you either.”
“I’m fine with that. She’s not my cat,” he confirms.
I reach down and pick Skyler up, wrap my arms around her multicolored body.
Rudy doesn’t know it, but his face gives him away. He’s curious about her. Finds interest in who she is, who her sister is, her twin who looks nothing like her.
He no longer feels angry or negative about them; yet, neither does he feel the need to grasp them and love them.
But, he does wonder about them.
And most importantly, he’s decided to fully accept them. Accept them in a way that works for him. By watching and observing. Without touching.
Two birds are perched on an ivy covered fence. Below, two cats are sprawled out on the cemented pool deck; their snooze-fest interrupted by the birds swooping down, each taking a turn at a dive-bomb, as if teasing the somber felines. Are the birds upset that the coal-black cat caught, and shook the life out of, one of their companions? Is that why they have decided that it might be worth it to antagonize the pretty kitties? Who knows? But it seems the kitty cats are willing to play. One stretches her body at full length, pretending not to notice the swirling birds, yet she keeps one eye firmly focused on the winged specimen. The other multicolored cat springs into the air, clasping her front paws in anticipation of grabbing hold of a bird in flight. No such luck. Both birds chirp, chirp, chirp while sitting safely above their arch-enemies. The domesticated animals unite, paw to paw, nose to nose, as if planning some kind of strategy to trap the birds. The birds seem to do the same thing. Each tilts its head toward the other, as if whispering. Suddenly, both birds soar low, straight towards the fluffy felines, and just as both cats snap their legs, hoping to jail the birds, the birds swing back up towards the sky, and then they circle around, landing once again on top of the sturdy fence. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. Meow!