I should be writing right now but Astrid and I were having too much fun in the leaves. This dog takes such glamour shots!
My Grandma Buster, Janice Malstrom Dumas, passed away today. It wasn’t unexpected. I don’t think many of us expected her to stay long after my grandpa passed away fifteen days ago. They’d been married for 65 years and 8 months and raised five kids together in their little home on Amber Lane, in a house that holds many of my childhood memories.
Growing up, my brother and I had Grandma and Grandpa Bear and Grandma and Grandpa Buster. The identifiers were the names of the dogs that lived at each house. My grandmothers were very different people. Grandma Buster was an observer who would spoil you quietly. Grandma Bear was the more spontaneous one. Sleepovers at my Grandma Bear’s house usually included lots of kids sleeping on floors. We’d have the run of the house, the yard, and the fridge if you could find anything in it.
Sleepovers at my grandma Buster’s house were less frequent and less chaotic.Sleeping over at my grandma Buster’s house in my memories was usually just me. I can remember mini pancakes for breakfast and following her around the house while she did her cleaning with her fancy canister vacuum trailing behind her. There were toys that had belonged to my aunts and uncle. Plastic Disney figures that still stick out for me included a blue plastic Tinkerbell with pointy wings that I loved.
We read books like Harold and the Purple Crayon, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and Henny Penny. She’d paint her nails with one of the variations of neutral she kept in the fridge, and we’d drink Lipton iced tea on the back porch swing and watch the whirligigs flutter from the maple tree. I’m not sure who thought of it, but one day she helped me turn the whirligigs and some popsicle sticks into fairies.
One day in 2019 I found a random maple whirligig in my car, and it brought back the memories of making those little fairies in the backyard. I wrote a note and mailed the pod to my grandma, who by that time was not doing well. Between the day I sent it and the day she received it she suffered a fall that changed everything. She was fragile and frail and the dementia was stronger than ever.
In early November 2019 I visited with my grandma at her care center when she was still healing from her fall. I sat down at the table, and she asked if I worked there. She was relieved when I said no. I visited for a bit, but she never did remember who I was. The only time a connection was made was when something was said about my son, Alexandre. “He had some troubles a while back, you know?” she said. I told her I did know and that he was doing well now. “Good. I hope he learned some good life lessons from that.”
I asked my grandpa about the letter I’d sent, and he told me it was received but she’d never seen it. But Janice wanted to know what we were talking about, so I told her about the maple pod and the fairies from long ago. “I’m sorry but I don’t remember,” she told me. I told her that was okay because I remembered enough for both of us, and she laughed. It was the genuine, familiar laugh from my childhood. Quiet, trailing a little, then done.
The loss of her health was hard to watch but the loss of her memories, the loss of what made her herself, was unbearably cruel. There was so much about my grandma that I will continue to remember for the both of us. Her mini perfume bottle collection that I never got told I couldn’t touch. Shoe shopping for each new school year. Our Ashton Drake doll obsession in the 80s. How much she enjoyed taking Alexandre “downtown” in Sandy. Chicken noodle soup, green Jell-O, Angel Food Cake, and the absolute perfection that was her smashed potatoes and gravy. And numerous evenings laying in her lap in the living room while she listened to her family talk around her. All of those happy moments where there was never any doubt that she loved us.
Every March 2nd we celebrate Read Across America Day, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss Day. Theodor Seuss Geisel was born March 2, 1904 and went on to become one of the most beloved children’s authors of our time. His stories are known for their quirkiness and whimsy, and the distint cartoonish style in which he brought his characters to life.
His professional career, under the pen-name of Dr. Seuss, took off in 1927. Originally, he worked as an illustrator, and political cartoonist, before publishing his first children’s book. That first title, published in 1937, was And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. The book’s Seuss-ian rythm was inspired by the rocking of a cruise ship during a trip to Europe with his first wife, Helen. Though it was eventually picked up by Vanguard Press, with help from a connection with an old Dartmouth classmate, Dr. Seuss suffered the typical rejection that most authors face. And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street was initially rejected by over 20 publishers!
You might not have realized it but Dr. Seuss created the idea of “Beginner Readers” books. In 1954, Life Magazine reported that children were not learning to read in school. Some believed it was because there wasn’t anything out there kids wanted to read. School books were boring. A publisher of children’s text books challenged Dr. Seuss to write something kids wouldn’t want to put down. They gave him a list of 250 words they thought were most important for first graders to learn and told him to use only words from that list. The Cat in the Hat was the result of that challenge! Dr. Seuss used 238 of the 250 required words. Next came Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and a whole new world of children’s literature was created.
One book that didn’t make it to that stack initially was a manuscript Dr. Seuss completed and submitted with special instructions. Although he’d done the illustrations for his other books, he didn’t think his art could stand up to this one. He set out on a quest to find an artist who could make what he called “the first book ever to be based on beautiful illustrations and sensational color.” He wanted to find an illustrator who wouldn’t be dominated by him, and whose art would carry the story. Dr. Seuss didn’t find the artist he was looking for and the story stayed in the dark for more than twenty years.
After his death in 1991, Audrey Geisel picked up the quest for finding the right artist for the story her husband hid away. She found a husband and wife team and she knew instantly these two were the artists her husband had been looking for. Under he skills of Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher the long-hidden manuscript was brought to life. In August 1996 it was published as My Many Colored Days. The prose and rythm in My Many Colored Days is unlike anything else written by Dr. Seuss. It’s a story of emotions, assigning each feeling to colors, creatures, and sounds.
The book combines these colors and creatures in what is argubly one of the most beautifully and thoughtfully illustrated children’s books published. From the happy, jumping Pink Days, to the lonely Puprle Days, the book moves through each emotion in a way a child can recognize as part of themselves. “Then come my black days. Mad. And Loud. I howl. I growl at every cloud.” shares the page with a howling black wolf. Red is equated with energy, and green days are slow days. There are yellow days and blue days, and at the end of the book there is a mixed-up day with all the emotions scrambled together in confusion. The moreal of the sotry is loud and clear on the last pages.
This book, with the stunning art from Johnson and Fancher, is a beautiful tool for teaching young children about feelings and the normalcy of having different emotions. Just as he was challenged in 1954, Dr. Seuss wrote another book that kids can’t put down to teach them something important. I think he would have been thrilled with the strength of the artists who eventually found their way to the story. Celebrate today by checking out My Many Colored Days, and say a little thank you to Dr. Seuss.
I wrote this last year as a blog post for a crisis center I used to volunteer for. You can find the original, unedited version at www.imalive.com, and a good resource for mental health crisis as well. For this little blog, I cleaned it up slightly to celebrate that tomorrow, February 26th, is National Fairy Tale Day. I love me a good fairy tale. Stella and her Djinn are characters I want to play with more, but for now I encourage you all to write a little fairy tale of your own and celebrate tomorrow. (Apologies for the formatting. The preview does not look like the published version no matter what I do!)
Happiness for Stella
By Natalie Dumas-Heidt
The frosty drizzle coming from the grey blanket above me was fitting for the day I was having. Once upon a time life had been good but that life had been ruined. Today started with a broken shoelace and that was followed by spilling my much-needed, extra large latte. Yesterday my cat watched a mouse run across our counter and then went back to his own breakfast like it wasn’t his job to be concerned. Tuesday was the kicker though. Chris left on Tuesday. Packed up and moved out with barely a goodbye, and now he’s in the Bahama’s sitting on the beach with his chiropractor’s receptionist.
A cold wind pushed my umbrella inside out and the drizzle turned to penetrating rain. I ducked into the first shop on my right, my broken umbrella dripping on the tile floor. I stared at it and the growing puddle, lost.
“Trade ya?” A young man with kohl black hair smiled at me, holding out a clear vinyl umbrella with a shiny pink handle. My hesitation made him chuckle. “Free of charge. You look like you need it more than I do.”
“Um…thanks,” I stammered. I took in the look of the young man in front of me. He was tall, probably over six feet. Definitely taller than Chris. His dark hair was long enough to hang in his eyes, and his grin was punctuated by two dimples. I would guess he was in his twenties, but his purple silk paisley shirt screamed ‘I rocked this in the seventies.’ I swapped him for the new umbrella and followed him to a cashier’s counter where he ceremoniously dropped my old one into a trash can too small to adequately hold it.
“Take a look around.” He brushed his dark hair off his forehead. “We might have something else that strikes your fancy.” He smiled and I was drawn into the warmth of it. His eyes flashed in the most enchanting shade of green I’d ever seen. “The umbrella is still on the house though.”
Knick-knacks, vintage clothes, and boxes of vinyl records were stacked throughout the small shop without much order. It was exactly the kind of shop that Chris would have hated. ‘Other people’s garbage’ he would have called it. I loved it. Each gob of rhinestones with a pin back, every porcelain cat, had a story. I ran my fingers across baubles stacked amongst teacups as I walked, stopping when my hand landed on a bejeweled teapot sitting on a collection of old VHS tapes. A surge of electricity jumped through my fingertips. At the same moment the shopkeeper was at my side.
“I thought it might be you.” He grinned and his green eyes lit up again.
“Me? What might be me?”
“My lamp tends to call people in on occasion. They always find it when they need it.”
I laughed nervously, unsure if this was his attempt at a pick-up line. Who tries to woo a girl with a lamp covered in plastic gems? “I thought it was my broken umbrella that brought me in?”
“Nope. It was the lamp. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories – three wishes, no more than three, and your wishes can’t be wishes for more wishes.”
“Don’t I have to rub it first and wait for the Genie to pop out?”
“I’m already out. Haven’t lived in there in a long time. Found myself a bigger place with rent control.”
“You? You’re a Genie?” I couldn’t help but match his grin. His playfulness was catching.
“Ah, well…Genie, Djinn, tomato, potato. It’s all close enough. The rules are the same. You found the lamp, you touched the lamp, now I get to give you three wishes.”
Thoughts raced through my mind like wild butterflies and the prospects of this being real. Was he flirting or could he really grant me wishes? At a minimum could playing along get newly single me at least a coffee date? With that smile, those eyes, I’d take a coffee date. “Alright, I’ll play. I only have one wish.”
“Just one?” He cocked an eyebrow, disbelieving.
“Yep. I want to be happy. Always. No sadness, no depression, just happy.”
“All rainbows and dragonflies, huh? That’s the best you’ve got? C’mon! I can make you famous. I can make you rich. I can make chocolate a health food. Let’s hear it.”
“Happy. That’s what I want. I’m tired of broken hearts. I’m tired of being sad. I just want to be happy. All happy, all the time.”
His electric green eyes swept over my face. I felt like he was looking into the core of my being. Uncomfortable with the concern, I shifted out from under his gaze. “How will you know?” he asked finally.
“How will I know?”
“It’s a simple question.”
“Right now I’m sad. Yesterday, I was sad. I don’t need sad; I just want to be happy.”
“But what does that mean; to be happy?”
I laughed at the ridiculousness of his question, and his eyes crinkled in the corners as he smiled back at me. “Happy is the opposite of what I am right now. Happy is not being dumped by the boyfriend who promised to take you to Paris this summer. Happy is not looking at the prospect of going to your best friend’s wedding in two weeks without the Plus One you RSPV’d for.”
“Alright, but how would you know? If you’ve never been anything else how will you know happy? And what level of happy do you want to be set at? Perfect coffee happy? Ecstatically happy? Room full of puppies happy? Great sex happy? There are flowers and rainbows because there are dark skies and rainstorms. The world would be flat and grey otherwise.”
“I thought you were a Genie…”
“Djinn,” he corrected.
“Potato,” I returned. “It’s my wishes, right?”
“Just think about it first, is all I’m asking.” He was so sincere, his green eyes almost pleading, that I stopped. I took in all that he’d said and let it tumble around in my brain. Was I asking for the right thing? Was he right? Would I lose knowing the difference between good coffee and holding a Goldendoodle? Would it be worth the risk if it meant not knowing heartache?
“You can make chocolate healthy, huh?”
Many of my childhood days were spent at a little green house on a dead end street called Mecham Lane. It took me a while to figure out the little green house on Mecham Lane belonged to the Mechams. I’d always known them as Grandma and Grandpa Grape. And since my other grandparents were Grandma and Grandpa Dumas and Grandma and Grandpa Evans, then certainly Grape would have been their last name. But it wasn’t and they weren’t the Grapes. They were Thelma and Rulon Mecham, and they were my great grandparents. The little green house of Thelma and Rulon Mecham was a place of magic when I was a child. There was the pea patch, and the strawberry patch, and the raspberry bushes. We’d eat peas from the pod in big bowls, and Grandma Grape was the best at “making” strawberries, which was just muddling them a little with a generous sprinkling of sugar. There was the Gold Machine – a contraption with conveyor belts and windshield wipers to sift gold from dirt. There were easter egg hunts and family gatherings, horseshoe games, the canal, and there was music. Almost every time we were there there was music. My great-grandpa Rulon was a musician. He wrote songs and would entertain us for full evenings with his guitar on his knee. He had love songs and spiritual songs, but my favorite were always his funny, tongue-twister songs. Hearing stories of him playing his songs in bars for an audience sounded the same as being famous in my little-kid days.
Those days of listening to my grandpa play are long gone. Thelma passed away when I was 14. Rulon remarried and lived a long life, despite his heart’s attempts to say otherwise. Rulon passed away several years later in 2004, when I was 28. As one of the multiple great-grandkids I cherished what I had of those days; an old cassett recorded by my grandpa Grape, December 24, 1985.
He gave all his kids and grandkids copies, and somehow I’d ended up with my mom’s long ago. Ten years ago I was able to put it on CD and redistribute it to the family. On it is my grandpa and what he chose as the most important of his songs, and one little line from my Grandma Grape; “Oh, Rulon, I didn’t know you cared so much,” you can hear her say.
Those days in their tiny living room, with smoke swirling at the top of the ceiling and my grandpa’s twangy, country style voice filling the rest of the open space, have stayed with me. I’ve had a love of music in small venues my whole life, and for live music in general. I shared that love of live music with my son, although he never got to listen to grandpa play, he does know the joy of listening to a guy with a guitar, singing to a crowd in a small room.
The love of music is continuing to spread from one generation to the next, and the love started at the feet of Rulon Mecham. As little kids singing along with his original, Little Piney, or the one we all sang, You Are My Sunshine, the love of music blossomed. We’d giggle and try to sing along with The Thing, convinced we were clever and knew what that little critter really was. The song Christmas Day became funnier as I got older.
My memories of those days were rekindled this week with the discovery of Grape’s guitar and this blog post by its new owner. He’d found the 1956 Gibson online after it had been pawned a few years back by a cousin. I’m sure the decision to pawn it was a desperate situation. My initial reaction was the same as the rest of the family at learning he’d sold it to a pawn shop; why hadn’t he called us first? But as it turns out, the journey through the pawn shop was the right one.
This beautiful guitar has found it’s way back to a loving home with a man who plays. With a man who appreciates not only the beauty of the instrument and what can be done with it, but also the story that he knew had to be attached to it. On his own he’d done research on my Grandpa Grape after discovering his name etched on a plate on the guitar. He found Rulon’s obituary and put what he’d discovered about his new guitar in words.
The new owner of my grandpa’s Gibson took note of everything about the guitar that showed it had meant a lot to someone. The wear marks from his knee, the divit created by what he assumed was his wedding ring. He’s decyphered how my grandpa played by the ghost-like pattern left on the neck of the guitar from his hand. He wondered about heat damage on the case which we guess came from resting too closely to the 3’x3′ metal heat grate in the living room floor, and not from the rescue of a different Rulon Mecham from an apartment fire in 1976.
What he couldn’t know when writing his post was how much it would mean to our family to see it. To see this guitar, responsible for so many happy days and nights in that little green house, brought up a flood of emotions for us all. The Gibson spent several decades making music with my grandpa Grape. He would be pleased to know it had traveled far to make it to another loving home, after all these years, to be played again.
2017 started out seemingly determined to take me down. January of this year started with getting my son into residential treatment for drug addiction. We got him into one, only to have him walk away a few days later. He was hospitalized a few days after that, and then walked away again. We struggled to find other options.
In February, while a heavy snowstorm was settling over our valley, we gave him the choice of going back to treatment or finding somewhere else to live. He chose to leave. I have never experienced a heartbreak like I did that night. There is nothing natural as a mom to tell your child to leave, especially when you know they are suffering.
He spent a month being homeless before giving in to treatment, and while in RTC he did well. It wasn’t too long after getting out that he relapsed and became homeless again. I dreaded what I knew can be a continuous cycle of watching someone battle addiction. I kept working with my therapist, and occasionally had contact with my son going into the summer.
In the middle of the night, one night at the end of June, he came to the house to let us know he was going back to treatment. He’d reached out to someone from his previous treatment program, and was asking for a ride there in the morning. After we agreed he left, and was back the next day, just like he said he would be. I dropped him off in the morning and I went to work, hoping that maybe in this case, the fourth time would be a charm.
And so far, it has.
So, while I started my 2017 fearful I would lose my son to the national addiction crisis, I’m ending my 2017 watching him fully embrace his recovery. He’s got a job he likes, he’s moved back home this month, and on Christmas eve he picked up his six-month chip. It was the best Christmas gift ever.
While in the process of getting my son into recovery, I started my own recovery. Nothing that we had to do was easy, but I put my trust in an amazing therapist who had been in this same position before. I took her advice as my only option, the only way out, and let myself learn some valuable lessons in the meantime.
I learned this year that it’s ok to say no. It’s ok to not do what you may feel obligated to do. It doesn’t make you a bad person to step back from others, and take care of yourself for a little bit. Or for a long bit. I also let it sink in that where I was with my son, where he was in his own life, was not my fault. We didn’t get here because I was a bad mom. My son has grown up being the center of my world, and he is loved. And he knows, hopefully more so now, how much he is loved. Addiction doesn’t discriminate.
My catchphrase for 2017 became ‘Boundaries!’ and I shared that lesson with anyone who would listen. To have those boundaries in your life – what you will do, what you won’t do, and a clear idea of both – is so much easier said than done. Trust me, none of this was easy. There were a lot of tears. There was a lot of anger, a lot of guilt, and after all of that some more tears.
There was also a lot of reflection in 2017, and in the end, I was able to find a piece of myself I didn’t know existed. A strength that I was not convinced I had until I was challenged to find it. It doesn’t just make for good Pinterest quotes. It really is amazing what you can do once you realize how strong you really are. It’s something I plan on exploring more as we move into 2018.
And my New Year wish for all of you in 2018 is the same thing. I wish all of you the opportunity to explore your inner strength. Explore setting boundaries for yourself that give you the happiest version of your life you can have. I wish you the strength to conquer any pesky demons, and I wish you the confidence to take on any new challenge that may come your way. Find out just how strong you can be in 2018. <3
After our abusive roommate moved out my son didn’t wait long to ask for another cat. An August evening in 2003 I gave in, and we went to the local Humane Society instead of karate class to pick out a new cat. Being a shelter there were dozens of cats and kittens for us to look at but Alexandre zeroed in on three in particular, and I knew we were in trouble. Again.
His choices were split between a tiny, black and white tuxedo kitten in a cage by herself, and two sickly looking brothers with goopy eyes. The brothers were ruled out because I was not willing to take home two long haired kittens and Alexandre was not willing to separate brothers. That left us with the tiny tuxedo.
The tiny tuxedo was being handled by another girl and was quickly returned for biting, so Alexandre scooped her up. We took her into one of the socializing rooms and she immediately tried to escape. He managed to wrangle her for a few minutes but you wouldn’t have described her as cuddly. I pointed out that some of the other kittens were more friendly, but his mind was made up.
“If we don’t take her no one else will, mom.” and I knew he was probably right. She was a deamon.
He named her Sasha and for the next several years she made her rule of our house known. She declared my bed hers, the couch hers, and demanded to drink water from her own cup. We brought in dogs – first a rowdy Jack Russell, then a rough-and-tumble Schnauzer, and last a Chihuahua/Italian Greyhound mix. Sasha maintained her alpha status, and her early years were her mean teen years.
Then she turned 10 and we moved to a new house. I’m not sure what changed in her but she stopped biting my ankles in the dark and started hanging out with her humans. She begs for cuddles and she begs for people food – especially if it’s salty or carbs. She loves garlic bread, licking green olives, and has gotten pushy enough she’ll grab my hand, or my plate, if I’m not sharing fast enough. But she’s a lot more loving while she does it.
Sasha is still the Queen, and she hasn’t let the dogs forget their place, but she’s much closer to those cuddly kittens I tried to talk my son into bringing home in 2003. I can’t say she is as good of a cat as Sebastian was. He was the King of Cats. But Sasha has taken her place in my heart.
The story of my second cat starts, of all places, at an all-night scrapbooking party in the fall of 2002. Me, my cousin, Hayley, and two friends, Piper and Mary, signed up for the girls night at a local hotel. The event offered dinner, all night access to a banquet room, and some free scrapbooking supplies. Our group also smuggled in some liquor. Except for Hayley, who was not only underage for drinking, but also hopped up on cold meds already.
We were having a good time, even though we weren’t the most popular table, but that’s another story. A few hours in, Hayley decided she needed to go to the 24 hr grocery store nearby for more cold medicine. Having drank enough to spell the word ‘lion’ wrong on one of my pages, I decided she shouldn’t go shopping alone in the middle of the night, so I went with her.
In the parking lot there was a cat that I had been seeing around for the past few weeks. I’d tried to approach him before but he was skiddish and took off each time. Tonight was cold and I was worried about the poor little thing being outside on his own. ‘If he’ll let me close to him, I’m going to take him home,’ I told Hayley.
It might have been the cold, or maybe he recognized me from my previous attempts, but this time he didn’t just let me close, he let me pick him up. So, drunk me, and my cousin with the head cold, wandered through the grocery store in the middle of the night carrying this cat. She got more meds, I picked up some cat supplies, and we made our way to my empty apartment that was convienently halfway between the store and the scrapbook hotel. I flipped on the lights and put my new furrbaby down. That’s when Hayley panicked.
“Oh my hell. I think you just brought home a bobcat.”
Drunk me scoffed at Hayley’s overreaction, but I would later decide there was probably some merrit to her concern. The cat – named Sensei by my son – was massive. Not fat or fluffy like Sebastian had been. Sensei was, honestly, baby bobcat huge. I measured his length for fun, and nose to tail was almost 2.5 feet. The top of his head came to my knee when standing. He was big and he was mean.
Sensei immediately made his ownership of the apartment known. He did what he wanted, where he wanted, when he wanted, and hitting me with surprise attacks quickly became his favorite past time. My son was afraid of him but protective. Any male adult that entered the apartment was a target of attacks that often resulted in blood loss. The attacked included my Grandpa Bob, and the life insurance salesman that came by with my uncle and left with a little less flesh on his arm.
Despite his size, Sensei was a true ninja. He easily vanished in our small apartment, making his presence known when he decided the time was right to attack. He would hide out on the top of my fridge and smack you in the head as you walked by. Other days he would push in the kickboards in my kitchen and get into the walls, my neighbors walls, and wait hours before grabbing my ankles while I tried to cook.
His favorite sneak attack technique was the sleep attack. I would go to bed and wake up, in the dark, with 20 pounds of furr and claws and teeth. After going to work with my second blackeye, I started sleeping with a spray bottle, and friends started referring to my cat as my abusive roommate.
He kept me on my toes, but not once went after my son. On some nights he’d get up on the couch and cuddle like he was a real house cat and not a wild beast. Other nights he’d spend the whole evening at the sliding glass door, growling at the dark, and attacking things I could never see through the glass.
The most terrifying night with Sensei was his most memorible show of dominance in our strange relationship before he left us. He’d been particularly hostile and had kept me corralled for most of the night on the couch. I turned off the TV and started the slow, guarded walk to my bedroom at the end of the hall, anticipating the chase.
His size did not hinder the normal cat-stealth abilities, so he had the complete element of surprise as he darted for me, ran UP THE WALL past me, and came to a stop in the doorway of the master bedroom. His tail was fluffed out and whipping side to side, and his tufted ears were back. His intention was clear as a bell. I walked backwards, slowly, and spent the night on the couch, leaving the master bedroom to my terrible roommate.
Not long after that moment Sensei vanished. We waited some time to see if he was going to come back, and then adopted the shelter kitten we still have. Below are the only pictures I have of Sensei, because our time together happened before the days of camera phones. I wish I could find one of his yellow eyes, and the tufted bobcat ears. Having had such a larger than life relationship with him made it clear he was perfect for a work of fiction. Sensei was renamed Freddy and now lives with the detective in my first novel.
When I was sixteen a ferrel cat that stalked around my grandparents neighborhood had a litter of kittens in their wood shed. Momma Cat was a grey short hair with bright yellow eyes, a broken tail that turned at an angle, and a hot temper.
I asked my parents if I could have one of the kittens when they got old enough. I was 16, working a part time job, and promised I would take care of all of the kitten’s s vet bills and needs. My dad, never a cat fan, said nine magic words and unknowingly set a challenge.
“If you can catch one, you can have one.”
There were three babies; an all black fluff ball, a grey and white fluff ball that was bigger than his siblings, and a tan and brown Siemese looking kitten who stayed closest to mom. The Siemese kitten, I’d started calling Hershey, was the one I wanted most.
I recruited two friends, Piper and Lori, and headed to my grandparents house one evening, fueled by teen-age determination, and about $5 in canned cat food from the nearest 7/11. The three of us had underestimated how hungry momma cat would be. She inhaled the cat food before her kittens even came out of hiding, leaving us with no distractions. Back to 7/11 we went.
The second round of food brought all three kittens out of hiding, and kept mom occupied. It became obvious my kitten wasn’t going to be decided necessarily by which one I wanted. Ferral cats are sketchy, kitten claws are deadly, and food bribes only went so far. I was going to have to go home with the one spending the least amount of time trying to claw through flesh.
The grey and white long-haired kitten was the only one who allowed us to touch him. Every attempt to grab the one I’d been calling Hersey resulted in hisses from kitten and momma, and a few attacks. Taking the hint, I picked up the willing kitten and we made a run for it.
We took off in my car and reality sank in. I had a cat. I had to take him home, where no one was expecting a kitten besides me. We took him to a grocery store to buy some supplies, and stretched the drive out for two hours while I worked up the nerve to go home.
I walked in the door and up the stairs, passed our Schnauzer/Yorkie mix frantically trying to figure out what I had in my hands. Bravely, I headed back to my parents bedroom ready to defend myself and the fluff ball it would take me three days to name.
“What do you have?” my dad asked, concerned and irritated.
“My cat,” I answered. “You said I just had to catch it.”
Last night was Book Club night. Part of our conversation was about the book we’d read, part of it was about other topics. One other topic was a recently adopted one-eyed cat. This conversation moved on to the three cats I’ve owned and the circumstances that brought each of them into my life.
I realized that each of my crazy cats has a story that deserves to be told, so I will be posting them here. Starting tomorrow you can come back and start with cat number one – Sebastian – a ferral grey Main Coon kitten who won my heart and has the distinction of being the first and only cat my dad ever liked. After Sebastian there was Sensei, arguably, possibly the offspring of a bobcat, and Sasha, the fiesty Tuxedo currently running our house.