Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Pile of Sleeping Kittens
I don't think I am the neighborhood Crazy Cat Lady.
Until making the acquaintance of The Fredster (on a gorgeous summer Sunday morning, in the entryway to the Militant Lesbian Feminist Existentialist's Place -- where he stood out like a pulsating sore thumb), I was a dog person. The thought of living with cats was a foreign notion, something that people who were disqualified canine caretakers might do, from a lack of options.
And yet, according to extant folklore, my first real pet was a cat. Named Herman.
My sole detailed memory of Herman is of the day I had to give him up. I was just shy of five years old. My brothers and I were fleeing the country...
Okay, we weren't exactly fleeing the country.
We were leaving Turkey, having lived a few years in Ankara, during which, apparently, we acquired Herman the Very Small Cat -- more precisely, Herman of the Small Head in Relation to His Body. His ratios were off.
A pea head. With humongous ears (again, in relation), which indicate, I'm told, a Master Mouser.
My Mother decided to cheat on my Father.
With her gynecologist.
I was born, with the carefully applied assistance of pitocin, on my Mother's birthday. It was this doubly joyful day that she decided to celebrate by spending it with the handsome, soulful ob/gyn -- a possibility because my Father was away for a few days.
She left us kids in the care of a sweet Turkish idiot, a young boy named Ali. We had a grand time, the highlight being a spirited game of Chicken. I was firmly planted on Ali's shoulders, and Brother-Unit Grader Boob was perched atop Brother-Unit Tumbleweed, and we were swinging at each other in total abandon...
When our Father came home early as a birthday surprise.
Surprise! Yay! Dad's home!
We had a very helpful next door neighbor. I don't recall how she helped us prior to that particular day, but on that particular day, she chose to direct my Father to the location of the family sedan, parked, she helpfully told him, in front of the aforementioned gynecologist's flat. Good neighbor. Helpful neighbor!
I have a clear memory of Ali's eyes bugging out.
Those same eyes, then calmer and full of real affection, looked at me some months later, at the airport. I had a firm grip on Herman, so much so that I wonder if I hurt him.
People were doing that awful trick of Exchanging Meaningful Glances Over the Head of The Child.
"You can't take the cat on the plane, Retired Educator."
So it was into Ali's capable arms that I delivered my first pet, Herman. I had no doubt that he would take good care of him, but I did my part to be childish, and burst into tears.
The rest of the day, the rest of the trip, was remarkable for considerable air sickness, and a very close relationship with paper bags. That was the one and only time that flying ever had an ill effect.
No, Mother didn't fly out with us. She stayed behind until her appearance was required for the divorce proceedings and the half-assed play-acting that were our custody hearings.
The Judge determining custody pretty quickly dismissed The 'Rents and turned his attention to the three of us. We must have looked grim. It went something like this:
"If you could live with either your Mother or your Father, who would you choose?"
Brother-Unit Tumbleweed, very, very angry at his Mom, said: "With my Father. Definitely, with my Father."
Brother-Unit Grader Boob, in a panic, said: "I wanna go with Tumbleweed."
At which point, I interjected, under my sad, crooked pixie haircut: "I wanna be with Grader Boob... Please let me stay with Grader Boob!" And again, I did my part to be childish, and burst into tears.
From then on, it was dogs, birds, and turtles for me.
I had a particular talent with birds, and was famous for nursing wounded or abandoned wild birds back to health.
One summer, a neighbor of my grandparents came over with a just hatched blue jay that had been tossed out of its nest by the mother Jay. My grandfather and I nursed him on puréed bugs 'n stuff, kept him warm. Eventually, Squawky lived a part-wild, part-domesticated existence. He slept inside the house, in my room, but would go outside during the day, always returning around sundown, announcing himself in the small dogwood adjacent to the back porch door.
He pulled a few stunts -- the most well known being following us to church, pecking and flying at the closed red doors until someone let him in. The sight of him flying down the center aisle right to me is unforgettable.
At the end of the summer, of course, I could not take Squawky with me, as I needed to return to California to start school. There could be no better caretakers, though, than my grandparents.
Sadly, a hawk got Squawky, though he did make it home to their house before dying, or so they told me.
There were a few more "wild" birds as part of my menagerie, most notably a homing pigeon, creatively named Potty Pigeon, for the astonishing amounts of poo he produced. I located his owner, thanks to the band on his leg, and released him, hoping that he'd find his way home, more than 100 miles away, after 6 weeks with me.
My new stepmother was the one who discovered that my Father's claim of dog allergies was a baldfaced lie, and the Era of the Dog got underway.
Cats? After Herman and Ali, and before Fred and the onset of twenty years of Feline Frenzy, I never gave them a second thought.