Mr Tree the wonder cat has been missing for about a month now. Still presumably squashed, but without a visible carcass. My kids have noticed he’s missing- they’re not stupid. The whereabouts of Mr Tree has become a regular topic of conversation as my kids get dressed, with my constant assistance, by the gas heater on chilly mornings.
“He’s dead”, says my son blaisely, and returns to playing with his matchbox cars.
Big icy shards form crystals on the inside of me, cold and stark against a cosy, sunny morning. Good grief- the child is four.
“Hmmm…” I fumble for words, prepared for this but not. “Maybe he went for a wander and found himself another family to live with? Someone with a big backyard. And… ummm… maybe they had no cats, and we have one as well as the cats next door who come and visit. So Mr Tree decided to stay for a bit.”
I wait, feeling my explanation weighed and seared in the heat of my four year old’s judgment. His sister will happily concede with whatever her brother, her idol now her father is gone, decides.
The Chop’s smile is warm, leg shaking relief and I find myself with a few days to catch my breath, my children both happy to repeat the ‘Mr Tree’s New Family’ story to just about everybody.
We’re in the car one day when the speculation begins. Maybe Mr Tree is somewhere in TinyTrainTown, the Chop suggests. Perhaps, I reply, concentrating more on reversing out of our driveway than any missions for finding cats missing, presumed very dead.
“So, Mum, I have a good idea…” rambles my little man, “we should go knock on all the doors until we find him!”
His expression is so hopeful.
“Oh hunny… there’s a lot of houses here. And he could have gone a very long way, it might have been a big walk…”
“But Mumma”, my baby girl lisps from the backseat, “Mr Twee is family!”
Ahhhh. Nice work, kid. Twist the knife of guilt a little deeper. My girl, she is going to be such a charmer.
“Kittens!! FREE!! to good home” says the sign… and that’s about as clear as signs get, when I first noticed it a week ago and it’s still there now. A week ago, I hadn’t given the thought of bringing another kitten into the TinyTrainHouse much thought. It wasn’t until my shrink suggests that it might be a good idea that I realise why I don’t want to.
It’s pop psychology 101. I am just terrified it would die. Desperately afraid of hearing that sad resolution in my son’s voice again. The five year old girl who lives inside my mind and keeps lights burning at night and squeezes herself into a ball under her blanket is screaming again, horrified that I might give her something small and soft and vulnerable again, how dare I?!
And knowing that, owning it, that’s enough. A very good reason, on top of many many others, to replace at least one of the missing members of our family.
I will not live in fear…. even when it’s rational, sensible fear. I won’t let that dictate my actions, and I won’t let it obstruct what my kids are allowed to enjoy in their childhood.
The sign is outside a local vets and the staff are ecstatic that someone has come to take home one of these three tiny, silver and grey and white striped male kittens and take them home. Bought in as a litter of tiny newborn dumpee’s, they’d be waiting for a family for over a week. Not only are the kitten’s free, their first vaccination is free as well.
I visit them by myself first. They are so tiny and delicate, all huge eyes and itty bitty mews. One climbs my arm to snuggle softly into my neck and that sense of tiny breathing on my skin is so much like a newborn it almost stings my eyes with tears.
I bring my children back that evening and we watch the three brothers skitter around and chase one another. My daughter is almost in tears herself, unable to stop her fully belly laughs that increase every time one of the kittens rolls, spills or tumbles. My son is suspended, as he so often seems to be- a child laughing throatily at a silly, clumsy litter of kittens; a big boy explaining to the vet that his cat Mr Tree has gone missing, and is living with another family now. (“He looked like a tiger”, my boy explains softly, and my heart throws up another fracture, another crack from it’s fault line… my poor baby, my poor little man.)
“Which one…?” I ask, knowing it’s the Chop who will answer for himself and his sister.
“That one!”, he points. It’s the same cat- no white socks- who climbed my arm this morning.
On the drive home, I ask the Chop to shoose a name for our new pet. He thinks solemnly for a moment.
“George.” He replies.
“Umm… OK then. Why George?”
He shrugs. “Dunno.”
Which is, really, as good enough reason as any.
So. Introducing- George the cat. A new life seems to bring new air, and this kitten, younger and tinier than Mr Tree, is a cuddly cat. I watch in delight as he snuggles into my son’s neck, while the Chop tries to contain his hysterical laughter, a mixture of tickly cat’s hair and the sheer overwhelming cuteness of this cat.
|George, with iPad for scale. iGeorge.|
As for me, I think I can be officially c
lassed as paranoid. It’s an odd sensation to have no real attachment to something as yet, beyond the obvious “Awwwwww!!” factor; and yet care deeply, to the point of physical anxiety, whether it lives or dies. This cat is staying inside, quite possibly for the rest of it’s blessed life.
George and I, we’ve made a deal. I’ll give him food, cuddles and not let the Bump get too close with her doll’s dresses. If he promises to stick around for the next few years at least. (And, altogether now…. *touching wood*. Cheers.)