Leaning back in my desk chair, I took a sip of hot tea and sighed with pleasure. Winter sunshine slanting through the window made my office glow. I faintly heard the peaceful Christmas music of Kenny G and Mannheim Steamroller coming from the dining room stereo. Smiling, I took another sip. I love listening to these instrumentals through mid-January and have joked that they are subliminally Christmas.
Winter-clad goldfinches were busily working over the seeds in the bird feeder outside the office window. Hungry chick-a-dees and nuthatches greedily gobbled from a bag of suet hung nearby. I occasionally heard their squabbling twitters through the window.
An angry meow followed by a low growl made me turn to look at the futon across the room. Shadow, my brainless black and white kitten was trying to capture and bite my older white and black cat Louie’s tail. Addressing the older cat, I sympathized, “That stupid baby just won’t leave you alone, will he?”
Louie gave me a long-suffering stare. He is a mighty adult feline, equipped with can-opener claws, yet all he does when Shadow irritates him is meow angrily and growl. He could easily turn the little jerk of a kitten into strips of rawhide and dried meat snacks, but he doesn’t. The only conclusion is that Louie finds Shadow to be stupid, but loveable.
From the moment Shadow became a member of my household, he has had an obsession with Louie’s tail. The only respite Louie gets from the kitten’s machinations is when he gets up and walks or runs out of the room. Once in a while Louie vents his frustration by settling his full twelve pounds on Shadow’s belly. The baby squirms adorably, trying to get free until Louie relents.
Some of the struggles that Louie has with Shadow I recognize as teaching experiences. His classroom is one where the student is learning how to bite, rabbit kick, attack and defend life, limb and tail. Only naps or moments spent meticulously bathing and stretching out in patches of sunlight provide recess from school.
Despite his not quickly learning my own house ‘rules’, I soon forget the latest damage or mess he made and pick him up for cuddles. When he falls asleep in my lap, I look down at his sweet little face and feel protective love.
As a child, I imagined being a human cat, a luxurious, adorable creature that could talk like a human, but was always petted and loved. Watching Louie constantly twitching his tail and Shadow’s non-stop attempts to capture it, I wondered if the attraction to being a human cat had more to do with being instantly forgiven for doing stupid things.
Kids do a lot of stupid things. As a child I broke things, didn’t do what I was told, pestered the grown-ups when they wanted to nap and was crabby whenever I wanted to be. I often spilled my glass at the supper table. Daddy would ironically comment, “It isn’t a family meal until someone spills the milk.” Those were small spills.
One evening when Daddy was clearing the barn after the milking chores, I decided to ‘help’ by pulling a half-filled milk can into the milk house. Instead of using the handles on the can, I used the lid to pull it along. It didn’t take long for the lid to pull off. Shocked, I stood holding the metal lid, watching at least three or four gallons of milk quickly spread over the dirty cement floor. Daddy let out a mighty howl when he stepped into the barn and saw what had happened.
Cynical people comment that children’s adorableness is what keeps them alive long enough to become adults. Remembering my big spill made me realize that I didn’t have to be an adorable kitten to be forgiven for doing stupid things. After a good scolding, my parents forgave me. Evidently, they saw me as their stupid but lovable human baby.