I can’t believe ten years have passed since I prepared my foster room for an unknown black kitty and a litter of kittens as I grieved another little black kitten. Now, Mimi is a teenager and those kittens are ten years old, and while so much has changed, this July much still seems the same.
A 10-year anniversary collects the related events through a decade into a set of memories, and also recalls the time leading up to the span. My memories are usually tied to the season and the weather. July is often quiet, in business and in life, and each July I remember the long quiet sad days at my desk that July in 2007 after we lost Lucy, my four sweet understanding teenagers joining me at my desk for long sunny days with the windows open, this quiet neighborhood peaceful and still outside, the garden producing my food, flowers blooming at every window and birds singing in the trees.
It sounds idyllic and in many ways it was. I had worked very hard to make it that way over the years I’ve lived here. That was part of what sustained me in my sadness, not being able to appreciate the quiet beauties of summer days but comforting that they were there for me nonetheless.
Here it is July once again and the quiet days bring back that magical time of transition 10 years ago, between Lucy’s last day and Mimi’s first day. Cookie, my rock, was as solid as ever, always near me, now and then her soft warm paw on my arm, and her sweet head tilt and sympathetic expression when she caught my eye; she understood exactly how I felt, I could see it in her eyes, she knew about loss. Kelly was overflowing with happiness in her security with us, loving me and her fur family, purring and talking. Peaches as sweet as her name, happy with whatever we were doing, never forgetting that she had narrowly missed this chance to live and be happy with her fur family and me, always content in her decision to choose me as her person. Namir was just as sensitive as Cookie and gave me lots of slant-eyed blinks with his tourmaline eyes, and in the way that Kublai had done looked at me and waited for just the right moment for me to see him resting with his legs tangled and twisting on his back in some bizarre position that would always make me laugh. They slept in tightly curled balls on my desk, vigilant. They followed me around, a little clowder of gray and peach and white and tortie, from the desk to the kitchen to the studio to the basement to bed, tucking themselves in around me at night.
After losing five cats in that short of a time ending with Lucy’s loss, I sometimes looked at each of them, Peaches 17, Cookie 15, Namir and Kelly 14, as potential sources of loss and pain, Namir with his heart disease like a walking time bomb that we never knew when it might go off, Peaches teetering on renal failure but never quite giving in, Cookie and Kelly just teenagers with any number of things that could happen. I sometimes felt myself pulling away from them out of fear. They were very patient.
Even though we were pretty sure at that time that FIP itself was not contagious, I diligently took my house apart and cleaned everything over the weeks after Lucy died, an obvious cathartic activity, finding toys of hers stashed here and there that I couldn’t part with but tossed in the washer, her beloved little ball of purple yarn that I had tied together so it wouldn’t unravel, pulling out the crate in which I had fostered her and her siblings the year previous to prepare it for Mimi and her kittens, new dishes, new beds. It was like taking stock of my life fostering cats and kittens.
I was happy to procure the last unspayed cat from the neighbor, and after all the kittens and other cats I felt a finishing point. Mimi and her kittens would be just another foster family to grow and move on, possibly I’d consider keeping one or two in memory of Lucy, but I was happy with my four steadfast adult cats, their familiarity and their love. I had seen Mimi again in my garden about a week before she came here (July 23, below), and she was, as usual, skittish and ran to hide in some taller plants, watching me. I realized later she was probably talking to Cookie and Kelly at the basement door.
I was unprepared for the miracle that happened the day Mimi arrived, but somehow my soul was open to it. I opened the box and Mimi was surprisingly friendly and apparently ready for a new life here, and Lucy magically appeared in the rainbows from the window crystal that swirled around the room, bringing us all together. Mimi at age four or five integrated flawlessly into this household of seniors, relaxing into the quiet, beginning her own healing after years of kittens and outdoor life. Those four wonderful kittens were healthy and loving and in the year they were staying here to see if they showed any symptoms of FIP beguiled me and I was glad that no one had wanted to adopt any of them.
In the past decade I’ve lost those four teenagers who tutored those four tiny beans, and those grown-up beans in turn mentored a couple dozen frightened fosters, or provided love and assurance to the hospice kitties who came here for their last weeks or months. All of them provided inspiration for me to grow my skills as a creative person. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. What if Giuseppe had been adopted and lived with someone else? We might not have met Mlle. and her wonderful feline and human family and all the happenings north of the border. Besides that, I couldn’t imagine Giuseppe not seeing Giuseppe’s face every day and having a conversation with him. And Jelly Bean, and Mewsette and Mr. Sunshine.
And especially not Mimi, my little flower. The reason I know she was likely communicating with Cookie and Kelly at the basement door that day was because she was entirely too familiar not only with all the cats but with the house itself when she came in. And the quiet friendship she had with Cookie, I know the management of me was handed from paw to paw.
For the remembrance of seeing her outside on the sidewalk and street and especially in my garden before she came here, her ownership of my garden is precious. For all the photos I’ve taken outdoors, and all the paintings of her I have done and might do, “Garden Sketch With Mimi” expresses my deepest feelings at this 10-year anniversary.
July 26 is the kittens’ birthday, but July 29 is the day they came here, and that is Mimi’s nominal birthday. It’s close enough to make that the big day, and celebrate Mimi, who made it all happen.
Read more about the events ten years ago.
Also read Lucy.
How they rescued me.
For my first annual presentation at Pet Memorial Sunday I told the story of my loss and redemption.
I lost my brother unexpectedly last year on July 28, a day after my biggest tree fell down and knocked out my internet connection and phone, so I didn’t celebrate last year. This year I’ll probably have a nice big special breakfast on July 29. But I’ll be remembering all week long.
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This was not what I’d intended to paint that day but I like it anyway. It’s Mimi napping in the shadow on the cool bricks among the geraniums, near the vintage aluminum tub where I grow pole beans. Mimi was so happy to be outside she only rested in each position for less than a minute, and the sun was in and out behind the clouds. The temperature was in the 90s and we weren’t doing much but looking for a comfortable spot.
You can also order a free matted print of this painting when you register for an account on Portraits of Animals.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Weekly schedule of features:
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Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
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Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
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