My neighbor appeared at the door with a smallish square box with the flaps folded shut and handed it to me. Was this just the mom cat? No, the kittens were in there. She left.
I was terrified! They were newborns! The mom could step on them and kill them! I could feel her shifting around in there. I didn’t want to open the box right there and possibly have her escape, Namir and Cookie and Kelly and Peaches were right there stretching their noses toward me, ready to see the new additions, but I had to walk up the steps with this box! Well, I could do that, and began slowly walking toward and up the steps, into the studio, and shut the door behind me with my foot, right in four curious faces who knew exactly what was happening.
Slowly and carefully I put the box down on the stool I had next to my work table and opened the cage door. The blind was pulled because the day was hot and sunny and I wanted the room cooler and dim and protected for the new mom and kittens.
Only tiny scuffles came from the inside, but no other noise. I had no idea what to expect when I opened the box. Would she spring out and run and hide? Would she leap at my face? Would she crouch down and hiss at me and smother her kittens? She had been less than friendly, she had just been put in a box with her kittens and carried around, she was a new mom in a strange place, there were cat smells all over, she would have no idea they were behind a door and she was safe.
I carefully slid the box flaps apart and peered in the little square of darkness so I could see what the cat’s reaction was. One round softly glowing eye appeared at the opening. Curious, not angry. I opened the flaps a little more. She looked up at me, calm, calmer than me. I opened the flaps all the way and folded them back. Her head periscoped up to see over the edge of the box as she looked around. So this is what it’s like in here, she seemed to say, then looked back at me.
I instinctively reached to touch her, just lightly touch her head. She sat up taller to meet my hand and looked softly at me. I forgot any doubts. She then began to climb out of the box and stepped onto the edge of the worktable and I could see how very small she was as she walked toward me for a sniff of my hand and another pet, and it was then the rainbows appeared as I sensed the sun streaming in the open door and envisioned Lucy walking in the room behind me. Of course, when I turned around, the door was closed, and Lucy was not there…but she was, and as the rainbows slowly spun around the room from the afternoon sun on the window crystal, Lucy became a part of this family forever.
Maia, her name at the time, and I looked at each other and observed the moment, then I remembered her kittens and she needed to explore her new space. I looked in the box at the little fuzzy black objects squirming just a bit—really, newborn kittens don’t look like much, especially black kittens when you can’t even see features. I considered leaving them there for her to move, but decided I’d rather put them in the cage and cover them while their mom explored.
One by one I gently lifted the nearly weightless warm little bodies covered with soft fuzz and laid them on the fleece in the cage, then held my hand over them just feeling their little lives in their tiny bodies. Who knew what they’d grow up to be like? I pictured them in stages as they’d grow, remembering other kittens, seeing them tumble around and play, and walk and pounce and give themselves baths. And here they were at their beginning.
Their mother stretched out on my drafting table, relaxed and confident. I knew we would be fine. I had the feeling she’d known all along this would happen.
My first photos of them. I was smitten with their innocence.
You can read more about how they got their names in Mimi Introduces Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean and Mewsette, but I always named litters of kittens after groups of some sort, colors, characters in a novel, seasons, and initially they were going to be days of the week, Monday through Friday. Then they would have the mythological names that created those day names, Moon, Tyr, Odin, Thor and Freya.
But first I knew the mom cat needed a new name. She had a new life. I had recently seen the opera La Boheme, and once again was touched by the story of the creative souls living life in 19th century Paris, and the delicate Mimi who created beauty through her embroidery, so Maia became Mimi. Within a week the kittens’ personalities were evident and I could at least tell them apart and they became Rodolfo and Musetta for the two whose genders were more evident, but I was unclear on the other two, though I loosely called them Marcello and then Luciano because there wasn’t a male lead whose name I wanted to use and Luciano Pavarotti had sung the lead, and that was close enough to Lucy for me.
Later, Mimi settled into the cage and nestled with her kittens to nurse.
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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.
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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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