I hear Mama Bernadette talking all the time about how glad she is that I am in her life, but I’d like to take the opportunity to say how glad I am that she is in my life. I have heard people say, “I have a cat,” and it means many things. Well, I will say, “I have a human,” and that will mean many things too.
I don’t think I own her. I don’t even particularly think I control her in any way because it’s obvious she usually doesn’t listen to my instructions. I know that she is nice and soft to sleep on and will always give me the best food and care she can, but there is more to having a human than that I’ve learned in the six years I’ve been here and the nine years I’ve been on earth. There is this funny feeling I get when I look at her sometimes, and that is something very new.
Before I came here I more or less lived with other humans who fed me and let me inside though I often preferred to be outside, especially after I discovered the mancats on Fifth Avenue. I had a place to go and have my kittens, and I know these humans cared for me, but they apparently had many other things to do and think about and I was largely on my own. I wasn’t the only cat there, and I thought this was what living with humans was all about, and it was okay. I am a cat, and we can easily live with a situation like this.
Because my kittens had always gotten more attention than me, and rightly so because they were the most perfect and beautiful kittens who were ever born, I thought I’d actually come to this house because of my kittens, and when they were all ready to go I’d go back outside and start all over.
But I had gotten to know the elders who lived here while I still lived outdoors and saw how they acted toward the human. Living here, I saw, and began to feel, something completely different. It began as a little tingle of anticipation that she would pet me and talk to me as she did Cookie and Peaches and Namir and Kelly, and when she did, I felt something change in my own priorities. I found myself settling down near her with the elders, feeling very…safe. I had never really felt that way.
In time I felt the urge, but did not ask, to go outside, and then I lost the urge and I began to feel very comfortable here with my children and all my new friends who gently taught me about life with humans. I knew what every day would be like. Mama Bernadette looked at me with a special look and she touched me in a special way, and I began to feel…trust. It frightened me a little, and I took a very long time to let it in.
As the years have passed, while my children loved my human from the start, I had come to trust her more and more, talking to her and tentatively showing her affection, even spending time with her alone without the presence of the other cats.
One by one we lost all our older friends, and I knew that Mama Bernadette needed the support of her household, and we were there for her.
When we lost Cookie, I found I needed her support. I had never needed any support at all, but I gave in to her hugs and tears as we began to move forward without our best friend, and when our grieving eased I realized how Cookie had felt about her, and had tried to explain to me. I understood because I felt the same way. You just don’t know what love is until you experience it.
I am so glad my children were raised with this love, and didn’t have to wait until they were nine years old to realize it.
The other day Mama Bernadette and I were out in the garden and she was busy, crouched over and pawing through the bean plants and tossing beans into the basket while I explored the garden beds and nibbled grass and rubbed up against her now and then. I suddenly realized I was standing in a spot I’d sat in six years before, nearly to the day, belly full of these babies, looking for food. I had turned to look at her then, familiar but a stranger, a human, and had waddled off into the greenness to stay away from her.
How different my life is now, I thought, how much I have changed, how much I have learned. So deep I was in my reverie I didn’t realize I was looking at Mama Bernadette, and when I did I felt a deep rush of…something. At just that moment she stopped what she was doing and looked at me, and I knew she felt the same thing. She gave me her human smile and I blinked at her in my kitty kiss, and we didn’t move or say a word to each other, we just enjoyed the moment. This is the magic of love.
. . . . . . .
I did turn to see Mimi sitting in that spot, looking at me with that look, the one that says “I love you”, that I remember from each of the cats who shared my life at some point. I did my best here to interpret the moment.
For most of the time Mimi has been with me she was distant, skeptical, staying safe, and I adored her from the start but never invaded her safe zone. It took Mimi some time to learn to trust me and I really thought she never would, but little by little she came out from behind Cookie and Kelly and her own children and began to be more and more affectionate and spend more time with me. Now she is my little shadow, my supervisor, my friend. I couldn’t be happier, especially when a very modest Mimi decides to let it all hang out and show me her belly. It was even more special that this was on the picnic table where I’ve spent so much time with so many other cats, and where Cookie was famous for getting all full of herself and showing me her belly. Mimi knew this, of course.
Every cat should have a human.
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