Twenty years ago, when Erin went off to college in Maine, she joked that she was concerned that by the time she came home for Christmas, I might have snapped from loneliness and begun putting her baby clothes on the cats.
She knew me well, even at 18. She knew my need to have something to nurture, to tend and cuddle. You could say I went a little too far in that direction, with the menagerie currently living in my home and being tended by me in the wild.
In a way, she bears part of the blame for my feline excesses. I started telling her the minute she finished law school ten years ago that I was ready for a grandchild (she was already with her husband-to-be at that point) but she had other plans. Like career, travel, adventure — all the things I didn’t have myself, having married at 22 and given birth at 24. I could not blame her; she was living her life on her terms, far more than I ever allowed myself to do. But as much as my critters were occupying my time and giving me joy, I still longed for grandmaternal joy, which I knew would be something to crown my life.
In fact I draw a direct line between the loud clanging of my grandmotherly biological clock, and my descent into rescue work. During these years I’ve lost count of the number of kittens I’ve welcomed, socialized, loved, pampered… and then sent away. It’s gotten only marginally easier since adopting out those first two kittens, Jake and Maggie, when I literally hyperventilated with sobs after I got back in my car, feeling I had just given away babies born into my family. I clearly needed one that wasn’t going to leave.
So when Erin told me, three years ago, that she and J had started “trying,” I held my breath and knew that any month I’d get the news I’d waited so long for. But months went by – month after month – peppered with her frustration and tears of disappointment, and my seemingly endless words of encouragement. Grueling fertility treatments ensued, and still no luck. And finally, this summer, our luck changed. And of course, a cat was right in the middle of it.
It was mid-August, and I was at an emergency appointment at Adobe Pet Hospital with the desperately injured Colby (see previous post) who was suffering from crushed toes on his front paws. They had just taken him from me – hissing fiercely in the trap – and I waited in the exam room for word. The phone rang and it was Erin. Thinking it was too soon for results to be back from the procedure, I didn’t leap to ask if she’d had any news, and we made small talk until she drew a breath.
“Well,” she said slowly, “I guess I’m pregnant!” I think I shrieked involuntarily, and we both laughed through tears. The rest is a blur of ecstatic yammering and talk of the next steps, tests, confirmations… And then she had to go. I had maybe a minute to myself to digest the information before the veterinarian came back in to discuss her findings. Seeing me dissolved in tears, she offered a gentle hand on my arm.
“It’s okay!” she smiled. “His toes are broken but he’ll be okay!”
I quickly explained that my tears were happy ones, that I was finally getting my own, longed-for kitten of the human variety. She smiled politely, no doubt figuring me to be yet another CCL (crazy cat lady) speaking in extremes.
It’s been almost four months since then, and now that Erin has lifted the veil of silence on her mother who can’t keep secrets, I can tell the world about my joy. Even more incredible: she is having a girl. So all of my mother’s exquisite hand-made dresses will get a second life. Princess Charlotte will have nothing on this girl, sartorially.
There are so many things I want for her. I want her to be a happy and confident child. As she grows I want her to move through the world unscathed by its heartlessness, even as she grows in awareness of what she needs to change. Of course I want her to be smart and beautiful. A recent ultrasound shows gorgeousness even in utero. 😉
But I also really, really want her to embrace animals, especially the homeless and the hurt, because once you open that part of your deepest heart, you can’t ever go back to being selfish.
2017 will be the year I have my arms fuller than ever before in my life. And it will be the year I finally get a kitten I can keep.