June 18, 2009

Pangs of Cat Withdrawal

I got my sling off two days ago (rejoice!), but I feel very discouraged after my visit to the physical therapist today. He doesn’t believe I will have the full motion of my arm back for another month, only then can I start strengthening it. I hesitate to go back to Mexico ‘half cooked.’ My Mother comes for a visit in latter July through early August so it looks like I will be in Denver for another month and a half. I am so sorry to be missing Esperando and his daily tales of the happenings at work and Santa Rosalia life—the now hot muggy days full of hovering big black bumblebees and hummingbirds, the empty white beaches with sand as fine as the sand in an hour glass, the incessant chatter of the maids and the cook, the Mexican music and noise that always fills the house. Most of all, I miss all of my cats. I have been missing them for almost 2 months now. I guess I am a cat addict, but there is a reason . . .

I was 'kitten-imprinted' as a child. I escaped at every opportunity to go the Johnson's house next door and play with their cat Ponce and her multiple litters of kittens (no one dreamed of getting their cat neutered or spayed back then in the 1950’s). Early photographs show me wearing a nice dress with scratches all over my face. Even the intimidating sting of Merthiolate couldn’t deter me from hugging those recalcitrant little kitties. Although we had our own personal cat that adopted us for awhile, Templeton, he was an outdoor warrior and not very cuddly. Few parts of his body weren’t shredded or knotted with scabs from his trying to prove his manhood with the rest of the neighborhood.

By the time I was 12, we were living in San Francisco and I was given a Siamese kitten as a birthday gift from my family. Hermana and Juan-in-a-Million, both in college and home working for the summer, drove to the Cher-Lan cattery in Hayward the night before to pick her up. Unfortunately, Shadow as she came to be called, hid herself away in a hide-a-bed in the basement. In the morning my family searched and searched for her and finally told me that my birthday present was a kitten, that she was somewhere in the basement but they couldn’t find her. My brother and father had to go off to work, and though my sister, Mother and I looked every- where, it wasn’t until my sister sat down on the hide-a-bed and felt a spring go ‘sprong” that we knew where to seek her. Shadow begat many children including Freckles, whom we kept. Freckles was a handsome, personable tabby-striped half-Siamese lad who stole my heart until he died after I was through with college and back home again. Grieving though I was, my sister convinced my Mother that I should not be allowed to have another cat until I had experienced the joy having a dog. I still wanted a cat but I got a dog, and a fine creature she was, but she was not a cat.

Once I was out on my own again, I felt impelled to buy a retaliatory cat. I felt wicked having a mind of my own to go and choose a cat. I had a little incentive –this is the kind of cat you get when your roommate’s cat has lots of fleas and you feel that having a kitten might draw the fleas away from biting you to itself. After scouring San Francisco all day in search of the most personable kitten, I adopted Barrymore from a ballerina who lived in the Potrero district. He turned out to have a lot of fleas in his own right and he sat on my chest purring all night coated in flea powder. It was a match made in the stars for he shared my birth date. He was very smart and independent, and a superb mouser. Barrymore lived to be 18 and moved with us to Peru, Panama and Bolivia along with my husband’s cat Bandita. These two cats were really attached to one another.

Now I have Winston Churchill (alias Sour Puss), Frida and Carmen. I like to watch them play with each other in grand pouncing fests, or see them turn into a sleeping cat pile. Or take turns rolling a marble around the floor while the other two hover nearby watching in rapt fascination. A society of cats has its own set of rules, Frida likes to flaunt them by stealing Winnie’s favorite perch which means that she and Winnie get into altercations frequently. My cats won’t know me when I get back. I know Carmen is totally feral inside the house (well she's civilized enough to use the litter box) and at last report Frida was regressing to that state. And I am totally helpless to return—my arm won’t even work on its own. It's this limp thing that just dangles by my side uselessly. My cats would probably advise 'rest until you can catch mice again.'

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