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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CATERPILLAR AND HER FAMILY

caterpillar

It's been a lazy day, slept about all day after a good sleep all night. Awake, I didn't want to do anything.but scroll facebook for the distraction of it. Another form of tv full of commercials. A brief interview with Lou Reed turned up. Videos of cats are always funny. They make me want a young cat in the house again. For real companionship, Caterpillar is the only cat I want. She'll be eighteen on Mother's Day. She sleeps much of the time. We have a deep bond. She was born here to a feral cat who took up under the house in hard winter when two inches of ice were on the ground for two weeks. I heard her crying under the house. She would not let me see her. I took water and catfood to her daily. The water froze in the night. I talked to her while she hid. She came out and let me see her after a month. Gradually, she let me touch her. She was a calico after a tumble in a blender. I named her Celina for a tango dancer in a Julio Cortazar story, The Gates of Heaven. After some weeks with Celina, I was able to pick her up for a short time. One day I noticed her belly felt like something was in there. I made a nest for her, a cardboard box with hay in the bottom, inside what had once been a chicken shed, used for storing wood out of the weather. Her babies were born on Mother's Day. Dog Aster became friends with Celina. Cat rubbed on Aster's legs. The cat who lived here at the time, Peck, hated having Celina in her territory, fought her every time she found her outside the shed. One morning when I went out to give her fresh water and catfood, she was thin again. I opened the top of the box and saw three tiny blind kittens, two black, one gray. Next morning I picked each one up and looked at it closely. 

tapo

At two weeks old, their eyes opened. That morning I went out to see Celina and the babies. She was not in. I did not know the shed had an escape hole for the cat. Obviously it did. I headed back for the house. Aster was with me. A neighbor's car went down the road. Aster, recognizing the car, took off running to meet him where I park the car. Aster started running and I saw next to my car, Celina sitting. She saw Aster running toward her full blast and darted across the road, under the passing car. Another cat to bury. It was such of string of events, like falling dominoes, no one of the moments in the chain of events was to blame. It was a matter of 1-2-3-dead cat. She left me with her babies two weeks old. I gathered them into a paper grocery bag and carried them to the vet to ask for advice and to buy some kitten formula. Vet told me they would not live. I didn't refute him, but I knew they would live. I knew they needed mother's love as much as her milk to live on. I switched on Mother and became their mother. I fixed a place in a corner with two boards standing on edge for barrier and kept paper and food inside for them. I spent a lot of time holding them and talking to them. Caterpillar was named first. Her first day walking, she was a furry gray with black stripes and long curving white hair in her ears. She looked like a Japanese ink drawing of a kitten. She hunched and stretched like a caterpillar walking and looked like a furry caterpillar. I felt a special affection for Tar Baby, next to be named. I remembered Tar Baby from Uncle Remus, he'll stick to me, and Sade's beautiful song about a mixed-race child. Tapo, also black, I named Tadpole for being so wiggly. After some weeks of being called Tadpole, Tapo let me know in some subtle way that she didn't like her name, it wasn't her. I didn't want to change it too much, and shortened it to Tapo. It has a different ring to it, a higher vibration. She liked Tapo, pronounced like taco. 

caterpillar

Feeding them by bottle was wild time. I would be feeding one and the other two would climb up my pant legs. Tapo and Caterpillar were ravenous. They drank every time in full fervor until they passed out. Tar Baby stayed out of the melee and waited his turn. Early on, Tapo had me feeding her twice, thinking she was Tar Baby the second time. One day I saw him wobbly and weak, realized he was starving. I then fed Caterpillar first so I'd know when I put one down, which was which. My mother love fell in love with my babies. I remember being surprised at how soon they learned their own names and the names of the others. Aster had one rule with the kittens: stay off the dog. One of their early games was to crawl toward the dog and make the dog growl. Dog would growl and the kitten would shrink back to the others. They'd been walking a bit, had not yet discovered running. Tar Baby, for the first time, wandered into the kitchen out of sight of the others. He saw Aster from a distance for the first time. Evidently, she was smaller than he'd ever seen her. I saw the spark in his eyes when he said, "I'm gonna do it." He ran at dog, took a flying squirrel leap and landed on Aster's rump, sleeping on her bed. Quicker than thought, Aster was on her feet, turned around and had her open mouth completely over Tar Baby, him sitting inside dog's mouth, dog growling like a bear. Aster raised her head and revealed Tar Baby sitting there frozen stiff, unable even to shudder. The kittens on the floor froze in place. Gradually, Tar Baby crept slowly to the edge of Aster's bed and to the floor. The three kittens in a trance crawled to the center of the floor, piled on top of each other in a ball of three kittens and fell asleep. 

caterpillar

Peck, the cat who lived here, hated having Celina's kittens in her house. Every time she passed them, she'd make a face and hiss. I tried talking with her, explaining they are not here to take her place, they need a home, they're babies, they came to us for care. It was the same as talking to a rock. The kittens learned to stay away from her at the start. I called her Aunt Peck. Eventually, the kittens would hide when they saw her and jump out in front of her on the way to the water bowl. She'd hiss, the kittens would laugh. Their game became making Aunt Peck hiss. I told Peck they are growing up and they'll be her friends if she's nice to them while they're little. She wouldn't have it. The kittens grew a little more and the game turned into pounce on Aunt Peck. She really hated that game. She'd squirm out from under them and hiss. They laughed like crazy. Tar Baby, the bravest of them, found his fun in stepping up beside her and laying a front leg across her back, a half-pounce. She'd twist out from under him and hiss. He and the the other kittens laughed. I talked to Peck, reminded her the kittens are growing up, she'd do well to be nice to them or they'll grow up not liking her. She didn't want them to like her. My love for Peck did not diminish. I showed her more affection when she was around than the kittens. It didn't matter. She saw I had fallen in love with the kittens, unacceptable. She left when they were a year old. She'd had enough of them. I never saw her again, though I felt a communication when she died. She left when she was 9. Would have been 14 when the feeling came to me she'd died. She was a darling blond cat with white tips on her hair. She loved Aster. Aster mothered her when she was a tiny kitten. I couldn't let any of my babies go. Could not tolerate the idea that somebody might mistreat one and give it a miserable life. I couldn't take that chance. I knew they would be safe with me. Caterpillar is the only one left. In her I have all of them.
    



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1 comment:

  1. So sweet. I hate it when our babies leave us. xo

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