Like the rest of the world, I had a hard start to 2020, made harder by the fact that my house was empty of kittycat feet for the first time in nearly 18 years. I missed Molly the most when I was home in a quiet house, and the pandemic made for a lot of that, even when my husband started working from home in March.
I’m not a dog person, and definitely not a kid person, but I am 100-percent a cat person, in case that isn’t obvious. I missed Molly so much, and so many other changes coming after her death just made it harder. Everything was different. At Christmas we had a Molly, I had a career that was going somewhere. James was working from his office, which gave him the social interaction that he needs, and me the necessary time and focus to successfully work, write and create. We had planned a year full of travel, fun and forward motion. And then, of course, it stopped. And while we still have our health, most of our income, and the basics and many extras of the life that we enjoy, we have lost a lot, too. We both lost close family members in the first part of the year, and even our neighborhood still looks weird and a little bleak after the tornado that blew through in October 2019.
Molly was my first cat, so I hadn’t been through this process before. I still missed her so much, but over time, was also opening up to the idea of bringing something good into the still too-quiet house. But, had enough time passed? Would I be able to love potential kittens for who they were, or would they be “not-Mollys,” which would be unfair to them?
A few weeks after Molly died, I was out with friends when James got home from work, It was the first time that he had to experience coming into the silent house without me or Molly in it. He was greeted by a little black cat, a House Panther, who approached him, scratched a little bit on the welcome mat and then walked away. We had not seen this cat before, and have not seen it since. But James felt, and I agreed, that maybe it was an intermediary, sent to tell him that Molly was okay and that there would be more cats in our lives, and that would also be okay.
When we started putting “cat vibes” out into the world, I didn’t care what the kitties looked like, where they came from, if they had three legs or one eye or anything like that. I just wanted cats that were healthy and didn’t hide, and I wanted two, so that they could have more companionship than Molly had, especially as we plan to resume travel in the future.
We jokingly began looking for kittens under bushes and in ditches on our evening walks, and I even had a song, “Where are you, Kittens?” set to the tune of “Where are you, Christmas?” that I’d sing around the house.
And there’s a song by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “Our House,” that I’d listen to and feel so sad. “With two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard, now everything is easy because of you…” I wanted easy. I was ready for it. In my world, I felt things would feel “easy” when the cats came, because the noise and the feedings, playing, misbehaving, all of that would make the house feel normal, and normal was close enough to easy.
So, in early May we went to East Texas for my Auntie’s funeral, and I got a lead on some cats. On my birthday, the 15th, we decided it was time to choose two, and the next weekend, we met my mom, cousin and aunt in Athens, Texas and picked Bonnie and Beans from a huge cat carrier where they were lounging with their siblings.
Beans is a black kitty, a House Panther chosen not only for his expressive face, but also because he reminds us of that little kitty of hope that visited James in January. Bonnie’s bright eyes and “fairy ears” charmed us immediately. Being Texas cats, they have Texas formal names: Bluebonnet, and Bosque Coffee Bean. But Bonnie and Beans for everyday.
Now everything is easi(er). Easy? No way. We are still in a pandemic. James is still set up on his laptop in the middle of the living room while I carve out a few hours here and there to try and pick up the pieces of my career and creative practice with the ground still shifting under my feet. Covid is still raging and now it’s in my home community in East Texas, which is scary because there are many fewer resources there, and the population skews older and more fragile. I don’t know when we will travel again – we have planned trips and canceled them at least three times in all this, and I’m really sad that I won’t be going to LA this September to see the beach and art adventure, and to see my old friends, and meet their new baby.
But we have the kittens, and with them, a routine. Kitten food, play time, naps, more food and TV time before bed. They don’t know anything about a pandemic, they just explore and romp and play. They are fun to watch. They’re lap cats who love toys, unlike Molly, who was of course still perfect in every way. Having two, it’s fun to watch them interact. They take turns tossing a toy mousie around, and they love to be carried from room to room in what we refer to as “the royal procession.” Sweet Beans has attached himself to James, and Bonnie runs around chortling like a delighted banshee. They are happy cats. It’s nice to feel like we are doing something right. When things feel so hard, it’s nice that something is easy.