Yesterday, our recently-adopted kitten officially became an
outdoor cat. There were a number of
factors leading us to this decision: The stash of pooh I found two nights ago beneath
the basement stairs two feet from the litter box; the copious amounts of cat urine
on V’s mattress; Squint’s allergy flare up; the stealth attacks on the other unsuspecting
cat; the jumping on the counters; the stealing of food from dinner plates. Sometimes I get the feeling that this cat is
back from the dead.
Squints took him outside and re-introduced him to the great
outdoors: He was a wild cat, born in the wild likely to a feral mother. He took to being outside immediately. He ran here then there. He sniffed.
He ran away.
“Mom!” Squints said.
“He’ll be back.”
Every couple of hours, Squints opened the back door and
called out. But the cat didn’t
return. “Mom, he’s never coming home
“Let’s go for a walk,” my husband suggested, hoping to take
Squints’ mind off the cat for a few moments.
It was a perfect day for a walk: warm and sunny, not a cloud
in the sky. V decided to come too, to
try out her new camera—an early Christmas present.
We parked and crossed the bridge spanning the creek; creek’s really a misnomer for a body of
water easily thirty feet across. “Go
ahead,” she told us, as we walked along the path next to the creek. “I’ll catch up.”
We headed up the hill, my husband, Squints and I. “Think the cat came back?” Squints asked.
“He’ll be back, Squints.”
“But how do you know?” he persisted.
“I just do.”
* * *
“Get anything good?” My
husband asked when V caught up with us about a half hour later.
“My battery died
after one picture.” She gave us a
We continued our walk, winding through the ginkgo trees,
past an old barn and a root cellar. We walked past an empty corn field and a few
walkers and headed back toward the creek.
“To your left,” a biker called out sternly, passing us in a blur of blue
We crossed the dam and headed for home, admiring the setting
sun and the flock of geese resting on the gentle surface of the creek. And then, all at once, the geese took flight,
arranging themselves to cut across the sky.
“What a great picture that would make,” V said, watching
them fly past. “Can we come back
And Squints said. “Do
you think the cat’s back?”
We finally got around to decorating the tree last night. “There’s no snow, Mom. It can’t be Christmas,” Filibuster said,
hanging a skinny Santa from a branch.
V laughed as my husband put her angel at the top of the
tree. It was a homemade angel; an angel
with a stern look and glaring eyes. “I’m
not in the Christmas spirit,” she said.
Confronted with twelve days off from school, my daughters don’t
know what to do with themselves. They
lie on the couch; complain of their boredom; watch movies until all hours of
Squints opened the back door. Called for the cat.
“I wish we could go to Ohio for Christmas,” Filibuster said. See all the cousins and Grandma and Grandpa.
It would be more fun.”
“We can’t go to Ohio
this year,” I tell them, slamming another ornament on the tree. “We have too much going on.”
“I’m tired of hearing
about all this Christmas spirit and
going to Ohio,” I groused at my husband, as we ran some empty ornament boxes to
the basement. “I feel like we’re
not good enough anymore.”
He smiled. “They just
want Christmas the way it used to be.
They want the magic back.”
“Things change,” I said.
“People grow up.”
He smiled again. “I
We finished decorating the tree. And almost immediately the ornaments began
falling off. Nobody, I noticed, bothered
to pick them up. Yes, Christmas has lost
And Squints opened up the back door. Called for the cat.
After we finished decorating the tree, we put a Christmas movie
on. I used the opportunity to fire up the
computer and look for house plans; to consider again what I want to have when we
move. I want land for sure; I want farm
animals; I wouldn’t mind having a little fishing hole. And it struck me then, as I studied my list: I
want all that I had when I was growing up.
Perhaps I’m looking for the magic to return, too.
Perhaps we all are.
I rose from the couch, picked up the fallen ornaments and
returned them to the tree.
A storm blew in; the rain began to fall heavily. Squints glanced at me, pushed his glasses up
his nose. “Think the cat’s ok, Mom?”
The movie ended.
Squints checked for the cat. We
went to bed.
I listened to the rain thrumming on the roof. I wondered where the cat had found shelter.
But this morning, at around seven o’clock, there was a demanding
meow at the door.
“He’s back!” Squints ran to the front door and the cat
strutted in, weaving his way between our legs and looking at us expectantly.
“Feed him in the garage,” I told Squints.
“He’s seen what it’s like to be outside, Squints,” I
said. “He’ll never be happy inside now.”
Yes, he has returned to us, but he’ll never be the
same. The cat has tasted his freedom and
his independence. He will leave again;
coming and going on his own terms; returning when he’s tired or hungry or thirsty
or perhaps when he just needs a little bit of shelter from the outside world.
“Can I spend New Year’s Eve at E’s house?” Filibuster asked
“That’s our family night,” my husband protested.
Our old traditions probably seem quaint to her: our midnight
toast with carbonated juice; my husband rising from the couch to give everybody
a kiss. Our reading of last year’s resolutions;
laughing at the impossible goals and the predictable failures; making new
resolutions and recording them for the following year.
“This will be our last New Year’s together,” my husband
said, “because when you’re in college you’re going to do what you want to do.”
Another beautiful day.
Another walk, this time with the battery charged. We pulled up to the creek. It had flooded beyond its banks and the bridge was impassible. We drove to a different
entrance. V and Filibuster lagged behind as V snapped pictures.
We walked to the other side of the bridge. The water rushed past, muddy and angry. Branches and plastic bags rode the current. There were no geese on the creek today. And I realized how quickly and suddenly things
We found a bench. We sat
in silence waiting for the girls. A
gentle wind blew from the west. From the
top of a tree, a squirrel lectured. Two
hawks sailed overhead. And just there—coming
down the path—my daughters.
They have seen the outside world. They have changed. Soon they will leave us and come and go on their
own terms. But, like the cat, they will
come home now and again to take shelter from life’s gentle storms.
How do I know it?
I just do.
Labels: Creative non-fiction, Daughters, Family, Growing up, Sons