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Falling in Love Again

“Lemonade, lemonade, ice cold lemonade,” they sang almost in unison, a tow-haired boy of 9 and a red-headed bespectacled girl of 7. It was 85 degrees and as I breezed by on my trusty Trek, I sighed to myself, “Ah-h-h, at least some things never change.”

Then a man in a big black truck pulled up to the stand and I nearly had a myocardial infarction when the little boy said, “That’ll be one dollar.”


So I rolled up and said, “Isn’t one dollar a bit steep? When I was a kid (oh boy!) it was five cents.”

The girl looked sheepish but the boy boldly countered, “Do you know how much a bag of lemons costs nowadays?”

These kids have more business acumen than most adults.

So, I shook my head at the budding entrepreneurs and continued on in my reverie. Bliss, in fact. And here’s why.

I’m in love again. And it’s a triage: Tabitha, Purrsnikitty and me.

Here’s how it happened…

As some of you may have read, I lost the love of my life, Truffle, two months ago, and was feeling like a penny waiting for change. All my friends were suggesting I get another cat. I was appalled. How could I possibly replace him? Animals aren’t objects that break and you buy a new one. No other cat is going to fetch, let me vacuum him, trot about like a thoroughbred or jump into a full bathtub pretending to have slipped but enjoying the water.

No way, maybe not for another year. I needed my calendar open for all the speaking engagements I intend to make with my book StarWords.

So, I went on a superb vacation, came home to the emptiest house on earth, and had a dream. In it, I was adopting a stray buff-colored cat and my heart was open as a barn door.

I awoke with the resolve that I would go down to Posh Pets in Pacific Grove, where Animal Friends Rescue Project houses dozens of adoptable cats they have skimmed from local shelters, and if I saw a buff-colored one, it was a sign.

Well, I looked them over carefully and the closest things to buff were these two ordinary tabby kittens snoozing in each other’s paws.

Of course, I played with every cat there because my heart aches to see them caged. They are well cared for; clean and loving volunteers visit them. But, hey, it’s still prison.

After a “born free” moment, in which I envisioned myself freeing all the animals from their cages, I tucked my codependence in and went home, determined to keep an open heart and trust that I’d know if - and when - my next angel would appear.

But the vision of those striped kitties, snoozing so compatibly, haunted me. I should have known I was already hooked when I lay in bed thinking up new names for them (“Cherub” and “Cheeba” - listed on their bios - had to go.)

The next day, I decided to take another look. The card on their cage said they were sisters, about 9 weeks old, already spayed, micro-chipped, and vaccinated. This was good news, except that when I took them from their cage and turned them upside down, I swore I saw the triad of dots that represent male hardware, and I wanted no more potential sprayers.

The store owner actually found their hysterectomy marks (a very neat job) and so I put them on the floor and the dozing little wonders began catapulting through the air. So much for quiescence. I petted them, retuned them to incarceration, took a walk on the beach and cried. I missed my Truffle.

Torn, the next day I decided to go to the SPCA of Monterey County to find a prettier pair of females. Tabby was too generic and I wanted long hairs. I mean, cats are works of art – why settle for plain when I could have another Monet, Matisse or Picasso?

It must have been 100 degrees at the shelter that day and the air conditioning had broken. Before visiting the cats, I walked the rows of panting dogs, beaming love to each one as my heart was breaking. Volunteers were hosing down their cages and even giving them frozen dog treats, but the heat was stultifying.

Meanwhile, in the cat room, huge fans were keeping the area under control, and an affable volunteer was attending the cages bursting with kittens and cats. I was heartened to see that several kittens were grouped together in the clean cages, but after scanning them all, I saw no pair of sisters.

There was, however, this one gorgeous long-haired calico kitten that was frantically crawling the bars and crying, “Lemme outa here, I belong with people – not cats!” I know because the second I picked her up, she started purring.

It took courage, but I decided, “No, I want sisters.” Then I went to my car, sobbed, thanked God for the true heroes in this world: the courageous and compassionate volunteers and employees who care for animals who are abandoned mostly because misguided owners: (a) think letting your pet have a litter or two is a good thing (not!) (b) have no money to spay or neuter (there are free services) or (c) have never had the guts to go to the animal shelters and see what their negligence produces.

I had a good long cry and drove directly back to Posh Pets to adopt Purr and Tabby . . .

Man, was I in for some lessons. Brooke Shields has nothing on me. Hormones may have something to do with it, but I contend that post partum depression is mostly a new mother’s sleep deprivation. This I have in spades. It’s been a week now and I haven’t slept more than a wink since I brought my duo home.

The first day was heavenly, as I rolled on the floor getting to know my little critters. So alike, yet so apart. Tabitha, the ultimate in feline femininity; and Purrsnikitty, male-like with dark leopard spots, a more triangular face, huge pointed ears and a constant expression of surprise. She has learned to straddle a two-foot plastic wand, with the feathered end in her mouth, and trot through the house with Tabby in hot pursuit. Then Tabby lies down, exposing her golden squirrel belly, and lets the leopard leap on her, pinning her until she reverses the game and becomes the dominatrix.

Then they had their first visit to the vets, which was included in their adoption fee (a number of local veterinarians, bless their hearts, do volunteer work and follow-up for strays). I like this savior and so do the kitties, who check out A-OK.

We returned home to an evening “runabout” during which my girls made mincemeat of my orderly house, bounced off the furniture and walls, and scared the wits out of each other, producing Halloween arched backs and fur on end.

My fur was on end after that, and I doubted that sleep would come easily. But still, after their acrocat antics, they only gave rare voices – more a chirring trill than meows. In fact, Tabby still mouths a silent mai-ow.

Then it happened: Purr, for no conceivable reason, started limping. I, still suffering post traumatic stress syndrome and hypervigilance from the loss of Truffle, went ballistic and called the vet at 8:30 p.m. “My kitty is limping, he has sarcoma, AIDS, leukemia, deformed bones – I KNOW IT!!!”

The vet kindly assured me that it’s common for kittens to sprain themselves while going berserk, and by the time I took her in the next morning, she was walking almost normally.

All is well that ends well, but the saga continues . . . A few days later, Purr starts sneezing. I am told it could be allergies (who knows, maybe my gnawed-on table orchids?) or a brief cold.

I, inconsolable, called every friend who will listen, and one of the wise-acres says, “Go directly to the store, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and buy the book ‘Kittens for Dummies.’”

The next day, Tabby was sneezing and it was heigh-ho, heigh-ho, off to the vet’s we go.

By then, I was having a nervous breakdown from sleep deprivation and worried and wondered if I hadn’t made a serious mistake adopting two kittens so soon after Truffle. I mean, I learned 30 years ago from teaching school that I’m not motherhood material. Maybe Brooke (who, by the way, I’ve talked with in person and she is a warm compassionate person) felt the same way.

The vet (I should say “angel”) checked them out, chirring with them and kissing their heads, and said they had the flu and why doesn’t she take them off my hands for a few days? I conceded, guilty to the bone that I sprang these kids and they’re now going behind bars again. But I know this will give me some time to get some sleep, figure out better sleeping quarters for them, and adjust to the idea of newborns.

The tally to my pocketbook is about $600 now, which includes the dog carrier they will sleep in at night and the fancy carpeted cat tree they will climb on instead of my furniture during the day (I hope).

The third day I called in for a progress report (they were to stay five) the assistant said, “They’re really rambunctious. They are crying for their mommy.” I was stabbed by guilt but still ambivalent about taking home sick kitties and caring for them.

Today, as I write this, I await the vet’s call, after which I intend to spring my girls from their incarceration. I miss them. I want them. Am I ready to deal with them? I’ll let you know in two weeks.

Stardust Inspiration: I will never again be unsympathetic to the ambivalence that comes with motherhood. Motherhood is motherhood, be it humans or fur people, and it’s a cataclysmic and exhilarating responsibility. A shrink once said, “If a mother told you the absolute truth, regardless of societal ostracism, she’d admit that if she had it to do over again, she wouldn’t have had children.” Well, obviously this isn’t true across the board because some mothers have 12 children. Still, it gave me paws . . .



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