Sunday, February 20, 2005

JUDITH HEARTSONG'S ARTSY ENTRY, FEBRUARY


This month Judi has given us the delicious assignment of writing about an object of our affection.  Well, she says "The" object, but who among us has only one?  You can link to the assignment entry here,  and in the comments find links to other essay entries.  It's a lovely chance, in this month when we celebrate love, to meditate upon one - or more - of the many loves that bless our lives.
THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION (ONE OF THEM)
She’s sleeping on the green couch behind me now, almost hidden in the cushions, a pile of calico fur. Mostly white, that fur, with black, orange and tan markings. Especially endearing is the black spot under her litlle round chin. She’s an old girl now, next birthday she will be seventeen. She can’t make the high jumps any more, spends most of her time sleeping, isn’t much interested in the sundry cat toys that have accumulated with the advent of a new kitten, nor even the occasional kitchen mouse. But she is the spiritual center of the house, our Zen master, our priestess, our Bastet.
In a long lifetime of many cats, Gail and I both say she is the platonic ideal of felines, the Ur cat, the cat of whom we never will be worthy. Three years after Artemis and Popcorn died, we finally felt - maybe, almost, do you think? maybe not, I don’t know – that we were ready to have another cat in our lives. The incredible sadness of life without feline companionship: that empty feeling when there is no cat standing on your chest at 5 a.m., licking your nose – demanding to be fed. The furniture without claw marks. No gritty crunching under your feet in the bathroom, no little turds that didn’t make it into the catbox. We couldn’t stand it any longer.
How often do you read the bulletin board at the P’town health food store and find the cat of your dreams in need of a home? There she was, a three year old calico staring out at us from her photo, beseeching, entreating, yearning for a loving lesbian home. We went to visit. She climbed right into my lap, stretched her arms up over her head and asked me to rub her armpits. I did, of course. She purred, loudly, gratifyingly. We said we’d think about it, and we left. There was grocery shopping for the guest house to be done, we were busy women for heaven’s sake. No time to linger with the delicious weight of soft warm cat body, the sound of purring, the joy of white fur on black jeans.
We split up at the A&P, took different parts of the list to throw into baskets, met up when we were finished at the check-out counter. There was a litter pan in Gail’s cart. There was cat food in mine. Evidently, a decision had been made.
That was thirteen years ago. Between that day and this one, she has traveled across the country with us many times, even spent six crazy months with us in an RV, adapting to the gypsy life better than we did. Because we know our time with her dwindles, we treasure every day. She’s always been a full-figured sort of cat, round and plump, a solid presence, a grande dame. As she grows elderly, she has become smaller in some ways, bonier. Her presence, though, does not diminish. She commands the sunny spot by the back door, no other animal dares take it. She stretches, luxuriates, dominates that patch of warmth, moves with it as it moves. She is healthy, her fur is still luxuriant and soft, despite the quantity of it that she transfers constantly to my many black garments.
She lives for love, this cat, both giving and receiving. She rubs noses with the ragged cocker spaniel who adopted us soon after we moved in here, tolerates the insanity of the new kitten who trotted in our door Election Day. I wake in the night to the warm weight of her body curled on my hip, her soft purring sends me back to sleep. When one of us is sick, or sad, or lonely, she comes to lick a hand, nuzzle a neck, settle on a lap, tell us love is always there. When our lives together almost unraveled, fell apart, she crawled under the covers and slept between us every night for months, holding us together.  Because of her, today cold Sunday morning sunshine found us in a pile of humans, felines, one small scruffy dog, waking in a pile of comforters, quilts, flannel pjs,  grey hair and fur. A family still together on a raft of love.
Gentle with the children when they come to visit, she lets them pet and brush her, hold her, follow her around. They adore her, write her letters, want to talk to her on the phone. Gentle and fierce, a blessing in our lives, a teacher who has shown us the constancy of relationship, the endurance of love. This is Molly, companion of our days, comforter of our nights, object of the entire family's deep affection.



POST SCRIPT, five years later.
I spent some time this morning searching out this essay, since I have placed my award on my current blog and thought I should connect it to the essay that won it. 
We moved out here to New Mexico from Delaware almost four years ago, at the beginning of June, 2006.  We have endured many losses since that move, but one of the hardest was losing Molly.  She was already elderly when we moved, driving in the blistering heat across the country with two cats and a dog, but she made it through the trip, and settled in to her new home quite contentedly.  She began failing during the first year we were here, but still enjoyed eating, sleeping in the sun, curling up with us at night, being groomed and loved by visiting children. By the second autumn, however, she was having a hard time with everything, and bit by bit it became clear that her time with us was coming to an end.  When she developed seizures and couldn't walk, we saw that it was indeed time.  I held her in my arms all night, wrapped in my sweatshirt, close to my heart, to keep the shudders and shakes at bay, and early the next day we called our wonderful home-visiting vet.  We spent the morning, all of us, cats and dog and women, in a heap on a quilt on the living room floor, holding Molly, stroking her, crooning our love and grief.  When Kathy, the vet, arrived, we moved out to the back patio, where I wrapped her in the quilt and held her in my lap in a rocking chair in the sun.  She left us easily and peacefully, but oh so irrevocably.  
It has been over two years and tears are running down my face as I write this.  We will never stop missing her, and no other pet will ever hold quite the same place in our hearts. Our little dog, Honey, also left us a year later, leaving our remaining cat, Vixen, lonely and bereft.  After several months of her sitting watching out the front windows waiting for him to return, we gave in and acquired another rescued cat.  This little cat, Sophie, is quite a character and we love both our girls a lot.  But...there was only ever one Molly.  The grande dame of cats, the avatar of love.


13 comments:

donah42 said...

Beautifully done!!! She sounds wonderful :)

mlraminiak said...

I don't know about artsy, but it made my eyes mist.  Never one to stop at ONE of something wonderful, I (WE) have manged to collect eight cats as of this writing.  We are hooked.  Lisa  :-]

cneinhorn said...

wow, wonderful essay....

~JerseyGirl
http://journals.aol.com/cneinhorn/WonderGirl

happyb8888 said...

Always a bit of sunshine here at Marigolds' place!!  :)

That Happy Chica,
Marcia Ellen

ibspiccoli4life said...

I wanna Molly!  What a wonderful kitty.  And your essay was just incredible.  Thanks for the goose bumps.  That was great.

dave

mutualaide said...

Beautifully written, wonderful story of love and kindness and loyalty.  Thank you.

krobbie67 said...

Awww....I want Molly. I have always had a special affinity for Calico cats. She sounds like the Queen of them all. I'm glad you shared this. :-) ---Robbie

ghollahan said...

Amazing

judithheartsong said...

What a precious tale. You all honor each other with your love and your lives. I am delighted that you wrote and must now go and find a tissue. Beautifully written. judi

theresarrt7 said...

What a beautiful animal.  I've been meaning to say about your picture on Biblio Philes--nothin' goes better together than cats and books!  We have nine cats and I've lost count of the books.  This is a lovely essay.  

hestiahomeschool said...

You made me miss my old Pagan, who has been dead for five years. She died at twenty three, and she was a wondrous cat...

sunnyside46 said...

i am owned by emily kitty, who has been my boss for 13 years. what a wonderful servitude! i love  your essay!
marti

musenla said...

Ahh, the joys of having a beloved pet...nay, companion is more like it.  I don't have any, but thanks for this wonderful story that reminded me of beloved pets from the past.