I love cats.
When I was in elementary school, I had a dream I gave birth to a cat. I did not find it disturbing or alarming. I was hopeful it was prophetic!
My love affair began in Iowa.
My maternal grandparents lived on a farm with chicken houses in upstate Iowa. The cats kept the mice out and drew me into the chicken houses.
We visited my grandparents every other year for Christmas. My brother and I would get up super early with my grandparents to help collect eggs in the chicken houses.
Chicken houses smell terrible.
Imagine thousands of chickens, hanging out, pooping.
You still aren’t imaging a foul enough smell, but without experiencing it first-hand, it’ll have to do.
When we finished our work palleting the eggs in the front room of the chicken house, I would go into the main part where all the chickens were to play with the cats.
Remember, these cats kept the mice out of the chicken house. The massive building filled with pooping chickens with feathers and feces everywhere. The cats were filthy and smelled like chicken poop. I must have loved them to go through all that!
My favorite chicken house cat was named Garfield. An orange-and-white tabby. Just like your favorite cartoon character. This Garfield was unique in that he had six toes on each foot. He became my best buddy that Christmas, and when we drove away from my grandparent’s house to head back home to Oklahoma, I cried. Not because I was going to miss my grandparents. I was going to miss Garfield.
I was in first grade. Give me a break.
Within a few months of returning home, my parents found an advertisement for an adult male, orange-and-white tabby. I had a Garfield of my very own!
I’m sad to say I don’t have a large memory bank for my Garfield. I imagine it’s because I was so young. I remember Alex, a kid in my third-grade class, who loved to draw the cartoon of Garfield. I loved it, too. Until my Garfield died. Then, there was only pain and sadness when Alex would talk about or draw the cartoon. I dreaded it.
As I noted, he was an adult when we adopted him so we only had him a couple of years before he died. He was an indoor/outdoor cat. I remember one time he disappeared for several days. My dad found him behind the fence of our backyard and brought him back onto our property where he put him in the doghouse.
Literally. Not metaphorically.
I would pet him and tell him I loved him. And cry.
When Garfield died, my mother wrote a note to my teacher. She let me read it before I went to school that day. Even though my teacher read it to herself, she may as well have read it aloud. I heard every word in my mind, heart, and body.
I went to the school bathroom to have a private cry.