I was all set to use “Throwback Thursday” and the coming of Halloween to reminisce about Halloween days of old. But then I logged on this morning and found out that today is National CAT Day, and … how could I not tell you about all my pusses? So – I offer up two separate posts for the price of one. It’s economical. It’s practical. You’re welcome.
We all know about Oliver, my little man of fur… his swagger, his hairballs, his dance moves, his bathroom habits. This little orange tabby appeared suddenly on my back porch the summer of my divorce, waiting by the door like he was waiting for us. I had no idea where he came from, we’d only gone across the street to the store for a half hour. Ava leapt out of the car and ran to him while I screamed at her don’t touch it! But it was too late, it was love at first sight and she scooped him up and can we keep him? It wasn’t an immediate yes, but he found a way to mew his way into my heart too. Oliver adores Todd but I’m not entirely sure the feeling is mutual, the principal offenses being fur on the bed, multiple attempts at homicide – which I have yet to witness myself… not that I’m calling anyone an exaggerator or anything…….. just sayin’ – and last weekend’s urinary indiscretion on our bathroom rug.
Yet – he is remarkably tolerant of all of Ava’s attempts to humiliate him, he’s very friendly with houseguests willing to share their bed, he’s impossibly adorable, and he can catch mice with his teeth. Not Todd – I’m talking about Oliver!
My first cat was also a stray – found on a weekend with my dad and I scooped her up and called my mom and said, can we keep her? Please? I don’t know why she said yes, but she did. Mitzi stayed with us through two moves, a handful of costume changes, and one makeup application – though shortly after our second move when I was in 6th grade she ran away. She was gone for 6 weeks. I cried every night. And then one day she came back, like nothing had ever happened. She stayed a while after that, but disappeared again and never returned.
My mom remarried when I was in 4th grade and my stepdad had a cat, Horlacher, named after a beer. She was a beautiful black and white – now known as a tuxedo – medium-haired cat. When they divorced, mom got custody of “Hor,” as we lovingly referred to her. Hor (yes – pronounced whore) lived to the ripe old age of 22, and not without incident. My mom, by this time, was living next to her restaurant. A consummate drama queen and apparently in a desperate search for the rainbow bridge, Hor would drag her ailing frame through the restaurant courtyard and up to the front gate where she would sprawl into a deathbed pose as guests were arriving on a busy Saturday night. One night three different guests came to me and mentioned “this, uh, cat lying outside the front gate...” (I kept carrying her home, though why I didn't think to shut the GD door, I have no idea.) We often joked about how she had planned to outlive all the animals she had to share us with, but that she gave up after our dog refused to die under a variety of impossible circumstances.
Also during the era of Mitzi and Horlacher came a calico maniac my mom decided to name Zibidah. Apparently I pronounced my middle name Zibidah (Elizabeth) when I was too young to pronounce anything more complicated than da-da, and she thought it was cute. I have no idea where “Zibby” came from, but I’m sure it wasn’t earth. She used to scale the stucco walls of our house and appear suddenly at the second floor bathroom window, which was only cute during the daylight hours. And then she got knocked up because I guess my parents forgot that spaying an outdoor cat is a “must-do”… and I experienced my first live animal birth with her SIX kittens.
We lived in the country on a fairly large property and farm, and so we kept most of her kittens, whom I named Beecer, Mildew (a tortie), and two others I named Ellie and Onesey because my stepdad suggested we name them Last Ones. And, though I didn’t know it then, he drove the whole box of kittens to a field to get rid of them – only to rush back for them out of crushing guilt. I don’t know whether he ever regretted it, but I do remember a tremendous amount of profanity in the stairwell after he stepped in a pile of Milly’s liquid cat poo during the spaying period for all six females Zibby had.
Fast forward almost 20 years and I was married to my first husband, who insisted that his two cats come to live with us in our no-pets-allowed condo. These two were the cream of the crop– purebreds with pedigree – a gorgeous Persian named Lucas and a mentally-impaired Himalayan named Baily. These two were like brothers – they slept curled up around each other and would chase each other around the house at 3 a.m. like two hogs rushing for the trough, and Baily would clean Lucas by licking the back of his head, which created a stanky odor akin to a pair of woman’s underwear on a 90-degree day in Mexico. Lucas was a lap-cat who loved to be carried around on my shoulder like a baby, and Baily wanted nothing to do with anybody but my ex. Lucas was my first introduction to shit sticking to fur, and it was through him that I learned the fine art of cat bathing. Unfortunately, he suffered kidney failure just a month after Ava was born and we were forced to put him down. Baily lived a bit longer – long enough for Ava to fall in love with him and he allowed her to hold him from time to time.
I frequently entertain the idea that Oliver needs a buddy, but Todd has suggested that such a decision might indicate an unwillingness to stay married.
Halloween when I was a kid was a riot. I used to go with Holly and her sisters, with brown paper grocery bags, and we’d walk up to two miles through the countryside collecting candy from strangers. We would actually walk into these stranger’s houses – can you imagine??! And, not only did we come home alive, we came home with grocery bags filled to the top with candy. Our moms were waiting back at the house where we threw ourselves on the floor and dumped those bags out, throwing those razor-blade poisoned apples in the trash, and casting the popcorn balls and McDonald’s gift certificates aside while savoring all the chocolate.
My mom was big on sewing my costumes for the school parade in my earliest grade school years – one year I went as a clown (this was long before Poltergeist ruined clowns for me forever) and one year I was a lion in a homemade fur suit that could’ve kept an entire Eskimo family warm. I don’t really remember most of my costumes anymore (except the year I went as a dominatrix to my then-boyfriend’s gorilla – nothing to tell here, move along) but I do remember one memorable year when my stepsister thought it would be creative to go as a “rock.” It was definitely creative – and apparently very convincing – she donned a black trash bag and crouched down at every door with us… and got nothing. The only thing worse than no recognition on Halloween is no candy.
Now the tables are turned and I’m the mom, and the pressure as always is down to the 11th hour as Ava and I work out the details of her costume in the limited time we have before 6:00 on Saturday. In a way, I love that she has enough faith in me to want to create a costume rather than buy one, but this way of thinking could prove disastrous if there’s no dry run. And, meanwhile, I’m deciding what I want to wear on our quest for sugar… since I equally love dressing up. Todd and I pulled off a last minute Sandy and Danny ensemble two years ago, which was a riot (and more so because people I met for the first time that night didn’t recognize me weeks later in my natural brown).
But I think the most memorable costumes are my mother’s. She once went as an alien prostitute, wearing a bustier and a giant rubber mask, and just stood silently in a corner of her best friend’s bar. Another year she went there dressed up as a man complete with mustache and… he didn’t recognize her. All night. Two years ago she paid tribute to another very close friend who passed away by dressing up as him. I can’t even begin to do this justice unless you knew him, but it was uncanny and creepy and hilarious all rolled into one fun-sized, chest-hairy package.
And so, a new Halloween is just around the corner and as usual I am unprepared. We have the candy to hand out, but Ava’s costume requires a few things we have yet to buy… (hello, Walmart!). I’m still deciding how to dress myself, but I have an epic prank planned that I cannot WAIT to see go down and I will post video if I can capture it.
In Other News ….
November 1st this year is daylight savings time, my favorite time of year because doesn’t everybody love the sun setting at 4:00? And for those of you who don’t experience Type 1 diabetes, it also heralds a blood sugar nightmare as we shift all our basal rates according to this stupid ritual nobody benefits from anymore and hope for the best.
November 1st also marks the beginning of Diabetes Awareness Month and there are a number of agencies out there working hard to educate the masses. You can expect to hear from me more frequently on this subject. Also, November 14th is World Diabetes Day and we have some big things planned. More on that later.
Horlacher beer was a Pennsylvania brewery which operated for over 100 years between 1873 and 1978.
The average lifespan of a cat is 15 years. The longest living cat was Crème Puff, who lived to age 38 in Austin, Texas. That’s 168 in cat years!
According to Bloody-disgusting.com, the top 10 worst Halloween candies are: Necco wafers (these weren’t that bad, were they?), Dots (weak-tasting, stuck better than denture cream), Cow Tales (never heard of them), Sugar Daddies (remember these rock-hard caramels on a stick?), wax lips/bottles (just eww), Good & Plenty (for the love of God, why can’t anything be chocolate?), Peeps (I swear my generation never had the Halloween version of these), Red Hots (I happen to love cinnamon), circus peanuts (admit it – they were nasty but you had to eat at least one).
This post – one of my longest – contains 1,889 words. And if you now know that, thank you for taking the time to read. J