Things that go bump in the night
There is was again – that strange creaking sound. I stopped scribbling notes on the large yellow pad of legal paper propped on my news and held my breath. Did it come from the bedroom or maybe the kitchen? I twisted my head slowly to the right to glance into the dark shadows of our tiny Rogers Park kitchen. An alley light cast just enough brightness to assure me that no one or nothing moved between the counters and the appliances.
The creaking ceased. I bit my lip and chided myself for being afraid. But I pushed back into the sofa cushions a little more tightly and pulled the fuzzy red afghan more securely around my waist. Hopefully, Jay wouldn’t be too late tonight. I hated that preparing for the next day’s trials regularly meant he kept late night hours at the State’s Attorney’s office. Although exhausted from a long day at work and an evening of study, I couldn’t fall asleep.
Being alone for any length of time spooked me. My family home, set in the midst of a crowded Detroit neighborhood, had always bustled with the activities of three sisters and two brothers, presided over by a stay-at-home Mom. Every day, but Sunday, friends came and went pretty much at will. Knocking and doorbells ignored as uncalled for formalities. Unused to solitude, I easily transitioned to dorm life at St. Mary’s, and later found it totally acceptable to share my first apartment with fifteen (yes, really) other young women.
What was that rattle? It definitely came from the bedroom. The bedroom window latch refused to close securely. I needed to check it. Taking slow sliding steps in my stocking feet, I crept out of the living room, into the short hall that led to the bedroom. I reached my hand around the door frame and switched on the light. It revealed a room stuffed to the edges by an antique bedroom set, handed down to us by my grandmother. That was all. No menacing presence greeted me.
I can’t be doing this, I thought. Being spooked by every little sound ruined the peace of my evenings, the time needed for study or I’d never finish college. I had to feel less alone. And I knew just how to remedy the situation.
When Jay arrived home, I greet him with a big hug, a long kiss, and the exclamation, “I need a kitten.”
He pulled back, cocked his head, dropped his heavy briefcase with a thud, and laughed. “You never cease to surprise me. What brought this on?”
I shared the tale of my fears over cups of cocoa.
By the time I finished, he was smiling broadly. “A kitten wouldn’t be much of a guard animal.”
I punched him gently in the shoulder. “I know that. But if we have a cat and I hear an odd noise, I’ll just tell myself, ‘Oh, it’s just the cat.’ Then, I won’t be so scared.”
“Do you know how to care for a kitten,” he asked.
“I’m sure I can learn. I’ve wanted a kitten forever. My mom hated cats for some reason. So, she never let me have one.”
Jay held on to his doubts, but he did feel bad about leaving me alone so many nights and he desperately wanted me to be happy. As a new husband, he believed that making your wife happy constituted part of the job description. I didn’t see any reason to disabuse him.
Making my wish come true proved far easier than expected. Jay’s former college roommate and his wife lived in Evanston, just north of our Rogers Park neighborhood. Their cat had recently given birth to five sweet little tabby kittens. Delighted that we wanted to adopt one, they let us have the pick of the litter. We choose a little female, whom we named “Champagne” for no logical reason whatsoever.
Waiting for her to wean so we could bring her home proved difficult. We learned that growing creatures take time. They cannot be rushed, a fundamental lesson of parenthood. The day did come, however, when Jack and Kathy called to say, Champagne could leave her mother. Elated we spent Saturday morning in a pet shop, acquiring a litter box, litter, a climbing tree, feeding bowls, cat food, and a cat bed. We had a great time choosing all this equipment but had quite a nasty sticker shock at the cash register. Bringing a little one into your life, we discovered doesn’t come cheap. Undaunted, we coughed up the moola and headed for Evanston.
On the ride home, I realized we’d missed an important purchase – a cat carrier. I envisioned holding my warm, fuzzy little friend in my lap all the way home.
She, of course, had different ideas. True to her nature, Champagne was curious about this new space that rumbled and moved. She remained in my lap just until we pulled out of our friends’ driveway. Then she wriggled free, crawled up to my shoulder and leaped to the back seat of our old Volkswagen. Petrified that she’d crawl under the seat and wedge under the driving pedal, I made Jay stop the car. We didn’t want to open a door and let her escape. Instead, I hung over the front seat and managed, after several missed attempts, to snare her. She hissed and scratch my hand. Oww!
At home, I gingerly place the kitten on the floor. She scurried under the twin bed we used as a makeshift sofa. We rolled it away from the wall and she took off for the bathroom. Running after her, I quickly closed the toilet, realizing that I’d have to be more careful about that from now on. Come bedtime, we found out one of our purchases, the cat bed, had been totally unnecessary. Champagne had no intention of sleeping anywhere, but with us – the first in a long line of youngster who would crawl into the “family bed.”
Champagne did alleviate my fears. She loved to curl up beside as I studied at night. Now, Jay often found the two of us asleep on the sofa when he arrived home. It warmed his heart, he said because when he saw us curled up like that, he realized we were “family” in the true sense of the word.
If you have ever learned a Love Lesson from a pet, please share it with us here.
“Way down deep we are all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them.” Jim Davis