I didn’t know when, or how, but I knew the day would come when the need to fill the hole left by Mae, our amazing kitten. The girls are sensitive and intelligent, often comprehending things in ways that I almost wish that they wouldn’t at their age. Along with the dolls and karate classes, I wish that I could offer some measure of oblivion to pad their all too brief childhoods. Mae’s death blew the doors off the idea of having anything more than a suggestion in the grand scheme of how life goes. I tried to do things in the days and weeks that followed her abrupt passing to carve out special time to try new things with the girls.
As we passed the year mark of when we brought Mae home, the girls began to make little noises. It began with wistful sighs of, “I wish we hadn’t lost her. I just don’t understand why she had to die.” Sometimes in joyful moments someone would say, “Maybe we could get a kitten, another family member like Mae.” They would drift off, I’m not sure if it was for my response or their own sense that maybe it was too soon.
Then one day it began to get stronger, the cries at bedtime, “I still don’t get it. I went to bed and she was alive, she was fine. Then I was waking up and having to tell her goodbye. Why, mom?”
I said that I didn’t know. They were ravenous for a reason and if not a reason, then details. I told them how she died in my hand as I drove her to the vet. I explained that I hadn’t thought that she would die, that I asked them to say goodbye just in case, which is true. I explained that she knew with utter certainty that she was loved. “I talked to her the whole way to the vet girls. I kept telling her that it would be ok.”
What I can’t tell them is that her face in my hand as she drew her last tiny breath felt like the greatest failure. “It’s ok Mae, it’s ok. I love you. Mama’s gonna fix it,” but I couldn’t. I didn’t. I had to stand in that vet’s office holding the carrier with my lifeless cat. ‘Help me’ I screamed in my head.
Why didn’t I leave sooner? Why wasn’t I panicking earlier? Why won’t anyone help me?
“Honey, I can’t ever understand why she died the way that she did. I miss her every minute of the day, but you know what?” They look at me with eyes the color of heartbreak. “She loved every single minute that she was with us. She loved riding in the carriage, she loved cuddling in the stuffed animals. Oh, and the tuna fish water in the morning, she felt like she was getting a packed lunch too. And now, she is out in the backyard, right near the flowers, between the fort and where you play lacrosse with dad. She can see the house and we can see her from our windows.” That was when I’d crack. I didn’t go into it thinking that I’d love her that much, or that they would love her that much. I thought that the kitten that they talked me into in the parking lot of a Lowes would just be a pet.
I was so very wrong. About three weeks ago they girls began the full court press. All three of them working together, a chorus of, “Mom, can we get a kitten?” followed by writing on their chalk boards, “Please, shooting star, can we get a kitten?” When none of these things seemed to make a difference, they asked me one morning if they had permission to burn letters to Santa. “We just need you to see them first, Mom. And, you know, to watch us with the fire.”
My chest tightened. Wishes for a kitten and a hint of them knowing someone needs to see the letters before they go to Santa. It was too much.
We tentatively visited a rescue. We met a kitten. Adorable and sweet, surpassing anything we had deemed necessary. She was cute, but inside I felt nothing. I talked with Sean and explained that I wasn’t ready. Deep down I knew, remembering how it was that we came to have Mae, it was their timeline, their pushing that created the opportunity to meet Mae. I tried to consider the kitten, but it felt wrong.
Everyone dropped it, until Sunday on our way to the store Briar said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get a kitten?” I made a face and kept walking. When we got to the mall, Sean and Briar set out in search of something we needed for the office. They stumbled upon an adoption center set up near the fountain. They came back with pamphlets and breathless accounts of “so many kittens!”I rolled me eyes.
We were halfway home, Briar was in the back seat crying, the little girls were silent. Sean sat next to me, not moving, but radiating something. I clenched my teeth and felt my nostrils sting as the tears came. Mae. I looked at the passenger seat, where she’d been, but she wasn’t there. She wasn’t coming back, the space she left in our hearts was increasingly demanding to be filled.
Sean watched me. I was silent, stewing. I heard a whimper int he backseat.
“When do they leave?” I asked.
“2,” he said softly. The clock read 1:48. We were at least ten minutes away. It was impossible. I was so frustrated, desperate to heal the hurt in my family, but terrified of opening myself up again. I held my breath as I drove as fast as seemed safe. I didn’t know if I could take it if they were gone, I had no idea what I’d do if they weren’t.
“Whatever’s supposed to happen will,” I murmured to Sean. He and the girls were silent. The kitten was there.
And meant to be.
Which is why tonight, with a strangle tickle in my left ear, I am writing a post about kittens. Yes, kittens. We rescued two siblings, a male and a female. My heart is achy, but open. The girls are over the moon, Beso too.
Meet Pippin and Luna.