PROMPT: What is one thing you couldn’t have as a child that you have gotten yourself as an adult?
As a kid, I never really owned a pet. We tried to keep several cats (usually ones that my sister and I rescued from bushes and gutters) but our landlords didn’t allow us to keep them. Forget dogs. They were even more noticeable than cats and my mom had a fear of dogs, having been bitten by one as a child.
I tried hard for a bunny a couple times. They could be kept in a cage and they didn’t make sounds. I was shot down. Non-negotiable. (Likely because mom knew SHE would be the one cleaning the cage and stuff.) There were no hamsters or guinea pigs or rats (which are SUPER CUTE!!) I made do with visiting other people’s animals.
Even as an early adult in my 20’s I was a broke red neck so we couldn’t afford an animal. Food and litter yes, but not vet bills and shots and any medical problems it may have. It took me until I got into my 30’s to get a cat. I originally wanted a dog because they’re slightly more fun and hardy with two young girls around. But my husband was very much against getting a dog. Cats basically take care of themselves.
I rescued her, naturally, from an animal shelter. I didn’t actually PLAN on doing it. I didn’t physically pick her out and go meet her and play with her and take her home because it was a conscious choice. She just kind of…happened, as these things do.
My Lily Blossom Jewel. (The kids named her, lol.)
We have a thrift store down here that is owned by SPARC, Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center. It wasn’t the shelter I volunteered at but it was still a shelter and every weekend they set up a few cages inside the shop with cats and dogs up for adoption. All of them spayed or neutered, chipped and had their first shots. I had wandered in because of the pit bulls outside ( SOOO CUUTEEEEEEEE) and I was in search of some new reading material (as always.)
I played with the bitty baby kittens, all spiky fluff and milk teeth. I had already decided I did NOT want a kitten as a first animal. Litter training and shots and claws in the ankle at midnight. No thanks. So they were fun to play with but not to take home. I was immune to their charms. Then I turned around and found this gorgeous black prince of a cat—laying in his litter box. I burst out laughing and he turned his head to look at me like like “WHAT? Crazy lady!” Poor thing looked so lost.
Ohhh he was magnetic though. Long glorious black hair, big yellow eyes and his name was Gerry.
(Side story: my friend L who lives in New York has two black cats named Kismet and Karma. She’s convinced that she’s going to marry Gerard Butler so when I saw the big black cat named Gerry, I thought of her and how perfect it would be for me to have him.)
I almost got him. $20 and he was mine.
I called reinforcements to try and deter me from picking this cat up so I called my bestie/cousin Rebecca and begged her to come down and walk me away from this gorgeous creature. She met me at a local pizza place and we discussed it. She wasn’t much help because she volunteered at the shelter too. Yay adoption! Okay. Last resort. I called my husband and asked permission, hoping he’d say NO.
“Do what you think is best.”
Ugh. Seriously? Making me be a responsible adult and decide for myself?
I walked Becky and myself back down to the thrift store and showed her the one I wanted. She agreed he was glorious and he would make a good pet for the girls. Kinda derpy and calm and fluffy. (He was still in his litter box.) The hair balls though…
“Oh Jessie look at this one. She looks like Harrison!”
I perked up, tearing my eyes away from my almost cat. “Harrison?”
This was the first cat I fell in love with at the shelter. He was a muddled brown and orange striped tabby with beautiful green eyes and a dignified old man chin. As soon as he saw me come in to the play area he would come right out of his hidey hole, his long whippy tail straight up in the air in greeting. He was shy, but always came out for a cuddle when it was me. He was also 14 years old.
I couldn’t bring myself to adopt him. I couldn’t bear it if I could only keep him for a year or two. My heart would break and my girls would be traumatized. So I let him go to a nice caring family that would love him to the end of his days. But this new cat in the cage with Gerry could have been Harrison’s daughter. She had the same stripey muddled fur. She had two different colored paws in front, one brown and one orange. And she was sleeping amid the chaos in “Meat loaf mode”. (You know, when cats tuck their paws up underneath their chest when they lay down so they look all round like a meat loaf?) She also had a slight harelip which made her look like she was permanently snarling or curling her lip in disgust at these petty human beings. OMG. So damn adorable!
My kind of cat.
And then she started coughing and I’m like ‘ohhhh gawd what’s wrong with her? I can’t get an already sick cat.’ While I sat and debated this huge decision, Becky had struck up a conversation with a lady who, apparently, was the director of SPARC and knew her already because of her social media posts for the dogs. Becky was an advocate for a tri-paw pittie named Bullet.
“Hey Jessie guess what? If you adopt a cat, you can get it for free because you’re my cousin and I know people!”
Oh what the fuh—-
“You were supposed to convince me NOT to adopt!”
She shrugged and grinned.
“I can’t take you ANYWHERE. Seriously. I’ll take her though please and thank you.”
The female Harrison looked up at me for the first time with big yellow eyes and I’m like, Yep. Mine.
Back then her name was Brooke. There was a flurry of activity where this poor cat was taken from her cage, pushed into my arms for a picture, both of us freaking out, and then put into a cardboard box for transportation. I signed some paper work and then—that was it. I had a cat, 1 years old named Brooke. She said nary a word on the short drive to my house. I kept looking at Becky, thinking the cat had died of shock or something. Don’t cats usually meow or something, at least in protest?
Becky carried in the cat into my room while I rounded up the girls for a group meeting. My husband merely shook his head at the computer desk and ignored us. He knew I would get a cat. If I want it, I get it.
“Okay. I have a surprise for you. But you can’t freak out or you’ll scare her.”
They immediately zero’d in on the box and Becky opened the top of it so they could see the cat for the first time. They were almost vibrating with excitement but also trying not scare our new pet.
“Can we keep her mom?”
“Yes. She’s ours. She needs a better name though. What are we going to name her?”
On the drive over I told Becky I was betting on them picking “Rainbow Heart Jewel” or “Lily Blossom.”
“Um how about…”
Yeah. Do I know my kids or what? “Lily Blossom Jewel.” Now I typically have beef with people that name their animals human names. Naming a pet Bailey or Charlie or Bella just annoys me. Be more original please! But Lily was also a flower, one of my favorites, so I thought it was acceptable.
While the girls tried to figure out the whole cat thing, coaxing her out of the carrier so they could pet her, I found a box and lined it thickly with blankets, putting it in a quiet corner of the room. And then my husband came in to check on everything.
“How much?” he asked.
“Free!” I chirped happily. “Becky knows some people.”
He peeked into the box and nodded. I could already hear his objections. Another mouth to feed. Medication and flea treatments. Shots and emergency vet bills. Another expense we can’t afford. I hesitated and then suggested that Becky and I go get stuff for Lily. Food and a litter box and stuff. Which just proved his point.
We left and I felt a little guilty buying her necessities but it all melted away when I got home and Lily immediately came out of her hiding place under the bed, tail up in the air (just like Harrison) and proceeded to lay on my feet, purring like mad as if she knew she found a home at last. I looked at Becky and started to cry. She hugged me and started to cry a little too. She’d forgotten what it was like to get an animal for the first time since she’d been raised with cats her whole life.
My cat. My very first cat. A childhood dream come true at last. Who wouldn’t cry?
Turns out I wasn’t the only one affected by Lily’s presence in the home.
My oldest daughter, Moira, was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism at an early age. She has social/emotional issues and one of the treatments suggested was actually an emotional support animal. This was why I wanted a dog initially. The change in her was instantaneous. She stopped crying in class. She was able to focus and calm herself down a little better. She was suddenly a jabber jaw and only wanted to talk about her new cat. Her speech teacher was flabbergasted.
Like, holy CRAP kind of instantaneous.
My other daughter was kind of meh about the whole thing after awhile. Lily didn’t bond with Cassidy as much as with Moira and I. She slept on my bed and Moira’s but rarely on Cassidy’s bed. I long suspected animals can tell when people are “different” though.
She affected my husband last. He did it when he thought I wasn’t looking. He leaned over our bed where she was laying down and he slowly ran a hand down her head, all the way down her back and called her “His Princess”, an affectation he usually saved for his girls.
And that was it.
Lily has been ours for the last three years. We discovered she’s allergic to fleas and grain based food. She loves shiny craft puff balls better than any other toy. She isn’t really affected by cat nip and she is a huge talker. Constantly yelling at us to pet her or play or pay attention. She tries to act like the big kitty on campus some times and intimidate the other cats in the neighborhood but she’s really a coward. A lover not a fighter.
I haven’t seen her climb a tree, ever. She likes to go for walks! Especially at night. She’ll follow me to the mail box and we’ll do a couple laps around the house together so she can play Mighty Hunter Kitty in the bushes. She snores when she sleeps and her fur is extremely soft in the winter but turns into a wire bristle brush in summer, comparatively. She still hates being picked up but she’ll tolerate it a little more now. She hates kisses.
My first cat, Lily Blossom Jewel.