Home is Where We Are
A Cat Enthusiast Insights on Home and Belonging
I have always been a cat person. I've also always identified and presented as a woman in the United States, which, as many of us know, comes with an abundance of double edged swords waiting to slice and dice us to our absolute limit. A few of those swords about what a 30 something woman's home should be kept me from embracing all the splendors of a cat lady life until, to paraphrase Shakespeare, I had greatness thrust upon me.
Clarence Benny Hollermann is the first cat I've mothered in adulthood and he came into my life in a slightly unusual way. In October of 2018 my then friend, now partner, and I were going to Red Lobster so I could experience crab legs. Somehow I'd made it 30 years without ever having crab legs and my friend felt this needed to be rectified. So, one night, following work, I drove to his place for the now infamous night.
As fate would have it - we decided I would drive. Anytime I am asked to drive I always head out to my car ahead of my friends because my car, as so many aspects of my life and existence, is cluttered; full of good intentions, discarded tea, books, shoes, scrabble tiles -- all the regular suspects. So, on this night, I headed out to the driveway and began stuffing trash into trash to condense it enough to appear nearly acceptable. Periodically I'd pop my head up to check if my friend was outside yet, not seeing him, I'd return to frantically consolidating trash piles that I would definitely mean to throw out tomorrow.
Eventually I hear my friend yell 'CHRISSY, CAN'T YOU SEE I HAVE A CAT HERE'. Which I hadn't because I'm; slightly night blind, prone to tunnel vision, and in the throws of the immersive experience of speed trash cramming. That was the night Clarence came into our worlds.
My friend, being an ethical man, forced us to make every effort to locate the owners because this cat was clearly loved. I felt strongly that because I already adored him maybe fate wanted me to be his mom and we shouldn't, ya know, deny fate. As it tends to go my strong feelings can be reasoned with and we did post and seek out his owners while making his life with us comfortable. A few days passed and I was certain this creamsicle fur ball was going to be my baby so naturally I scheduled a vet appointment (also to check for a microchip), got him a collar, a bow, toys, scratchers, just a whole lot of stuff I had a no business buying. Then we heard back -- he was Benny -- he was loved -- and he was leaving.
I immediately started sobbing and didn't stop. I couldn't stop. I spent every second with him and told my friend he'd have to be the one to give Clarence back there was no way I'd be able to hold it together long enough to do it. So he began coordinating and I, red eyed and snot nosed, took off my sweet boy's collar which started a new, even deeper round of sobs and curled up in bed unable to see him leave. I heard half words and fragments of the coordination through the bedroom door in-between waves of grief and began panic planning how I'd get through this. I could hear my friend warning Benny's owners I wouldn't be able to see them because of how devastated I was and that he too, might be in tears, when they came to claim their sweet Benny.
Never being one to accurately estimate time, especially while crying, a million moment of gut wrenching, soul shattering grief had passed and my friend came in. He was crying so I knew he'd done it. Except, he was also smiling and I thought, maybe I'd heard him say the word keep before my most recent sniffle so I sat up and said through the majesty of my red eyes, runny knows, and blotchy grieving skin, ' what?'. In a swift motion he pulled me into a little spoon position and through tears of joy explained how Benny's original family said if we promised to love him and give him a good home, we could keep him. My heart burst open and tears flowed anew, tears of hope, possibility, gratitude, and being home.
It's only been two years since this all transpired but it feels like we've all lived a few lifetimes since then. I had to move from where I had been renting because my roommate, and landlord, had a cat allergy, into my own place, selected for all the available perches for Clarence. I've had two job changes, my friend and I went through a roller coaster all our own of timing to come together in partnership as we are today but through it all home has been where he, my sweet baby boy has been.
A year after living peacefully together I got him a sister, Nita,
Our home is small but full of love, even when they break dishes, or continue to slowly destroy every piece of furniture I own. My coziest corner in this overwhelming, tempestuous world, is not a space exactly, but instead where ever these two are. Ideally making biscuits on my thigh while I pet their sweet fuzzy faces and savor the ability of my moments with them to be enough to sustain me through a pandemic, through heart break, through medical emergencies, through the terror that has been Trump -- through it all. I have a tiny corner in this world, and they make it feel the safest and coziest place to be.