Illegal Felines and Crimes Against Friendship

Barbara Kingsolver, whose lifestyle incidentally I aspire to, changed her writing following living off the land for a year. According to my mother, she became sanctimonious and dull. So in the interest of avoiding said pitfall, here is an engaging story, which has nothing to do with the environment. Mom I dedicate this post to you.

I have only a sister. But growing up in a church, my family spent every Sunday morning, the occasional Sunday afternoon and every New Year’s Eve with another family, who had two boys the same age as myself and Diana. This was in addition to seeing these boys at every single church event that happened during the week. Effectively rendering Jamie and Jackie the boys in the family, the closest thing I have to brothers.

My mother and the boys’ mother Janie, often talked about how wonderful it would be if either Diana or I married one of Janie’s boys so we’d all be related. This gives you an idea of the closeness of our two families.

Janie and Lane, her husband decided to go away one weekend. My mother quickly offered to care for the boys. At home, Lane was a formidable figure. A cheapskate to the core, he preferred to risk death by pruning the fifty foot tall trees on his property himself rather than paying someone. A strict disciplinarian, things like rabble rousing, takeout pizza and pets were not permitted in his home. Jamie and Jackie knew this and followed the rules to a T.

In comes my mother, who believes that the real world can discipline children with consequences better than any parent and that every child has a right to a pet. This was the woman charged with caring for Lane and Janie’s sons for a weekend.

Friday night went off without a hitch. For the first time in their lives, Jamie and Jackie ate pizza that was delivered to the door. They covered their amazement and awe by devouring every last piece of the cheesy pie. At a reasonable hour, my mother tucked them both into the guest room bed and hugged them good night. So far so good.

It was the Saturday morning when the wheels began to fall off the cart. After a filling breakfast of pancakes topped with anything us children could think of in the kitchen including caramel sauce and maraschino cherries, my mother turned to the group of us and asked what we wanted to do that day. In a sugar induced fog, we all shrugged assuming that the weekend would consist or some combination of tag and playing at the park. “We’re going to buy Jamie and Jackie a cat!” exclaimed my mother.

The boys were dumbfounded. They knew this was not allowed. Scholarly pets like ant farms were forbidden so a cat was definitely against the rules. However the laws of their house dictated that they respect the adult in charge and for that weekend the adult was my mother so away we all went to the pet store.

An hour later Harley the cat rode home on Jamie and Jackie’s laps. The rest of the day was spent playing with the kitten, dressing him up in dolls clothes, cuddling the fur ball and in general enjoying all the perks of pet ownership. At an appropriate time, my mother tucked the boys and Harley into the guest room bed and hugged them goodnight.

The next afternoon, my mother dropped the boys off, Lane met them at the door. Clapping his eyes on the cat he demanded that we “Take it back”. “It’s an animal, not a sweater Lane” my mother replied “and besides it’s your cat.” Lane was unmoved “Take it back” he repeated as my mother brought Harley and all his accoutrements that we had purchased the day before into the house. “He’s so cute!” Janie exclaimed. “Don’t get attached, he’s going back” Lane deadpanned.

And that was how one of my mother’s closest friends got a cat. Appropriately, out of defiance for Lane, Harley is still alive. At 25, he skulks around their house, essentially just a bit of fur stuck on a pile of bones but living nonetheless.

At the age of ten, I knew that my mother hadn’t asked permission from Lane. Or even bothered to question the boys on what type of pet they’d like. But it was only at 32 that I thought to ask the most important question, after reliving the story over the phone one night. “Mom, did Janie even know?”  Still laughing from the memory of her ballsy acquisition she somewhat sheepishly confessed “Nope”.

Readers, I invite you all to suggest ways my mother can atone for her sins. Keeping in mind that she once tried to make my childhood home into a zoo, so taking in animals is NOT a punishment.

And Mom, you know that we will always love you Mrs. Flax.

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