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The greatest Easter miracle of all time. Also, Jesus came back or whatever.

April 21, 2011

No, really. You shouldnt have.

One of the last gifts my ex-girlfriend gave me, ensconced in a box with Sweethearts and heart socks and chocolates for Valentine’s Day, was a green luggage tag to use when I visited her. It was as if she knew that she’d soon be adding to my emotional baggage. I’ve thought about scrawling on the tag “DUMPED IN AN E-MAIL” to label the split it now symbolizes. But that seems bitter. And counterproductive. And catty. Which is *totally* like me.

As I keep trying — and failing spectacularly — in my search for a better half, I am amassing baggage. I’m more afraid to trust. Less inclined to make myself vulnerable. Hesitant to love anything other than a cat again. I often wonder whether someone will ever come along and want me in spite of that baggage, or whether I’ll just end up traveling solo.

But then I remember that even my cat Isabel came with baggage.

Over Easter weekend eight years ago, my then-girlfriend Vicky had gone home to Ohio to spend the holiday with her family, leaving me to fend for myself in rural Virginia. I was alone … without cats. But not for long.

Vicky and I lived separately in the beginning. She already had cats of her own. She hung purple towels in her bathroom. To be different, I decorated mine with blue and green ones. Many years later, after cohabitating and combining bathroom accoutrement, we went our separate ways. When I moved into a new apartment, to start fresh, I chose red and black linens. 

Vicky had two black-and-white cats. Therefore, I set out in search of a gray one. Stop judging my system.

I visited the SPCA, where I asked to take a closer look at a skittish Siamese kitten. She was adorable — and hated me. She shimmied out of my arms and scrammed, eventually slinking underneath a wall of cages. Commitment issues. Then I drove across town to a local pet store, where a no-kill organization called Animal Allies showed felines for adoption.

It was love at first stripe. I remember spotting the unmissable beige stripe down Isabel’s nose. It looked as though someone had taken a stick of pastel-colored chalk and drawn a line dividing her gray face. To this day, I stroke and smooch that marking every chance I get, half expecting it to rub off.

Isabel (nee Tail-Light) at eight weeks.

She wasn’t Isabel yet. The group had named her Tail-Light, after the white tip on her tail, like Rudolph in reverse. I asked to hold her and stood there for about an hour, cradling that less than two-pound, gray-and-cream puff. She barely moved, alternating between napping and softly purring in the crook of my arm. She was docile, sweet and sedentary. I knew we were meant to be.

I motioned to a volunteer, requesting adoption papers. She placed Tail-Light back into a crate and uttered four words that would change my life forever. “She has a sister,” she sang, gesturing to a wild-looking tortie named Willow.

“No thanks,” I responded.

“Just one for me,” I asserted.

“My apartment’s not big enough,” I rationalized.

Then I glanced back at the cage. Tail-Light and Willow had fused themselves into a kitten ball of pure love. Their eyes were closed, speckled paws wrapped around each other, furry faces smushed together.

You had me at "hello." If you could say "hello." You always let me monopolize the conversation. You are *such* good listeners.

“You can have the second one for half-price,” the volunteer whispered.

I think you know where this story is going.

Tail-Light became Isabel, a combination of “It’s a bell” in reference to her tail. Willow became Teva, for her fascination with footwear. Isabel turned out to be exactly the cat that I’d wanted. She’s affectionate and playful and silly and expressive and sleeps on my head. She lets me pinch her cheeks and squeeze her, and she saintly shoulders all of the love that some might argue (incorrectly) that I should be channeling into a human companion. She’s also a little roly-poly and eats when she’s upset or jealous. She is her mother’s daughter.

Teva is … special. I’m pretty sure she’s smarter than I am. She swats at my feet when I’m under the covers, nips my elbows and piles toys on top of me when I’m sleeping, winces and cries when I kiss her, is determined to give herself a bowel obstruction by eating tape and rubber bands and plastic, rummages through my purses and cabinets hunting for tampons and has managed to break everything of value that I own. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Teva (nee Willow) at eight weeks.

As Teva approaches middle age, her color-coded homeland security terror alert has been downgraded from red to yellow. Occasionally, she even cozies up to me and deems my lap an adequate place for a nap. She plays fetch better than most dogs. And she makes sure to watch nearly every shower I take. At least someone does. 

Even if we hadn’t achieved a mutual appreciation, Teva is Isabel’s cat. They are best friends. A team. And my longest successful relationship. I don’t love Isabel in spite of Teva. I love her in part because of Teva. 

Baggage inside baggage — like a nesting doll.

Similar to finding The One while dating and marveling that she’s still single — that numerous people were blind to what you see so clearly — I often wonder how many potential parents passed by those two gray kittens before I arrived at the store that Easter weekend so many years ago. I wonder what would have happened if they’d been separated. I wonder how many people said “no thanks” — and meant it — when they found out that Tail-Light came with baggage.

But bringing that baggage home is one of the best decisions I ever made. I went looking for my better half — and found two-thirds. I am doubly blessed to share my life with not one but two awesome cats, who keep me company and make me feel not so alone. And when I’m away from home, it’s comforting to know they have each other. Hopefully, Isabel’s passing the hours by tuckering out Teva and distracting her from shredding my towels. I’m running out of colors.

Keeping the luggage tag, but amending the message. Not all baggage is bad. Sometimes, it is good to have a reminder.

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65 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2011 4:37 AM

    You’re back! Yay!

    Love the story and the pictures. There are two smushed-together cats asleep on my couch right now.

  2. April 21, 2011 4:55 AM

    I second that Yay! Was so worried you weren’t going to blog any more. Welcome home ;-)

  3. April 21, 2011 5:05 AM

    Ah, you are back. And with a lovely story about cats (which, even though I loathe cats–don’t hate me, I still found lovely.)

  4. April 21, 2011 5:20 AM

    Awww cat love. It is great. Very cute pictures of Isabel and Teva. Have to say, it is so nice to watch when my two cats snuggle together. Rates extremely high on the coziness chart. Being alone with cats is not half bad… plenty of unconditional love and laugh out loud moments. Think I will stay like this for a while.

    Great to see you back!

  5. April 21, 2011 6:57 AM

    Thank the little baby Jeebus you’re back — I think Dear Sweet Mama was gonna make me drive up there and check on you! (seriously, she got all accusatory with me just yesterday like it was somehow my fault you weren’t blogging — ALL I CAN OFFER IS LOVE, DSM!) The girls are sooooo beautiful, and they make me think that Callie Jean may also need a cat of her own… but that might tip the balance of power EVEN FURTHER in her favor!

  6. April 21, 2011 7:13 AM

    I love this post. I love the way you love your cats. I treat mine like he is my only child, i spoil him every day, and the love plus bites and scratching he gives back makes it all worth while.

  7. April 21, 2011 7:54 AM

    love! all around!

  8. April 21, 2011 10:02 AM

    Glad you’re back! Awwww…they were sooooo tiny!

  9. April 21, 2011 10:26 AM

    Welcome back! We missed you!

    Awesome story, also. So glad you’ve got your cat and your cat’s cat in your life.

  10. April 21, 2011 10:27 AM

    Should have read your post before I emailed asking how your kitties were doing. LOVE Teva and Isabel.

    You could not ask for better companions to get through life.

    Everyone comes with baggage. The trick is not minding it.

    And, because that’s been so fucking sappy, I’ll just say, again, Lindsay FUCKING BLEW IT.

  11. April 21, 2011 10:47 AM

    Aw…super cute post. Seems you’ve pieced back some of the pieces of your broken heart.

  12. April 21, 2011 10:47 AM

    Love love love your post and Isabel and Teva! Baggage is just one way of describing experience and memories. So glad that you have Isabel & Teva and that they have you!

  13. April 21, 2011 10:52 AM

    They are so precious! I especially love “baggage inside baggage.” My cats mean the world to me too. My first 2 I got for Christmas and the 3rd weaseled his way in when we moved. They are so wonderful and love me in spite of everything other people see or think.

  14. Dear Sweet Mama permalink
    April 21, 2011 12:56 PM

    OK, so now I don’t need to send Hoody to check on you. Was getting worried, sweetie. And baggage – what the hell, pay the $25 and check it. You don’t have to pick it up again unless you want to.

  15. April 21, 2011 1:01 PM

    Wonderful! Your cats are adorable (of course)! I’ve often thought cats have a lot to teach us…

    It’s nice to read you again.

  16. April 21, 2011 1:12 PM

    I only wish my baggage was as adorable.

  17. April 21, 2011 1:38 PM

    This is what we in sales call the “Up sell.” So glad it worked out for you! And glad you’re back.
    HUGS!

  18. April 21, 2011 1:56 PM

    Finally the genesis story for Isabel and Teva!

    Welcome back to the interwebz.

  19. April 21, 2011 2:22 PM

    I have your back.

    I’ve already decided that if, in thirty years, we are still otherhalfless, you and I are going to move into a pleasant community on the Canadian/US border (that way we won’t have to bother with immigration) where we will spend our days enjoying a vibrant, independent lifestyle with assistance customized to meet our personal needs.

    http://www.afterfiftyliving.com/yournest/seniorliving/In_Her_Shoes___A_Retirement_Community_for_Acting_Seniors/

    Doesn’t that sound fun?

    And don’t worry. My severe cat allergies didn’t stop me from being proud mother (16+ years!) to Pussin, a kickass feline originally named after Puss in Boots but sadly teased by ignoramuses who assumed it was a reference to his obsession with “getting tail”.

    *Run on sentence, much?

    • April 22, 2011 2:47 AM

      Yes. A thousand times yes. I accept your proposal.

      I’m a little worried about the part where the site asks commenters to “please refrain from the use of obscenities, personal attacks or slurs.” But I hope by the time we get there in 30 years, their fucking policy will have changed.

  20. April 21, 2011 3:12 PM

    Teva grew into her ears, but not her nose!

  21. April 21, 2011 4:30 PM

    YAY!!!!!!!! May day has gotten SO MUCH BETTER!!! Also, I am in one of those committed relationships you talk about and there are days (many, many days) where I just want cats. And the freedom to choose the bathroom linens in the color I want. :)

  22. April 21, 2011 5:15 PM

    love this post. your love for your little darlings is so huge. our animals teach us so much. how to love. how to be patient. and most of all how to trust. our animals never let us down. i have loved all of my animals WAY more than any of my boyfriends and husbands. as for finding the one… you already have – it’s you. the rest is just icing on the cake. xoxoxo

  23. April 21, 2011 5:34 PM

    Every time one of my cats passes, someone gives me another that would otherwise go to a shelter. It is the endless circle of cats. And every one of them has been the best thing to ever happen to me, each for different reasons.

    I am never sorry I took any of them. Baggage can also be awesome.

  24. April 21, 2011 8:03 PM

    I subscribed to your blog just a few days ago and WOW! am I happy I did! You may “think” you are unlucky in love but what more could one ask for than the love of two beautiful felines who ask nothing from us but the simple things, food and water, shelter and some fresh litter in their boxes, and in return we get the purest love, they don’t ask us to change, or be someone we are not, or bend in some way to make them happier. The only time they make us sad is when their time on earth is finished. I am very happy for your Isabel and Teva and so happy you didn’t say “no” when they asked you to take on the second girl. You are a special gal! My 1st cat was a tuxedo at a shelter, an adult, she chose me, I went to pay her fee and they told me she had a brother and if I took him I could have both for the price of one. So I came home with 2 tuxedo cats! I never regretted that decision they have been gone for a few years now, but I had 13 and 14 great years with them.

  25. April 21, 2011 10:10 PM

    I’m a big believer that you can’t have just one kitty – they’re small, semi-low maintenance, great company and loads of fun – it’s two or nuttin!

  26. cinnamontoastsquirrel permalink
    April 21, 2011 10:17 PM

    I love this, and have a similar situation.
    My two Siamese are so attached. Even though Scarlett and I do not get along, she is Jeb’s lady friend, and I love Jeb so fiercely I have a tattoo of him. (And yes, this does make me a real live crazy cat lady.)

  27. April 21, 2011 10:24 PM

    you have articulated why i shall remain polyamorous for the forseeable future. if i die unexpectedly, i have instructed all of my gents to wear red carnations to the funeral – so they can all go out and talk smack about me together when they get drunk.

    i could also write the tale of Mr. P, the abandoned one year old 100 pound lap dog… and how i was the one who wasn’t sure we needed another dog, or could handle one so big. now? back off, home owners association. yeah, i know he’s a little big. whatryougonna do about it, huh?

  28. April 21, 2011 10:24 PM

    Welcome back! Kitten Thunder, my sweet boy and HIS cat, and I missed you.

  29. redg_rl permalink
    April 21, 2011 10:47 PM

    The ultimate purrfect love story, such a treat to find you sharing yr musing again;)

  30. April 22, 2011 1:59 AM

    Isabel is a beauty. Teva looks naughty (her 8 week old pic)….I heart her! I would have picked her first…

    Glad you’re back!

  31. April 22, 2011 2:15 AM

    stop it. I’m crying over here. stop.

    that photo of Isabel and Teva as kittens just slays me. I’m all mushy now. gah! kitty love.

    you know Rent? I always liked the line: I’m lookin for baggage that goes with mine. we all come with baggage. it’s about finding the right match. sometimes I think that will never happen. sometimes I think I’ve found lots of matching baggage and it’s okay that they come in odd sizes. :)

    love you, babe.

  32. April 22, 2011 2:14 PM

    If there’s anything sweeter than cuddling kittens, it’s gotta be illegal.

    Glad you are blogging again! We’ve missed you! XO

  33. April 22, 2011 3:05 PM

    Aaah, so sweet. And, small world. One of my other favorite bloggers just posted about how she got her cat Isabelle: http://radiofreeanne.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/the-power-of-grape-nuts/

  34. April 22, 2011 5:08 PM

    What a sweet post. Lovers come and go, but kittens are forever.
    s

  35. April 22, 2011 5:09 PM

    Addendum: Or at least till they die. But you know they didn’t leave you willingly.
    s

    • April 22, 2011 5:29 PM

      I’ve decided Teva, Isabel and I are going to be vampires so we’ll never die. Unless someone stakes us through the heart.

      • April 23, 2011 11:12 PM

        Try to become the kind of vampire that isn’t affected by sunlight. Asking a cat to go through eternity without sleeping in the sunny spots would be cruel.

  36. Jenny permalink
    April 23, 2011 10:24 AM

    Ahhh… lovely post. I’m a cat mom as well, and have one who is having some major health issues. This post brings me a lot of comfort, thank you.

  37. April 23, 2011 12:42 PM

    I came over here after you left that nice comment on my blog and you’re post made me laugh out loud so let’s be blog friends. :)

  38. April 23, 2011 11:16 PM

    Remember that time Teva removed the screen in the living room and jumped out the window? And when she helped us corral that mouse into the shoebox? And how she used to open your fish tank and eat the filters? And how whenever we would discipline her, she’d stalk over to Edward and knock him on the head? She is without a doubt smarter than all of us.

  39. April 24, 2011 9:46 PM

    Damn…I thought I was the one who ruined Easter! I came over here after you left a comment for me earlier.

    I remembered visiting your blog before your hiatus and loving it. So I was just gonna pop in real quick and then go about my business eating chocolate bunny ears. Now I’m crying AND I’m in love with your ridiculous cats AND I’m just gonna wish on stars like crazy for you because you are so obviously awesome…thanks a lot…

  40. April 25, 2011 8:33 PM

    I just KNEW when I saw a comment from you on my blog that you were back. It IS an Easter miracle. Another great, sweet, sensitive post. Love that your cat has a cat.

    Welcome home honey, we missed you.

  41. April 25, 2011 10:29 PM

    My sister’s two cats are a brother and sister team, but Fatty, the male, passed away from kidney trouble just recently. They were good friends and groomed each other and snuggled. I wish my own cat Jazzy was mature enough to have a friend/step-sibling, but she would likely turn it into shredded fur salad within minutes. So the subject tag “my cats are better than yours” is frighteningly accurate!

    Wonderful whimsy and tender truths in your story about the bagginess of baggage. All I can say is keep on keeping on because as Irma Thomas sang at Bluesfest the other day: “Love don’t change, people do.”

  42. April 25, 2011 11:34 PM

    So glad you are back! I really love the way you tied together this whole post…beautifully done. I think that I need a cat to sleep on my head…then it would hopefully transfer some extra wittiness/awesomeness to me.

  43. April 26, 2011 12:53 AM

    I like your SYSTEM. :-)

    You three are fortunate to have found each other. The stories you tell. sometimes I feel that you are the middle sister with an older sister and a younger sister.

  44. April 26, 2011 2:42 AM

    Ya had to get them both- they’re connected. It’s only normal. Even for a dog person they’re sooooooo cute! I feel very bad that my dog is now an only dog so when I go out she’s on her lonesome. . . um, OK, she would be if my Dad didn’t live nearby and often come and doggy sit. Shh. I know, it’s pathetic.
    Josie x

  45. April 26, 2011 9:53 AM

    Much missed. Welcome back.

  46. April 26, 2011 10:08 AM

    “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

    You may be short of Dresden china but
    your two little friends rate high on appeal.

    Glad we have you back!
    Freddie

  47. April 26, 2011 10:23 AM

    Ok, now you’re making me feel bad for threatening Nimbus with Siberia.

  48. April 26, 2011 3:08 PM

    Yes!
    So happy you’re not closing shop. Let’s all carry baggage together. Baggage makes us better as long as we know we’re carrying it. RIGHT?
    One day, we will find someone to take us in regardless of our big load. Right? RIGHT? And if not, there’s that retirement community someone posted above. I’ll meet you there. My mom’s heading there next year. Alone! (no cats). And she can’t wait.
    BFFs.

    Also, you’re making me want to get a cat. I want someone to watch me in the shower.

  49. BeneathTheSpinLight permalink
    April 26, 2011 10:23 PM

    You’re back! And THAT’S the greatest Easter miracle of all time! xox

  50. April 27, 2011 2:38 PM

    I’m glad you’re back. There is nothing better than the love of two cats (or in my case two dogs). Human love takes care of itself. If I can find love anyone can (I’m not someone who loves or accepts love easily, lol).

    I love the picture of them in a cat snuggle…priceless :)

  51. April 27, 2011 7:42 PM

    dammit! that cat-peeping-out-of-a-bookbag photo is friggin cute. (as is the one where they’re cuddling, fer cryin out loud) I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO LIKE CATS. STOP CONFUSING ME!

    (p.s. great to have you back. cats rule, girls drool.)

  52. April 29, 2011 7:25 AM

    So glad you are back! And I love the short bio of Teva and Isabel. This reminds me that I need to start doing something about re-establishing cats in my life again. I guess I have mourned Mike and Smokey long enough.

  53. May 1, 2011 3:03 AM

    glad to see you’re back. we’ve missed you – and your cats, of course!

  54. May 2, 2011 4:43 PM

    i got my cat a cat once but she totally hated him and stalked him to the point where he was afraid to go into the litterbox, lest she have him cornered. i suspect this indicates baggage of another sort.

  55. May 6, 2011 8:44 AM

    Don’t ever leave us again. We have abandonment issues.

  56. May 10, 2011 8:40 AM

    Glad to see you’ve come back while I was away… and this post fit in well with what I’m thinking this morning: focusing on the good shit, instead of nit-picking things we can’t change to death.

    Or something.

    Yay for kittehs.

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