Sep 25, 2011
Jesse

Cloudy Day

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They were just making a routine run to the garden nursery, but my parents called and told us all to be waiting for them on the couch. This usually meant a present or surprise of some kind, but it could have been anything from candy bars to a new little sister. It’s tradition in our house to make everything a special occasion. They said I should sit in the middle, but this wasn’t unusual since I’m the middle daughter.

My dad walked in from the kitchen holding a little cardboard box. It was meowing. There was a cat in that box. I immediately started preparing for the worst. This was a cat for the whole family. That would be ok. I could share. Really, I reasoned, this could all be a horrible prank. My parents had found some sort of cat sound machine. I don’t know why I thought that was an option. My parents had never been practical jokers, and anyone who had been in the same room with me for more than a few minutes knew that I wanted a cat more than anything.

For the last few years, I had been dropping the most obvious hints I could think of. I remember one Christmas rendition of We Wish You A Merry Christmas where I substituted “kitty” for “figgy”. I was a quiet child, but I didn’t go in for subtlety. I drew picture after picture of my ideal cat: small, gray. I even had the perfect name picked out. If I ever got my little gray cat, I’d name her Cloudy Day. This was the height of poetry to my nine year old self.

When my parents brought in that box of cat, it was more than I could handle. After nine agonizing years of all my hints being ignored, I had about given up hope. My sisters and I opened up the box, and this tiny gray fluff popped out. I was devastated. Not only was I going to have to share this cat, but it was my dream cat. I was going to have to submit my name idea to be approved at our next sister meeting, and I’d be lucky if “Cloudy Day” even made it as middle name.

I was quieter than usual. My parents were concerned. Didn’t I like her? Of course I did, but she was for everybody, so it didn’t really matter. They laughed a little bit. They explained that Melissa and Elizabeth both got special attention for being the oldest and youngest girls, and they wanted to make sure I didn’t feel left out. This kitten was for me. Did I have any ideas for a name?

Over the next few years, I became an expert on experimental cat parenting techniques. I had already read the “Cat” entry in the family encyclopedia a dozen times, so I branched out to more specific books on cat breeds, cat home remedies, cat training. I supplemented these more serious works with James Harriot’s Cat Stories and The House of Thirty Cats I had plans to become the world’s first cat-only vet. If anyone asked me her breed, I could tell them confidently that she was an “American Longhair Blue Smoke Tortoise Shell”, which was longhand for “grey and brown cat-mutt”. I bought Cloudy a leash and spent hours trying to get her to “heel”. She would not.

Cloudy and I shared everything. This wasn’t always by my choice. She preferred that I drink water so that she could share comfortably. Hot chocolate was another favorite. She did not appreciate when I started drinking coffee, and would let me know by sniffing disdainfully at my mug and then trying to steal my breakfast. If she hadn’t been so polite about her sharing habits, I might not have put up with it, but she always dipped a paw into my glass and drank it by licking drops of her little hand. This is also how she ate her cat food: she’d drop a few pieces onto the ground and pick them up one at a time, popping them like popcorn.

She slept by me every night, under the covers. When I moved to the top bunk, she taught herself to climb the ladder, a feat that required intense concentration every time. She was very particular about how she would sleep. She wanted to be near me, but not too close. Often, I would wake up to see that she’d reached out her little paw so that she was holding my hand.

I had Cloudy for sixteen years. That’s more than half my life. This means that over the years, she has wrinkled the pages of Betsy-Tacy, tracked milk across my Algebra homework, deleted paragraphs from college essays on my laptop, and hidden my smart phone with strategic sleep positions. She was a faithful friend when I needed one badly. She never did well when I left home, but she always greeted me at the door and forgave me for the inconvenience I had caused.

I lost her today, and I didn’t expect it. She had been on several medications for the last year, and I knew she was getting on in years, but I think I just didn’t know what life would look like without her waiting at home for me. I’m grateful that I was home when it happened, and that I got to say goodbye. I don’t really have a point to make, even though this would be a great place to say something profound about the relationships between people and animals, or maybe about growing up. Mostly, I’m just sad, and I wanted a place to put some of these memories and say that I love my little cat, and I’m going to miss her.

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3 Comments

  • Aww, such beautiful memories. I share similar memories with my kitty of 16 years. I know that your heart is aching and I just want you to know that I’m praying for you. I lost a cat that was 9 years old to cancer and she was at home with my mom, steve and I when she passed. At least your kitty knew that he was loved and had a full life with a great woman like you!!! God Bless.

  • Oh, I’m so sad. 🙁 Cloudy sounds like the most perfect cat that could ever have existed (and I love your parents for giving her to you–so perfect). The world has lost an irreplaceable member, but she can live on a little bit right here. 🙂

    {hugs, awkward internet variety}

  • It’s amazing that so many of our family pet stories start out with, “Mom and dad took a routine trip to Alsip Nursery…”, but this one was a little different.

    The pet department was in the very back of the local nursery super-store. Kim (Mom) was already back there—visiting the new puppies and kittens was a necessary first stop. I was walking down the main aisle past an upright cage full of kittens, when a tiny paw reached through the bars and snagged my arm. I couldn’t believe that this tiny gray kitten had stopped me as I passed. She was adorable. I immediately thought this was one that Kim had to see, so I brought her to the cage. The kitten reached out for us again. Kim fawned over the kitten, and then she turned to me and said, “You know, Jesse has always wanted a gray cat. She even has a name picked out already.”

    “Really?”

    “Jesse would love her own cat.”

    With that, this little kitten had picked us out, and was headed home.

    With a huge smile on her face, Jesse’s eyes sparkled when she realized this was a kitten of her very own. (Keep in mind, though, that her eyes always sparkle.) She whispered, “Cloudy Day”, as she lifted her out of the box. The years of mutual adoration had begun.

    Cloudy’s little patches of gold throughout her grey fur always reminded me of the sun peaking through the clouds. She was perfectly named. Quiet, clever, smart, gentle, pretty, delicate, refined and lady-like—but she held own when pushed by the others (even the rambunctious younger ones). She was very much a reflection of Jesse. Funny how that worked out. Probably from the many hours they spent reading, watching old movies and just being together. Cloudy was just right for cuddling. It was wonderful to see.

    Cloudy Day went Home last Sunday. She was with us for 16 sweet years—almost to the day. She will be sadly missed. It seemed that each of the other cats and dogs knew she was gone and felt the loss; they were noticeably subdued. Melissa’s cat (who was Cloudy’s best cat friend) stayed close to her near the end, and even seemed to pay her respects after Cloudy had passed. It made us wonder how much they really understand.

    It was a hard day for the whole family, but especially Jesse. We are so thankful that she was home for this weekend. I have to tell you. It was almost odd. It seemed like Cloudy waited for Jesse to be here.

    I want to tell you something else. We believe that that kitty is waiting for her again—only this time in a much better place.

    Ezekiel 36:11—I will multiply on you man and beast; and they will increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited as you were formerly, and will treat you better than at the first. Thus you will know that I am the LORD. (NASB)

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