...our new additions to the household: Charlotte and Maude.
They've been settling in for awhile, and things have been so crazy around here since (waaaaay before) graduation, I've neglected to announce their arrival-- sorry, girls!
Maude arrived first: actually, just a week after the demise of our fierce, vile George. I was still in a deep funk, when a call came in on my cellphone during a prep period at school:
Child Number Two: (screeching) MAMA!! We found a new KITTY!! She's in the shelter, and she's SOOOOOOOOOOO cute!! Can we get her, Mummy, PUH-LEEEEZE, can we get her??
Me: (holding phone well away from head to prevent a rupture of my eardrum) WHAT?? Where are you, and why aren't you in school?! It's two o'clock in the afternoon!
Child Number Two: (not listening) She's white!! With patches!! Brown and black!! And guess what?? Her name's LUCKY!! Can we get her, Mum, CAN WE??
Me: (wearily) No, sweetheart. Not today. Mummy's heart still hurts for George... I can't do this right now. Where's Mary? Can you put her on the phone, please?
(Sounds of a scuffle, of Child Number Three wheedling endearments to the kitten, and then a squawk as the two sisters clash over who loves Lucky more...)
Mary Poppins: (breathlessly) Hello? Hi. We're at the shelter... I'm sorry. But the kids seemed tired, and it's Friday and everything, and I knew you wouldn't mind if I kept them home this aft. They've all got supply teachers. AGAIN.
Me: (even more wearily) No, that's fine. Absolutely fine. What I'm wondering, though, is how you wound up at the SHELTER...
Well, wouldn't you know it, it was the TORONTO animal shelter... You know, the one that was in soooooo much trouble awhile ago? I won't go into nasty details, but suffice it to say, the shelter was being shut down for a period of time while the situation was "Cleaned Up". To put it mildly. And there were literally hundreds of animals in even more desperate need of adoption than usual.
Me: (starting to break down) I hear she's pretty cute.
Mary: (cautiously) She's DARLING. And the girls just love her... But we'll understand if you think it's too soon...
Me: I KNOW it's too soon... but...
Mary: Heather? Time doesn't stand still.
And so, that was that.
Of course, I had to pull a stunt, to make the whole thing just a little more "memorable", don't you know. Evil mother that I am, I told the kids "NO!" over the phone, reasoning that I was still in mourning for the Black Monster.
Then, right after school, I drove over to the animal shelter to meet our new kitten.
The girls were right. She WAS perfect-- soft and sweet, with a playful streak. We knew the minute we set eyes on each other-- she immediately stood up in her cage and cosied right up to the bars, waiting to be taken home. She stuck both front paws as far out between the metal partitions as she could, to greet me.
Once the adoption was completed, I gently packaged her up in a cardboard carrier, and we drove home.
I called to my daughters as I came through the back door, carrier in hand, and they rushed to the door, as they always do:
Child Number Two: (skidding to an abrupt halt, eyes wide) What's THAT?
Wee Three: (claps hands over her mouth) Was' in the BOX??
Child Number One: (jumping up and down) Is it the KITTY???!!!!
And with the back door wide open, so that all of the neighbourhood could hear, my three lovely daughters began dancing around and shrieking at the tops of their lungs:
"MUM GOT LUCKY!!! MUM GOT LUCKKKYYYYY!!!!!!"
We changed her name pretty. damn. quick. after that.
And needless to say, I got to choose.
Maude is named for a Tennyson poem that I particularly love. She is bright and affectionate, and has helped to fill up the hole that has been left in my poor, weary old heart. She sniffed all over the house, and strangely, found all of George's favourite "spots". She immediately began sleeping on my bed at night, snuggled up behind my knees, just as George used to. I can't tell you what comfort she has brought to me.
But, while the girls and I were away at school, there was no doubt that Maude was lonely. Even when we were home and just out of eye-shot, Maude would become distressed and call to us to come and find her. The little, lonesome "Ma-ROW??? Ma-RRRRROW??" struck that ol' maternal chord in me... and I secretly began searching for a friend to keep her company.
Charlotte had been rescued from the streets of Northern Toronto by Animal Control, and when I discovered her in the shelter, she was a timid, sickly little thing. With the exception of her shorter fur and her bush-baby-like eyes, she could be Maude's twin. Both are dilute calicoes, and I just had a feeling that she would make a lovely, sisterly contrast to Maude's more boisterous personality. And, she looked as though she needed us.
Charlotte came to us named "Sarah", thank goodness-- if she had had a more risque moniker, I might have thought twice about her, after the "Mom Got Lucky!!" incident.
She and Maude get along famously, and she has made our household feel whole again.
The only thing about Charlotte is that catastrophe seems to follow her wherever she goes. She is not the most "co-ordinated" of animals, and so we are becoming accustomed to loud crashes in the night, alarms suddenly going off, and returning home to evidence of small explosions in the kitchen and office. Yet, there Charlotte will be, curled up in a basket with her adopted sister, looking as mild as May.
She has been more challenging to re-train from her stray, "scavenging" days: we cannot leave ANYTHING out on kitchen counters, and she has been harder to convince to use the litterbox...
But, incredibly, her sweet, affectionate nature makes up for all of this. She constantly lets us know that she is so grateful to be here, and a part of this family. She has established an especially firm friendship with Wee Three: she is very happy to be slung hap-hazardly over my little girl's left shoulder, and carted around as a playmate, joining in to a wide variety of activities. She is a darling.
We are blessed. Again. "Home is where the cat is", the old saying in my family goes, and this house feels like home once again, now that Maude'n'Charlotte are here.
We couldn't do without them.