Saying Good-bye to Lady

It’s hard to say goodbye.

Liam and Sarah with Lady

Last Sunday, after coming home from Catnip Hill, we packed up Lady’s things and sent her off to a new, cat-friendly apartment with Liam and Sarah. Their place is on the third floor. There is talk of cat hutches suspended from windows like swallows’ nests and cat ladders running up and down the house. Lady’s oblivious to the care and concern going into her happiness–on all sides. By Sunday night, I was texting to see how she was doing, and I’m a little embarrassed by how much I look forward to every new picture from Sarah. I miss her.

Lady wasn’t easy, but I loved the way she found us when we were outside and flopped at our feet like a slippery fish, and the way she came (almost) every time we called. Watching Terry’s heart melt the night she bounded across several yards at the sound of his voice will be with me always.

It took Lady a long time to accept us. After living with Sly—who talked and purred constantly—Lady’s near silence always seemed tense. The night before Trouble came to Lady Sleepingstay, she finally allowed herself to fall asleep on the couch next to me, sometimes resting one paw on my leg. That was after six months. The next day, she purred audibly in my arms for a full fifteen minutes while Trouble galumphed around upstairs. She never fully relaxed while inside again.

True, she got used to Trouble. Just last week she stretched out on the kitchen floor and pretended to sleep while Trouble crept past, settled nearby, crept back again—then pounced at the floor just behind her. When nothing happened, he walked away, bored. Then the phone rang. The minute I started talking he charged straight at her again and was promptly whisked away to his tower. It was probably entrapment.

It’s a shame we never got to see Lady and Trouble curled up together like soul mates, but if they had hit it off, I would have a large, bow-legged, despondent tom on my hands right now. Instead, when Liam took Lady out to the car, Trouble was sitting cheerfully upright in the second-floor window, mewing down at us the whole time. When we let him out of his room, he headed straight for the basement to examine the corner where Lady’s litter box had been, then he cased the whole house before spreading out regally in the middle of the living room for a bath.

All summer, PathI’ve been “planting” a stone walk alongside our house. Lady assumed it was for her. It was a favorite place to sun, bring prey, and sleep under the ferns. When I added my one step a day, she always came by, sometimes slinking toward me, sometimes leaping out of the brush.

There’s no question the path is lonelier this week.

But I know she’s with her people. Holy Sheboygan! gave us a private concert last June, and Lady was in heaven—rubbing against band members while the music played, contemplating climbing into the bass. When they left, she watched out the front window, clearly expecting to be the next one loaded into the car.

She watched them packing the car through the front window again last Sunday, and we know she was relieved when they came back for her this time. Lady

Terry and I wish them safe travels, warm nights, and even lots of bunnies. Who knows? Maybe Trouble was sending good wishes, too.

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My Semi-Feral Children, Part I: Liam (or, how Lady came to visit in the first place)

Holy Sheboygan, Playing Loud (2)Someone asked me recently how I raised Liam to be so creative, as if I had something to do with it–as if I had designed preschool activities or dinnertime conversations that led to Liam being…Liam. But when your fifth-grader comes home with an instrument he’s never touched before (in this case, a bassoon), puts it together and jumps into Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” you know you have nothing to do with your children’s gifts. The best thing to do is to stay out of their way.

Not that it was easy!

Liam doesn’t think outside the box, he lives outside the box–and loudly! As a child, he would tie a scarf around his neck, climb up on the arm of the couch, and declare himself Opera Man. In school, he worked best while singing or standing beside his desk, moving to whatever music was playing in his head. This didn’t always go over well.

“Tour starts todaaaay!!!”

In the early grades, we considered it a good year when the inevitable call from the teacher took two weeks. His famously cross third-grade teacher was concerned he had developmental problems because he had written a wonderful story about time-travelling cowboys in space who somehow ended up saving the day by skiing down a mountain. She slapped it onto a desk in front of Terry and I and said “This doesn’t even make sense”

Then, in the summer of his fifth-grade year, he wrote a symphony for twenty-one instruments in three movements and everyone went, “oooohhh.”

I’m not particularly fond of labels, but unlocking Liam’s ability to compose music with a simple computer game we gave him for Christmas changed his entire school experience–and therefore his life. Parent-teacher conferences weren’t brutal anymore. He had advocates to help deal with other famously cross teachers. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every quirk of every child (and every adult) were treated as a gift?

Long story short, when my son isn’t back-packing through Bulgaria or Washington State, living in community in upstate New York, or bouncing from farm to farm to soak up sustainable farming, woodworking, building greenhouses, planting orchards, or managing volunteers, he is living on a bus as part of Holy Sheboygan! who just announced they’re playing Summerfest! (Shameless plug here, or go straight to their latest album, Three!)

Unless, of course, he is touring and performing solo:

You can follow Liam’s solo work here, or catch his latest album here.

Meanwhile, Terry and I believe we are much too quiet for Lady. As a kitten, she grew up surrounded by rehearsals and performances and sprawling “family” meals: a real-life wild rumpus. When Holy Sheboygan! played a special house concert here recently, she tried to climb into the bass in the middle of their set!

But she is here for now, waiting for Liam and Sarah to move back into a cat-friendly apartment and a life lived out loud.

Staying put: for Liam–and Lady–that will be a new adventure!

Trouble Arrives!

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The first thing I noticed about Trouble when he got here last Friday is that he’s a BIG cat! He’s twice Lady’s size, and although twelve pounds is average for domestics, it’s the largest cat we’ve ever had in the house. When he jumps from perch to perch on the second floor, it sounds as though an adolescent oak has been felled.

Trouble also assumes everything exists for his enjoyment. While Lady tip-toed into our house, creeping around the edges and hiding in the basement, Trouble was eating Lady’s food and stretching out in “her” window in no time.

He arrived while Lady was outside, so he could check out the house in peace for awhile. But Lady wasn’t gone long, and when she came back, it turned out she remembered him from Christmas.

Lady and Trouble 2

Within seconds, Trouble was locked in a bedroom so Lady could adjust to his scent. Neither of them was happy. They held these positions for hours.

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Trouble reaching out from underneath a bedroom door.

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Lady on guard at the other end of the hallway.

Months earlier, before we even knew Cat Boarding Houses existed, much less that we would become one, Terry had given his blessing to a mother/daughter getaway on Father’s Day weekend. So while we were enjoying the American Players Theatre‘s productions of Pride and Prejudice and Streetcar NameWisconsin River, near Arena, 6.19.15d Desire, Terry was struggling to get two angry cats into two separate rooms. While we were paddling the Wisconsin (thank you, Wisconsin Canoe Company) Terry and Trouble were watching out the front window in horror as Lady taught them the sound a distressed baby bunny makes. Happy Father’s Day!

Gruesome as it was, it would be wise for Trouble to pay attention to Lady’s demonstration of strength.  She’s a killer–a fact some of my neighbors celebrate while others…well…more on that later.

But Lady is also half Trouble’s size and has gone back to hiding in the basement. When we got home, I found her there when I went to do laundry. She demanded to be picked up, then sat in my arms for a far-and-away record of fifteen minutes before I had to put her down and get back to work.

It’s true that she does most of the hissing and growling and swiping in the house…but I’ve seen Trouble hide gleefully around a corner when he heard her tags jingling up the stairs. Little angel. Pfft!

Trouble Napping

So here we are. Terry and I have only recently learned to embrace empty-nesting and have a long list of things we want to explore together, but we’ve already canceled one trip. Our town’s 4th of July fireworks go off outside our front window and we’d like to make sure no animals are harmed in the making of that particular weekend.

Sigh.

So where are my cat-loving, semi-feral children while we’re watching Trouble and Lady? More on that next time!