March 2014: The Children Are Tender

Caregiving, teaching little kids to read, and riding in the pickup with Farmer John; I tweet, pin, and blog, from my home in rural Kansas. If you've landed here looking for information about my books, visit my author's page by clicking this link: A. Born. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Barn Cat by Any Other Name....

Miss Kitty, who has her superior feline expression down pat. 

My mother's overweight, indoor cat once had a name, but Mom--who was the inspiration for the character of Ruby Mae in The Children Are Tender--has Alzheimer's.  She can't remember the animal's original name,  so she simply calls her pet "Miss Kitty."  

Miss Kitty is a sleek, gray tabby with a superior attitude.  She considers Mom's apartment her exclusive domain, and casts an irritated eye at any intruder.  She loves Mom but dislikes me, even though I faithfully deliver her daily ration of low fat, indoor formula cat food. 

Imagine Miss Kitty's chagrin when, early one morning, a big male barn cat hopped up and peered through Mom's picture window.  Miss Kitty arched her back and hissed, but then curiosity got the best of her and she jumped into the window seat for a closer look.  The yellow striped tom insulted Miss Kitty further with a display of exaggerated disinterest, in fact, he stretched out on the deck railing with his back to to us and refused to look Miss Kitty's way.  She was deeply offended and has ignored him ever since (though it is difficult to ignore someone who has ignored you first). 

I began feeding the big tom that morning and, unlike most barn cats, he was affectionate and appreciative; his indifference was reserved for Miss Kitty.  I was immediately smitten because he is such a big, pretty boy.  Since our indoor cat was a Miss, I decided to call our new outdoor pet "Mr. Kitty."  A few mornings later I was stroking Mr. Kitty's big head and crooning his name when I noticed Farmer John peering out at us through Mom's screen door with something like disapproval on his face. 

Nearly a month later, our one-year-old grandson came to visit.  He climbed up into the window seat in Mom's room, teetering precariously as he pushed to his feet.  John kept hold of the back of the little guy's shirt to keep him from falling, and they looked out the window together.  I heard John say in a soft voice, "Do you see Chuck?  Can you say hello to him?  Hi Chuck!"  

I looked out the window and there was Mr. Kitty.  "Who's Chuck?" I asked.  

John looked guilty.  "Didn't mean for you to hear that.  It seemed to me that critter was embarrassed to be called Mr. Kitty so I gave him a better name." 

Chuck/Mr. Kitty does not seem to mind his changing name so long as the human who calls him has access to the big sack of cat food John brought home from Murphy's (the local elevator). I don't think I'll turn over pet-naming responsibilities to John; after all, he is the one who once named a defenseless puppy "Mortimer."  But, next time I name a pet perhaps I will try a little harder to take the animal's personality and feelings about the matter into account. 

Mr. Kitty/Chuck, who despite my urgings would not lift his head from this food dish to have his photo taken. 

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