Sweet baby, mama loves you.
You came to me, unexpectedly, when I was a junior in college. Working at the pizza place, living with a fellow student who had a kitten, and you were mentioned offhandedly. Someone was moving and couldn’t bring their cat, and did I know anyone interested in a black cat?
Me. I was interested.
“She’s not a lap cat,” they said, handing you over in a metal crate that looked more like a bird or rodent cage than a cat carrier. I put you in the back of my Camry – the same one still in the garage, and I took you home.
You slept on my pillow that night.
You were not fond of the kitten, but that was ok.
One time you got out of the house, and I ran down the street in a panic, trying to find you. You were hiding on the covered porch, watching my antics, no doubt with amusement.
You moved into that windowless basement apartment with me, despite the dog, and then you moved into my parents’ house with me when I left that place behind.
You flew 3,000 miles to be with me in Seattle, where you met Eric, who I still maintain you love more than me. He denies it. But we both know.
You drove almost that same distance to Arkansas, when we moved again. Eric tells the story better than me – you meowed the whole way, non-stop, until the final day. When you arrived, I had a sign on the door “Welcome Home Zoe! (And Eric).”
That was a good apartment for you, with all of the light in the living room and big windows. And the ample room for your favorite pastime: hunting hair ties.
Then you and I drove to Michigan; it was my turn with you in the car, but you didn’t cry nearly as much. So maybe I am your favorite. We drove all the way in one day, and you spent the night learning your way around that old house in Zeeland.
When we bought our house, we had you in mind. I was disappointed that the only windows for you to sit in were in the basement, but we figured we could make it work.
My right shoulder is sore most of the time because you insisted on perching there like a parrot. Your head – so soft and warm – pressing against my neck. I can’t really be upset about it. What’s a little soreness compared to cute, fluffy black cat on my shoulder? And there was the pawing at my side until I picked you up and put you there.
You were always so small; people thought you were a kitten, even though you had the disposition of an old woman, set in her ways and kind of demanding, but no one says anything.
You were also exceptionally sweet. Most of the time. And only to us. With others, you were standoffish. And there were the times you mangled me. But never Eric. So I guess point for him again.
This morning you were even smaller, impossibly so. And I don’t know if it was worse seeing you like that or putting away your scratch post this afternoon, so I won’t see it tomorrow and be somewhere between confused and devastated.
It’s unfair, really.
I told you and the universe and anyone who would listen that you were, in fact, immortal. But then, you always got your way.
You are, though. Because here you are – small and sweet and precious and all of those things I would say or sing or whisper to you (and at you, and at Eric about you, until he would make that annoyed face, even as he agreed). The concept of immortality has changed in the digital era because pieces of us, of you, can live on forever. A series of 0’s and 1’s, words translated to digital memory.
It’s all I can give you now.
Sweet baby, mama loves you.