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Thursday, April 22, 2010

every day is thanksgiving in our house...

i do not like cats. my oldest sister is allergic to cats and cigarette smoke. when we were little and visited my granny trani's house (that had cats in it and uncles who smoked), my sister had to be rushed to the ER on more than one occasion. (why we continued to stay at my g'ma t.'s house after jennie's asthma attacks is beyond me, but i'm sure my parents had a very good reason...).

my parents warned me that if i ever smoked, they would cut off my right arm. they also promised to cut off my left arm if i dyed my hair. i think that was just a scare tactic though. when i did dye my hair blond it turned out so horrible (think school bus yellow) that they must have thought how i looked was punishment enough and they didn't get out their body dismemberer.

but, i never smoked. and i never liked cats. cats and smoke equalled jennie practically dying.

when i was in the peace corps, living in the island nation of kiribati, i discovered something i hated more than cats -- mosquitoes. and also: rats. i could get a cat if jennie was never planning on visiting me there, right? kiribati cats were not snugglers -- they were rat hunters. so i got one. a boy. and i named him sprinkles. "ten tiakurati tamaiti sprinkles suzanne jonathan" to be exact.. *see footnotes for full etymology lesson.
i really wanted to love sprinkles, but he didn't love me. he ended up hanging out at my neighbor's house more than at mine, and then he was brutally murdered by wild dogs. it was a common joke in kiribati to joke about someone's death. when the old lady next door told me that sprinkles was dead when i inquired about his whereabouts, i dismissed her as an old liar (it was perfectly fine to say that to someone's face). when my teacher friend told me later in the day that it was in fact true that sprinkles was dead, school was cancelled for the rest of the day so the boys could dig him a grave and give him a proper burial.

though my heart was bruised, mainly by the callous treatment of the topic of death, i still had the problem of rats. so i got another cat. hazel -- a girl this time. or so i thought. when those teeny little cat balls finally did descend, hazel was re-christened hazelnuts. he didn't like me either.
then i moved in with Mo and met the first cat i ever loved: FRANKLIN. he is the fattest cat with a belly that hangs low to the ground and he has mitten paws (the kind that hemingway loved with an extra toe...). sadly, ella, the 3-legged mini schnauzer does not like cats.

and then we moved (we being ella & i), and then we moved again, and then we had a boyfriend who had a cat and kept the cat litter in the bathroom -- yuck! that relationship never would have worked out for me & ella...
and then we moved again. into a house with two cats whom i have come to love. they are paul's "business partner" andrew's cats. long ago, a very fat calico cat made her way to andrew's doorstop and he began to feed her. she kept hanging around so he decided to keep her. he named her turkey because her markings reminded him of a wild turkey (and i think because he likes to drink bourbon and also because i think it was around thanksgiving time). needless to say, this story goes like many stories of fat cats: the fat cat had kittens. a whole litter of them who were named, fittingly, gravy, cranberry, stuffing, sweet potato, & mashed potato. andrew kept gravy -- a male orange tabby. andrew has since left the house that he and paul built. much to my chagrin (because i hate cats, remember?), he left those damn cats.
and i couldn't be happier. i've learned how to clean kitty litter (that is kept in the basement up high so ella can't eat it like she loves to do, thank you very much). i've learned how to deal with chipmunks, rabbits, birds, & mice in the house (because turkey & gravy like to show off what they've caught). i've frontlined them, & fitted them with the most stylish of collars (which gravy promptly lost). i've bought them catnip toys and i cuddle with them. i get up at 2:30 am when they claw at the sliding glass door wanting attention. and i love them (but shh, don't tell anyone).
and now that we are moving again (we being paul, & sierra, & ella, & i), we will also be taking turkey & gravy with us.

i'm still learning to love cats. my friend eva is helping me -- it's hard to resist her and her main man lex luthor. he's one fancy cat and i'm very thankful for that.

* ten is the kiribati word for boy and is added before a person's name for formality's sake, such as mister. the kiribati word for girl is nei. i was called nei suzanne, or nei miss by my students, which actually translates to "miss miss," go figure. tiakurati is the word for chocolate in kiribati. since the kiribati language has no Ss, "ti" is used for the "s" sound. now sound "tia-ku-ra-ti" out. doesn't it make much more sense? sprinkles was a black cat, so of course he was chocolate sprinkles. sprinkles was a tom cat -- hence the "tomaiti" (thomas, sound it out).  in kiribati, a person's father's first name was their last name, and their grandfather's first name was their next last name. i was suzanne jonathan milton. sprinkles got to be sprinkles suzanne jonathan. actually, if you want to get technical, tutien is the correct way to spell my name in kiribati. blah blah blah.