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The crazy cat lady

by Debbie Carini

 

Do you remember those movies from your childhood, where there was always a spinster lady living in a decrepit, turreted house with dozens of cats roaming about?

My house does not have a turret (though it has an extremely un-useful “Romeo and Juliet” porch that serves no purpose other than what I imagine would be a quick escape to the roof in the event of a fire—my husband has yet to serenade me from beneath it). But it does have a couple of cats. And somehow, this past Christmas, I ended up with two “crazy cat lady” mugs.

When our children were younger, and desperate for a pet, I told my husband, “I cannot do a dog. I grew up with a dog from the time I was 8 and they are a lot of work.”

I tried the easy way out with goldfish, but their tendency to expire in that belly-up way that is so shocking to a 5-year-old made them not ideal pets. I still can’t shake it when my son, his voice quivering,  said, “Mom, why is Goldie swimming on her side?” And so, we got a cat, Licorice, from the local humane society.

Licorice has never been very friendly towards me, even though I feed her and fret when she is ill. She also wasn’t very sociable to our children, preferring not to be dressed-up or having to be a character in any of their make-believe play. Licorice settled on my husband as her favorite and despite his claims of being allergic, she quickly made her way into his heart and his arms. She sits in his lap to watch TV, sleeps in a ball behind his knees and keens mournfully in the hallway when he travels any length of time for business.

But last year, our daughter brought home Edgar, a tabby rescued from a shelter in New York City. Licorice quickly established that “dad” was off limits, so Edgar looked around the house and picked the next best thing—the lady sitting with the laptop at the kitchen table all day.

Now, in a pleasant turn of events, a pet sits with me while I work and we chat about his weight (when he lies down, his body mass spreads to about 12 inches side-to-side), his propensity to try to stretch out behind my head on my pillow at 3 in the morning (please don’t, buddy) and his desire to stay outside beyond curfew, which is not a good idea in a neighborhood where coyotes run down the middle of the street at 9 a.m.

Perhaps these daily chats and the fact that I dressed him up for Halloween as “formal” cat in black tie have made my family worry about my sanity and inspired their cleverness in buying these “crazy cat lady” gifts. But I also think there’s a gender thing going on—there is hardly such a thing as a “crazy cat man” mug—even at Christmastime, when stores feature all kinds of bizarre gifts for dad like revolving tie racks and beer hats.

And yet I often see my husband, sipping tea from one of my cat lady mugs, absent-mindedly stroking a purring cat as he reads the morning newspapers. He claims to like the size and shape of the cup but I know, deep down, he’s a crazy cat man—maybe in less of an old lady way and more like a James Bond villain—but crazy for the cats just the same.

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