I live in a zoo

~~ Originally printed in The Chapel Hill (NC) Weekly, March 2012 ~~

I’ve always had cats. At least 11, by my count, until I found myself catless in 2006. After a time I honestly thought it would ever be that way.

But then my children’s stepmother witnessed a man flinging eight tiny kittens and their skeletal mother into the woods near their house. She rescued them, with Blake’s help, and found homes for all. I took the calico. Oh, and I also took the momcat. I often find that cats just sort of come out from the trees and into one’s life – a karmic thing – but my past experiences were laced with a little more mystery and subtlety than this time around, which involved Blake and Caleb sending me countless kitten pix messages and “PLEEEEASE!!!” texts.

The mother, Lillet, is a big orange ball of feline fabulousness, but her daughter, Olive, is crazy. And no, the children do not appreciate my “dropped on her head” jokes, but, trust me, she’s special. Oh, and she brings vermin in through the cat door. I’ve lost track of how many frogs, snakes, and moles she’s carried in. There have also been a few birds. In the span of one hour on my birthday she presented me with two little brown snakes and a mole, the latter of which I found with my bare foot.

Mornings are busy at our house. Sometimes they can be downright hectic with everyone having a tight window to make the bus or carpool or commute. We do not have any time to mess around, y’all. The other morning Caleb was in his room getting ready for school. I heard him yell, “There’s a mole!” I ran in and, sure enough, there it was, darting under the bed.

I had the brilliant idea to put Olive in there so she could catch it, so I shut the door and sent Caleb to catch her. He went off to find the cat, at which point the mole stuck its head out from under the door and – I’m not a screamer, I swear, but – I screamed. Seeing that pointy face just inches from my bare toes triggered something primal in me, I guess.

Bailey’s alarm started beeping. Caleb was hopping around with a container he hoped to trap the critter with. I ran back out to the main living and dining rooms to find Olive myself. All of a sudden Bailey cried, “There’s a mouse in my room!”

This whole time, Blake had been eating her cereal at the table, laughing silently and trying not to snort milk everywhere. She put her spoon down, looked up at me and said, “Is it bad that I’m enjoying this?”

In my frustration at being so off schedule, I might have growled at her, but what I meant to say is, “No. It is absolutely wonderful that you are enjoying this.”

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