“Can I get a kitty?”
“I want a kitty.”
“When can we get a kitty?”
“Is it Tuesday? When’s it going to be Tuesday?”
“Are we there yet?”
So that’s how the first few weeks of fall sounded around our house where, yes, we did finally get kittens. Two of them, from the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, because my wife felt one would get lonely, and because she wanted to make sure I understood I didn’t have a say in anything.
Let me back up: In July, I left town for two mostly incommunicado weeks a few hours south of Bend. I’d been generously awarded a residency at Playa, an artist’s retreat and I was working to finish a book. The moment I got home, I was told excitedly by my daughter we’d soon be kitten sitting.
“Is that so?” I said, looking at my wife, whose grin unmistakably said “Checkmate.”
Turns out, some friends were making a two-week road trip to Nebraska and needed someone to watch their two kittens. My wife and daughter happily volunteered, knowing full well my default position on kittens was “no kittens.”
It’s nothing personal, kittens. Growing up, my family didn’t have pets. We lived in apartments. We moved a lot. Both my parents worked full-time-and-then-some jobs. We didn’t have a lot of extra cash. For any and all of those reasons, we didn’t have pets, and that was fine by me.
But my daughter has wanted a cat since the time she could say, “kitty,” which came about a day after “Elmo.” With our friends’ two on the way, we set it up as a test: Do all the necessary kitten-care jobs, and we can talk about a kitten of your own.
She can’t remember to shut a drawer or a door with any regularity. I’d have an easier time with celestial navigation than getting her to stay in her chair for two consecutive minutes during dinner. I figured there was no way she’d manage kitten tasks, and then I’d have myself a few more pet-free years.
I was so wrong. The kiddo was great with the kittens. She was, in fact, so eager to help clean the litter box that our garbage can weighed 75 pounds by the time the kittens left and the trash guys refused to pick up the can.
So we created a to-do list, things she had to accomplish before she could get kittens. Among other chores, she needed to tidy her room. She filled six grocery bags with dolls, and doll accessories, old Happy Meal toys, a few wallets, some purses, a wig — anything she could get off the floor and into a bag. She put the bags outside her room.
“Are we getting rid of these?” I asked.
“No. You said I needed to clean my room. It’s clean.”
“But the hallway’s a mess.”
“My room’s clean. When do I get my kittens?”
Not long after. She named them Coco and Boo Boo. (My wife wanted Mick and Keef; I wanted Bo and Woody, after Schembechler and Hayes.) Each morning, she wakes up, goes straight to the dining room chair where they lounge and gives each a big hug. When they doze off on her lap, she stays perfectly still so as not to wake them.
“Do you wonder why I don’t wake them up when I wake you and Mommy up every morning?” she said one afternoon.
“It’s because they’re cuter,” she said.
She has a point.