My cat Bob, Bob Buttons to award him his full title, is a cat among cats. In fact, he’s more than a cat among cats – he’s a leader, a trend setter, a feline eminence. We were a week away from moving into our new, first home: all bare floors and magnolia walls. The first thing that would grace our house would be a cat. We met Bob who was a six week old bundle of orange fuzziness and knew we must have him. Being forced to take him a week early, meant he had to live in a pet carrier until our house was ready. In it, he was cosy with a mini litter tray (a takeaway box filled with litter), his food bowl and a cushion to sleep on: a kitten bento box. To this day, he can’t pass a pet carrier without getting in, lying down and claiming it as his own.
So we finally moved in. He had a sniff around, decided it was modest enough and laid down his hat. Should he have had the ability to speak, he would have said ‘yes, fine humans. This will do.’ We subsequently purchased him a bed: the kind that hooks onto the radiator and is made of sheep skin. Did we have a couch for ourselves? No. We had an inflatable children’s armchair and a deck chair. But Bob would look down at us from his heated height and yawn at us: his uncomfortably seated comrades.
He was a playful kitten. His party piece, to rear up on his back legs and ‘box’ with us or his very entertaining crab impression: arching his back, his fur standing on end, ears flat to his head and run sideways, thinking his tiny, fluffy self formidable and terrifying. His favourite thing was to jump into our car and head off for a visit to my parents. He’d lie across the back window, watching the cars behind us. His other transport method of choice was across my shoulders, sometimes on my head when he was small enough. Being a new estate, we didn’t know our neighbours but I’m pretty sure they thought I had hideous dress sense: this orange stripy fur hat that doubled as a scarf. Once they knew the truth of my living garment, their opinion changed from oddly dressed lady to crazy cat lady pretty quickly.
Some neighbours may not have been as fond of our marmalade moggy as we. He was often known to sneak into their houses and either rob things or repose on their beds. A lad living behind us, stopped us one day, asking if he was our cat. Dubiously, we muttered ‘yes’ and ‘why?’ As we cringed, he explained that oftentimes he’d come out of his shower to find Bob laid flat out on his bed, fast asleep. We uttered a hurried apology and ran inside, issuing a futile scolding to the impervious Bob.
Once retiring from burglary and breaking and entering, he turned over a new leaf and became a superb neighbourhood watch-man. During a particular incident on our street which made the headlines country wide, Bob could be seen on the six and nine o’clock bulletins, sitting on the victim’s wheely bin, scoping out the crime scene. Not one detective or police car got by without a thorough inspection of the chassis and sometimes roof. The street felt safer with Bob on the case, I’m sure of it.
So Bob was our baby for the better part of four years. A new cat, Molly joined us and while they are reasonably amicable, they could take or leave each other. Then real babies came along. On bringing our brand new baby daughter home for the first time, we of course worried about ‘the cat sleeping on the baby’s face.’ We needn’t have worried. Bob couldn’t have given less of a hoot if he’d tried. Things got real when the baby became mobile. Bob was now a moving target. But, being as laid back as ever, he accepted this fate and was often rewarded for the tail pulling with a rub, cuddle or playful headbutt. Eight years later and the two, along with our second daughter, are the best friends you could find. Adding a dog into the mix didn’t upset him either. Retaining his alpha status, the dog is put swiftly in his place with a nail studded swipe. He can regularly be seen following us half way to school. Once he gets as far as he has the bottle for, he’ll sit and wail until we fade out of view.
As he settles into his geriatric years, (he’s now twelve) he’s still got that spark of devilment in his eyes. But he is slowing down and prefers nothing more than the company of his ‘mammy’ at night by the fire. Not deterred by working on a laptop or any kind of device, he will firmly place himself between it and me and there will be no moving on him. He’s also decided that he’s too good for his litter tray, preferring to pee into the part of the garden wall where the cap stone is gone and the cavity block is exposed, leaving him a perfect little hole which he’s adapted to be his urinal.
Whether it’s a ginger cat thing, or whether he was just blessed with having bags of personality, there isn’t and could never be another like my cat Bob.
The rain pounded on the window like an angry drummer thrashing out a rhythm. The mottled grey sky, mirrored half heartedly in the slug grey Liffey, cast no light into the room nor the streets below where the splashes from each pedestrian’s footfall was a backing track to idling cars stuck in the riverside traffic. The wipers on each rain spattered windscreen swooshed back and forth, back and forth.
He hated Saturdays now. Somehow the endlessness of the day was further mocked by the busy street below: people rushing about, shopping, chatting, spending time as the day eased away from them. Such a stark contrast to his, being alone in this apartment that he had grown to hate over the past few months. He used to have days like the people below where he’d take her to lunch on Grafton Street, then stroll through the Green or shopping for her favourite thing: shoes.
He felt that familiar wedge in his stomach as he thought of her blue eyes, mirrored in the azure, spring sky, her long blonde hair falling into ringlets down her back, the way she smiled almost all the time.
His eye was drawn to the orange-yellow sunflower that was swaying in the breeze, the only thing of colour within his view, the only sun in his sky. He reminisced about the day she had planted the seed, the promise of sun that the little black, striated thing held: a world of colour soon to be admired hiding in that tiny little shell. She’d watered it, whispered something to it and smiled up at him.
That was the day before he’d come home to find a note from her mother. She didn’t love him anymore and was leaving. He ran to her room and what had been a haven of pink fabric and teddy bears was empty and grey. He’d read the letter again. It had gone on to say he’d be able to see his daughter once a month from now on, nothing more.
His gaze fell from the sunflower to the solicitor’s letter on the table below. He vowed that before that plant withered and died, he’d have his little daughter in his arms again, no matter how hard he had to fight.
“Mammy, is it time to get up yet?” comes a whisper. The phone on the locker reads 7:32 a.m. “Shit…. Yes, it’s time to get up. We’re late so get dressed really quickly.” The little one is still asleep. A hot shower is a must to wake up the weary, so in I jump. “Shit” – there’s no hot water. Shivering and wet, I get out, dry and dress. I’m definitely awake now.
“Mammy, I can’t do the buttons”
“Mammy, I want two pony tails”
“Mammy, what’s for my lunch?”
Then the little one comes in, sleepy headed, clutching six teddy bears. How does she do it? I beg her to get dressed quickly, then seeing her put her pants on inside out and back to front, I give her and her clothes to her daddy to dress her.
“Mammy, I want six pony tails.”
“No, don’t have time, come on hurry… we’re very late today.”
“Will Muinteoir be cross?”
“Not if you get a move on, come on.”
Downstairs, a crash of dishes and cups, the cats mieow to be let out, the dog barks at the cats. Ok, prioritise…. Clean out smelly cat litter tray or feed kids first. The kids win out and then complain that the cereal in their bowl is not what they wanted. Oh god, the smell of the cat’s tray is turning my stomach.
“For the love of Christmas, where are the keys?” I run upstairs to get the keys, to open the door, to put the cat tray out. Finally find my keys, open the door, the dog runs out ahead of me, into the muck and then runs back to me, jumping and imprinting mucky paws on my freshly washed jeans. “Who’s idea was it to get a bloody dog?” But no one’s listening. The kids are fighting over a crayon.
“Girls, there is no time for drawing pictures, please eat your breakfast or you will not be going to school/playschool.” As soon as I utter the words, I cringe. Supernanny says you must follow through on your threats. Now what if they don’t eat, I’ll have to stand by my threat and keep them home. Oh god no. I know, I’ll bribe them with Smarties instead.
“Girls, if you eat your breakfast, I’ll give you Smarties!” A gleeful “Yayyyy” and they begin to eat slowly but surely.
More nagging, this time to get them upstairs to brush their teeth. Why do they go immediately into the playroom and drag out their toys? My face is starting to go red and the caffeine withdrawal headache is thumping in my temples with a vengeance. Eventually, after more threats, they brush their teeth and then I nag at them to go downstairs again to get their shoes on.
“No, you can’t wear sandals – it’s lashing rain. Please just get your black shoes on.”
Finally, we’re in the car. The sky was blue when we got up, now it’s grey and lashing rain.
“Mammy, you forgot our bags.” Jump out into the rain and run back inside to get the bags. Sit back into car and start the ignition.
“Mammy, we’re not strapped in”. Turn off the ignition, jump out into the rain again and strap the kids in. And we’re on our way. Playschool drop off first but when we get to the playschool, there’s no parking. So I do a probably illegal u-turn and park on the road. I put the hazard lights on in the event of a passing policeman taking exception to my parking spot and hope that he’ll realise it’s the parking of a frazzled mammy and drive on. Run through the rain with the kids down the long, car packed driveway, deposit one slightly reluctant three year old with the teacher and run back to the car with the older one. Of course, by now, the driveway is free of cars. Strap my now soaking five year old into the car and off we go for drop number two. I curse as I pull out in front of a car on the roundabout. My mistake, sure, but people really need to learn how to use roundabouts. You only indicate left when you are leaving the roundabout, not when you’re driving right around it. But, really I should never have trusted an indicator nor the idiot behind it.
Get to the school and am trying to park in a space but the ‘lovely person’ (I don’t want my kids to speak negatively of people so I must set by example – starting now) who is trying to park in front of me has yet to establish the difference between first gear and reverse. I consider going over to them and recommending a good driving instructor but eventually they get it and I can park. Run in the rain again to the school and deposit the five year old, who has been embraced by a cackle of five year olds. I run back out into the rain and to my car. Some idiot (kids are gone so I can say that again) has left a flyer on my windscreen wiper, which has gotten soaked in the rain and is now smearing a pulpy mush all over my windscreen every time the wipers move. Seriously?
Eventually get home, take my soaking wet coat off, greet the dog, make a coffee and sit down. What is that noise? My silence is punctured by some sounds I haven’t heard for a long time – the ticking of the kitchen clock, the gentle, reassuring hum of the fridge, the dogs stomach growling and the wind rustling the leaves on the apple tree outside. Settling back into the couch, clutching my hot coffee, I savour these sounds. Then I sit up: I miss the kids, how long is it till I get to collect them?