We had a cat. She hides under couches, behind doors or in the dark corners of the basement, terrified of strangers and half the people living in our house. Except Layla, she loved Layla and they were best friends. That is the hardest part. She was the runt of the litter, the shy one, and Layla immediately loved her. It took her eight years to go out side. One day, we watched her boldly come to life and walk out the back door and onto the end of the deck. She never went farther than that. But don’t worry, she didn’t die a virgin. A male cat snuck inside and her life was different, for that moment. “What is happening?” The girls asked. “Is she ok?” Then we continued our awkward talk about sex and other adult things.
Then it happened. The exact way I didn’t want it to. It was the midst of another overly average Monday night. Layla and Jackson were arguing, they are always arguing. “Why is he so annoying?” She always asks, as if I can ever provide a sufficient answer besides stating the obvious: he is a toddler. “Seriously, why does he act like this? Can I put him in time out?” she pleads. Somedays, I can’t quite simplify the complexities of parenting to her, or for anyone, and she just vows to never have kids. Another thing I can feel guilty about causing. She is going to check on the cat, the sick and weak cat. I jump into my head; the way anxiety always makes me do. I know she is stressed. She reminded me late on Friday night about the cat being sick. I work late nights these days, but that isn’t an excuse. Remind me tomorrow and we can call. I keep writing this, mostly to relieve myself of the guilt. My daughter is in pain because of me. And we both move forward from this moment, a defining one in our already complex relationship: mother and daughter, a relationship that breeds complexity. I say that with love and beauty now since I am a mother. But that isn’t the only way the story can be told. Like a prism of perspective, these moments shine a magnitude of color and the six of us exist in a multidimensional, and somewhat functional, web of chaos.
But it happened. And I worry. That is my anxiety speaking. I have enough for all of us, so I create a constant backdrop of worry over us. When they were little, it was so easy to read their feelings; they wore it like catch phrases on a onsie. Their threshold for finding joy was much lower leaving me to worry my older daughters, who hide their emotion behind rolled eyes and dazed half glares, are losing that ability to find joy in the smallest of things. So I keep worrying. Before I go to bed, I have my glass of wine, put on my pajamas, brush my teeth, and worry. Maybe I should have been worried about the cat. I keep thinking. Then it unfolded, the most bittersweet story about a girl and her cat that the world needs to hear. Tears on my keyboard, I vow to tell it. It was an ordinary Monday night, with a hint of melancholy sadness in the air that disguised itself as rain. Grey clouds, pending sickness, and I just knew. Josh was leaving work, Layla and Olivia were in deep banter with the toddlers, and Layla wanted to check on her. We had been taking turns checking on her all day. She was in her favorite corner of Layla’s underbed among shoes and paints and all the things that get shoved under there when we tell teenagers to clean their rooms. She needs to make it until morning, her vet appointment, the one where Layla hopes to hear she will get better and I fear the other option. I made (and cancelled) the appointment and Josh did everything else. He came home to Layla sobbing in my arms on the couch. She found her, I said with my eyes. He also walked in on me, clueless on how else to comfort her. I can’t look at her. It was my fault. What are we going to do? Layla sobbed. Josh hugged her, went upstairs and took care of it. He wrapped the cat in a blanket. Layla held on to her one last time and we gave her a few minutes alone. We went outside where the Liv was taking care of the toddlers. They were jumping on the trampoline while Layla was holding onto her dear friend who died in that favorite spot under her bed. Josh called someone for cremation so we can have a perfect little memento of her, next to our dog, on the mantle. He just came home and took care of it. And I loved him so much for it.
Her name was Fiona. She was named after an obsession with Shrek by two preschoolers and later given the official name of Princess Fiona Apple Taylor, a name we all loved for different reasons. Her nickname was Princess Fifi. She was born in early August of 2007, in my brother and sister in law’s closet. We were there in the moments following and there was no way we could say no to taking home a “little cat”. She came home with us in November 2007, once all her fluffy hair was in and she could live away from her mom during the same time that Liv was a rambunctious toddler When Liv would run, she would chase her and swat a paw, somewhat for pleasure and somewhat out of obligation for what a kitten should act like. That’s how Layla was as a toddler, never the average toddler and never the average kid — maybe that is why they were so close, a shared beautiful shyness. The girls would say her name in a sing-songy way. “Oh look its Fi-oooo-na.” They would giggle in their tiny voices. Fional had a love-hate relationship with our two dogs. She would pee on their beds than cozy up next to them when she thought no one was looking. She lived with us through three houses, the birth of two kids, the death of one dog and six great grandparents. Her favorite house was the California Ranch we rented, the one with the big windows. In that house she was the least shy, and the most eager to trip me when I wore high heels. She preferred dog food to cat food and had to have at least two litter boxes in every house. She was a beautiful, shy little princess, and was deeply loved by this family of six.