When I was a little girl and sick in bed, I vividly remember my fuzzy gold blanket draped around my little legs. It transported me to the dunes of the Sahara. I would dream of adventures riding a camel across the desert. The sun coming in my window would make the dust sparkle like daytime stars swirling in the sky. When you’re sick, there is nothing like a good adventure story to take your mind off things. After all, we all long for adventure. Even cats! But this is no made up story. It’s the very absolute true story of a cat named Pumkin.
When she was younger, my daughter Eve thought she was a cat. Or perhaps a kitten. When she was six, she would pounce around on all fours, meowing and hissing, hiding under tables, and attacking balls of string. I started to get a little worried about her. Lou and I disagreed about the solution: I thought it was to get a real cat, and he did not ever want a real cat in the house, even though Eve had asked for a cat every Christmas since the very first Christmas when she could ask for things.
One day, Eve and I went out to run some “errands.” We had read in the paper that morning that a local pet store had rescue kittens available. We were just going to look at them. Really! But of course, the minute we both saw the rambunctious little fur ball who immediately fell asleep in my lap when I held her, we were in love. We paid a $25 dollar donation to the animal shelter, and signed a paper that promised we would NEVER EVER let her out of the house once we got home, and it was done. We had our kitten!
Eve decided to name her Pumkin, even though she was not orange. But it was October, and Halloween was coming. Pumkin was a brown tiger cat with a white bib and white paws and yellow-green eyes that were wide with wonder at the world. She was curious about everything and loved to play. She also loved to take naps in hidden places. We found her napping on clean sheets on a high shelf in the linen closet. We found her napping among the pencils in a cubby of a desk. Sometimes we even found her napping snuggled right up to our dog Pippa.
And we never, ever let her outside, because we lived in town and were very worried about cars. But she would spend hours looking out the window and watching the birds, the bees, and the leaves flying through the air.
A few weeks after we brought her home, we got a call from the shelter asking how “Shirley” was. Shirley? It turns out that’s what the shelter had named her (and yes, her sister’s name was Laverne). So for formal occasions, we addressed her as Pumkin Shirley.
When we moved to our new house on the mountain, Pumkin started finding ways to escape. We had bought special screens (that have since been changed) that were like pull-down shades; we chose them because we could hide them when we didn’t want to look at the screens. Unfortunately, the screens let bugs in and cats out. And out Pumkin would go, whenever she could.
We would find Pumkin chasing butterflies, hunting for mice, and toying with beetles. She loved being outside very much, and would only come in the house to nap and leave fur all over the furniture, and perhaps to eat my cashmere scarves and blankets (why do cats DO that?!).
One day, we were getting ready to go on a little trip and we couldn’t find her. We called and called her name and didn’t hear anything. No meowing. No jingle of her beautiful collar with all the charms on it, including one with our phone number. (This was back before all cat collars became quick-release and don’t stay on an outside cat for more than a day.) We left food outside, and told our pet sitter to keep looking for her, but soon it was time to leave.
When we came back a few days later we rushed in the house hoping to see signs of her, but Pumkin was gone!
There was no sign of her anywhere.
To be continued…