Once upon a time, life was looking up. The two older kids had left home and whilst they, quite typically, mocked the concept that any talent or potential I could see in them might actually be real or going to waste, they seemed pretty settled. The trouble with "Don't do as I do, do as I say" is that it never works.
Still, Gary and I had jobs, the younger sprogs where happy, and for various reasons we had four cats. To be specific we had:
Mitzie, a twice fostered cat, named by the owner before last. She resented us for a while and when we took her on she spent all day hiding under the treadle sewing machine, making a mad midnight dash for her food bowls only when the coast was clear. I swear that in the first two or three weeks I saw her cry, several times; she was devastated. Her huge, watery eyes would stare at me so accusingly.
Bringing her out of her shell took a deal of lying flat on my stomach, to offer an unmoving hand for her perusal, stretched out into whichever dark recess she had chosen. At the outset it was made perfectly clear that I could invade her space like that, but not also look at her at the same time, so I spent several evenings prostrate under the dining table, right arm extended and head twisted back to look away over my left shoulder. Not really the best position to be in when you husband wants to know something - you know, those things men can never be bothered to figure out for themselves, like whether you washed a particular shirt, or why it might be in his wardrobe again instead of out near the ironing board.
Later on, Mitzie would allow me to stroke her, but again only with one hand and only in the confines of her safe little bolt hole where she knew I couldn't angle to do anything unacceptable, such as pick her up.
Once she forgave and trusted us, she was intensely loyal and loving; never felt safe sitting on a lap but, provided there wasn't too much unwelcome affection offered as a result, she would occasionally decide to sit very close next to one of us on the sofa. This was such an honour that the recipient would sit there longer than they had intended, with one leg slowly getting hotter and hotter.
My eldest son once became too big for his boots and decided a slanging match was in order; threats and menaces and all the usual "I'm a big man now" stuff that comes with starting senior school. I warned him I could still smack his backside and this had the wrong effect, but he was such a wriggler and wrestler that I ended up with him bent forward, his torso between my knees, to prove a point. I never got to lay a hand to his nether regions, however, because as he wriggled and swore and protested, my Mitzie walked up behind me, sat, looked him in the eye, and then swiped him once, before strolling off in disgust. When he yelped, I thought he was being a baby, crying out before I'd laid a hand to him, but when I let him stand back up, there were three perfectly circular and deep little claw marks on his left temple. She didn't scratch him at all, just stabbed straight in. A cat smack.
You hear of people being more respectful to the owners of large, aggressive dogs, but my son was suddenly much more polite to me if our dear, fat and geriatric cat was there, and as soon as he forgot and even began to raise his voice, she would appear like magic to glower at him.
Mungo: Back at the beginning of our relationship, when I was still mopping up from my rather dire first marriage, Gary and I had to live apart for about a year. His gift to me was an extremely affectionate male kitten, who went everywhere on my shoulder and apparently decided that he had been adopted by my hair, rather than me or us as a family. We named him Mungo officially Mungo Jerry due to some obscure recollection that the words meant beloved in Old English, but I admit that 'Mitzie & Mungo' did sort of sound like a team. He proceeded to grow at an alarming rate until his hormones kicked in.
Living in a flat, expression of his urges was a matter of creativity and I had some particularly reproachful and embarrassed looks from him whenever I caught him hiding under the dining table and shagging the life out of the feather duster, especially as, even with a good grip and a mouthful of blue fuzz (he apparently decided that the handle represented the head-end,) as it had no legs it would collapse underneath him so that the whole set-up fell over sideways. That didn't used to stop the furious proceedings and he would carry on carrying on, even upside down. I laughed mercilessly at that, and cried on his behalf when we had him neutered. I sobbed for him again when shortly afterwards we found a home with a back garden, one where his having the snip or not, was not such a big deal. My poor little baby had been so, so desperate to get his leg over, but it was never to be.
To be continued.......