This is a very long post because I wrote it in stages over the last week and don’t want to go back to edit it into some sort of coherent, shorter narrative. Sorry.
We took Mara over to the Piano House on Monday night a week ago because we had to check in with the contractor who’s doing the many small fixes we need so the FHA will let us get our mortgage. Lee walked Mara through what will be her room, the playroom beside it, and our room just beyond that. Mara seemed to understand and didn’t seem to be bothered by it, or at least isn’t yet. In fact, later she was able a few times to show off her rooms to people who’d stopped by, and that definitely seems to give her ownership of the story in a way that she likes.
Then we had dinner at the pizza place a few blocks away, then headed another few blocks to pick up the surprise that Lee had promised Mara. We brought a little gray kitten, to our current house in part so the kitten can help Mara make the leap to the new house. We were told originally that the kitten was about four months old, but our vet guesses she’s at seven months, meaning she was born when Mara moved in with us.
We’d first seen this kitten on the night we walked over to the Piano House and then to our friends’ back yards two blocks away. There was a kitten sitting on the fence there, totally unafraid of our dog and apparently very kid-friendly. I commented on how much I’d like to have a second cat again and Lee surprised me by saying that if things went well with the new house and this outdoor cat still needed a home, the cat could live with us. Last weekend I made her call our friend to ask about the cat’s whereabouts only to hear that a neighbor’s daughter had moved the cat to her own nearby neighborhood, where the cat had been in a fight with another cat that left one leg injured. The neighbors there took her inside, got her to a vet, and started looking for a home for her. The word went out to the historical district neighborhood email list not even a day before we called our friend there for a cat update.
So now we have two cats. On this blog, I’d been calling our older cat Thing One but since his little brother Thing Two died almost two years ago now, it seems weird to continue that trend with this new little girl. Instead, I’ll change his blog name to Lionel and call her Leona, in tribute to some of Mara’s favorite fictional felines. It’s been a week now, and after we took things very slowly over the first few days, Lionel and Leona are getting along pretty well.
One reason for that is that Leona turned out to have another injury from her fight that we hadn’t known about. Well, we knew Lee had felt a scab on her upper hip near her tail, but the doctor who saw her before hadn’t noticed or treated it. On Friday night, it became abscessed, which was about as much fun for Leona and for me as her caretaker as you might expect, and we got her in to the vet on Saturday to get the hair nearby shaved and some antibiotics. Mara was in the room to watch how Leona doesn’t get scared about shots but doesn’t like the vet to hold her and look in her ears and so on, which let us talk about how it’s just opposite how Mara feels about her own doctor.
As if this post isn’t long enough, I’ll now add that Mara dealing with Leona’s fear is one of the major reasons we wanted a cat. Mara is learning to connect emotions, but we thought helping her project things onto Leona might make the transition to the new house easier. So when Leona was scared to be in a new place in her first night with us (though, as we all agreed, happy to be in out of the thunderstorm!) I suggested to Mara that maybe she was a little scared when she first moved in with us, before she knew who we were and what our house was like. “No!” she adamantly replied, “I was happy!”
I’m not quoting her because I think it truly reflects how she felt or because I think it means we’re a success as a foster-adoptive family or anything like that, but it’s certainly true that Mara is a remarkably happy child, good at making do in pretty much any situation. Lee and I talk a lot about how this is different from Lee as a child, where she saw her separation from her parents as a sort of defining tragedy that overshadowed her otherwise basically happy life. Mara is resilient, and it looks like her new cat Leona is too. As we move into a very open new future, that certainly makes life easier!