Muffin was my first cat, a kitten of my own and not just one I borrowed from a neighbor. Like many children, I dreamed of adopting a kitten. Now the thought terrifies me: so small, delicate, easily lost among household items. There was a house in my childhood neighborhood, one of those homes where the parents invited anyone on the block over to hang out with their children and watch movies like Goonies, and they had a large plastic castle plaything and bean bag chairs in a rainbow of colors, truly an 80s dreamscape. I distinctly recall they had a litter of kittens, and the KITTENS CRAWLED all over the CASTLE, tumbling out of the little doorways and occupying the turrets! I mean, come on.
My mom took us to the Humane Society to pick out our kittens. I remember the kittens were kept in a room with sliding glass doors, and we were allowed to go into the room and sit quietly with the kittens to make our selection. I picked an all-gray girl. Since I was 5, I named her Muffin, though I didn’t give this name any forethought and it had no deep meaning. (I actually live with a former Muffin now.)
My sister named her kitten Teddy. Teddy burrowed into the lower kitchen drawers so my mom could open one to reveal a kitten curled inside. A sad note is that Teddy 1 passed away while the kittens were being declawed (disclaimer: it was common to declaw cats at that time, and I was a child). My mom came upon someone giving away free kittens at the grocery store not long after he died. This was also common when I was young, at least in Phoenix: people giving away free kittens or puppies out of a literal cardboard box outside of the grocery store or on a street corner. The story goes that the person had one kitten left, a fluffy striped tabby who looked similar to Teddy 1, and my mom told the person she would take him if he remained when she was done inside the store. She came out, the kitten was still there (she said the person was definitely waiting for her), and that’s how my sister got Teddy 2.
Teddy 2 was sweet, a big fluffy lover who allowed himself to be ensconced as a kittyroast in our little plastic kitchen playset oven or doll clothing without so much as a meow or a scratch. Muffin was more aloof, hiding under the bed for many of the years we had her, only tolerating an occasional baby bonnet fashion show. I told everyone she was a Russian Blue, but she had a tabby M on her forehead. She had not a spot of white on her, though. Just as I’ve always loved black and white cats, seeing an all-gray cat makes me think awww Muffin. Both cats lived past the age of 14 (specifics erased by time). I can almost feel the M under my finger as I traced her little head over and over, stabbing my arm under my parents’ bed to touch her.
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