Monday, 9 November 2009

Holding it together

Our cat just left home. Not entirely of her own volition, but she was purring. She’s been rehoused, repackaged and relocated to her country retirement estate. No longer is she mistress of a Georgian town house with a garden smaller than the bathroom. She’s got land, a chocolate box cottage and cows to play with. And a new mummy who will actually seek her out for comfort.

It’s incredibly hard to talk about cats without losing a certain degree of dignity and sanity, but seeing as I’m fairly convinced this is a subject that could never reduce me to an emotional heap I’m going to try. She was a member of the family after all…

In fact, now she’s gone, I’m a bit concerned that maybe she was the glue that held the family together. Obviously as parents we are consigned to loving adoration and pride for all eternity, but are siblings not really just a small collective of people with shared experiences and memories? The only other people in the world who truly appreciate the unique boundaries of their allotted parents and what rubbish breakfast cereals they choose.

It’s only as a child that you have a proper handle on what it is to be a sibling. Once you’ve left home, the sister you never allowed beyond your bedroom door for fear of total destruction of your carefully catalogued LP collection becomes something different. The brother you regularly relied on for nothing more than flopped-hair friends and a steadying arm home after the ‘no alcohol’ youth club disco is to be admired, talked to, befriended even. They are the people you could have been had you set off from the same starter's gun but run side-step on a different trajectory.

But when you’re living the halcyon years of early childhood, your siblings are a sort of odd essential – most of the time they steal your stuff, your attention and your place next to Daddy on the sofa, but they are always there to share an incredulous, raised eyebrow at the nonsense of the world your parents are making you play in.

Obviously there are a few other deep-rooted emotions, in most cases, but on a day-to-day basis maybe the fact that my kids shared responsibility for ignoring the same cat might be a crucial factor in their relationship. The cat was certainly the only consistent reason for coming home from holidays for the past five years.

On a personal note, she gave me something specific to worry about during the medical nightmare that was my twins pregnancy – clearing up the toxic cat poo every week without my mother in law finding out. (As the famous French proverb goes, ‘Cats, flies and women are ever at their toilets’. Real proverb.) But she had to go, for medical reasons of a different, respiratory nature. And while there have been tears a plenty from the angry collective of under 9s, I realised as I found myself absent mindedly stroking her while finalising her transportation that I had never truly given myself up to her. She’s always been a cat, and my heart is made of ice.

The gorgeous little thing will be missed. And we’re getting fish after school today. They’re much easier to dispose of when the time comes.

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