Parents know that the big day is coming when the little boy or girl that they’ve nurtured for umpteen years goes out into the bigger world to be on their own. Graduation days are filled with high hopes and fond memories of those first days, too. First steps, first teeth, first words. Most grads I know are looking forward to first paychecks, and they may have significant waiting to do in that case.
But I digress.
It’s an uneasy feeling when one of the cats looks like it’s going to flee the coop. But at least one cat, Spencer, the once-fearless kitten who bounded to the porch to be fed first every morning, is no longer so brave, nor so curious. How did it come to this?
First, he and his brother and sisters were outdoor-only cats. They are May Day felines, born on May 1, 2004, the day their mother reappeared, transformed into a svelt and petite black cat. Only the night before she was a perfectly plump hassock with stoggy little legs; now she waited to gobble some chow so that she could nurse the kittens she’d hidden in some secret place.
At two months, those kittens roamed the back yard and came to our door escorted by their mother when she wanted to eat.
A few weeks later, they wandered in a pack of four kittens, sans mother, over the stone wall and down the steep, wooded hill, Spencer, a handsome gray cat, and Midnight, his inky-colored brother, and two pretty calicos.
At dusk, they dined together on the patio with the shaggy old cat who didn’t seem to belong to anyone, anywhere.
They hid in the shed at night where old tires were stored, and sunned themselves on warm fieldstones during the day, just out of sight.
That was before we decided that they needed to be fixed. After their surgeries, it was fall, and getting colder by the day. They became indoor cats then, and have been ever since.
But today I was holding the outside door open while bringing in some groceries. Spencer took one cautious step outside, then another, slowly placing his paws onto the doorstep. It’s the same doorstep where he stood, eight years ago, on tiptoe each morning, waiting to see me coming outside with a plate of cat food for him and his siblings.
Today he looked at me, and then at the door swinging closed, and his eyes widened. He panicked, and quickly scooted back inside.
He has no diploma, no paper saying he’s earned an important degree, but he’s no fool. He knows what he has to know.
Most of all, my sweet, fluffy kitty Spencer knows what side of the door it’s best to be on.
The side where the cat food is.