Please welcome today’s guest writer, Cassaundra Bell. Cassaudra is a 2012 Calvin graduate. She graduated with her English degree, and is currently finishing up her Master’s in Social Work. She is focusing on policy reformation, where she hopes to advocate for the stories of others.

“I just love watching Lincoln play,” my brother, Josh mused. “He gets so riled up, running around our apartment.”

We were sitting in my parents’ living room last Sunday evening. Josh and his girlfriend, Sarah, were curled up on the couch. My cousin Brielle and I sat opposite of them. Each of us had a glass of wine in hand, waiting for dinner to start.

“Yeah, but he gets into absolutely EVERYTHING,” Sarah added. “And I’m constantly cleaning up after him.”

“Ah, but he’s at that age,” I reminded her, and took a sip. “I’m sure this mischievous stage will pass, and you’ll miss it. Does he still like to cuddle?”

“Oh, yes. Definitely,” Josh supplied. “He’s such a little cuddler.”

“Oh! I MISS that!” I sighed dramatically. “Cooper is so independent, now. It’s like I have to beg him to come snuggle with me. Except for when I go to the bathroom. He always follows me into the bathroom.”

“Lincoln does, TOO!” Sarah exclaimed. “I don’t understand their fascination with the bathroom.”

“I know!” I giggled. “I’m thinking, like, ‘I love you, but can’t Mommy go to the bathroom in peace?’”

“Right?!” Sarah affirmed.

Suddenly, Brielle, who had been uninvolved this entire conversation, threw her hands up in the air, and exclaimed in near-frustration, “Oh my gosh, you guys. Do you even hear yourselves, right now? You are TALKING ABOUT YOUR CATS.”

I’ve always been a cat person, but I never thought that I would be THAT cat person. The kind of person who refers to herself as “Mommy” when talking about her role as a pet owner. Or who would carry on a five minute conversation with other cat owners about the quirks of our kitties. In fact, I used to stand in judgment of those people. Those pet owners who referred to themselves as pet parents. Those folks who would celebrate their “fur-babies’” birthdays with photos and Facebook posts. Even that term, “fur-babies,” genuinely creeped me out. Visions of something akin to an infant gremlin always came to mind. About these people, I often thought, “Can’t you go find a real, human child to love?” I was less than impressed.

When I adopted Cooper three years ago, I was very firm in my resolution to not become a Crazy Cat Lady. I mean, look at my life. I have been perpetually single; I have a love for granny-inspired cardigans and an affinity for Barry Manilow. I was afraid that adding a cat to my twenty-something life would somehow morph those idiosyncrasies into the life of a recluse. So, I would start every conversation about Cooper like this: “Yes-I-have-a-cat-but-no-I-am-not-a-Cat-Lady-ha-ha.”

And people would look at me like, “Yeah. Okay, Cassaundra. You keep telling yourself that.”

Because, somehow, they knew. They KNEW that I was the little girl in art class who made a clay cat for a final project. They knew that I had more stuffed animal cats than any other toy, growing up. They knew that, when I was in second grade, I was a cat for Halloween, and that a year later, my mom made me a rainbow cat jumper, with gold paw print buttons. And they knew that I wore that thing every chance I got. They knew the truth that I was scared to admit. That I was, am, and always will be—a Cat Lady.

I’m more than a Cat Lady. I am a Cat Mom. And I love it. I love that I know my cat’s birthday (July 17, thank you very much!) and that I DO celebrate with Instagram photos every year. I love that my cat knows his name, and responds with bleating meows when I call out in babying tones, “Coooo-ppppper!” I love that he sits in the shower as I get ready in the morning, and watches me with big, round eyes. Cooper is always is perched on the couch arm, when I come through the door at the end of the day (No matter that he wants food, rather than my affection; all parents live in some state delusion, don’t they?), and that he curls up against my belly as I sleep. He has brought immense joy and love to my life these last three years, and I am so thankful to have been tasked with caring for all nine of his little lives.

And like any mother, my biological clock is ticking…

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