When I was a little girl we took a long car ride from our house in Pennsylvania to Georgia, where my dad’s friend had a farm. Visiting that farm was like entering a foreign land populated by mythical beasts I had only ever read about in books. There were horses that stood impossibly tall and imposing. There were dozens and dozens of pigs that squealed and ran in a comical panic whenever we approached their pen. Indoors, I found a giant, fluffy orange cat lounging on a bed.
The only animals I had ever known to that point were dogs; the cat was as exotic to me as the horses and pigs. I knelt down and stared straight into his green eyes. I began to stroke him from his head to the tip of his tail. With our eyes locked, I felt that we were communing with each other on a spiritual level. I could tell he was appreciating my ministrations, because he was slowly wagging his tail, just like our dogs would do when showered with such loving attention. Suddenly, the cat leapt onto my face and raked downward with his claws.
Tears mingled with the blood trickling down my face as I ran to find my mother. In a very Korean way, she urgently whispered to me to stop crying and to say nothing of my encounter with the cat. Our hosts would be embarrassed by what their pet had done, she explained, and it would be rude to upset them. She dried my eyes and washed away the blood, but there was nothing she could do to hide the long red tracks made by the cat’s claws.
Instead of expressing the slightest regret or embarrassment, when our hostess noticed my face she cackled with mirth and drawled, “I see you met Tiger.”
I’ve been wary of cats ever since, though what this episode really should have taught me is to be wary of people – a far scarier species.
This is all to say that I never considered that I would ever share space with a cat.
This is Scooter. He’s a feral cat that the family who sold us our house had been taking care of when they lived here. Before they moved out of the state a couple years ago, they trapped and relocated Scooter to their friend’s farm many miles away. The cleaning lady, who was keeping up the house while it was on the market, noticed the cat hanging out on the back porch and alerted Scooter’s former owners that he had somehow managed to make the long pilgrimage back home.
For the week we’ve been in our new house, Scooter has been sitting on the back deck or in the back yard. Whenever our eyes meet through the glass doors, he yowls at me with a grumpy, pissed off expression on his scrawny little face.
“Don’t feed him, or he’ll never leave,” advised my friends.
“Promise me you won’t feed that cat!” commanded my mother, aka She Who Must Be Obeyed, over the phone.
“We should call the SPCA to trap him and take him to the shelter,” suggested my son.
We’ve been negotiating all sorts of things via our realtors: the replacement of pipes, the cutting of keys, electrical repairs…A couple days ago I got another message relayed to us by the sellers’ realtor. The former owners were begging us to keep Scooter as a barn cat.
Here’s the thing…My husband and I reported to each other that we both felt our mood lift the moment we first pulled into the driveway of what is now our new house. It’s an old yellow farmhouse originally built in 1920 to serve as the rectory for the Reverend Howell C. Lewis and his wife Bessie, who served the Presbyterian church just around the corner. There’s an ineffable sense of serenity here. To us, it felt like home. Scooter thought so too. He knew and loved the place long before I ever did.
I just bought my very first bag of cat food. I’m sure it won’t be my last. Scooter and I both chose to make this house our home, and I guess that means we’ve chosen each other. But Scooter is such an undignified name for a cat who suffered and wandered in the wilderness to find his way back to his own hallowed grounds, don’t you think? Meet Parson Scooter, resident cat.