Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Cats and ceilings and things

Our cat, Andrew was surprised to learn, can exit what we refer to as "The Lego Room" without using the door. 

Benjamin is typically in charge of putting kitty to bed each night and he's gotten in trouble a time or two for not securing her properly. He will swear up and down that he put her in The Lego Room and closed the door and doesn't know how she keeps getting out! But, of course, by the time any parent has gotten down there to investigate, the door is wide open (so there's no evidence that it was ever closed).

For the record, I have—time and again—taken Benjamin's side of this issue. 

My theory has long been that the cat climbs into the ceiling somehow. We have a drop ceiling in half our basement and it opens up into The Lego Room. From the very first day we got her and she simply disappeared—we couldn't find her anywhere—I started to suspect that she'd been finding her way into the ceiling. And for a very good reason!

I've blogged about this before, but I'm going to write about it really quickly (even though I should probably be finishing my reading for my class; but I'm all jittery-mad from the presidential debate so I'm going to write it off) because, well, I think it's interesting how a story can be told in different ways at different times. As it's remembered differently different details come to light. And maybe some details are changed while others stay the same. That's how memories are. Having someone give more than one version of a single event doesn't particularly ruffle my feathers.

Anyway...

There was an urban legend that my friend's sister had told us. Was it at girl's camp one year or at a sleepover? I can't remember. It doesn't matter. All that matters is the story. And in the story a girl is babysitting some children, who are all asleep in bed, when she hears a tap-tap-tapping coming from the basement. She stops to listen and the noise stops. So she tells herself that it was nothing and turns on the television for company. She was just settling into the sofa when she hears it again, but louder this time.

Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap. 

She turns off the television and the noise stops. She holds her breath.

Tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap.

This time the noise doesn't stop.

Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap...

The babysitter walks over to the kitchen. She checks the dishwasher to see if something's clinking inside. But nothing seems to be wrong there. 

Tap-tap. Tap-tap...

She goes upstairs to check on the children. They're all asleep in their beds. 

Tap-tap. Tap-tap...

Unable to stand it any longer, the babysitter rouses the children and ushers them outside and across the street to the neighbour's house. She explains the problem, the police are called, and when they come to investigate they find a serial killer in the basement, tapping on the pipes with a wrench.

He'd been waiting for her the whole time.

Chilling, right? I thought so. But it's only a story. 

A week or so later, it is—of course—a dark and stormy night. Instead of having a sleepover, I have a babysitting gig. It's a couple of sweet little kids that I've babysat several times before. They're well-behaved, obedient, funny. And they have a darling calico cat (who, by the way, had just had an adorable litter of kittens and I wanted one so badly but I did not take one home with me, even though they offered (for the record)). 

I fed the kids dinner, administered their medicine (for some reason Hayden needed medicine and now I can't remember why and honestly don't know why his parents trusted me to give it to him because I hardly trust myself to dose my own children...but whatever), told them some stories, and tucked them into bed. They were the weird sort of children who just...like...lie down and go to sleep? Because I guess those exist. Anyway, I put them to bed and that was that. Parenting is going to be so easy! I thought to myself. I'm so good at this!

Instead of reading I settled down with a big, thick book. 

You guys are going to be surprised to know this but, uh, I'm a little bit anxious and a large book makes a far better weapon than a TV remote (I'm just saying). It was one of my babysitting hacks—bring a big ol' tome. Like, in case there was a zombie apocalypse or something? Never want to be unprepared!

So I'm sitting on the couch reading when I hear a tapping sound.

Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap. 

No way! I tell myself. You're hearing things

Tap-tap. Tap-tap.

It's the wind, I assure myself. Just the wind. Tree branch on the window. That's logical. Oh, wait. This is a new build! There are no trees branches big enough to tap on a window yet. Cool, cool, cool.

(I was already saying things like "Cool, cool, cool," because I was cool like that before Brooklyn 99 made it cool). 

I walked into the kitchen to check the dishwasher, which I obviously started because not only did I manage to get the kids into bed—and asleep—I also cleaned the kitchen and the living room. This parenting things is going to be a cinch, honestly. Don't know what those adults are going on about. 

That's about when I notice the back door is unlocked.

Unlocked?!

Who the heck leaves their door unlocked?!

Well, lots of people. It's a small, sleepy town. But I had been transplanted from the Vancouver metro area and, ummmm, let's just say that people lock their doors there. 

I stood there, staring at the offending lock. Like, how was this possible?

I know I had locked the front door after the parents left. But the back door? I didn't even think to check the back door. Don't people just leave their doors locked all the time? Apparently not. So this door had just been unlocked the entire time I was putting the kids to bed...cool, cool, cool, cool, cool. 

That's fine. I'm sure it's nothing. I haven't even heard that sound for a while. It was noth...

Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap.

...ing. It was...nothing.

Tap-tap. Tap-tap.

I tip-toed down the hall to check on the kids. 

Tap-tap. Tap-tap.

They're both still asleep. Like, they haven't gotten up a single time to show me the booger they just pulled out of their nose or to ask for a glass of water or to go to the bathroom or to ask my why ducks are ("Why ducks are what? Oh, just why ducks are... Because God created them. I don't know. Go to bed!"), or if on their seventh birthday they can have a rainbow sprinkle cake, or...whatever. 

Those kids were solidly zonked out.  

Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap.

By this point I know that sound is coming from the basement. It's not in my imagination. It's not a tree at the window. It's a tapping sound from the basement. And I just can't even anymore (because I was "just can't even-ing" back before people couldn't even even...or whatever) so I picked up the phone (because this was back in the day before teenage babysitters had cellular phones; can you even imagine having a cell phone as a babysitter?) and I called home. 

How did I remember the phone number? Because I had a billion phone numbers stored in my head back in the day. There were legendary ladies in the ward who could recite entire ward directories! That's what we did—we memorized phone numbers so we could call them from any phone in the world.

Also, my phone number happened to be 652-5555, which...helped. 

I'm not kidding about this. That was my actual phone number.

We had moved to Calgary in December of 1994, then we moved to High River in October of 1995, and when my dad went to set up our phone with the town he said, "Look—I've just moved my kids twice in nine months. I need an easy phone number for them to memorize. Give me the easiest number you've got."

And 5555 was available, so that was our phone number.

So I dialed the number with shaking hands as that incessant tapping rang through my ears. 

6...tap...5...tap...2...tap-tap-tap...

We had to push a button for each individual number. Like cavemen. 

5...tap...5...tap...5...tap...5...

The phone started ringing and I willed my mom to pick up. 

"Please pick up, please pick up, please pick up..." I muttered.

"Hello?" said my mom.

"MOM!" I blubbered. "I need you to come over! There's a tapping noise in the basement and I don't know what it is and the back door was unlocked and I don't know if..."

And the phone went dead.

"Mom?" I wailed. "Mom?! MOM!!!"

I slumped down onto the kitchen floor and told myself that my mom would come. Surely my mom would come. Who wouldn't come to rescue their teenage daughter after a call like that?! 

Clutching the phone, I listened to the clock ticking and the tapping noise, well...tapping. 

Tick-tap-tock-tap-tick-tap-tock-tap...

A knock at the door startled me. I fumbled with the phone before putting it back on the cradle (that's what you did with phones in the day) and ran to the door and threw it open. 

There stood my mom with our good friend Joe (he was sleeping over at our house that night; I think his parents were out of town). Both of them were...a little wet. It was a dark and stormy night, remember?

"Mom! Joe!" I said, greatly relieved. "There is a tapping sound. In the basement. And I don't know what it is. And I can't go down there!"

And Joe—big, burly farm kid—gruffly says, "Where's the basement door?"

I pointed timidly and Joe stalks over to the door and starts marching down the stairs. Internally I'm screaming, "But the serial killer!"

A few minutes later, Joe comes upstairs with that darn calico cat in his arms. He'd coaxed her out from between the basement ceiling and the floorboards. She'd been batting toys around in her own personal paradise, scaring the living daylights out of me. 

The phone had gone dead due to the storm. 

No serial killer had come through the back door.

I don't remember what happened after that. Did they just go home? I feel like they did. Even though they knew the phone was dead and I wouldn't be able to call them if a serial killer did show up. But I feel like that's what they did (thanks, guys). I was fine. Everything was fine.

But now I know that cats can find their way into the ceiling. Easily. 

I checked to see if it was possible to do in our basement and it totally is. You can see right into the ceiling of the "finished" portion of the basement from "The Lego Room."

"And then what?" Andrew challenged me this evening. "She lifts up a ceiling tile and climbs out?"

See, this evening Andrew had gone downstairs for something after the little kids had gone to bed and so he found the cat out in the finished part of the basement and the door to The Lego Room shut tight so finally he knew she had to be getting out somehow.

"There's a hole in one of the ceiling tiles in the girls' room," I offered. "It's big enough for her to crawl through. I don't think she can get back into the ceiling from the girls' room but I think she can definitely exit the ceiling from that hole."

Andrew considered this and then agreed that...that's probably what this cat is doing.

She suffers from FOMO (fear of missing out) quite badly and always wants to be in the room where it's happen[ing]. 

*****

Speaking of cats, the kids were asking about all my many pet cats growing up and how I got them. There were a few cats before I remember things. Mostly I remember always wanting cats. 

And then one day my dad showed up with two beautiful kittens—a jet black female and an orange tabby. We named them Midnight and Tango. And I loved them so much. 

So much that I have foggy memories about what happened to them. They both died and I shed many, many tears over them. But who died first? And how?

I believe Tango disappeared first. Maybe. We assume he was eaten by a cougar. 

We lived in the city but it was a woodsy city and cougars and bears were plentiful. Anyway, he disappeared and never came home. So that just made me love Midnight all the more fiercer. 

And then one day we got the call that she'd been hit by a car. 

So that was devastating. But I got over it. 

I kept wanting a pet cat but my parents kept saying no. So that was that.

Until, in High River my sister Abra brought home two grey kittens—one tabby and one fluffer-nutter (this is an actual* coat type) and they were called Fender and Gibson. Yes, named after guitars. My sister had stolen them from her boyfriend, or something, because she felt he wasn't treating them right. 

They were sweet, but my mom really didn't want them, and eventually we gave them to some friends who needed some good barn cats. 

That was a tough day. But I got over it.

Then we moved to Utah. Our neighbours were getting ready to move and their cat had just had kittens and Josie wanted one so badly. My mom kept saying no and then one day Josie just...showed up with a kitten and was like, "Here's this kitten. She's mine. And she can't go back because the Hemples are moving." And...that's how we got Winter. 

Winter was beautiful. White and fluffy, so small...but grew to be so big!

She had kittens—four of them. We kept one, Simba. He was also a pristine white cat—with one blue eye and one green eye. And while he was still a nursling he impregnated his mother with not four, not five, not six, not seven, but eight (count 'em! Eight!) kittens.

The littlest one, a tiny little runt of a thing, died when Josie was holding it while stepping over the kitten barrier and she tripped and dropped that delicate thing. So then we only had seven kittens (like, right before Andrew and I got married; it was kitty chaos). Again we kept one—Lakhi. 

Winter was shipped off to my cousin in California, I think. Simba disappeared and never came back. Lakhi was viciously attacked by a dog and died from her wounds while sheltering under the car. We dug a hole and buried her in Andrew's parent's back yard. That's why my kids were asking. 

Rachel remembers that we stuck her into the hole, just to tease her a bit. And then they wanted to know about all the other cats I'd had. And they wanted to know why, if I had always wanted a cat so badly, didn't I just bring one home like Auntie Abra or Auntie Josie?

"Uhhhh...because my mom said no," I said. "So...like...that was that."

I don't think I was physically capable of breaking a rule as a child (so how I got accused of stealing those butterscotch chips that one time I will never know)!

*****

Josie texted me a couple of weeks ago—a picture of a sweet little tabby kitten. 

"How do I tell Mom?" she wanted to know. Her friend had found the kitten in their barn (along with two dead kittens) and wasn't sure how to take care of such a tiny thing. Josie has...a lot of experience with cats (she already has two other cats living with her) so she took her in. Without talking to my mom about it (she lives in my mom's house). 

"I don't know," I said honestly.

"Well, what would you say to mom if you brought a kitten home without telling her?"

"I honestly, truly can't even imagine ever doing that....so I honestly don't know what I would say. Just tell her, I guess."

I mean, I don't even know what happens if you put a piece of toast in the wrong side of the toaster (you know, like in a two-slice toaster when it indicates which side to put the toast in—I don't know what happens if you put it in the wrong side) so obviously I don't know what I would do if I brought home a cat without permission. 

Josie and I had a good laugh about how different we are. 

And my mom knows about the kitten now, in case you were wondering.

*Just kidding. Totally just kidding. But he was the sweetest little fluffer-nutter anyway.

8 comments:

  1. We kept Winter forever, and then she went to live with Carlie, and something happened to her the weekend that Trevan was in that bad car accident, and Carlie had to have her put down. It was one of Winter's kittens that went to live with Melinda in California.

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    1. Okay! I remember taking that kitten to Mindy. But I guess I thought Winter went to her later...but that was Carlie. I remember that now.

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    2. Simba moved up with us, but then disappeared 😕

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    3. See! I need you all to remind me what happened to our kitties! I think all of this cat shuffling happened when I was living too far away to be very involved with them. :)

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  2. Also, Joe and I left you because he checked the entire house for intruders and then made sure the back door was locked and that you were going to lock the front door as soon as we left, and Frank and Carmen were going to be home in just another hour or so. You were as secure as we could help you to be.

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    1. And we did not want to stick around so that they would wonder if you were competent to babysit by yourself, which you totally were!

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    2. Oh, I'm not upset about it! :) And I remember being fine then, too. I was just being snarky. :)

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  3. Also: evidently the cat comes through a hole in the bathroom cabinet (the hole for the pipes?) and so if the bathroom door gets left open she can nudge her way out that way.

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