cat condos and heaven

I have decided to completely rearrange all my furniture, because that’s an excellent thing to do one week after a hernia operation.

“You’re doing WHAT?!” Cries Fellow on the phone when I sheepishly tell him I moved the sofa near the patio door.

I didn’t LIFT the sofa, I slid it. And then kinda hip checked it into place. No problem. I don’t have the brain to do anything else really and I’m bored. I already downloaded all my CDs and threw them in recycling. (I take copyright very seriously, royalties make up 1/3 of my income) And as I get all designer crazy I decide, “I am no longer going to tolerate anything in my house that is ugly or doesn’t match just because someone gave it to me or because I spent money on it!” I become ruthless. Pictures come down from the wall, a third of my wardrobe goes onto the floor, knickknacks are going paddywack all the way to Sally Anne. When I pare things back I have the time to notice that all my leather furniture looks like it is suffering from a terrible case of chronic acne. Damn cat. Good thing she’s black and white. She matches everything. I lay down on the newly positioned sofa with an icepack and have a painful nap on the ravaged hide of cows.IMG_2119

When I wake up Nora says, “Why don’t we get her a cat climber thing, you know, a tall one? Maybe that way she won’t need to scratch the furniture?”

Hmph. Not a bad idea except those things can tend to be quite wide and I loathe the very idea of dedicating approximately $200.00/m worth of my square footage to an animal who doesn’t even like me. Ah, but you see, I only spent a third of a million dollars on an apartment so that means it comes with mice. Hence, the cat. I need her more than she needs me and we both know it. We also both know I have become a complete sucker for her. What has become of me? When did I become the kind of person to troll cozycatfurniture.com?

‘Aw, this one’s nice, Mom, it comes with a swing!”

“Nora, it’s four hundred dollars and so big I could rent it out to foreign students. We’re gonna have to go second hand. I’m not spending any more than…seventy five bucks.”

Insert choir of angels.

On Craigslist there is only one “cat condo” listed for today and it is for exactly seventy five dollars. Whoopee! There is no picture and no dimensions but Ms. Margie on the phone makes it sound so perfectly lovely! The pick up is UBC, theology district, in one of those slick residences. These are spiritual and educated cat owners who live compactly. This is going to be a tasteful efficient “next to new” cat condo, I just know it. And besides, Nora has agreed she wants it in her room.

I have to lie down again.

The next day after church we go and pick it up. I have over extended myself again and find myself quite delirious with pain by the time we get to Margie’s with the mini cooper in the pouring rain. As I hobble out of the car she asks, “You have a bad back?” I explain. “Oh, no problem” she says, cheerfully in her slicker, “I’ll do all the heavy lifting!”

And quick as a bunny, Margie is up the stairs and – then – coming – down – the – back – stairs – bump bump bump – with bungees and ropes and a dolly and THE BIGGEST UGLIEST DIRTIEST FREAKING CAT TREE I HAVE EVER SEEN! I am gobsmacked. It looks like a seven foot carpeted android with its tongue sticking out. NASA could launch a space shuttle off of this thing! I am too stunned to speak. As I’m trying to figure out how to say “no thanks”, she’s hoisted it into the back of my mini, the carpeted feet hanging out, hog tied and ready to roll. “Seventy five dollars please!”

And this is how I collect ugly things. I am too polite to say no. She went to so much trouble getting it down the stairs, I don’t even know how she could get it back up again. So I pay her silently and drive off, worried the cops are going to pull me over for an open trunk and aesthetic assault.

Nora and I grunt and groan, getting him out of the car and then I do an awkward painstakingly long toe to toe square dance with Mr Cat Tree all the way to my patio door and shove him inside, his carpet sopping and dirty. I lay down on my pox marked sofa and pant with an icepack around my stitches. Nora bounces around the tree with glee. “Oh kitty, kitty, kitty! You get your own condo!” Then she stops dead and says, “Mom, this thing stinks.”IMG_2118

I look over at my shelf at a book called Style Statement by Carrie and Danielle, and I’m one of the women they showcase. I’m “traditional current”, meaning: my style is classic stuff that I put a modern spin on. I look at the cat tree. This is neither traditional nor current and it is something Carrie or Danielle would never DARE allow in their beautiful house. But Nora is now sprinkling cat nip all over the tree like a little fairy with magic dust and hiding nice little cat treats in all the nooks and crannies. Kitty comes around the corner, stares at the tree, stops in her tracks. She approaches carefully, her ears back. She gets close enough to touch it, gives it one vicious swipe of her paw, a fierce HISS and then she pisses off into the other room.


Nora sobs, “She hates it!”

Well, that makes two of us. At least the cat’s got some class.

“It’s because it still smells like other cats. We have to clean it first. It’s still a totally awesome idea you had.”

Nora nods, her eyes wet with tears.

“Still want it in your room?” I say, with hope. She nods vigorously, “Yeah!”

“Okay then.”

I clean and I scrub and I spray with enzyme cleaner and set it on its haunches to dry. Nora is off to bed by this time. She’s taken one of her favourite baby books with her for a comfort read. It’s called “Mangia Mangia” all about Italian food. What she doesn’t remember is the last page that reads, “Nonna takes espresso. Here’s our dolce on a tray.” I don’t see any of this. All I know is half an hour past her bedtime I am hearing noises and I come in all grumpy and say, “Why the heck are you still up with the light on?!” I round the corner and see she is flooded with tears and there’s a huge puddle darkening her pillow.

“She’s the last Nonna that will ever be in my family!” She cries. I climb up the loft bed and squish in beside her, trying not to reveal how much pain it gives me.

“Not true.” I say. “When you have children, if you have children, I will be their Nonna Lucia.”

Nora’s eyes fly open. “Really?!”


“Will you feed them Lucky Charms and say “you want more?” after two bowls in the morning?”

I laugh at Nora’s excellent impression of our dear little Nonna. “Probably not.”

Nora studies the ceiling for a moment. “I don’t know if there’s a heaven and if I will ever see Nonna again. And if there is, I don’t even know if she will remember me.”

I look up at the ceiling too.

“Memory is an interesting thing. It isn’t just in the mind, it’s stored in the body and it can’t be measured. It’s unquantifiable. How deep does the memory go and how small is it? Can it travel in a single cell? And when Nonna’s body and being become one with the earth and she reforms either in some other dimension or in a heaven we can’t imagine or some such…who is to say her memory doesn’t go with her? Who is to say that is not exactly who Nonna is? Her memories? I believe you will see her again. And I believe she will remember you instinctively.”

“I don’t know if I like the idea of heaven, Mom. I like it here.”

“Yeah, me too. But maybe it’s like Kitty. Maybe we just haven’t figured out what a big huge home we have yet.”

She giggles. Then – “I’m going to miss Nonna. Nobody is like her.”

“True. Nobody is like her. Goodnight, dear.”

As I climb down the ladder, ee, ee grunt groan ouch, ah ooh…I head into Nora’s “new” room to check on the cat tree’s drying process. Low and behold, there’s kitty, curled up at the base, fast asleep. I question whether I should have equated heaven with this ugly thing…but I guess I did put a modern spin on a traditional thing.IMG_0469




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