§ Pandemic has changed everything… §
Every summer for the past four years, my twin great niece and nephew, Mya and Kai, have arrived in Indiana to spend the season with their grandparents, my brother and his wife. Every summer we all gather together for family picnics, and afternoons at splash parks and pools. We visit the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and the zoo together. We play card games and spend time in the kids’ room at the library, and visit the playgrounds at every single park within a 30-mile radius! The twins ride bikes and ponies, hold squirt gun battles, stay overnight with their Aunt Paula, and climb trees. Together we all eat mounds of mac & cheese and chicken nuggets. We color and watch videos and go to movies. Mya and I paint each other’s nails, and I comb her long hair into braids and ponytails. Kai builds forts out of my furniture. The big baskets of toys that I keep on hand just for them are always filled with fresh playthings that I’ve picked up through the year at garage sales and flea markets. The whole family troops out together to watch a July 4th fireworks show. And, finally, after we’ve kissed a tearful goodbye and seen them winging their way home, I send letters—one letter every week—and homemade books; books filled with photos describing their summer adventures and telling them stories about their “Indiana pets”.
Every summer that is, until this year. Pandemic has changed everything. The plane that would transport them here would be, we fear, little more than a container for incubating the Covid-19 virus, and there would be almost nothing for them to do, anyway, even if they arrived, for all the city pools and splash parks are closed, as are the museums and movie theaters; the zoo is open by reservation only. The Independence Day celebrations, those open-air gatherings crowded with people, will be canceled. The park playgrounds are shut down.
The collective hearts of our family are breaking over this sad reality, yet we know that keeping the twins safely in their home state is for the best. Nevertheless, my thoughts keep zigzagging back to last summer, remembering a moment when Kai, while petting my big old orange kitty, explained seriously to me that they, the twins, were the reason I have Puffy Socks the cat. I agreed; Kai was absolutely right. Three years earlier, Puffy, a homeless feral, spent a whole summer coming to play with the twins each week on my patio. At the time, Puff was living under a neighbor’s mini barn. Each week he waited eagerly for the moment the three of us stepped out onto my patio. A clatter of sound would announce his presence as he darted through the spare lumber stored behind the barn before leaping majestically over the fence to rush to the children: “The twins are here!!” Their mutual admiration society was touching to watch. And when Kai and Mya left for home that summer, I (after a failed attempt to rehome him) adopted the big old softy of a cat they loved so much and had named.
So this week, in honor of my beloved great niece and nephew, who I am missing so much that my heart feels shattered–in their honor, I’m printing here the little storybook that I wrote and sent to them the following winter about the sweet, homeless orange kitty who became so dear to all our hearts.
Puffy Socks Finds a Home
There was once an orange kitty with white feet who lived in a nice house. But his owner moved away, and she left Orange Kitty behind.
But Orange Kitty was a smart little cat. He made lots of friends in the neighborhood. They petted and fed him, but none of them could give him a home.
So Orange Kitty slept under barns to shelter from the rain. He curled up with his tail over his nose when it snowed.
Then one pretty summer day Orange Kitty made two new friends. They were the twins, Mya and Kai!
They were playing on the patio at their Aunt Beckett’s house. They liked Puffy very much. And he liked them, too!
Since their Papaw and Nana had an orange kitty named Puff, Kai and Mya thought this Orange Kitty should be named Puffy. Their Aunt Paula had a kitty with white feet named Socks, and this new Puffy cat also had white feet. So they decided Puffy should have a middle name: Socks! Kai thought Dragon would be a good name, too, just like Puff the Magic Dragon. And Aunt Beckett believed they should add Esquire, because he was a gentleman cat.
So Orange Kitty became Puffy Socks Dragon, Esquire!
When the summer ended and the twins left, Aunt Beckett found Puffy Socks a new home. But that lady could not keep him, after all. Puff was very sad!
So Aunt Beckett decided she would keep Puffy Socks as her very own kitty. She even bought him his first Christmas stocking!
At first, Aunt Beckett’s other kitties, Zoe and Bella and Lilith, were a little upset to have a new cat in their home. But slowly, they all began to get along and to love each other.
So Puffy Socks found a happy home at last!
I miss you both very much, my darling great niece and nephew. And Puffy Socks misses you, too.