Word on the Street

Personal essays from a young journalist in the Sunshine State.

Tag: Clara

Clara the Cat isn’t perfect, but she’s just what I need

Clara likes watching me type on my computer late at night.

I’ll admit it — I’m a Cat Lady. I have just one cat, but I love her and spoil her as if she were my kid.

For the past three years, Clara the Cat been there. Whenever I come home after a long day at work, she greets me, silently meowing from behind panes of glass. Clara usually falls asleep shortly after I get home, but I still like knowing she’s there. She makes the apartment feel less empty, and makes me feel more whole. When you live alone, you grow to rely on your pet for company, and comfort.

Clara’s not perfect. She meows a lot and pulls at my hair when I’m trying to sleep. She sheds all over my apartment and breaks my blinds. And she sleeps on the kitchen table, despite my repeated attempts to get her to stay off it.

But still, she’s a keeper.

I couldn’t help but feel bad when I was out of town for her 3rd birthday earlier this month. I had asked someone to feed her, but he forgot, meaning Clara was left alone for four days with no one to celebrate with. Poor kitty. Usually on her birthday, I give her wet food and blow up some balloons for her to play with. Then I take a bunch of photos of her. (I know, some of you might be rolling your eyes by now. But hey, I warned you I’m a Cat Lady!)

One of my favorite food bloggers, Joy Wilson, recently threw a little birthday party for her cat Jules. She made him a tuna “birthday cake” and tied a yellow bow around his neck. She also created “Cat Land” for him, giving him full access to his favorite toys — headphones, an earring, toilet paper …

Headphones would also be on Clara’s list of favorite toys. She’s eaten her way through three pairs. Her other favorite toy is “Da Bird” — a feather on a string. Pretty simple concept, but highly entertaining nonetheless. My laptop would also be among Clara’s favorite toys. Whenever I’m typing, she sits alongside me and places her paws in front of the keyboard. Sometimes, she’ll walk across it. Whenever there’s a typo in my blog posts, I blame her.

She’s here with me now as I’m writing this post, occasionally hitting the keys. She’s keeping me company in her imperfect way, making me realize that even when I’m home alone, there’s really no need to feel lonely.

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Cat Fell out of Window, Still Has Eight Lives Left

Clara resting in one of her favorite poses -- on the bed where she belongs!

My landlord finally put screens in my windows yesterday, so I naturally had all of the windows open last night. For a year, the screens have been broken, so I was looking forward to taking advantage of a cool breeze and fresh air. I didn’t expect, though, to wake up at 5:15 a.m. to see my furry feline halfway up the second-story window, her claws dug into the screen — the outside of the screen, no less.

“Clara!” I said. “Get off of there!” Mind you, that may not have been the smartest advice I’ve ever given.

Crash.

If only Clara’s claws were stronger.

If only the screens had been securer.

If only I had woken up before she managed to sneak out the window and up the screen.

I quickly shut the window, put in my contacts and rushed outside. “Clara!” I called out in a high-pitched voice. I felt like the mother rabbit in my favorite childrens’ book, “Runaway Bunny,” searching all around for my adventurous little one. Clara always comes when I call her. Not this time. After five minutes of calling and no response, I started to get teary-eyed.

It was dark and I didn’t have a flashlight, so I couldn’t see anything amidst the dog cage, the furniture and the lawn ornaments that cluttered the ground at the foot of the window. The screen laid on top of the dog cage, bent and broken.

Another creative pose.

“How could I have let her stay by the windows?” I thought, getting mad at myself. “And why did she have to be such a daredevil?”

I figured she had fallen, hurt herself and hidden somewhere to die.

The neighborhood cat, Skittles, approached me, as if to keep me company. But I didn’t want to see her. In that moment, second best wasn’t enough.

“Meowwww. Meowmeowmeowmeowwww.”

I knew it was Clara’s cry. I knelt down and saw two green eyes staring at me from underneath the house. “Clara, get over here,” I said, partly mad but mostly relieved. She decided to play hide and go seek. She’d come out for a minute, then run away when I tried to grab her. The only thing she would come out for was Skittles, who initially hissed at her but then kissed her to try and make it all better.

I ran upstairs to get food, thinking that would attract her, but had no such luck. (Of course, Skittles wanted some food, though.) The next time Clara came out to see Skittles, I grabbed onto her, swooped her into my arms and tried to not get scratched. She was not a happy kitty.

Clara sitting on the kitchen table shortly after the fall. Her eyes seem to say, "I'm sorry."

Clara’s currently strewn across the kitchen table, just barely keeping her eyes open. She knows she’s not allowed on the table, but I’m letting her rest there this morning. She’s had an eventful day so far, and being on the table is her way of letting me know she wants to be close to me. I can’t deny her of that closeness, especially not after this morning, when she seemed so far away.

Oh yes, and those windows? Unless the landlord secures them, they’ll be shut from now on. The fresh air was nice for a night, but Clara only has eight more lives to live. I don’t want to risk having  her lose another one.

Clara the Cat Makes for a Friendly Companion

I have a few different blog posts I’m working on, but for now I just wanted to share some photos of my cat, Clara.

She’s sitting here, curled up on my lap as I type this. Some of my friends poke fun at me because I talk about Clara a lot and post pictures of her on Facebook pretty regularly.

I sometimes joke that I’m the epitome of a single girl — one who cuddles with her cat, talks to her and walks through the grocery store on Saturday nights and buys baking ingredients and cat food. (OK, so I don’t buy cat food on Saturday nights, but I do cuddle and talk with my cat!)

Anyhow, Clara has become such good company for me. I used to have a lot of trouble coming home to an empty apartment, but now that I have a cat, loneliness isn’t as big of a problem. She’s like my little shadow, following me wherever I go and acting as my sidekick.

Most of my good friends also have cats, so we sometimes have kitty play dates and share amusing stories about our furry friends. Clara takes a while to get used to new cats. She usually seems intimidated by other animals, but she loves people. When my friends visit, Clara sits in the middle of the living room floor and soaks up the attention. Like I said, she is good company. And if you haven’t noticed, she’s pretty photogenic, too!

Clara the Cat: Loquacious & Irresistibly Cute (Not That I’m Biased Or Anything)

I love these photos that my friend took while cat sitting Clara last weekend. The contrast between the first viciously cute meowing photo (my cat likes to talk a lot) and the second “look-at-me-I’m-so-adorable” photo is classic. How can you not like cats after seeing these photos, or after spending some quality time on this “Random Kitten Generator” site?

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Clara Gets Tangled Up in Fun, Mischief

Clara with my Gasparilla beads

Clara with my Gasparilla beads

Clara is much like a child who always has one paw in the cookie jar and the other on the counter, the laptop keyboard, or just the spot where you don’t want it to be.

She races around the apartment every morning after her internal alarm clock wakes her up at 6 a.m. Sometimes I wonder if my apartment floors are lined with catnip, given how much she runs, jumps and chases imaginary mice (or more likely dust balls) on the floor.

She has a nose for finding what she’s not supposed to, like the beaded necklaces from Tampa’s Gasparilla pirate festival, which took place a few weeks ago. For as much mischief as she gets into, though, she’s a joy. She frequently cuddles with me, folding her paws and closing her eyes as though peacefully praying.

Tonight before she settled down on my lap, she spent 15 minutes playing with her food. She managed to take individual pieces of it out of her bowl and scatter them around the kitchen floor instead of eating them. Then she knocked over her entire bowl of water. I told her not to so wasteful, but I’m fairly certain she didn’t understand. …

I decided to let her have fun. She’s often alone for 10 to 12 hours a day while I’m at work/the gym, so I want her to enjoy her time with me. She needs to have her “kitten time,” while keeping in mind her limits — no getting on the counter or the table, no biting, no chewing the blinds.

As she played with her food, I read an article about a 93-year-old cook named Clara, who posts YouTube videos of herself cooking and talking about the Great Depression. Clara the cat and Clara the cook. Maybe Clara junior could be a guest star on Clara senior’s YouTube cooking shows … or just become a YouTube sensation on her own.

The theme of her videos would no doubt be: How to find “toys” you’re not supposed to have (i.e. Gasparilla beads), and how to make the ones you love smile.

Clara’s First Kitty Play Date

Didn't get a picture of Clara and Gordon, but here's a recent photo of Clara ...

Didn't get a picture of Clara and Gordon together, but here's a recent photo of Clara...

Clara had lots of firsts this week, the most significant of which was a kitty play date Thursday night.

One of my friends just got a cat a few days before I did, and our other friend got a cat last summer. Hoping the cats will ultimately become the best of friends, we introduced two of them to each other.

My friends’ cats – Catalina and Gordon – met each other last Thursday but didn’t get along very well. So we tried introducing Clara to Gordon tonight. Before placing them in the same room, we put Gordon in my spare bedroom and closed the door as Clara sniffed the carpet and listened to Gordon cry in his attempt to be let out. Clara and Gordon got along a little better than Gordon and Catalina, though they were rambunctious and attacked each other a few times.

We figured that separating them at first would help them slowly get acquainted with each other. It worked to a certain extent, but Gordon, who is a relatively large but adorable kitten, often tried to throw some feline punches at Clara, who’s a pretty tiny kitty. Gordon meowed as Clara hissed and grumbled, her hair sticking straight up, her ears back, her tummy vibrating. Between the meows, the hisses, the grumbles and the noise they made when playing on Clara’s scratch post and eating, Gordon and Clara could have easily started their very own kitty garage band.

Speaking of eating, my friend warned me ahead of time that Gordon loves to eat and will do anything in his power to find food.

“No problem,” I said, “I’ll just put Clara’s food and water on top of the refrigerator.”

I learned all too quickly, though, that when it comes to food, you can’t pull anything past little Gordie. As my friends and I were watching the “Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice” cross-over episode, I heard chewing.

Not surprisingly, Gordon had climbed on top of the refrigerator and was eating Clara’s food. We then put it in the cabinet, but he climbed on the counter, opened the cabinet door and tried reaching for the food, which we had put on the second shelf. Clara isn’t quite as big of an eater, and I don’t know that she would have found the food as quickly, mainly because I don’t let her on the counters — prime take-off spots for leaping onto the refrigerator.

Next Thursday, my friends and I may try introducing Clara and Catalina to each other. Eventually, all three cats will meet one another and (hopefully?) get along.

Geesh, I’ve really fallen in love with my little kitty, so much so that I’m writing about her as though she were a child! Spending time with furry felines, I learned tonight, is even more fun when in the company of good friends.

An Anniversary That Gets Easier with Time, and a Cat

Clara is good company, no doubt. She likes to give me Eskimo kisses.

Clara is good company, no doubt. She likes to give me Eskimo kisses.

February 9 is a day I’ll always remember. It’s the day my mom died, the day that signaled the end of a life and the beginning of my rocky journey into life without a mom. I’ve learned a lot in the past 12 years since my mom died, but I still struggle to understand why lives have to be taken so soon, why life is so unfair at times.

Every year I recount the events that led to my mom’s death, maybe as a way of making sure I don’t forget the memories of that day, painful as they are. The night before Mom died, my grandma suggested I sleep at her house. It wasn’t right, she said, to see my mother in so much pain.

I thought all along my mom would survive. At least, that’s what everyone had been telling me. As an 11-year-old, I didn’t want to believe otherwise. I didn’t want to face the “essential female tragedy,” as poet Adrienne Rich calls it, the loss of a mother to a daughter, a daughter to a mother. Even as a 2-year-old watching Bambi, this loss seemed so real.

On the day Mom died, I was in her childhood bedroom, sitting on her bed. The phone rang. My grandma answered.

“Yes? Oh my God …”

My grandma rushed upstairs, sat on the bed next to me and said, “Mal, your mom’s passed away.” So final, so hurtful, so terse.

We piled into my grandparent’s blue Buick and headed toward my house. I lay across the backseat, resting my head on my grandma’s lap, holding onto the “Rosie Red” lipstick Mom had bought me. Nervously, I twisted the cap back and forth, crushing the stick. Then I started to cry.

I spent a few minutes at my mother’s side but I wasn’t ready to let go when the men in black came and took her away.

Tell me why, Mommy, tell me why you had to leave me, I thought. Why did you desert me? Why did you promise you would stay?

Twelve years later, I still don’t know the answers to those questions. What I do know, though, is that death’s sting softens with time. While February 9 is usually a difficult day for me, I found it to be easier this year. I made a point to talk with friends and I had my new cat, Clara, to come home to.

One of the most difficult parts about losing my mom was coming home to an empty house after she died. When I’d come home from school, I always expected to see her on the couch where she slept when she was sick, but instead I would turn the lock, open the door and feel engulfed by emptiness and loneliness.

Tonight when I came home, Clara greeted me with a loud meow and cuddled up next to me throughout the night. No, she’s clearly not mom, but she’s company nonetheless. Sometimes, even pets can make us feel loved and less alone. They’re little gifts we give ourselves, gifts that reassure us that we are cared for and loved, and that we are needed. As much as I seem to need Clara, she seems to need me, too. She relentlessly follows me wherever I go and meows when I don’t give her attention. She purrs when she’s happy, which is just about every time she’s near me.

The day after I got Clara, I heard Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” on the radio. It’s the song my mom dedicated to me before she died. I hadn’t heard it in a while, so I considered it a sign that Mom is with me and that she’s happy I have a new furry little friend. As much as I’ll remember February 9, 1997, I’ll also remember February 9, 2009 as the anniversary that wasn’t easy, but that was better than expected. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask for.

Meet Clara, My New Furry Friend

claraHere are some photos of my new cat Clara. She is the most loving cat I’ve ever met, and she’s quite spoiled, too. Whenever I sit down, she jumps on my lap and starts purring. She extends her paws toward my face as though she’s giving me little love taps, and then she often curls up in a ball and falls asleep. She likes to play, too, and readily uses her scratch post. She’s 4-months-old and is pretty tiny. Check back here for more updates on her growth.