December 8, 2014It was a beautiful fall day. The kids had promised Dad they’d get ALL the leaves raked. He got home and it wasn’t done, so after dinner, despite the fact that it was already dark, they donned headlamps and went out to rake together. A thin little stray cat came up and mewed pitifully. Being the tenderhearted people they are, they just had to get her a bowl of warm milk. She lapped it up so quickly that they just had to get her another. And some food. They played with her and adored her and named her. “Starry” after the starry night on which they discovered her and her black fur with a few little white specks. I was appalled, knowing that the cat would now be hanging around begging for more. Indeed she did. She lingered right by the door step and slipped inside repeatedly when I wasn’t vigilant enough to get past with the two little ones and hauling Oli in the car seat. Elodie kept warming up milk while I wasn’t looking and sneaking food to the little stray. Oh dear.
Dad and the kids began begging me to let them adopt her. The fact that I’m allergic was not enough to deter them; she’d be an outside cat, they assured. Please, no, I have enough little creatures to take care of—adding a pet to the mix is just too much. Five against one, they kept trying to wear me down—no fair. Oh dear.
But I had hope—we were going to Texas for nearly a week for Thanksgiving. Surely she’d get tired of mewing at our doorstep and find some new stomping grounds. Then we wouldn’t even have to discuss the issue. We came back from Texas and I think it only took her a day to notice our return and pick up where she left off. Elodie’s love and commitment to Starry only increased. Aaron felt that we were doing the poor cat a disservice by not feeding her real cat food, and decided we had to make a real decision about the poor little creature: adopt or send to the pound. We held a family counsel. I shared my very logical reasons and doubts and concerns. The “Adopt Starry” side was not swayed. I shared my deep-seated emotions: owning a pet is simply not how I was raised and I don’t want to, at all! The emotional climax led to a sobbing Elodie running upstairs shouting, “But I love Starry!” Oh dear.
After letting the emotions cool down, Aaron shared with me his concern that without a pet, our children may end up with a hole in their heart where the love of a pet should have been. Like the cold, dark hole I apparently have in my heart. He spoke of the unconditional love he felt from and for his pets as a kid. He spoke of the tenderness of taking responsibility and caring for another creature. I conceded that if Elodie and Xander could commit to fully take care of it without reminders from me and with the commitment to save up their own money for her cat food, then I would be willing to seriously consider it. And then the clincher from Aaron. He said that he thought that Xander and Elodie should talk together, make a decision, and pray about it. How could I disagree with that? Oh dear.
So Xander and Elodie agreed to discuss, decide, and pray. I was feeling pretty relieved, because once money got involved in the discussion, Xander decided that he’d rather save up for the fun stuff he wanted than spend all his money on cat food. What a relief! Their wise father reminded them not to decide too hastily, but to think about the poor cat and consider what was right, not just what they wanted. After a couple of days, Xander and Elodie reported to us that they had prayed about it and felt the right thing to do was to commit to Starry and take on the responsibility of caring for her. Well, well, well, now the Dahle’s have a cat. Oh dear.
Somehow it feels like I’m not being true to who I was raised to be. These Fillmores don’t own cats. Come on. I loved the way I was raised, anti-pet sentiment and all, and I guess I had subconsciously wished to raise my kids the same way. Strange how I feel like I’m losing a part of me. The primary president came over for a meeting and Starry tried to follow her in. She asked me if our cat was allowed to come in. I had to tell her it wasn’t my cat. It’s Xander and Elodie’s cat. I think I’m the kind of person who doesn’t worry about what other people think, yet I couldn’t let her think that I have a cat! No way! Not me!
To wax philosophical a bit, in Sunday School in Iowa, the teacher was speaking of how Jesus’ friends and neighbors in Nazareth largely rejected him because they were brought up with him. It was so very hard for them to let go of their long-held notion that he was just a normal poor kid that they grew up with. Because it was so very hard to let go of those notions they grew up with, they missed an opportunity of a lifetime. This whole cat ordeal has caused me to realize how many strong-held notions I cling to so tightly. I more than many, I presume, since I have been called the “tradition Nazi” by some who know me best. Perhaps what I’m supposed to learn from this cat ordeal is to let go, to open up to other good possibilities that I had ruled out. To never say never.
I’ll never own a cat. I’m allergic. I don’t like them.
I’ll never have a gun in my own house. That would be terrible.
I’ll never marry a hunter. You choose who you marry, so you can choose not to marry a hunter, right?