Tuesday, March 8, 2011


You know how you think your family is normal until you grow up and get to know other families?

Well, I know what my kids will have to cope with someday. When they're adults, my children will have to revisit the notion that their cat was really a talking cat.

We first got a cat, eighteen years ago, not long after we moved to Waterloo. We had left our screen door open one warm evening and an orange cat wandered in, looked around and then swayed off into the night. We decided we needed our own orange cat. On Thanksgiving weekend, we went to the Humane Society and brought home a palm-sized kitten. Our kitten was so tiny, in fact, that the Humane Society staff couldn't tell whether it was a boy or a girl cat. We needed a gender-neutral name. We went to my husband's Greek-English dictionary and looked up Thanksgiving, in honour of the occasion. Eucharistia is the direct translation and so our kitten got a name that was bigger than he was.

Euchar was a stuttering kitten with a penchant for being shrunken and carried around in my pocket. At least, that was the character I assigned to him, and the voice I gave him.

When I say voice, I mean voice. I would create a persona whereby I was more or less his translator, saying the words I thought he might be saying. And he stammered his love for us.

Perhaps this was why he ran away 18 months later.

Not daunted, we adopted another cat after six months. She needed a Greek name too, we thought, and so we named her Eleuthera, which meant freedom. This was ironic since she was a declawed indoor cat.

And, maybe it's the irony of her name that determined the personality I gave to her voice.

While in reality this cat is the epitome of long-suffering patience, in my too-fertile imagination, she is a stealthy ninja, a weasel, a softened criminal, who regularly threatens to eat us and complains about the tuna shortage of the world and her own near-fainting experiences from lack of cat treats.

She has her own special voice I use for her complaints, and even her own diction. "You did not say hello of me," she whines to the kids when they walk past her.

It occurred to me one day that she's my best character. When I write fiction, the best characters just let me tell their stories and for me the experience is relaxed and playful.

It cracks me up that my kids think she really wants to give people who frustrate her "the middle paw", and maybe they will end up in therapy over this, but isn't that also what good fiction does -- makes us believe hook, line and sinker in the words and existence of a make-believe character, at least for the moment?

Last week, someone came to our house and saw our cat for the first time. "She looks like a cat from a fairy tale - like a talking cat."

You have no idea, I thought.

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