In November 2011 I attempted NaNoWriMo, writing a non-fiction book of cat stories based on a lifetime of loving and being owned by cats. I never reached 10,000 words, but I did write some amusing chapters. I came across these stories a few days ago, and thought it would be fun to publish them here on the LPB in honor of Caturday. Enjoy! This first one is devoted to my long-time love, Ms. Millennium Joy.
1999 was quite an amazing year for me. With the year 2000 looming, and all of the attendant Y2K worries, I was entering my fourth year of college that fall after spending the spring semester studying in London, England. Three previous years of sharing small spaces with roommates had convinced me that it was time to try living alone for a while. I settled into a tiny one-bedroom apartment near campus, and got down to the business of studying. I loved living without roommates, and having a kitchen and a bathroom all to myself.
But something was missing—I didn’t know it, but my parents did, and acted on it. I had wanted a cat of my own for a long time, but lack of money and a strict no-cat policy in my apartment complex was holding me back. It didn’t stop Mom and Dad. On a Saturday in December, they called me and asked if they could visit the next day to take me to lunch.
I should have known something was up—my parents usually only visited me in Chico when I had a music concert or something important going on. They had never made the two-hour drive from our home in Folsom just to take me to lunch. All of this passed right by me. I was busy studying for my final exams, which were due to start that week.
Sunday was a perfect California winter day—sunny, cold, and clear. I watched Mom and Dad’s car pull into the parking lot from my living room window, and got up to go downstairs to greet them. My eyes were drawn to the back window of their car. I could see a cat carrier in the back seat, which was odd—my parents have always kept their cars clear of clutter. If there’s a cat carrier in the back seat, chances are, there’s a cat in it.
Dad got out of the car and waved at me as I stepped outside of my apartment. “Come on down,” he called. “There’s someone we want you to meet.”
I raced down the stairs to the parking lot. When I reached the car, Mom was opening the door, and I caught my first glimpse of a small torbie. She had one arm sticking out through the bars of the carrier, and she was letting us know in a very loud voice that she did not appreciate being confined.
Disbelief, shock, excitement, and wonder: all of these feelings rushed across my face as I turned to Mom. She smiled at me. “The ladies at the shelter called her Punky Brewster, but you can name her whatever you want.”
Within minutes, I’d settled on Millennium. From the start, I knew I’d call her Millie, but with the upcoming New Year and the fears that all the world’s computers would fail spectacularly and plunge us back into the Dark Ages with their inability to recognize the year 2000, Millennium seemed appropriate.
That first week with Millie was full of all the highs and lows that come with raising a kitten. At three months of age, Millie was still small (and cute) enough that it was impossible to stay mad at her, but big enough to inflict real damage on my apartment. Curios were broken, sleep was disrupted, and the very thought of getting rid of my new roommate prompted stressed-out crying and apologetic hugs for my impatient, wiggle-worm of a kitten. I never believed in love at first sight until I met this cat.
To add to the stress, my apartment’s no-cat policy was clearly being violated. The on-site manager confronted me one day.
“I know you have a new kitten,” she said. “I don’t really care—you’re a good tenant and I know you won’t leave her when you move out. Just the other day, I had to set a cat trap because someone moved out and left their cat behind.”
“People do that?” I gasped. I couldn’t imagine.
“Yes. I know you won’t, so I don’t mind that you’ve got your cat…but if my boss sees her, he will not be happy. So you might think about keeping her out of the front windows.”
From that point on, Millie stayed closed up in my bedroom and bathroom area whenever I was not at home. She could sit in my bedroom window and look out at the view of a street, without being seen by the apartment owner.
After finals were over, I loaded up my car to go home for Christmas. My parents had assured me that any time I visited home, Millie was a welcome houseguest. Getting her into the cat carrier was never easy, but we managed, and Millie would ride shotgun, buckled into the seat facing me, napping most of the way home as I blasted my favorite mix tapes and sang along.
My brother Aaron came to see me at Mom and Dad’s house a few days before Christmas. Mom and I were at the grocery store when he arrived, so he met my crazy kitten and had a chance to get to know her without me hovering over them both. When Mom and I arrived home, it was to the sight of my 6’2” brother cuddling Millie, a silly grin on his face as he beamed at me and said, “We’ve met.”
It was Aaron who first called Millie “the party girl from Chico.” Chico State University had a long-time reputation as being a “party school,” and while it was no longer very accurate when I attended, it was something everyone joked about. Millie lived up to Chico’s reputation with her kittenish antics, keeping everyone in our house on their toes all through that first Christmas. If she wasn’t racing around the house with a mouse toy in her mouth, it was very likely she might be halfway up the Christmas tree.