3 Kislev 5778 / Tuesday, November 21, 2017 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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But The Cat Came Back    

But The Cat Came Back

The cat was as shocked to see me as I was to see it. Its mouth opened wide before it dashed out of the room, dropping a squirmy black thing...


Sometimes it’s worth our while to take a step backward and view the world through rosier lenses.
It happened late one Sunday afternoon. The house had finally quieted down from the afternoon rush; the children had finished their homework and were involved in arts and crafts projects.  The dishes were done, the laundry was hung, and the washing machine was only up to the first cycle.  It was one of those rare moments in a busy household when everything was under control. 
It felt like a good time to take that coffee break I’d been yearning for and to have a heart-to-heart talk with a close friend. Armed with my coffee-stained ceramic “Best Mommy” mug, I headed to the study to engage in some much-needed adult conversation.
Somewhere around a third of the way through my cup of coffee, an enormous gray cat suddenly jumped through the window and landed on top of the computer screen.  It had climbed up to our second-story porch, and proceeded to make itself welcome in my home -- until it spotted me. 
The cat was as shocked to see me as I was to see it. Its mouth opened wide before it dashed out of the room, dropping a squirmy black thing – that’s the only word that could describe it -- on my lap! 
The phone dropped out of my hand as I jumped onto my chair and started screaming at the top of my lungs.
My children came running; this promised to be far more exciting than any arts and crafts project -- even the new clay set they had received from the grandparents.  They were certain that there must be a monster in the study, or, at the very least, a poisonous snake, and dared not open the door. Instead, they ran around to the porch and looked in through the window. 
If I was expecting any sympathy from my dear ones, I was in for a disappointment. For some reason unbeknownst to me, the children thought that the sight of their mother clutching her heart and pointing at a newborn kitten was humorous. Their peals of laughter did nothing to alleviate my plight, and I continued to eye the cat warily. 
My relationship with my feline friends goes back a long way. Once, when I spent the summer at my grandfather’s house in the country, I found a stray kitten floundering in the nearby creek. The sight of the poor half-dead animal aroused my sympathy. I rescued her and tenderly carried her back to my grandfather’s home. 
All that night the kitten had slept together with me, its meows turning to purrs as it began to feel warm and secure in its new home. 
The next day my grandfather carried the kitten far off into the woods to return it to “nature,” and hopefully reunite it with the other members of its family.  All that summer, in my childlike innocence, I wondered what had happened to my “friend.”  Did it find its family?  Was it happy without me?  I pictured it as a sweet, fluffy, wide-eyed creature, traipsing through the forest with a pink ribbon around its neck. 
By the time I had lived in Yerushalayim for more than two decades, any sympathy I felt toward these felines had long since turned to disgust.  In Yerushalayim cats slinked around the garbage bins as they sought their next meal. Cats crouched in our dark entranceway, pouncing at me as I tried to climb the stairs.  Cats and kittens went together with mice and snakes -- despicable creatures to be avoided at all costs. 
At the moment, however, I had no desire to engage in introspection or wax philosophical. I only wanted that THING squirming on my floor OUT as quickly as possible. 
The cat seemed to get the message. In a flash it jumped back into the room, grabbed its kitten, and ran out of the house -- probably to somewhere in the vicinity of the garbage bin. 
With ruffled pride and some assistance from my children, I lowered myself from my perch.  Taking a deep breath I picked the phone up from the floor. Patient as ever, my friend was still waiting on the line, anxious to hear what had caused such a commotion.
I slowly took a sip of my now lukewarm coffee and told her what had happened.  There was silence for a moment.
“Debbie”, she finally said, “I can’t believe that you got so worked up over an adorable little kitten.”
Her comment gave me pause. How many “horrible felines” are really “adorable kittens” in disguise? It just depends on how we define them.
(More of Debbie Shapiro's stories can be found in Bridging the Golden Gate)

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