Every year on this date, our family has one very special cat on their minds. For each of us, memories from over the years occupy our thoughts, bringing smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts.
On March 27, 1982, a very tiny black kitten came forth into this world. He was the “runt of the litter”, last one out and smallest by a mile. His parents, and their humans, lived in the apartment next to mine, and I’d come to know them well. Although I already had a couple of cats, they talked me into giving this poor little guy a home; no one else would take him.
He was, after all, all black – “boring” apparently.
He didn’t have the striking looks of his white siblings, or the uniqueness of the one albino sister, or the rich coloring of the tortoiseshells. He was JUST BLACK.
My first cat ever was black, and to this day she holds a big part of my heart in her paws. I had no issues with a black cat. I just thought we were fine with the ones we had, thank you very much. But…they talked me into taking him. Not like that would be hard to do – a tiny little boy with no one who wanted him went straight to my heartstrings. And then, so did this kitten. We named him Bubba – after Bubba Smith, the football player – pretty much as a joke at first. Bubba was so tiny, his entire body fit inside my small palm. But the name stuck, and he will always be Bubba.
Simply, plainly, Bubba.
A year after he was born, we moved into our own house. By then, we’d lost the other cats, so he was the lone pet. A year after that, our first daughter was born. Bubba loved all the baby things – you could always find him snoozing in the bassinet, the baby swing, the rocking baby chair, the crib. He made it clear: he was my first baby, and there was no way I was going to forget that. We’d also gotten a dog by then as well, and the two furkids got along well. But it was Bubba who was unbelievably wonderful with the baby.
And he was great with the three babies that followed…and the ones who came each day for daycare, and the friends and playmates that followed down the road. Bubba was fun, he was loving, he was gentle with little ones and up to the challenge with the energy of older ones. He tolerated so much, I sometimes thought it might be bordering on animal abuse – the girls loved to dress him up, “fix up his hair” with barrettes, corral him into a room for “tea parties”, push him around in a doll stroller, give him tight hugs, and talk to him for hours on end. The boys chased him, played hide-and-seek, included him in their games and action toys, squirted him with water-guns. He put up with it all.
Over the years, he was the single fixture of continuity in a household that was ever-changing: kids growing older as new ones arrived, a constant influx of friends who wanted to “pet the kitty”, dogs that came and went, eventually the trauma of a divorce and all that goes with it. He was an unfailing source of emotional support, for anyone in need.
If you ask any of the kids about a childhood pet – they’ll tell you about Bubba. Any of the other pets are a distant second.
He loved to snuggle, to be lavished with attention, to lounge on the Barbie bed linens. To this day we don’t know what the magic is of those sheets and quilts – every animal we’ve ever had here finds a special affinity to them. And yes, we still have them! But Bubba, who eventually grew to a size more fitting of his name, always produced giggles and smiles with his preference for Barbie.
Eventually Bubba became older, showing afflictions of age. In late 2000, we helped him over the bridge, to ease his suffering. I don’t think I ever had a harder decision to make, and at that I had to have someone else take him in. But I wanted Bubba to be carefree again, pain-free and happy. I know without a doubt he’s waiting there at the bridge, and there are so very many people he’ll greet there. If ever there was a black cat who made a lasting impression on people – it would be him.
Becky, the oldest, was not only his biggest torturer (with all those dress-ups, play parties, squeezing hugs) but also always his biggest fan. Today she said to me, “I always, always think of him on his birthday!! So funny how a little black cat can have such a hold on you. I miss him.”
Happy Birthday, Bubba! We love you! xoxoxoxoxo