Freed from the rigors of organized anything, the younger daughter spent the last two weeks of her summer vacation left to her own devices. In the end, she filled her time writing and reading and blogging.
Some of the writing was in text form: where did u put my book? i cant find it. O nevermind.
When you are at work and your child is texting you because they are bored, but you on the other hand are quite busy, ding, doing work, ding, ding, you need to break their flow by assigning tasks.
Wow, that was A LOT of laundry to fold.
I practiced my flute.
When are you coming home?
But here’s the other thing, it’s good to hear from her. It’s nice that of all the other people she is communicating with I am still one of them. My parents would call me at college, tracking me down through the dorm hall phone or the house phone I shared with four other people, one phone on a wooden crate. All you could do on it was talk. Other people milled around you, with their cigarette smoke and their momentary aspect of being orphans and therefore somehow pure. Our house phone probably didn’t even have call waiting, certainly not voice mail. Can you imagine all the messages in all the college houses? Dearest Child, are you there? Are you at the library? It could take a while to reach a person. My father’s sardonic voice: We haven’t heard from you in two months. This would now be an impossibility. We wrote each other letters. Two months. Ding. Ding. Ding.
My knee itches.
She started writing an eerie sci-fi-esque story. She emailed me links to the Google docs. She read my blog post about when she wanted a suit, laughed uproariously and gratifyingly, and wrote a reply entitled “I Win.” She started her own blog. She sent me a link to her friend from London’s blog. They started a blog together.
In the end, I asked her if she could design her own summer, not including the vacation and/or travel that we would undertake as a family, what would it involve?
She would take a week to decompress, clean out her desk and pack up her school clothes. She would do swim team. She would do art classes, jewelry-making perhaps. She would be better about calling up friends and being more proactive socially. She would read and blog.
What would you do?
I would do the same. And I would exercise, play tennis. Finish that quilt.
School starts again. (We have a strange school calendar in Alabama.) We eat dinner on the porch and I go in to load the dishwasher, leaving my husband and the younger daughter in conversation.
I am in the kitchen when she tears inside. It is about the cat. He’s in the woods. I follow her outside. He is somewhere in the thicket behind our house. We call to him and he cries. The light is in the final stages of failing. We shine the flashlight beam into the thicket.
Why won’t he come to us? We’re here, here. We call to him but his cries are fainter. We push into different parts of the thicket. He seems to be going further in.
Anguish. There are coyotes, bobcats, hawks, snakes. No sound. He is very old. A cat who was once deemed obese and had to come to the weigh-in clinic is now underweight. (It’s a thyroid condition.)
What can we do? The cat treats, the flashlights, our love are all feeble. We send the girls inside and take stock. If something got him, my husband reasons, they would have done it quickly. He is old, but he’s not sick. He did not crawl into the woods to die. Not tonight.
And as we are realizing the futility of the continued search, where picking up the dish of food we hoped would lure him back is an obeisance to fate, he emerges through the brush, a twig between his toes. You were worried? Two months and no call? Not my problem. Your problem.
I look at him tonight, miraculously returned to us, this ancient, beloved pet who predates the girls, whose life span overlaps that of the Wertis, wending his way through the kitchen with an accusatory look in his eye that says feed me in spite of the food in his dish, not even side food, but actual food.
Look at him, I say. That whole thing of going missing must have something to teach us, but what?
Do not chase after your cat in a thicket, my husband says.