101: The Housewarming Gift

101: The Housewarming Gift

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

The Housewarming Gift

Let nature be in your yard.

~Greg Peterson

A yard! After four years of marriage, my husband Jack and I were finally going to have a yard. I had long dreamed about working on a house of our own. Mowing the lawn, designing the garden and playing in the dirt. It had finally happened. I finally got my own personal playground.

We bought a small farmhouse that needed quite a bit of work. When I say work, I mean a complete overhaul. We knew going into it that we would be tearing down and putting up walls, installing floors, painting over the pink kitchen cabinets… creating our dream home.

One of our most frightening challenges was introducing our two cats to their new home. Scooter and Yaicha had always been indoor cats, as our previous places were apartments in high-rise buildings. Except for the actual moves from building to building, the two never set foot outside. I was sure they would continue to show no interest in the outside world. The fact that they were skittish about new noises and people convinced me that they would stay indoor cats.

Scooter and Yaicha’s eyes were as wide as saucers as they entered their new home. Once inside, they dropped to the ground and took off running, searching for a place to hide. Scurrying through the kitchen and down the hall they quickly found a familiar couch in the living room and crawled behind it. We didn’t see them until later that evening when their stomachs told them, fear or not, they wanted dinner.

The next few days we saw little of our Scooter, but Yaicha was feeling bold. New noises and new smells seemed to invigorate her. She was curious about where she was and what all these new scents were. Where were they coming from? She wanted to know. So one day she sneaked by me and ran outside.

I was horrified. Where would she go? Would she know how to get home? Would a car hit her? Would someone take her? I ran after her calling her name but she ran through the shrubs that bordered our property. I looked for her for over an hour and returned home feeling certain that I had lost her forever.

Yaicha returned home soon. She held her tail high and had a skip in her step. Just by looking at her I knew. She, too, had found paradise. Yaicha would be a lover of nature.

As the days passed, Jack and I spent all our free time working on the interior of the house. Every room needed attention.

Once I completed some of my more grueling interior chores, I allowed myself to go outside and work on my lawn and garden. My special treat.

Yaicha would often spend time with me in the yard. She’d softly brush my leg as I tackled some stubborn weed or planted a perennial. I’d watch her jump as she chased a butterfly. Sometimes she would just lie in the sun as I worked nearby. She was my garden companion.

Granted our property was small, a quarter acre, but to me it was paradise. I pruned and pulled and planted. I would work until I could no longer stand. And then I would stop, feeling almost paralyzed.

This was also when I first learned how euphoric naptime could be.

After spending hours outside I would sneak inside, plop on the couch, and fall asleep. One afternoon I lay there, in and out of a deep sleep, when I felt Yaicha jump on the end of the couch. She slowly walked alongside me, stopping at my head. It was time for me to get up so I welcomed the chance to be awakened by my little girl. But something was off. I felt her soft paws on my arm, but there was another movement I couldn’t identify. Something was wiggling in harmony with Yaicha’s purrs. I opened my eyes just in time for Yaicha to drop a snake on my chest.

She seemed surprised and hurt that I let out such an alarming scream.

After realizing that the snake was now loose in the house, I started the search. It wasn’t in the couch. I searched the room, which was not an easy feat, as there were paint cans and tools scattered all over the floor. Lifting cans and newspapers, I finally saw its tail extending out from under a drop cloth. I picked up a tool from the fireplace and grabbed it by the tail. I was actually a bit embarrassed after I saw how small it was in comparison to the sizeable scream I had let out. Yaicha looked at me, trying to figure out what the fuss was all about and why I did not seem happy with her fabulous gift.

I took the wiggling snake outside and threw it as far back on the property as I could. When I returned to the living room Yaicha was still sitting there, looking quite dejected. I picked her up and told her that I appreciated the thought, but slithery reptiles weren’t my idea of a housewarming gift.

I would like to say that that was the first and last time my darling brought me a gift, but it wasn’t. For the first summer we were in that house, Yaicha brought me a total of five snakes. They were always presented to me when I was on the couch in deep slumber.

I guess she felt that I would warm to the idea of having another living creature in the house. Or maybe she thought it would make a fine dinner. Either way, I appreciated the gesture but was even more grateful when she decided to just join me on the couch herself.

~Jeanne Blandford

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