My first baby

I knew when I met him that I was meant to be his mama.

I’d been in a relationship for about a year and my biological clock was telling me it was time to nurture something. I mentioned this urge to my boyfriend, and he told me I should look into adopting a newt.

I rolled my eyes and asked a coworker for help with details. She suggested finding a rabbit to parent for a while. A starter family, she said, began small. Then I could move up to a cat or dog. I wrinkled my nose. “Never a cat. I hate cats.”

We went to the shelter, which had no bunnies. At lunch, the waitress gave us our check and asked if we knew anyone looking for a kitten. “Not me,” I said. “I don’t like cats.” My friend, who has fostered more cats than any other person on Earth, asked about the kittens. Abandoned, blah blah blah, eyedropper feedings every other hours, blah blah blah, about the size of this bagel…my friend suggested we go take a look.

Never believe an animal activist who says you should “just” go look at kittens.

The woman went to the back of her house and brought out a huge basket teeming with kittens. And right in the middle was the most beautiful caramel-colored kitten I’ve ever seen. I pointed right at him and said, “I want to hold him.”

And I was done for.

I brought him and his brother home, after a terrifying stop at Target where I panicked at leaving them in the car, panicked at choosing the right litter and box, panicked at choosing the right food and water dish. Panicked at driving home with a cat carrier…pretty much all of the panics I had driving home my son years later. How did they let me adopt these creatures without any proof I could do the job?!

I gave them a bath (yeah, well, I didn’t know, but neither did they) and tried to use the blow drier to dry them (yeah, well, I didn’t know, but they taught me). When my boyfriend knocked on the front door the next morning I ushered them into the bathroom and shut the door. I told him when he came in that I had a surprise. He glowered, and said it had better be a newt.

I opened the door and these gorgeous, fluffy little boys came tripping all over themselves out of the bathroom. The grown man put the tips of his fingers together just beneath his chin and whispered, his face all aglow, “It’s kittens!”

They loved him. They loved us. They made us laugh and we did our best with them. When the first baby came, the black cat was mad but the caramel cat was curious. He stayed, always, two feet away from the baby. We have a fabulous video of Peanut, just able to sit up at 6 months, calling to the beautiful orange cat. In gibberish. Persistenly. At high volume. For more than 10 minutes. And then bursting into tears that the fuzzy brother would not come when called in screechy gibberish.

But whenever Peanut cried, the cat came running over.

That habit persisted until last week. If anyone in the house cried, my oldest love came running to see if he could do anything. And as always, I told him, “Thank you for checking on us. But seeing as you have no thumbs, you’re not much good to me, you silly old thing. But I appreciate the gesture.”

He was huge. When he laid on my chest, all 15 pounds, I felt grounded and true. When he laid on my lap, I acted just as I did with newborns: don’t move a muscle lest you jostle your dear little one.

He was a giant baby. Weaned too early, he and his feline brother both came to us, two months old, nursing on anything they could find. The black cat nursed on his older brother’s forearm. The big beige guy nursed on clothing. He eventually weaned his brother by biting him every time he started to suck on that wheat-colored arm. But nobody pushed him off the clothing, and for 13 years he slept and nursed on the jammies I wore out of the fire.

Whenever I sang, particularly showtunes, that little camel-hair-coated kitty came and sniffed my mouth, as though there were something preternatural inside he needed to diagnose. I wondered if he suspected I’d swallowed a Broadway cast and he wanted to come to their aid.

When his black feline sibling died, we worried about him. But he seemed not to notice. He still had us, and he seemed quite pleased about that.

When he got sick last week, I worried and called the vet. When they said he might not last the day I sobbed. When he didn’t make it even 48 hours from the first sign of illness, Spouse, that same man who crawled around with the kittens and wanted desperately to name them both Newt, wept like I’ve never seen him cry before.

Because Luke was our first baby.

And I’m wrecked.

Spouse took the litter boxes out of the bathrooms today. I thought I was going to be okay until the moment I saw that, for the first time in 13 years, there’s actually room to navigate our bathrooms.

And I don’t like it one little bit.

Hide between Dad's Feet

Pretending innocence


Oh, my dear sweet boy. I wish I could make it easier. And I will never, so that you can hear, tell you that it will get much, much worse. This is already more than your little heart can handle, and all I can do is offer a shoulder to cry on, a warm hug, and a fierce advocate in your efforts to pick up the pieces.

I know your heart is breaking. I know this news has disrupted your sense of self, rocked the security of your community, and upended your trust in security.

But it is, really is, going to be okay.

Some friends at school told you the news today that LEGO is phasing out Ninjago. They don’t know you well enough to tell you the right way. They are six; they had no idea they needed to cushion the blow and to frame it properly. They didn’t think they needed to tell you carefully, so they just dumped the announcement on you.

And you tried so hard to make it through the day without breaking down. Once we had said goodbye to everyone, you made it halfway across the playground before you just lost it. Heart breaking, tears streaming, you told me. Softly.

“They took Ninjago away.”

The school did? You mean your small group of friends who cares for nothing but pretending to be ninjas, fighting off playground evils with the powers of ice, lightning, earth, and fire incensed those dolts who run the show? They’ve taken the tools of your play and your first real bridge to community? Bastards! Bureaucrats! Troglodytes!

“No, no. LEGO took them. They’re taking them all away from the stores.”

Recall? Figures. Those corporate whores are always trying to make goods cheaper so they can pocket the profits. I can’t believe they’ve endangered you just to make a few bucks.

Wrong again. Honestly, I don’t get much right.

After a lot more tears and some help from one of your friends I understood. LEGO is phasing out Ninjago for another theme. They’ve saturated the market, gone as long as they can with this batch of good vs. evil and are retiring it.

“But they’ll replace it with something else,” I explained. “They’re just trying to get us to buy more stuff.” (Oh, stupid woman. Don’t go all anti-consumerist right now. Your Berkeley is showing and it’s ugly in the face of this young man’s devastation.)

“But the ninjas are just another iteration of bionicles and hero factory and…” (Oh, ye sightless and heartless wench. They’re not the same. Never say that.)

“But you just learned about them and asked for them for Hannukah and Solstice and Christmas, and you’re still going to get them. They’re not taking them out of stores. They’ve made millions and they’re just going to stop making more so they can make something else. And we can still buy them if that’s what’s most important on your gift list.” (You’re getting closer, lady.)

“Here. What is your plan with Ninjago? And does this news change your plans?”

You explained that your plans are to acquire ninja figures and make them battle, and surround yourself with a darling community of like-minded ninjas who also want to battle.

“Well, you can still do all that.”

(Ah. Finally. Saved it just at the end there, cupcake.)

Motherhood title not revoked. Close enough to smell your undying disdain. But we’re still okay.

And to get bonus points, I jumped at the chance to join your club. The group of ninjitsu devotees talked at school today and you’re all starting a club to convince LEGO to bring back Ninjago.

Strongly worded letters. My spe-ci-a-lity.

Here’s what you drafted before dinner:



I hop yes, too, buddy. I hop it’s as easy as getting corporate to mark the “yes” box on your ballot.

I love you. And your strongly worded letter. And your persuasive ballot.

And I won’t tell you until tomorrow that a cursory search online tonight has yielded no confirmation of the terrible, terrible first-grade rumor about Ninjago’s demise.

Let’s all hope that, either way, your letter will persuade LEGO to come to their senses and keep making the cement that bonds your school relationships.

But if they do pull Ninjago from production, I promise to play “If You Leave” on an endless loop for you.

The most sincere wish I have for you is that your generation has a John-Hughes-esque artist to help you make sense of your heartbreaks.

When the world stops

Words fail me…a friend just posted a link on his facebook page about a boy he worked with…

Zachary Cruz was walking from kindergarten to his after-school program and was killed by a car.

His parents, grad students at Cal, have set up a memorial page. There’s a link to help defray their son’s funeral costs, and info about the Oxnard and Berkeley memorials.  Two weeks before his sixth birthday.

Can you imagine?

Can you help, please?

This amazing, wonderful little boy that I worked with for the last two years died Friday in a tragic traffic accident in Berkeley on his way from kindergarten to his after school program. He was mind-bendingly sweet and adorable, a really old soul. His parents, grad students at Cal, have set up a wonderful memorial website for him and could use help to defray funeral costs. Check it out and make a donation if you can…”