When I first adopted, I knew this day would come – it just seemed so far away. I thought I’d be better emotionally prepared when my cat, Charlie, finally went to meet his birth mother, Lasagna.
Lasagna was also adopted as an infant by my neighbor Beth Anne, who kept an orderly household with firm rules about not going outside. However, Lasagna became pregnant when she was still a kitten herself. As soon as her five kittens were weaned, I joyfully took home Charlie, a manic little gray bundle with white paw socks. I knew he wasn’t mine by blood, but I could tell right away that I was meant to be his mommy. Beth Anne soon after got a new job in another state, so she and her family moved away with Lasagna while I kept Charlie.
Charlie was only two months old, so he has very few memories of her.
Three years later, Beth Anne moved back onto our street to be near her ailing dad. One day Beth Anne called to say hello, and she suggested wouldn’t it be fun to get Lasagna and Charlie together? I told her it was a delightful idea, see them tomorrow, and hung up. Then I started sobbing.
I picked up Charlie and snuggled him, crying. “You know who your real mommy is, right? Who buys you food, and treats, and catnip bananas, and dozens of toy mice even though you lose interest in them after five minutes?” Charlie coughed up a hairball onto my shoulder, as if to say, “Of course, mom. This is just something I have to do. You weren’t adopted, so you don’t understand.” It was hard to hear, but I knew he was right.
We arrived at Beth Anne’s at 10AM the next day. My heart pounded as I rang the bell. Beth Anne welcomed us inside and there she was, licking her privates on the couch – something I would never do in front of Charlie. I let Charlie out of his carrier, worried that her behavior might rub off on him in one quick visit. Both cats froze in place, their tails stiff and then slowly flicking side to side. “Look, Lasagna!” Beth Anne squealed. “It’s your baby!” Was she trying to hurt me?
The two cats approached each other slowly, stopping about a foot apart, and began to hiss. I recorded the exchange so that I could translate it to Human English:
CHARLIE: “You abandoned me!”
LASAGNA: “Look, things were complicated. I had to.”
CHARLIE: “Did you even miss me?”
LASAGNA: “Of course I missed you. I (unintelligible) to settle some things before I saw you again. Get my life straightened out. So you could be proud of me.”
CHARLIE: “You’re my mom. Moms are supposed to stay with their kids.”
LASAGNA: “You think I ever had my own litter box? You ever eaten cat food off an old lady’s stoop? You ever fuck a raccoon just to numb the pain?”
CHARLIE: “Fuck you. You’re not my mom. You’re just my mother.”
Charlie was trying to hump Lasagna, who was not happy about it. I picked up Charlie, who kept trying to get back to Lasagna, but she ran under the couch and swatted at him. From my outsider’s perspective, this was taboo, but I suppose meeting your mother for the first time in years can cause a lot of complicated feelings. It’s not my place to judge.
Back at home, it seemed as though Mama Lasagna was already just a memory. I gave Charlie a brand-new catnip cigar. “See, who’s your real mommy?” I said to Charlie, my little snuggle-pie. I may not have given birth to him, but he’s definitely my baby.