This is how I begin most mornings — cat, quilt, book, and cuppa.
The picture doesn’t do justice to the rag quilt, a Christmas gift made by my dear friend and heart-sister, Bev Henneous. Remind me and I’ll post a better photo, one that shows off its amazing colors and workmanship. Spreading it across my lap every morning is like receiving a hug from Bev (who gives the very best of hugs) and reminds me of sitting together on her couch in Bend, OR sharing her own version of this quilt while we talk.
Ruby, of course, thinks the quilt belongs to her, and lets me use it out of the extreme goodness of her heart, and because I (not always willingly) get up early to feed her whenever Her Majesty’s tummy feels empty.
My drink of preference is black tea, and mornings just aren’t the same without it. I prefer Yorkshire Gold, Barry’s Gold, PG Tips, or Smith’s Portland Breakfast or British Brunch. I brew it strong and add only enough milk to color it without losing the heat. I can do coffee in a pinch, but it has to be what the wife of a friend once called “Baby Coffee” – meaning, lots of milk and sugar. (Might as well be eating coffee ice cream by the time I’m done doctoring it.)
If I’m lucky, I’m left to myself that first hour of the morning. It gives me time to wake up, time to read in peace, time to order my thoughts for the day ahead. In warmer weather, I cheat Ruby of her lap-time and sit outside to watch the sun come up and listen to the birds. (We have a particularly loud cardinal who perches at the tip of the tallest tree and sings as if he’s celebrating the dawn of time.) Most days, though, I’m in the easy chair near the fireplace. We’re new to this house, so we haven’t had a fire yet, but I’m already looking forward to crisp fall mornings and shivering winter nights.
This cat, though. She’s something else. She came into our lives and took the place by storm. She’d been found on the streets of Hartford – emaciated, four legs covered in tar, with a suppurating uterus, and an immense rodent ulcer on her top lip. Go head and Google “rodent ulcer” and scroll through until you find the grossest picture you can, and that was Ruby. Those who rescued her nursed her through the worst of it, then we took over and dealt with reoccurrence until we finally beat it. (Knock wood) Then she became diabetic, which we also got her through. (Knock wood). Did you know that cats can experience a one-time reversal in diabetes? We didn’t, but that’s what the vet told us and, praise be, that’s what Ruby experienced. Since then, it’s been pretty easy sailing. (Knock wood; is three times the charm?)
The day we took her out of her carrier to meet her new canine sister, she hissed at Holly….who, being Holly and world’s most perfect dog, shrugged a “whatever” and walked away. Twelve hours later they were curled together on the couch, and remained inseparable until sweet Holly died in June 2020.
But this cat, this Ruby, this gem beyond price…she kept me going through the onset of COVID, through the loss of Holly, through the deaths of so many people we loved over the past two-plus years. She’s been a small purring bundle of love beside my head, against my back, behind my knees, in my lap, perched on the back of the couch. She’s been a constant no matter what’s been thrown at her. She is all about the love.
And, yeah, there are times (like 1 am) when she decides she’d rather have me up and about because I know how to open those flip-top cans of Fancy Feast, that I don’t particularly care for her…but then she climbs into my lap after every meal to say “Thanks, Mom” and head-butt me, and curl up in my lap to watch TV. (And she does. She loves The Great British Baking Show, and any program with animals gets her immediate attention.) And of course I cave. Who wouldn’t?