My youngest daughter is all a-twitter with excitement.
Her cat Freckles (who is completely devoted and maternally protective toward my daughter), is expecting kittens... and so my girl spent Sunday's rainy afternoon fashioning a cardboard box into the most thoughtfully-constructed feline maternity suite of all time. She and I now spend bedtimes speculating on when the kittens will arrive, what they will look like, how many there will be of each gender... its a conversation that would last well into the wee hours if she had her druthers. In regard to numbers, I was recently informed there would be three kittens born. Upon my asking how she came to that conclusion, her answer was, "Because I found three udders on her tummy..."
Ahh, nothing compares to the birds and bees and anatomy lessons when it comes to conversation topics with a seven-year-old. It does keep me on my toes.
Its also been taking me back in memory to when I was a little girl, and my beloved cat Midnight. Midnight was a hardscrabble black barn cat who lived to ridiculously old age, birthed countless kittens (sometimes while I sat right next to her and watched in wonder and awe), and supplemented her diet of Meow Mix or Cat Chow with birds, squirrels, chipmunks, mice... and rabbits... and bats. She was a skilled and savvy hunter, who learned to wait under the eaves of the barn for the bats to come out at night. They would swoop down as they leaped from those eaves, working to gain altitude... and sometimes find themselves in the clutches of the cat who had perfected her own graceful leap.
Occasionally I would find Midnight with still-breathing prey in her clutches, coax it away from her and valiantly attempt to save it... though I cannot remember ever succeeding. The process usually resulted in a dead squirrel or meadowlark, an annoyed and indignant cat, and a teary pine-grove funeral over which I presided as if the prey's eternal soul depended on my reverent recitation of the Lord's Prayer.
I'm glad my daughters have the chance to make a few memories like that, too. Its a fast-paced society we live in now, one that oftentimes seems to have little regard for life or understanding of its cycles... birth, growth, illness, aging, death... all of which are natural and normal, and yet feared by many and oftentimes hidden away out of sight. My hope is that these daughters of mine will not live in fear of such things, but rather be familiar enough with them to embrace life in its entirety.
In constructing the Taj Mahal of feline maternity suites, my daughter made sure to include lots of paper towels. I asked her why she did so, and was pleased with her response... "Because having babies can be kind of messy".
That's right, Kiddo. An excruciatingly beautiful, wonderful sort of messy.