Because the last time I left for a vacation, the day I returned one of my cats died. As if that might not scar a person enough on its own, this was the third time it happened to me.
In 2008, upon returning home from, ahem, being indisposed for a month, my cat equivalent to a "first born" died. His name was Comet and he was the best cat ever. At 24 pounds, he was huge and stood tall and broad like a dog. He meowed loudly whenever I tried to have a conversation with anyone else, be it over the phone or in person. He butted his head against my desk if I worked too long providing a perfect excuse for a break. Also, he loved riding my old skateboard.
Comet was the first cat I ever got as an adult living on my own. He was a tiny white kitten when I first got him and on his first day home he leaped from my arms and raced around the living room in a white blur. I yelled, "Hey, he looks like a Comet!" Thus his name was born.
As a writer and graphic designer I spend a lot of time home alone with my cats. They become more than pets, more than family members even, they become helpers and assistants. Comet was the best assistant I ever had and the day he died my heart broke in two. (And I don't think it's ever really healed.)
Shortly thereafter, upon returning home from a trip to Vancouver and Massachusetts, my second cat, Lucy, died.
Then in October I went to Florida for over half a month. I returned home to a sick cat. Julius. She - yes SHE - long story - died that night.
Julius was orange and white. Most orange cats are boys (as a general rule). I had been obsessed with the cable show Rome at the time so I named what I thought was a male cat, Julius. I thought it was cute because he was orange like the popular mall drink, Orange Julius. But then we found out he was a she. Thing is, Julius kind of stuck. We called her Ju-ju for short.
Sometimes I'd find her asleep on my printer. I'd listen to her snore while I wrote or worked at my desk. She'd meow loudly like a Siamese when she wanted attention. Then if I held out my hand, she'd bonk her head against it and purr all the while pressing her little, soft head against my hand. If I or Jeremy were out all day, she'd get up and pace back and forth on the couch after a long stretch and meow loudly in sentences, to which we would respond with a, "Oh, yes, Julius, tell us about your day...Oh, really?...They did that did they...Well, we're home now." And so on.
It's like there's something missing from the room. It seems smaller, emptier. This happens every time. Comet, Lucy, now Julius. A little chunk of my heart breaks off every time. What happens when there isn't any left?
And it was so sudden, such a shock to my system that I did not put it all together right off the bat. But then it slowly dawned on me... This is the third time one of my cats has died immediately upon my returning from a trip.
This is why I don't want to leave. I never want to leave again!
I will, though, leave, again. I mean, I'm sure of it... Right?
But right now the wound is still too fresh.
What would I be missing at Xmas?
- My Mum decorating a big, green, real tree with ornaments from my youth and fancy new one's she's bought since - each with a story!
- My Step-Dad whipping up a yule log in the kitchen and the mountain of regret after eating too much of it because it's so delicious.
- How much my Mum's cat Seamus loves the tree and how upset and grumpy he gets when they take it down.
- Paul Frank stockings stuffed to the brim with exotic candy from all over the world - I live for Xmas stockings.
- A big pile of presents under the big, lit tree.
- My big, fluffy, purple and maroon winter coat.
- The lobster trap tree in Provincetown.
Maybe what I should do is flip-flop. Next year spend Xmas in Mass then the year after that summer and so on. I'm still only traveling twice a year, but I get to experience both a New England summer and winter. Otherwise, I'd be existing in some weird endless summer parallel realm by spending winter in Florida, then spring and fall in California, and summer in Massachusetts...
Actually, that doesn't sound too shabby, but no, dammit, I miss Xmas in Mass so every other year I'll have to break my eternal summer with a New England winter.
PS: I recently designed a website called Cats in Places by Amy Wallace that I'd like to dedicate to Comet, Lucy, Julius and all the cats loved and lost throughout time. I miss you, Ju-ju.