All I Want For My BirthdayMay 02, 2023
On May 2, a lot of years ago, my mom got her wish. I was born. She waited four long years after marrying my dad to have a start to her family. She wanted a passel of kids. Alas, she ended up with me and my younger brother. Never having been the maternal type myself (except with kittens), I didn’t quite understand how having only two children could be a sad situation.
Whoa, there’s more than eight in this picture! These are all the Neuens cousins - The passel of eight: brother Tim in front with suspenders, cousin Kitty in back with suspenders, me peeking next to her left shoulder between cousins Barb and Jim, Pat, the oldest, wearing glasses, and Tom, over brother Tim’s left shoulder. More info than you wanted. Too bad.
But here’s the thing. My mom never seemed sad about it. We always had pets, and my aunt and uncle, who lived next door, had that passel of kids (6). I actually think Aunt Margie would have gratefully traded places with my mom a time or two. We tended to drop in and out of each others’ houses on a regular basis, so my mom, even though she only birthed two herself, had a total of eight children to monitor and love on. My cousin Kitty and I were joined at the hip - is this why I love cats so much? - until I was in fourth grade and discovered there were other cool kids in the world besides my cousins (Hey, Judy!).
A long way from the fourth grade and still friends.
What does this have to do with my birthday? Nothing, really, except I look upon those years as essentially happy. Having lots of family around was a very nice thing until it no longer was, and I escaped from expectations (get married to a nice boy, have kids!) and created my own messy, wonderful existence in California - about as far as you can get from Wisconsin and still be in the lower 48.
For the first time in my life I had no pets. My dog Shenandoah and my horse Sunny stayed with my folks. I had a bicycle that I rode to work on the streets of Pasadena and Alhambra. I lived in a small apartment building, 16 units, had a very strange off-and-on boyfriend, and lived across the swimming pool from an astronomer (honest!). A girl in the building and I did things together. I worked for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. My life was full and busy. And I was lonely.
No one waited for me to come home, certainly not the strange boyfriend! The evenings sometimes dragged by. I cuddled at night mostly with my pillow. I needed a CAT.
The rules were quite clear at the apartments - no pets, sorry. They also didn’t like you painting murals on the inside apartment walls, but I ignored that rule almost immediately. I did use washable paint.
Then a miracle happened. Someone told me about a litter of kittens. I was just looking, and of course you know what happened - one of the kittens picked me out, and I smuggled her into my apartment. She was tiny. Her name was Harvey.
Harvey. Tiny. On the came-with-the-apartment couch.
The only place Harvey didn’t go with me was to work. Otherwise, we were pretty much inseparable. She learned to wear a harness and leash, and we even went to Palm Springs together and spent the weekend poolside (well, me - she opted to stay in the nice cool room).
I managed to keep her presence unknown for about six months, and then one day the landlord went into my apartment for some reason while I was at work and the cat was, as they say, out of the bag.
It became a choice of the cat or the apartment, a total no-brainer. I rode my bike all over the neighborhood looking for a new apartment. Around this time the man who was to become my second husband moved into a house about a half-mile away, and Harvey and I ended up there.
Harvey was with me for 2-1/2 years. We moved to Colorado (with said man). One day, when he was out of town on business and I went off to work, Harvey wandered away from our house, and I never saw her again. I cried non-stop for two weeks. I searched for a year. It was devastating. Happily, she did return to me (many times, in many bodies), and I will always be grateful to her because she’s the one who started me on the path that has me where I am today - talking to animals and deeply involved in helping people and their animals make a better life, either through coaching, classes, or just plain hearing what their animal has to say.
Talk to me.
So here’s what I want for my birthday (I bet you didn’t think we’d ever loop back to this, eh?). I want YOU to look deeply into your pet’s eyes and acknowledge the being who lives there. Tell them how you feel. Let them know how much you love them, because you never know when they will wander off and never be seen again. They need to hear it and feel it as much as you need to express it. It’s a big reason why they’re with us.
For those of you wondering, I was 16 when Star Trek premiered on September 8, 1966. Do the math.
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