“Can I get a cat?” scrolling through the Craigslist feed, Anna looks up at her father. Switches her glance to me. Investigative journalism, smart. Interrogation, even wiser. She was feeling us out.
I adamantly said no. For 23 years I’ve been running a zoo. Every animal imaginable, small and sweet, has been a member of the family.
First it was Leo. For Emily. A rather cute guinea pig bought in Brooklyn. We took the subway there, from Manhattan. It was quite an adventure for a girl raised in the country.
A menagerie followed. I erected a wall at rats and snakes. I never gave in to Emily’s barrage of pleas and tears, which calmed my fears, but never her willingness to ask. The toughest I have ever been.
I once bought a pod of praying mantis to eat the “bad” bugs in the garden. My long days spent in the backyard had paid off. I was fortunate to witness their hatch. Whoever was the first one out, well, he was lucky. The charge afterwards was furious, each climbing over the brother. And sister. I believe I read they eat each other. I didn’t stay for lunch.
By August there were a few mature mantis stationed in the yard. I felt their eyes wherever I walked. It began to feel quite anxious in my other wise peaceful garden.
One summer evening, a mantis had climbed up to Luke’s bedroom window. I asked if he would like to invite him in, give Mr. Mantis a staycation in a bug cage. Luke agreed.
“Mom!” rang out. He was a frenzied mess. He couldn’t sleep. Those eyes. Now he knew how I felt, ever cautious, playing in my garden. Mantis can fly. And eat Hummingbirds. Oh my!
Anna had been struggling. Teenagitis was the worst for her. So it was to be, my husband agreed to another cat. We came back home with two.
Up next, how to choose a pet name.