Part Deux of L’histoire de Simone, the Van from Japan.
Once the Japanese émigrés, Simone and Gulliver, were ensconced in my mother’s house (Do you think they speak English? Mom – bless her – asked), life took on a rather different slant for all of us. I began visiting Mom a bit more often. My mother was not fooled; she knew I had come to see the cats, a fact I cannot deny. The cat I’d grown up with was long gone. After I’d married a self-confessed cat hater (more on that later) and moved to a small apartment, I was destined to indulge my love of the beasts vicariously through other people’s pets, never my own. I’m the ultimate Cat Auntie – every cat I’ve come to know and love since then, I spoil rotten.
Although she was small, Simone was without a doubt Cat Number One in that household and asserted her royal prerogative over Gulliver accordingly. And when our entire family vacationed at our island cottage (an indoor cats’ paradise), she assimilated quite well with my sister’s older, more established cats, Mister and Missy. Perhaps because Simmy was so sure of herself and didn’t require heaps of attention, that excellent pair accepted her without a flick of a whisker, and life at the cottage hummed along quite harmoniously. They even went on safari in the woods together, sometimes led by their Humans. (Try navigating a narrow woodland path whilst three or four felines, intent on exploring the delicious scents ahead, choose the space between your feet as their primary lane of travel.) Meek and unsure Gulliver, on the other hand, (who, on his very first island visit cowered at the edge of the woods for three days, peering at us longingly with saucer eyes and a grumbling tummy from behind a pine tree) had to submit to Mister’s authoritative paw during several machismo-filled hiss- and growl-fests. Mister, a handsome tabby with a magnificently long, curling tail, made it crystal clear that this was his turf, not the young upstart’s. The two avoided each other quite judiciously after that.
It was down at the dock, or when we took a dip in the lake, that Simone displayed another of the Van’s characteristic traits. Apparently, these cats love to swim, possibly due to their ancestors’ habit of fishing in Turkey’s Lake Van. Simmy never showed fear of the water; if anything, she enjoyed being around it. She’d hop readily into our gently-rocking moored boat. Once, we even found her underneath the wharf, exploring the rocks exposed by a low waterline. When we took the cats for walks, she was the one who jumped onto the half-submerged rocks farthest out in the lake, showing no distaste when her paws got wet. And, although we could never coax her to actually swim with us, she stayed as close as she could, looking for all the world as if she wanted to join in.
We had also read that Turkish Vans are rather more standoffish than most cats and dislike being held. Simone stayed true to her breed in that regard, to be sure, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t a sweet, loving cat. In her own way, she showed us great tenderness – but always on her terms. She refused to curl up on our laps and would tolerate being picked up for about 3.7 seconds, but absolutely adored snoozing beside me on the couch, an ever-so-convenient position for her most favouritest thing: the administration of endless “pit-pats” on her backside.
Once in a while, though, the Princess surprised us. Back at the cottage on a chilly summer evening, we caught her and my supposedly cat-hating husband nestled together by the fire. Heat-seeking missile Simmy had euphorically if temporarily suspended her “No laps” policy, while my husband was doing his best to maintain an air of complete indifference to this unlooked-for lap rug. The gig was up for both of them when we spied him sneaking out a hand to give the cat a few furtive yet clearly loving caresses. Busted!
During my mother’s move to a condo, Simone expressed bewilderment and grief at the (temporary) loss of her rightful Human when I took the cat home with me for safekeeping one night until the movers were done. She refused to eat, drink or use the litterbox, and prowled the apartment incessantly all night, crying pitifully for my mother. Naturally, I couldn’t sleep for all this caterwauling, either. I loved Simone, but I wasn’t impressed by this performance. Once settled into her new home, however, she happily ruled the roost once again, sleeping at the foot of Mom’s bed (something my mother vowed would never happen) and keeping her faithful company. Whenever I came to visit, she’d wake instantly from her afternoon snooze, hop down from the bed and trot cheerfully to the door to greet me. I wasn’t fooled, either; Simone knew perfectly well that she was in for a glorious few hours of silly talk and endless pit-pats; a task the One Who Fed Her left very happily to me.
~ To be continued ~