I remember when I was little, there were always cats around the farm.
I used to walk all the way around the pond to see how many of them I could get to follow me. I pictured it like one of them old cartoons where I’d have a line of cats marching behind me in single file.
I never really knew where they all came from, we were too poor to have pets as such, but as I got older mama explained it. Noah’s ark and all…
It was our little secret that when daddy wasn’t looking, she’d leave scraps of food out on the porch to feed them cats, and to keep them around. They made her feel comfortable…like she wasn’t alone. They gave her something else to nurture. That was mama. She’d never leave a living thing to suffer if she could help it.
Not the cats, or birds, or rabbits, or any other thing that lived on that farm.
She would always find some way to comfort.
She’d tell me that if I practiced holding the kittens, I’d ‘git the hang of holdin’ babies.’ How to touch them gently, so they’d feel comforted, but firm enough so that they’d know they couldn’t get away.
Around the farm, the kittens would always follow me to the edge of the barn, and then as I kept walking, thinking that they were still behind me, they’d start to lose interest, and wander off on their own. They always looked lost, but when the scraps from dinner were set out, they found their way back.
I guess after a while, I went wandering off on my own, too.
Off to the other side of the cornfield…
Then off to the other side of the county…
…off to college…
…off to ‘find myself’… To make a life… To find a home, a man, a job, adventure…
… I been wanderin’.
I’ve been waiting for someone to put out the scraps or to call me home for a while. When that call didn’t come, I just kept wanderin’. I guess mama didn’t know how to hold me firm enough so I couldn’t git away like she said.
In the city, they call it a ‘walk’, but at the end of a ‘walk’, you end up at home. At the same place you started.
Me, I’m wanderin’. I don’t have anywhere to start, or end. I got this damn coat, and this mat, and now, a kitten for company.
I wonder if I can get this little one to follow me in a straight line.
Now that I’m noticing, mama used to hold me like this.
I wish home was still home.
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