Monday, June 11, 2012

Carport Kittens

When Bianca's adoption was rescinded on Saturday morning, I have to admit that the news wasn't entirely disappointing. For one thing, it meant that we get to keep our big, black beauty for awhile longer. For another, we could go out and do something fun that day.

VOKRA foster manager, Mickey Carrington, emailed us that morning to tell us that fifteen new kittens would be arriving at Karen Duncan's house in the afternoon. Karen is sick, and Mickey wanted to know if we would be willing to help with their intake. We have never helped with "intake" before, but we thought we had a hazy notion of what was involved, so we agreed.

I have several new distinctive scars on my hands today, the prettiest of which form a perfect little diamond shape, composed of four punctures from sharp, tiny teeth. They were impressed into my left index finger by an outraged little tuxedo kitten with a kinky manx tail, who had become quite upset with me when I proposed to examine his credentials. My win record with the black and white cats seems to be running around fifty/fifty. The first three of our "intake" clients had already left with their new foster parents by the time we'd finished with the last twelve and cleaned my forensic contributions from the walls of Karen's downstairs bathroom.

Before we left that afternoon, Karen told us about the little tenants in her main-floor bathroom. She had four seven week-old kittens who had been born in a nicely arranged East End carport, and who have been living with her since they were weaned. We were taken upstairs to meet them, and found four little balls of fluffy popcorn, bouncing across the linoleum, skittering in and out of the plumbing fixtures. When the pale, ghostly grey one settled, purring, into Sheral's lap, I knew we were doomed.

Leonard's isolation cell has been reassembled, and our four new guests have been invested therein. They still had no names on Sunday morning, but there was an idea rolling around inside of my head like a little marble racing about the rim of a great, big bowl. One of our new charges has beautiful spots like a leopard. A long time ago, I saw a film by Luchino Visconti about a Sicilian prince whose family emblem is just such a creature. Based on a 1958 novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, it was called Il Gattopardo, or The Leopard.

Ergo, I have proposed that our handsome, spotty, new friend shall be Don Fabrizio, after the princely main character in the story. His big, russian-blue sister with the splendid, stubby tail will be called Dona Concetta, and the spectral, grey tabby girl is going to be named Dona Carolina, after two of Fabrizio's daughters. The last little boy was the hardest, and I have named him after the organist who plays in the family church. The little, black male will be Don Ciccio, not least of all because he appears to be the pianist.

They are four beautiful, active, well-behaved little cats, and I suspect that they will be with us about as long as their cousin Schroeder was.

Of course, most of our other cats are outraged that the little ones have invaded their home.  Bianca is appalled, but it probably won't be of long duration. She warms to other cats pretty quickly. Xena gives them a wide berth and Brie visits often to teach them new dirty words. Leonard has built himself an unassailable fortress of the cushions at the top of the big bed, and will not be moved therefrom. Rena, being Rena, will make the best of what comes, and accepts this too with her usual good cheer.

It is KITTEN SEASON again, and again VOKRA is being swamped. If you have a space in your home or in your heart, please contact us about adopting one - or more - of these nice little cats, their cousins, or their aunts or uncles. If you have a bigger space, or a softer heart, you might consider fostering for us. If you don't think you're ready for either commitment, please follow the link below and contribute as generously as you can.

You've done so before, and I thank you again.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Naming Names

There is one lesser dividend of the Second World War that we frequently ignore, and we should not. We don't often recall that since 1945, few little boys have grown up encumbered by the name "Adolf".

Your name is one of the very first gifts that you received, and some of you, like me, might wish that your parents had kept the receipt.

My eldest brother is named Donald George, after my father's brother and my mother's. Our sister is called Xandra Fredress, in honour of both of our parents. Next on the list was James Edwin, after Mom's brother-in-law, and two of her uncles. I believe that John Alan was named for Dad's own father, but some of the family records are a bit spotty in places, and I've only ever seen our grandfather listed as "John".

I was the result of my parents' last erotic hiccup. Since it was middle of the nineteen-fifties, I suspect that one (or both) of them was drunk. Perhaps more than occasionally, destiny is that random. By the time that I arrived, our family had already fulfilled its obligations to all of our solvent male relatives, so our parents decided to name me after someone that they actually liked. My first name is Lee, and as an afterthought, they appended my father's given name of Alexander to it.

I've never found Shel Silverstein's song, A Boy Named Sue, particularly funny. Its premise hit too close to where I live. There was always some smart-mouth in school who was delighted to inform me that Lee was the name of his sister. Neither my uncle's bride, Rosalie, nor my sister-in-law, Leona liked their names, so they chose to abbreviate them...and guess what they were shortened to...

In a time when they might have pointed to examples like Lee Marvin or Lee J. Cobb as co-owners of my name, my classmates would generally remind me of Lee Harvey Oswald instead. Because it's difficult to shorten one-syllable names, mine has frequently been lengthened. It has been extended to Leo, Leon, Leonardo, Leroy and even Lee-man. I still wake up screaming...

A number of friends have tried to make me like my name better by telling me what it means; it is a protected shelter, the side turned away from the wind or the quarter to which the said wind blows. It is also the alternative spelling of lea, or meadow.

Somehow, I felt that that it would not be particularly useful to tell them that my brother Don's friend Lee (who my parents had actually liked) had been born in China, and his name means plum. Just keep that under your hats, okay?

Often, people will change names they don't like. I suppose it's a easy enough process. My Tall Lady, Sheral, was once a simple Susan, but apparently, the numbers didn't add up. I haven't considered it because I haven't ever found a name that I prefer. Also it's one of the more polite things that my siblings have called me. Finally, it's the name that my parents, in their folly, chose for me.

Besides, after all this time, maybe I'm getting used to it.

Good night, Marion Morrison, wherever you are.