The bustle in a house
“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” One of our small things was our fifteen-year-old cat Sabrina, who died on Saturday. She hated winter, and literally died rather than face another one. She was that kind of cat, stubborn and willful and terrible, really terrible.
I fell in love with her at first sight. She was in a cage at the local humane society, where she had spent all of a couple of hours, and I saw her, opened the door, and took her home. I didn’t even consult Ron. I just had to add her to our household, where she never got along very well with any of our other cats.
The kids loved her, despite her always-somewhat-prickly temperament. Eleanor drew comics about her rodent-catching exploits, an entire series she entitled “Sabrina, Feline Phantom” because she was the best hunter any of us had ever seen. Walker, only five when he met her, soon learned how aloof she could act one minute, and how demanding the next.
Ron loved her because of or in spite of how inconvenient she would make herself, especially on her occasional forays onto his lap late at night, when he was trying to type. She would make herself at home on the lap and then absolutely forbid any movement or cessation of petting from the lap provider.
She was always our lookout at the front of the house, perched on the back of the sofa in front of the picture window in winter, and basking in the sun on our front porch in decent weather, which she defined narrowly (for Ohio) as any sunny day above 75 degrees.
She was a drama queen, as we found out the first time we took her to the vet for a checkup. If she had to have a rabies shot, she would swoon for the rest of the day afterwards (if you’ve never seen a cat swoon, it consists mostly of getting up and lying yourself down again heavily whenever someone else comes in the room). I’d swear sometimes she actually put her paw to her forehead.
She was part sealpoint Siamese, and part something else, which resulted in a mix that is called “lynxpoint.” We have had three cats that looked like that and had different mixtures of the fierce and loving disposition that seems to go along with the beautiful gray coat and blue eyes.
You’ve never seen anything more fierce than Sabrina on the prowl. Or Sabrina wanting you to pet her–in her old age, she would curl up with Eleanor in her bed and would carefully insert a claw into a tender place, like an armpit, whenever she decided it was time for Eleanor to wake up or turn her attention from whatever else she was doing and pet her.
The cat reminded me of my mother, especially as they both aged. They were both fierce in their love and anything they pursued, and they were equal parts prickly and fascinating. (Also they would really hate it that I would compare either of them to anyone else, ever.)
We wrapped the small body in a blanket and put it in a box. Ron dug her grave where she used to sit in the sunshine. We buried her in the snow, and then we went back inside, where Tristan and Pippin are watching us as we clean up and put away some of the her things, thinking of the Emily Dickinson poem:
The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth–
The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
This is the last photo I took of Sabrina, on Wednesday. She had hopped up on the table where I was typing at my computer and gotten in between me and the keyboard, lying on some papers (which I eventually had to pull out from under her) while alternately biting at my hands and butting them with her head to get me to do the right thing and get to work on petting her.
Now that Sabrina has become an actual feline phantom, I know I’ll continue to see her in shadow at the front of our house. We will never know another small soul so fierce and beautiful and vigilant.