Enter the Smithy

Sunday night, as we finished cleaning up our living room, the cats came back. Two mostly white cats, a mother and her son, stood on our deck. They looked too adorable to ignore, so I went outside and pet them for a bit. They liked this. I gave them some food. They really liked this. The little kitten seemed less spooked by my presence than two days ago.

In my head, I ran through a fantasy timeline. The mother likely visited every nearby house, searching for food and shelter, but returned to us because we were the best. Awww. We had to keep them! My mom, who pretends to hate cats but secretly loves them, said we could invite the mother in. As for the kitten? “We’ll see.”

Meet Bani, the Mommy Cat.

The mother was a petite but beautiful creature. She had an incredible checker-board pattern on her head. She rarely purred, but when she did it seemed to vibrate her whole body. She meowed on occasion, but much more often she had this chirp. I’ve never heard it before or since (not even on youtube, where I admit to watching cat videos). Closest I can communicate would be “vrrrrttttt,” with a rising intonation and an emphasis at the end. As we got to know her better, we began to talk. She would do this chirp, then I would answer with my best attempt, and we would go back and forth until she either walked by or fell asleep in my lap.

We called her Bani. I don’t know why. I didn’t name her. It fit, though. She looked like a Bani.

As for the kitten? For two days he was not allowed inside. We put Bani out every night, partly so they could be together, partly in my mom’s vague hope they would run off at night and not come back. On the third day, we had a sudden cold snap, common for the Canadian north, and not even my mom would deny the kitten warmth. Mother and son were allowed in.

He was much better behaved this time, though that’s not saying much. He still spooked very easily, be it from TV noise to the fridge opening and closing. Sometimes he just bolted from a room for no reason, cowering in some dark corner. Mom said he acted schizoid, an epithet that stuck for the rest of his days. At one point the sound of the rocking chair sent him into a scared frenzy, where he raced downstairs and hid under my bed. I didn’t mind that, because I soon coaxed him out and into my arms.

Over the next few days the kitten settled down to indoor life, which is good, because outdoor life remained -20C, and those were the warm days. Well, kitten, if you’re staying with us, you’ll need a name. At first my sister wanted to call him Belle, as in Baby Belle, because little sisters think every cute little thing must be a girl. We checked, and no, it was a boy, and we’re not calling him Belle.

This is the youngest picture I could find. Smithy grew up very fast; he was bigger than his mother at six months. I’m not making this up.

Somehow, I think thanks to my brother, we called him Smithy. Not just any Smithy, but SmithyQ.

I have no idea why. Well, maybe a little. At the time, we really liked Pirates of the Caribbean. This is the first one, not the convoluted, non-sensical sequels. Anywhere, there is a scene early on where Jack Sparrow is confronted by guards and asked his name. “Smith,” he says, “or Smithy if you like.” For some reason, we found this hilarious, and we would often quote it daily. This is where the Smithy came from. As for the Q? Well, no idea, but say it aloud. SmithyQ. It just sounds good.

(My best theory: We said ‘Smithy is Cute’ a lot. Smithy is Cute. Smithy’s Cute. Smithy Cute. SmithyQ.)

So there it is. Thanks to a bad movie, random chance and a sudden cold snap, I found my favourite furry friend. This was only the beginning.

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