Ada jumps onto my desk and saunters back and forth in front of the computer screen. She stops and looks at me, eyes meeting eyes. I pat my lap gently and say softly, "Come on down." She plops onto my knees and sits up right as I stroke her head and back with strong, firm movements. Every now and again she turns her head and looks at me, eyes meeting eyes. Ever and always on her guard, back up-right, up-tight, she allows me to stroke and even gently kiss her on the top of her head. And then suddenly she has gone, jumped, plopped down and wandered out to sit by the window.
Ada Mae was one of a litter of three. Her siblings, Annie and Abel were little darlings that everyone "oohed" and "aah-ed" about. I came to visit them five years ago after deciding that Molly Mabel needed a friend for those long, lonely hours when we were away at work or travel. Annie, Abel and Ada lived in a small apartment with Amber, a young student intern and her companion, accompanied by five other adult cats, two large dogs, a new litter of six kittens and two enormous lizards in a tank above the fireplace. Ada sat apart from everyone at the top of a sofa and watched. I watched her watch. Attracted to Annie kitten I only noticed Ada as just one of the three siblings. One day Amber came to my office at the Center. She told me that everyone adored Annie and Abel and no one noticed Ada who was always apart and alone. She was worried about Ada and wanted her to go to a loving home. I came by the next day and spent an hour or so watching Ada watch us, tentative, gentle, sweet, careful and alone. "I'll take her!" I declared sensing her unique character. A few weeks later the kittens turned 8 weeks old and Ada came home.
Just a small kitten in a box, she had been playful and loving while waiting in my office where Amber delivered her. When we arrived home I sat on the floor in the dining room with the new kitten in a box. Molly entered the room. I opened the door to the cat carrier and as Ada emerged so did a huge, low growl from deep inside her throat and chest. It boomed out and reverberated around the room. I gasped. Molly backed up, hair rising and started to hiss. I cried. The friends met.
A few months later I gave Ada the second part of her name: Mae. You see, as Ada saunters, she sways the back part of her haunches flirtatiously from side to side. When Sue was here, she said that Ada looks like she's wearing her very best dress all the time. It has taken Ada years to sit on my lap, even with back up-right. Always careful, watchful and aloof, Ada Mae stands apart and yet keeps close by. At times Ada runs around the apartment and jumps up the climbing pole right to the ceiling with a yowl of delight. When we first arrived in Philadelphia after the long drive from Buffalo, Ada ran from room to room growling and yowling, her despair at the strange new place reverberating around the empty walls.
I think she used to have to wait for a very long time to be allowed to eat food when she was a kitten in that apartment full of animals. Even now years later, when her bowl is empty she becomes agitated and sits nearby until it is refilled. Yesterday I told T. that if I die he must be sure to remember to keep her bowl full. It is just one of those fears she acquired when she was young and I have great respect for the fears of others. He promised me he would.