My cat was barely a baby herself when she gave birth to four beautiful kittens and yet she assumed the role of mother so readily, so willingly and so gracefully. She would lie down for hours on end and let her eager offspring fill their hungry stomachs with her warm milk. She would nuzzle each one and scold each one accordingly. During the few hours that her babes were asleep, she would gently lift her body, taking special care not to disturb their slumber, and she would creep away and quickly eat some food and lap up some water. Her back would arch and her front paws would stretch along the carpet and she would let out a silent yawn. I could tell she was exhausted. I could tell she was weak. I could tell she was a mother, by the sacrifices she had made and by the look in her eyes. A look that spoke clearly to me: “Nobody is to be trusted.”
One day, I poked my head into the kitty house that my father and I had made for the feline family. I poked my head in farther than I usually did. I found a stillborn. She was a light orange tabby kitten like her young mother. I looked at my cat as she licked her child’s fur, and nudged its head, and let out little meows of misery. “Wake up,” she was saying. “Wake up little baby.”
My father took that kitten away as soon as he got home because it wasn’t safe for the other kittens. Their mother cried and mourned for days. Her child was gone.
For eight weeks my sweet little cat tamed those scoundrels of hers. She taught them to hunt by example. She taught them to climb trees, and chase crickets, and stalk birds—she taught those kittens how to be cats.
She knew each one of them; their personalities, their likes, their dislikes, their fears…
She knew that she had to swat Chevron around to get that lazy kitty to do anything. She knew that Paschale was afraid of rolling rocks. She knew that Calico would scamper up anything his path, and that Googlibear was too stubborn to play by the rules. They were getting bigger, feistier and readier to leave her.
But no mother is ever ready for her children to leave.
On the day that the kittens were given away to their new families, my noble little cat, who was just a baby herself, did not eat, and she did not drink. She would not look at me, she would not let me stroke her. Her purr was gone. Her pain was so palpable it weighed on my heart. It was then that I knew, with all certainty, that every creature on this earth is bound to their mother, and that every mother is bound to her children by a force that is stronger than science, that is stronger than all the reasons that biologists give for motherly love—it is simply too strong for human understanding. Mothers and children are bound to each other by a love that can never be severed, by an energy that if harnessed could power the world.
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