The further adventures of Bijou, the cat

While I was in the United States, January through May, Bijou was living the life of Riley.  She stayed with a friend who has quite a large apartment, consisting of three large bedrooms, a living room plus and a dining room plus.  Bijou had the run of the place.  And she literally could run in a circle going through almost every room.  She loved hiding under my friend’s bed, she would go to sleep on the kids’ book bags, she would sit on the back of a sofa for hours making those funny kitty noises every time she saw a bird and she made herself at home wherever she could.  She knew she was only a guest and never jumped up on a table or workspace as she did at my apartment.

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Hello

Once Spring came, things started to get a bit dicey.  The apartment is on the 6th floor.  Each room has a minimum of two ceiling almost to the floor windows.  And every window had a little balcony where healthy plants were waiting for the sun. The windows would be thrown open and Bijou, with tons of cat curiosity, would go exploring.  Just sitting on the little balcony was not enough.  She would jump up on the railing and when any of the family walked by, she would just look innocent.  While the family member had a small heart attack terrified Bijou would fall to the pavement and use up all her nine lives at once.

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One very hot in July night, my friend decided to leave all the windows open.  She could see that Bijou was near the balcony but opted for taking care of herself first. The next morning, when she called Bijou, Bijou was nowhere to be found.  She went looking everywhere and, after an hour, she was formulating a conversation with me to tell me that Bijou had disappeared.  Just as she picked up her phone, she saw Bijou looking pathetic outside her son’s window.  That window was not open the night before.  Neither of us even wanted to think how Bijou managed to get to that balcony from the opposite side.

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Phew, I’m glad she found me.  I’m tired

When I finally moved into my own apartment in early August, I came and got Bijou and, for the first time in eight months, we were living together.  I have a large terrace with a railing.  The top of the railing is 4″/10cm thick.  I’m on the 7th floor.  Each room has glass doors that open up on the south side of my building and it is necessary in warm weather to have them open.  Bijou loves the terrace and spends a lot of her time there.  At first, she would jump up on the railing and I was the one having a heart attack.  If I screamed or did something panicky, I was afraid I would scare her and she’d fall.  I would clap my hands very loud which has always been my signal to her that said “No”.  She would jump down.  As soon as I went inside, she’d jump up again and nonchalantly go walking over to the next door neighbor’s apartment.

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Are you talkin’ about me?

Bijou always comes when I call her.  She is basically a very good cat.  She is learning not to jump up on the railing and does it rarely now.  I’m still too nervous to leave the doors to the balcony open in the night when I’m sleeping or when I leave the apartment.  I don’t know why.  I truly don’t think anything would happen to her.  Cats have such an innate sense of balance and perspective of distance.  But……I don’t ever want to be in the position of saying “If only…..If only I’d done the right thing”  So doors stay closed at night, open during the day. Sara, the police, periodically wanders the apartment looking for any cat trouble Bijou may have gotten in.

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Bijou, who was bought off the streets of Paris 2 1/2 years ago, has grown into a sweet cat. I’m completely aware that the catcapades she gets into are completely in line with her job description.  She also likes to be in the same room as people.  She likes to sleep at the foot of the bed.  When she was very little she discovered a teddy bear of mine and to this day treats the bear like the mother she never had.  She will walk up slowly, sniff it then realizing it is mama bear, she will start kneeding the bear and collapse in pleasure while her front paws go in and out of the bears tummy.  I’m always so grateful it’s not my tummy.  My friend, Fatiha, adores Bijou and makes her toys out of whatever she finds lying around.  She gets Bijou to jump 4 feet high then teases her by pretending to throw a ball.  Bijou doesn’t care.  She adores Fatiha back and if Fatiha wants to play, that’s what Bijou will do.

And now you are caught up with the adventures of the fur ball living with me!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

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Banya the cat.

Before Banya was attacked by a raccoon, she was already overweight but she moved around rather spritely, going indoors and outdoors as she pleased.  Then, three summers ago, I went out of town and a family stayed at my home in Oakland.  For some reason, that I’ve never been able to figure out except that they must not like animals, they put Banya and her food outside on the deck.  In California.  Where wildlife is in everyone’s backyard. Five days later they called me to say Banya was hurt.  I had a friend go get her and take her to the Vet.  She had maggots growing in a huge wound.  The only reason she wasn’t dead was that the raccoon bit her around her spine.  Her spine protected her organs.  I’ve never forgiven myself for that happening.

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So I brought Banya to Paris.  I thought I was the most trustworthy person for her to be with.  She was and is a real trooper.  She flew in cargo and when I picked her up, she looked quite pleased with herself.  In Paris, Banya became an indoor cat. She became a city cat having to get used to city noises that she had never heard before.  She hid under the bed a lot and seemed very lost.  But she was still Banya.  When I would sit next to her, she would purr as loudly as a car engine starting up.  If I stopped, she would take one paw and wrap it around my hand and bring it back to her neck.  She never meowed, she chirped always making me smile.

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Then I did the unthinkable.  I bought a kitten from an SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe/Homeless Person) on Blvd St. Germain.  My only excuse was that this kitten was the spitting image of Samantha, my tortoiseshell, that died just before I came to Paris.  Banya hated her.  She didn’t just hate her, she made it clear that this was her territory and Bijou was not welcome.  She pee’d on the couch, she pee’d on the bed.  She pooped wherever she felt like except in the litter box.  I, who pride myself on knowing cats and dogs well, was beside myself.  I had no idea what was wrong.  She was thirteen years old and I thought maybe she was deathly ill. So off we went to the Vet who explained the facts of cats’ lives and territory to me.  So Banya wasn’t dying, she was just pissed as hell.

I set up the apartment so that each cat had her own space.  But, in fact, Bijou had the run of the place and Banya was relegated to the bathroom.  I made her a bed there, she had her litter box next to my toilet and she rarely moved.  If she had been human, she would have wiped her brow with the back of her hand and uttered to anyone who would listen “See what I have to put up with!”

My friends, one in particular, scolded me rather regularly.  She said:                               “Lock Bijou up in the little bedroom and bring Banya out and pet her, brush her hair.  Be nice to her.  After all, this apartment belonged to her before Bijou ever arrived.”                                                        I would agree.  I would do exactly that for two or three nights then life would get busy and I’d forget.

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In January, I had to return to California.  I had to have hip replacement surgery and would be recovering there.  I’d be away from Paris for 4 months.  After a lengthy ping pong game in my head of “do this” “no, do that”, I settled on taking Banya back to the States and leaving Bijou in Paris with a friend.  So, once more, Banya was in California, back on her home turf. She was a different cat however.  She had gotten fat, really fat.  When she walked, she didn’t so much waddle as limp along to wherever she was going.  She didn’t seem upset by it.  I was the one upset.  Her spine wasn’t straight, it dipped.  It finally dawned on me the damage that had probably been done by the raccoon.  She seemed happy though, she went up and down the stairs, she slept in whichever room she pleased.

And I put off thinking about what I was going to do when it was time to return to Paris.  I couldn’t bring her back.  It seemed cruel.  I wasn’t sure where I was staying and for how long.  And eventually she’d have to be with Bijou.

Two weeks before I returned to Paris, I wrote a note to my neighborhood Listserve describing Banya who would be fifteen years old this August.  I explained the circumstances and asked if there was anyone willing to take in an older cat.  I included two photos.  Banya is beautiful.  She is a Birmin.  Birmins are the sacred cats of Tibet.  Her profile is magnificent.  When I look at her, I think of the Lion King.  It is such a proud profile.  I thought “how can anyone resist this beauty?”

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Within one hour, I got a response.  I called the woman back and I was so afraid she would change her mind, I rushed through an idea.  I was going to Yosemite for 4 days.  What if I brought Banya over and this wonderful person could see if Banya would fit into the household?  The woman thought that was a fine idea.

Banya is still there. I think she will live the life of Riley.  I took her on one trip to the Vet to make sure she was healthy and that there were no surprises.  She’d lost 2 pounds.  The day before I returned to Paris, I visited her one last time taking all the extra food I had.  She was seated on a window bench that looked out on the whole Bay Area.  She didn’t chirp in recognition nor start purring when I petted her.  I don’t know what felt worse.  That I was a bad mom and couldn’t care for my animals or that she didn’t seem happy to see me or even recognize me.

Today, I received an e-mail from Banya’s new mom:                                                                    “I am delighted to always have a feline that is willing to sit next to me while I read or watch the sunrise and then the sunset.  She is a very sweet cat”

I can hear her chirp and picture her paw reaching out to keep my hand from leaving.

 

 

Happy New Year—-from Oakland, Ca.

In France, one has the entire month of January to send out New Year’s greetings.  Sending cards for the new year is popular, sending Christmas cards is not.

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So I’m wishing every one of you a wonderful 2017.  What I wish for us all is an ability to navigate our world, our politics (or their politics as the case may be) and to be the best citizen of this world that we can possibly muster without bringing in more anger, more hatred and bitterness than already exists.  It’s not a new concept but imagine if we did one good, kind deed a day and it spread like “The hundredth Monkey Phenomenon”.  Well, I’d like to imagine it!!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect

Yesterday, I got on a United flight to San Francisco to return to my California home for 4 months.  I was taken by surprise in mid-December when I was told that I needed hip replacement surgery.  Actually, I was given a choice.  It seems that doctors today cannot actually say “you must have…..” without fear of litigation.  One of my choices was surgery.  I went to all my friends who have had hip or knee replacement surgery and asked them one question: “In retrospect, if you had had the surgery done when you were first told that you might need it, would you have done it?”  Without exception, they all said yes.  When I was talking to the orthopedist and he was telling me the pros and cons of cortisone shots, I asked him straight out “is there any reason to delay it?”

The answer, not so surprisingly, was “No”

So I’m scheduled for surgery in mid-February.  The curious fact about me is that I have never been in a hospital since I was born.  My father used to joke “Sara, you were born in Garfield Hospital in Washington, D.C and they immediately tore it down”.  Yes, of course, I’ve been in many doctor’s offices and had two one-hour procedures (that I can remember) but to have a serious surgery and spend the night, that has been my sister’s realm.  And to say I’m a bit anxious would be an understatement.

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View from my bedroom window

Now, the window I get to look out of is my westward-looking windows here in Oakland.  I can see the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge that spans from Oakland to downtown San Francisco (4 miles) and the Golden Gate bridge.  Many evenings, there is a sunset that cannot be rivaled.

California has been suffering a terrible drought for going on six years.  There has been rain, quite a bit of rain, in the last couple of weeks.  As my Uber drove me up my street from the San Francisco airport, the landscape looked strange.  It hit me that everything was Green.  Really Green!  And because it rained on and off yesterday evening, the green was sparkling like itty bitty diamonds jumping around on leaves, on new grass. Now sixteen hours later, it is pouring cats and dogs, as we like to say in English, or I’d go outside and inspect the gardens and see all the changes.

My cat, Bijou, stayed in Paris.  She is living with a friend who has a larger apartment than I did and also has children who love cats.  When I said good bye to her on Thursday evening, everyone had a bit of a hesitant smile.  Bijou was moving around carefully, looking around each corner before she let herself into a room.  W and E looked excited but not sure how to react to her.  I taught them to clap their hands very loudly when Bijou jumps up on a counter or somewhere she shouldn’t be. As if by direction, she immediately jumped up on a kitchen counter.  I clapped very loudly, she jumped down and scampered back to the laundry room which is her temporary quarters.  Then I left and felt my heart thudding with sadness.  It didn’t seem right to make her fly two long plane flights just because I have to have surgery.

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Bijou (photo by Fatiha Antar)

Banya, on the other hand, who grew up in Oakland and moved to Paris with me is in kitty heaven.  She was an indoor/outdoor cat, became an indoor cat in Paris and never seemed to adjust.  Now she is home after a long plane ride.  She must have known she was coming home because she stayed calm and hasn’t stopped purring.

 

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I wish I had a smart closing line like Garrison Keeler and could say “and that’s the news from Oakland where all …..”  If anyone can dream up a really punchy line for me to close with, there is a small Thank You coming your way.  Until then,

A bientôt,

Sara

Going on a Trip

I am leaving Paris for two weeks.  I’m going to California where I lived for most of my adult life.  It is a beautiful day today.  The sky is blue, the Seine is peaceful, sparkling and the Bateaux Mouches have begun their daily trips up and down the river showing tourists the sights along the banks.

 

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I have been grumbling about the weather most of the Fall.  It seemed that we went from summer to winter without passing Autumn.  In fact, we have had a couple of beautiful Indian Summer days and this seems to be turning into one of them.  I’ve turned the heat off in the apartment and I’m looking forward to a walk.  My iPhone says that the next week will be sunny and much much warmer than it has been.

 

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However, I’m leaving for Charles de Gaulle airport before the sun comes up tomorrow morning.  And like most of my “last days before the trip” Paris seems lovelier.  I seem to see it all much more clearly.  I look around my apartment as if I will never see it again.  I held Bijou, the cat, so close trying to make a physical memory of her furriness, her sweetness, the way she will suddenly look up at me with loving eyes that completely melt my heart.  I don’t feel this way about going anywhere else in Europe.  But California and another life seems worlds away from Paris and this life.

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Last January, when I took my trip to California, terrorists had just bombed the Brussels airport.  We had heard, though it hadn’t been confirmed, that the Brussels airport was second choice to Paris.  I had no idea what to expect.  I felt very matter of fact about it.  I called my lawyer and asked if I wrote out a makeshift will in pencil about all my belongings in Paris, would it be considered legal.  He said yes then added to please not worry, nothing was going to happen to me.  He couldn’t possibly know. The truth is, a place where terrorists have just hit is probably one of the safest places in the world.

I’m not worrying about terrorists.  I look forward to these long flights to California (but not to the jet lag). Once I get to the airport, get my bags checked, get through border control, I’m in No Man’s Land.  Soon my phone won’t ring at all, I won’t be able to receive any texts.  No one can bother me or demand anything of me.  I can watch five movies in a row and not feel guilty or lazy. I can daydream or read a book or write.

But that’s tomorrow.  Today, I’m walking around looking at everything as if it’s the first time and the last time.  I don’t feel anxious.  I don’t have a word for it.  It’s a feeling I’m sure everyone gets at some time or another.  Of wanting to imprint something in my memory that is stronger than just a memory.  I want to be able to touch it, feel it, take it with me.  When I’m sitting in my living room in Oakland, I don’t want Paris to feel so incredibly far away.  The memory I always default to is sitting in my armchair that I have facing the window.  The window that looks out on Quai des Grands Augustins, the Pont Neuf and the river Seine.  It’s an amazing view of one of the most beautiful parts of Paris that I look at every day.

 

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A bientôt,

Sara