One night in early April almost eleven years ago, still with patches of snow on the frozen earth, a very small, very pregnant cat politely but confidently asked me if she could come into my home to give birth to her kittens. Of course, I said yes, and I witnessed the entrance to this life of four independent and individualistic progeny. The last one born stayed with me after the others were adopted; the “runt of the litter”, the little cat with the big attitude, my Fawn.

She lost her battle with cancer on March 17, 1999, and has joined her mother and her “big brothers”, Allegro and Kublai, at the other end of the Rainbow Bridge. I will always feel those sandy paws grasping my ankle from under the bed, and may the two orange stripes on the end of her tail twitch and wave with her tremendous energy and intensity forever.

Following is an interesting and true circumstance which happened during the weeks following Fawn's passing.

The Balloon

For my birthday this year, my partner sent balloons to my workplace. The bunch was too big to take home, but I took one home and tied it to a lamp in my studio. My birthday was also, sadly, the day an exam definitively diagnosed that Fawn’s cancer had come out of remission, and the chances of it responding to treatment a second time were slim. Fawn and I tried all we could, but couldn’t win against the spreading growth.

On the morning I had Fawn put to sleep at home, my veterinarian brought her one-year-old daughter, not having day care accommodations that early in the day, and my partner agreed to babysit the little girl down in the studio while my veterinarian and I were upstairs. They untied the balloon from the lamp and played with it all during that time, then let it float freely around the studio. My other cats didn’t really respond to the balloon aside from a few swats at the string, and it came to rest in a corner of the room.

Eight days later, I awoke with the daily dread of remembering that my little girl was gone and had not let go very easily, but I didn’t feel the deep sadness which had been with me all that time, especially upon waking. By habit looking over at the jewelry box on top of the chest of drawers where Fawn had spent many sleeping hours during our time in this house, and most of her last few weeks, I noticed the balloon hovering over that spot. Either it had been carried upstairs by one of the other cats or it had made quite a circuitous journey on its own, making u-turns, floating up steps and making a jog around a corner and through my bedroom doorway to a spot where there was nothing to hold it in place.

When I came home that day the balloon was still in its spot. I replaced the photograph of Fawn which I had been carrying back and forth to work on the table across the room, and instead of the sadness I had felt in that room I felt a capricious and happy spirit…that had been Fawn’s room since the day we had moved here, and my “yittle girl” always waited for me under the bed, pouncing out when she thought I least expected it and prancing around the room for my benefit.

I returned to the room later that evening to find that the balloon had moved across the room and was hovering over Fawn’s picture…where it stayed, on its own, for two weeks until it was completely out of air, lasting much longer than all the others in the original bunch.

When Fawn discovered “up” as a kitten, she got “up” on everything as often as possible—narrow shelves on the wall, inside open transoms, on the top edge of an open door, she even had her eye on the ceiling fans. Balancing in place she would call for me to come and see her and gaze down smugly as I praised her, even if she needed my help in getting down.

Fawn didn’t want to leave and I wasn’t ready for her to go. For those eight days I felt her unsettled unhappiness and my own grief would not ease. For Fawn to return to me as a symbol of cheerful celebration and an object which freely floats as high up in its space as it can, I can only be reassured that the bond we had when she was here carried on to the next existence, and that she loved me enough to let me know she was not only alright but happy.

Fawn inspired an entire set of block-printed cards—please see Tabbies.

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