“I know, sweetie,” I say. “You’re probably thinking about your kitten, aren’t you?”
She is ordinarily thrilled to be here, as we all are, since we “adopted” Edisto seven summers ago. We now vacation here every summer, literally marking off the days like prisoners in a cell until we are “released.” We love it here, but this year, my daughter is more than a little preoccupied.
As an incentive to do well in school last year, we made an agreement that if she maintained high grades throughout the academic year, she would be allowed to get a new kitten. She buckled down, worked hard all year, and received confirmation just a few weeks ago that she “made the grade,” as it were.
Since word of her triumph arrived, our home has become almost unbearably “kitten-centric.” We have endured stunningly detailed briefings every couple of hours on her latest kitten research, including specific instructions on how we all have a role to play in acclimating the kitten to its new home once it arrives. There are certain things we must do, and other things we must not do, not under any circumstances. We are instructed on these matters in excruciating detail.
She has developed a feeding schedule, a chart for how and when the litter box will be cleaned, and a plan for training the kitten to use the litter box. The day before we left for the beach, I found her cutting up a series of cardboard boxes into various, meticulously measured strips. I found her completely surrounded by pieces of cardboard — dozens of pieces, as if she were about to put together a giant jigsaw puzzle the size of our living room floor.
“What are you doing, honey?” I said.
“Project,” she managed to squeak through her fortress of intense concentration. I knew there was no point in pressing it until she was finished.
An hour later, she appeared with what appeared to be an enormous cardboard accordion. I would not have been able to guess what it was for $10,000, unless the correct answer was an enormous cardboard accordion.
“You know what this is, right?” she said.
“It’s a scratching post for my kitten! Isn’t it awesome?”
We agreed to wait until our beach trip was over to get the kitten, since we didn’t want to get a brand new kitten and immediately abandon it for a week. On the drive to the beach, we spent most of the time getting further educated on the very latest information — all of it thoroughly vetted (I asked, foolishly, if her sources were solid) — on various issues pertaining to kittens, as well as the logic behind some of the decisions she had already made, including the color and gender of the kitten she would soon be selecting.
“I have decided to get a girl kitten,” she announced, “because there are already way too many boys in this house. Daddy, Jack, Frody, Walter, and Sherman. When Mama is away, that is just way too many boys for me to deal with by myself. I have to have another girl in this house.”
Of course, Frody and Walter are dogs, and Sherman is a turtle about the size of a fifty-cent piece, but still, the gender imbalance in our home is NOT tenable. Too much testosterone! My daughter reckons that the addition of a girl kitten will bring some measure of balance to our ecology, or at the very least will prove a valuable confederate in her assorted grievances with the males in the household, as they inevitably arise in the days, months, and years to come.
After breakfast, we head over to the beach to set up for the day. We bought a new canopy big enough to start our own flea market, and the kids have new boogie boards. In 15 minutes, our little camp is established and we are in the water up to our waists, jumping the waves and watching the pelicans dive-bombing the ocean in search of lunch.
“Dad,” my daughter says, sidling up to me while pulling on her goggles. “What do you think would be some good names for a girl kitten?”
We had better enjoy every remaining second of our summer vacation. It is going to be a long ride home.