I could tell you what makes a family in a short list and leave it at that:
- 2 pet parents
- 1 senior Choodle
- 2 senior longhaired cats
- 1 middle-aged, sleek black cat
- 1 10-month old baby (human)
Or I could tell you the story of our not-quite-perfect yet perfect-for-us blended family. So here it goes: the recipe for happy domestic mayhem.
Meet the Family
At any given evening, you can find almost all of us lounging on our king-size bed. We had to ditch the queen-size bed because, well, obvious reasons.
Each of us has our spot, although some creatures think their spot is different from what I think their spot is. Our 10-year-old Choodle, Fig, doesn’t understand that my feet have to go somewhere, so I have to move her to the middle, bottom portion of the bed. And Nemo, my ginger 15-year-old cat, always claims either my pillow or my wife’s.
And then there’s Little One, the super-shy, 8-ish-year-old black cat who sneaks up onto the bed several times during the night.
Our 10-month-old, Finley, is in love with Fig and Nemo and can’t stop smiling and chasing them around the bed. Fig hasn’t quite warmed up to the baby yet, but Nemo wants to be near him all the time.
Our other senior cat, Jack, passed away recently, so the bed seems empty somehow, even though there isn’t any extra room since he left.
Once the animals have claimed “their” spots on the bed, the people get to claim whatever’s left. That usually means squeezing in between them so as not to disturb any of the pets, of course.
How We Came to Be
This family got its start in two places: Miami and Orlando. My partner, Brenna, was walking in the park in Miami when a tiny black-and-white Choodle ran up and jumped into her arms. This was years before I’d met her. Since then it had just been the two of them, which led Fig to believe it would always be an exclusive relationship. She had one side of the bed, and Brenna had the other.
Meanwhile, in Orlando, I adopted a tiny orange fluffster named Nemo. And six months later, Jack, who was part Maine Coon, joined us to form a trio. Nemo quickly established that he was the alpha, and Jack readily accepted. Nemo regularly groomed Jack, and they spent many days spooning in the sun.
Eventually I met Brenna and moved to Miami with my boys, much to Fig’s dismay. (She loved me, but not her new feline siblings.) A small black cat, who went by many names depending on which neighbor called her, had made a home in our apartment complex garden. When we moved, we brought her with us and named her Little One.
Finley, our human child, is the latest addition to the family. We waited over a year to be matched with his birth mother, and we were finally able to welcome him to our crew 10 months ago. Fig was not ecstatic about having another sibling, but the family cats seem to be pretty happy about his arrival (unless he cries and interrupts their day naps).
What Really Makes a Family
I think our blended family works. And not just because we live in the same house and lounge on the same bed.
What really makes a family isn’t a once-a-year photo card that you send out to friends. It’s all the snippets of life in between. It’s the moments that you might sometimes take for granted, but those are the moments you remember and cherish.
These are the snippets that make our family:
Seeing Fig’s little head peeking out the glass in the front door when we pull up and watching her stare silently until we get out of the car and she realizes it’s us. Then watching her head disappear because I know she’s gone to fetch a shoe or whatever object she can pick up to bring to us with her tail wagging.
Catching Fig and Jack constantly sleeping rear-to-rear while pretending they had no idea. Fig would even stretch her legs out over Jack while still pretending to be oblivious that she was cuddling with her “nemesis.”
Jack supervising anything that was happening in the house. We had someone come put together a bed frame, and there was Jack in the middle of it, making sure everything was done correctly. He’d also sprawled out on the mat during our baby’s tummy time, wanting to know what all the fuss was about when Finley rolled over.
Jack walking up to me, meowing at me, setting the purr level to 10 and snuggling up in the crook of my elbow to tell me that he needed some one-on-one attention.
Nemo appointing himself as the family nurse, running to anyone who was crying or upset, including the baby. I swear he ran up to me and stared at me several times when the baby was crying to ask me why the baby wasn’t happy and what I was going to do about it.
Little One meowing and curving her tail into a stiff shepherd’s hook shape and shaking it every time she greets me. It’s when she follows me from room to room and allows only me to pet her, purring louder and louder when I sing the song I made up just for her.
Watching Nemo groom Jack and knowing that Jack always thought that he was still a tiny kitten because Nemo is his big brother.
It’s when Jack first met Brenna, walked right over, stared at her, plopped down and placed one paw on her hand to say, “You are mine now.”
It’s the moments when Finley reaches out to Nemo and Fig with so much excitement in his eyes that he can’t contain himself, and the times when Fig indulges him with a quick lick or Nemo allows Finley to pet him with his grabby baby hands.
And it’s when everyone sat on the bed with Jack as he went over the Rainbow Bridge, offering the silent comfort of family.