Last week, I mentioned being at the first Dyke March in DC, and a younger office-mate regarded me with something like shock or awe, perhaps because I’ve taken the suburban soccer mom thing too far, perhaps because it was such a very long time ago, or maybe both — but the point I wanted to make was that after traveling part of the route with a Salvadoran lesbian activist who was gathering ideas for underground organizing at home, I remember taking picture after picture of the bright pink stenciled “Dyke Power” graffiti on the asphalt, and turning around to see blocks and blocks and blocks of… women. I later framed one of the shots poster-size as a housewarming gift for my first lesbian friends who bought property together.
I love parking near Diversey and Clark on Sunday morning of Pride weekend, lugging coolers and props to the van or float or truck-bed, and waiting in the parade line-up while my contingent gathers. I love watching from the sidelines, wearing theatrical hats, rainbow rings around my neck, and a black triangle pinned to my clothes. A few years ago, a good friend of mine came visiting and we took my daughter to the Parade. She enjoyed the bubbles and the music, but eventually she fell asleep.
This year, I was hyper-aware of the Pride Parade. I don’t mean I watched the Parade. I was actually in a big green grassy park making ice cream with a troop of Daisy Scouts at the time. But I was aware, and so was my partner, and we wanted to make the weekend festive.
We thought we might go on a trip to Lakeside Inn – right in Lakeside, Michigan, by the Illinois and Indiana borders – a lovely quick-drive vacation spot that’s like a cottage without the responsibility of upkeep, with a warm fire in the luxurious antique lobby and coffee all day in the winter, beach access and a long front porch with twenty wooden rocking chairs in the summer, and a shop down the road where you can order the New York Times. Instead we acquired a kitten.
First, we had powdered sugar donuts at the Farmer’s Market. Then we went to a friend’s block sale, where we ran across a woman with a very small pet carrier. I had been lobbying my partner Kelly for a kitten since shortly after Christmas, but stopped on Friday when our grown boy cat peed for the seventh time in the jasmine plant and the third or fourth time on our leather living room chair. But here was our friends’ neighbor, walking the length of her block sale with a tiny, tilting pet carrier. I avoided her. I stood browsing stacks of Junie B Jones, and The Fairy Tea Party instead. I chatted with people I’d never met. And when I finally wandered back towards our friends’ house, Kelly was holding the tiny kitten in her arms, cooing. That was it.
We brought him home. We set him up in the guest room, apart from our other pets “just in case,” until we could get him to the vet. Our daughter moved into Kitty’s Room. She read him books. She carried him, pet him, brushed him, brought him fresh water. She told us which books he liked and which books he didn’t care for, when he put his paw on the pages and when he shut his eyes and began snoring. Kelly and I checked on them around 10:30 each night, before heading to bed ourselves. Each night, Kitty Boy was curled up alongside our daughter’s bent knees, purring. Adorable. Our hearts danced.
Finally, we made it to the vet (thank you, Kelly) – three days in. Kitty Boy received his first booster shot and tested positive for FIV, a type of feline HIV.
Our post-Pride week became tumultuous, pregnant with decisions and measured conversations, research and reversals. We learned that kittens under six months old can test false positive if their mothers’ antibodies are still present, and the rate of false positives among kittens is somewhere between 30% and 60%. We could have him re-tested in a couple months. But by then, our little girl may have stitched him a pair of daisy-petal trousers and written him into her memoir. Can we risk it? We just lost my stepmom at Christmas. Is it fair to mention that in the course of conversation? The thing is, if he’s truly FIV-positive, then he and our feisty grown male cat pose a real danger to one another.
We decided to “foster” the kitten – Johnny – and have him re-tested in two months. If he tests positive again, we will need to find him a new home. Our daughter understands about foster parenting, finding a new home, and forever families. Still, we know that if we can’t keep him, it will break her heart, and ours. But today, we will love him and play with him, feed him and draw him into all our pictures. We began introducing him to our two dogs last night. Our daughter came home from summer camp with a picture of Johnny on the bed, on his back, next to her long striped comforter.
We can’t let this Parade pass us by. We have to take the risk, because in two months, maybe Johnny’s test will come back negative. Then we can make him our Forever Kitty.