Speaking of where one is from… (see previous bff post) when I was 5 we moved to Tampa, FL for 6 months in the middle of the kindergarten year. Sometime around November 1983 we drove down from Seattle in my dad’s navy blue Ford pickup with a canopy shell on the back and a u-haul trailer. I can’t remember if my one-year-old sister rode in the front with my parents but I definitely rode most of the way in the back on a made-up mattress. I remember my mom holding a note up to the window that separated the front from the back and it said “are you hungry?” And somehow I signaled to her that I couldn’t read the word ‘are’ so she crossed it out and put “(R)”. It was like prehistoric texting. Anyway, when we were living in Florida a little grey cat adopted us and we named her Tampa. Can you imagine? Living in Tampa with a cat named Tampa? Picture yourself living in Seattle and standing on your front porch yelling “Seeeeaaaa-tle” to call the cat back in. People must have thought we were lunatics.
Tampa had a litter of 5 or 6 kittens right before we were set to move back to Seattle. My mom is an animal lover so of course we couldn’t leave her or adopt out her babies that were too young to be weaned. So they rode back in the back of the truck with me. At one rest stop in Louisiana my parents let Tampa out to do her kitty business and she disappeared for a little too long, so my parents took two kittens a piece by the scruffs of their necks and walked out into the bayou wilderness with them mewing. Sure enough, Tampa came running out of the bushes for her babies. I remember thinking that my parents were geniuses for that move, I still think that was brilliant.
Tampa spent the rest of her life in Seattle, when I was in first grade she had one more litter of kittens on the floor of my closet which my sister “gave a bath” to in the toilet (don’t worry, no kittens were drowned). In second grade I had pet zebra finches in a little bamboo birdcage in the middle of my room. My mom would shut the door to my bedroom while I was at school to keep the cats out but Tampa would hide under the bed so she could spend the day working on ‘Operation Finch Freedom’. She would literally run up my wall to a 5-foot high windowsill (there were little paw prints up the wall) where she would try to jump to the cage. She made it a few times and got the little door open and the birds would fly out, fly around my room until they were either rescued by my mom or get exhausted and meet their demise. It’s the circle of life, right? I was kind of devastated as a kid but, whatever. Character building experiences shape your life, right?
Tampa probably had food allergies (if I knew then what I know now…), she always had kind of mangy fur and bumpy skin and a football shaped physique and my mom was probably the only one who truly loved her. She would disappear for a couple of weeks at a time, usually during a snow storm and just when my mom thought for sure she was gone Tampa would show up at the back door looking slim & hungry. We think she just hibernated under a bush or something like a little rhododendron snow cave.