I walked to the bank today and it felt like the last day of school. The air had a warmth to it, a different density than we’ve felt all winter. There was the feeling of Greenness and Aliveness, and I felt like a kid in whitish canvas Keds running down the driveway as the bus pulled away, denim backpack flopping on my back, the air delicious on my bare legs (in long, cuffed jean shorts).
We looked for baby kittens everyday this time of year. I don’t know if backpacks even made it in the house, though I doubt our mom would have stood for bags dumped in the yard.
We poked our heads into the falling-down barn (not a frequent maternity ward), clanked up the old wood and metal ladder to the loft of Great-grandpa Joe’s workshop (which the mama cat could access via the wood pile and the hole on the roof that served us just fine as a skylight in our games). We looked under the deck, sometimes slithering to the very back to drag a nest of babies out, or scrambled around the detritus of the summer kitchen.
There was a streak of mother cats who insisted on having kittens up on the balcony, and who would carry them back up, swinging by the scruffs of their necks for the leap from bench to windowsill to garage roof no matter how many times we relocated them to somewhere with a less dangerous drop (we gave in and made barricades around the railings instead). And yet fewer of them somehow got all the way up into the attic and had to be brought down by our mom or maybe a neighbor.
Because baby kittens must be touched. They must be loved and cradled and adored and named. Cats that grow up feral on a farm can never be coaxed into tameness, and once my sisters and I left home they grew wilder and warier and had no use for us interlopers beyond the big metal bowl of cat food that was put out daily.
This time of year is lilacs and cool leaves and a shifting wind carrying the comforting smell of the cow barn and a freshly tilled field. It has the distant thrumming heartbeat of a tractor. It promises all the long summer days that are just around the corner– afternoons in the hayloft or taking turns with roller skates in the quonset hut,or jumping off of sand dunes and making that white gold fly.
It was a quick errand today, just a deposit and few letters dropped at the post office. And it was nearly everything I love most all at once.