As an adult, I’ve never been a pet owner so it’s surprising to finally realize that one of my best friends–ever–was a cat named “Licorice.”
My dad was stationed in Colorado when this wonderful black cat came into our lives. My Aunt Rene found her, meowing from a storm drain. She was only a kitten then, abandoned.
“Can we keep her?” sang the chorus of my sisters and I.
In the meantime, we fed her and held her and cooed over her tiny frame until the day that she was to be given away to a young couple from the hospital where my dad worked.
On the afternoon of her departure, I sat outside on the front lawn, praying with all my might that I would get to keep Licorice, despite the inevitable. I held her close to say our last teary goodbyes.
To this day, I delight in sharing the miracle that took place…
Just before they were to arrive, the couple called to say that–THEY HAD CHANGED THEIR MINDS! They had just purchased a new couch and a kitten would be a big mistake.
Licorice was mine!
Though it’s been over thirty years since this time, I can still recall my dear Licorice’s presence. I can feel her soft fur, sense her purr against my belly and smell the milk on her rough tongue as she licks my hands. In our most intimate of love rituals, Licorice dragged her paws from the top of my head, down my face.
Ours was such an intimate relationship, that I insisted that Licorice treat all beings with the kindness we shared. I had her practice with my neighbor’s cat, and scolded her each time she howled or clawed– and praised her for her friendliness. The progress was slow, but with an 8 year old’s fervency for justice, I wouldn’t give up.
On the night that Licorice had her first and only litter of kittens, she must have come to get me for support. I know this because when I woke that morning, I found blood on the comforter of my top bunk. When I called out to my mother, Licorice came running into the room with insistent meows, pacing back and forth until she was certain I would follow her.
She led me into the storage room to an open box on the second shelf and to the sight of two black newborn kittens. She jumped in beside them and licked my hands as we marveled at this miracle together. For days, she refused access to “our” babies to anyone but me.
Licorice changed after becoming a mother. My parents had her spayed and she wasn’t a spry young thing herself anymore. We were allowed to keep “Jellybean,” the kitten who most resembled the slender form of Licorice’s youth, but we were forced to give up chubby Gumdrop to others across town.
Gumdrop’s life came to a tragic and early end, and Jelly Bean disappeared a year later when we were away on vacation. And then one day, so did Licorice. I searched for her everywhere, canvassing the neighborhoods in our suburb outside of Denver. I’d even go so far as to jump over fences into back lawns to chase and retrieve any black cat I spied.
“That’s not her,” my mother would chide, each time I dragged another clawing stranger home. In later years, she would confide that I had gone a bit “mad” in loosing Licorice.
I know that my heart was never quite the same. Never again did I give it so fully and never again did I ask for a pet.
And yet, Licorice comes to me still– forever, my dear friend.