Those of us who’ve done a lot of reading in our lives… are familiar with the feeling that life seems to make more sense when it’s told in the framework of a story… described in a book. I used to have the same feeling when watching a movie. But as we approached the post modern age, I lost that feeling of security when watching a film. Often I found it difficult to follow the plot; to tell one blonde from another in Hollywood films. Sometimes, it was difficult, even to tell the difference between the good guy and the bad guy. You had to live with your lack of knowledge, and your lack of understanding. Actually, it was more like life itself… except for one thing.
In real life, everyone has a different capacity for understanding. Some are able to understand most of what’s going on, even if they can’t predict what will happen in the future. Others see only part of the picture… usually what is closest to them. Unfortunately, in the modern Hollywood films, the viewer is usually the last to know. In any case, having a lot of things going on, at the same time, and not being in control; not knowing exactly what is going on… can bring on insecurity and confusion. That’s the big difference between reading a book, and living life from day to day. No matter how complicated a situation was, in classical literature, the author told us about it, one step at a time. And it made sense.
In the last couple of weeks, quite a few different things were happening in my life. I had obligations to take care of; my dear old mother who needed attention and help, and relationships with family and friends. And there were preparations for the new year. The holiday season was about to start, and everyone here knows that nothing gets taken care of till the holidays are over. When you ask for something, the common answer is, ‘after the holidays’. I had to take my car in for the motor vehicle test, and before that, to pay the yearly registration tax. But though I paid it by way of the internet, the actual registration still has not arrived, and it made me nervous. It was hard to get a clerk to pay any attention to such a problem once the holiday season had begun. Yet, while all of these different things were going on, there was an undercurrent that had me worried almost all the time.
My cat, Nechama is fairly well liked in the neighborhood. When we go for a walk in the morning, we often meet with other cats in the neighborhood, and trade stories and share common interests. We study the birds, the trees and the bushes. We watch the progress of the ant colonies. Not ant colonies that are bought in a store, where you can follow the ants’ progress through a glass window. No, there are real ant colonies where we can see free ants bringing all kinds of food and construction materials from all around to the home base. There are so many things that are fun to do with the neighborhood cats, including the observation of a varied array of other animals that don’t usually have much to do with cats. But the cats are aware of them, and watch them carefully.
In recent months, a small number of cats have noticed that Nechama lives a rather luxurious life, by cat standards here in Jerusalem, and they started visiting Nechama in a neighborly way. She isn’t exactly a social butterfly, but she does enjoy the occasional discussion with a friend, and in the beginning she welcomed these visits. I remember watching the beginning of this social activity on the back porch, or in the stairwell of our building. Sometimes, she would just sit and talk for hours near our front door, with her boyfriend, BlackandWhite. They didn’t need to talk that much. It was enough to sit together and understand one another without words. Sometimes, other cats would drop by. Becky and Rainbow, and Tomasino would come by. Jinji would sometimes rush to sit first on the boulder, where Nechama and I liked to take a break. Especially in the long summer days, it was fun to spend time together as the day grew long…
And then occasionally, when I wasn’t home, one or two of her friends, noticing that a back window was always open, would come right in and enjoy the comforts of our home. They would eat a bit of her food, drink from her water bowl… but still, with respect. They didn’t finish everything that was on the plate or in the bowl. But as the months passed by, the situation began to be a bit uncomfortable. Even when Nechama really felt like being alone, these visitors came by, without an invitation, and would camp out in the house, the moment I left on business… or to visit some of my friends. They knew me well, and recognized my car. The moment I was out of the house, they figured the house was just open for parties. Sometimes there were fights. Sometimes, piggish behavior. And there were a few times, when I would come home at night, to find my beloved Nechama sitting on a pile of books, sort of out of the way, and watching as other cats were carrying on as if our home belonged to them. It would put her in a bad mood.
I would try to encourage her to defend her own space. But she isn’t that much of a fighter. She’s more the philosopher type. And it got so, that I felt it was up to me to find a solution. She doesn’t like to use a sand box to take care of her personal needs. And she doesn’t like to be locked up inside the house. So we had to look for a more sophisticated solution. We discovered that there are cat doors made. Cat doors that are opened with a key. I’ve learned from my friend Janet, that these doors are called ‘cat flaps’ in English. In Hebrew, we just call them cat doors, or dog doors, or pet doors. After examining the types available here, imported from Italy and England, we decided on the English door, which was advertised as an ‘electro-magnetic door’. The cat wears the key on her collar, around her neck. And the door recognizes that specific key, and opens the door for her, not allowing other animals to invade the home. At first, it seemed like a very simple solution.
Finding a craftsman to install the door was not so simple. There were people who just laughed when they heard my request. One fellow took the easy way out. He proposed a price so high, that he knew I’d keep looking. But another guy was so confident in his abilities, that he didn’t even bother to read the instructions that came with the door. Of course, they were in English, but I was more than happy to translate them for him. He thought that instructions were a waste of time. It was the next guy, who managed to repair the work of the first guy, that actually managed to install the door. And it worked, but it didn’t look as good as I’d hoped. And that is when I encountered the next problem.
Nechama did not understand the need for the cat flap. She saw that the window was closed, and when she wanted to go through the window, she just let me know. When she wanted to come in, she would call me through my window, or meow outside the front door, or even pull down the handle that I used to open the door for humans… but she wasn’t at all interested in her cat door. And though I patiently tried to explain to her, and demonstrated how I could move my hand through the door; showed her the spare key, and how it opened the door… she would have nothing to do with it. It worried me. As long as I hadn’t seen her use the door, I didn’t feel good about leaving her at home when I went out by myself. And it seemed as if she was stubbornly refusing to use that door.
Finally, one day, we went off for a walk in the morning, as we often do. And as we were taking our walk, we encountered one of our neighbors, walking his dog on a leash. The dog was in no way offensive, but the neighbor and I got into a conversation, and Nechama got impatient. She went off on her own. This didn’t worry me. I knew that when I got home, she would soon arrive. That happens lots of times. I went on, and a very nice walk. When I got home, I looked around… and no Nechama. I called her name. No. No response. I opened the door, and there she was, waiting for me. Meow, she said. It was a relief.