Since our insufficiently symbolicmourning dove experience, I've been living vicariously through my friend Deb, whose new friends Habigail and Nanook took up residence on her amazing Long Island City fire escape garden. Habby and Nanook produced two eggs, hatched them, and now spend their days nuzzling their clutch in an excruciatingly cute manner and taunting Deb's cat, Icky. I am so jealous.
The day after my dad died, a pair of mourning doves built a nest outside my parents' bedroom window nine floors above Manhattan's Upper West Side. We were too exhausted and too shellshocked to wonder why. We simply named them Victoria and Albert.
Albert, a dun-colored, sweet tempered, slightly chubby little fellow, foraged for nesting material in the leafy backyards of West End Avenue. Returning to Victoria with the most improbable items, he climbed on her back and poked her with sticks until she acknowledged him.
They wedged their charming children's book nest in the corner of the partially open window, sticks and leaves and tail feathers poking into the room where my mom awakens evert morning to their stereophonic cooing.
A few days later, two eggs appeared -- luminous, opalescent symbols of eternal life. Devoted parents-to-be, the doves incubate their eggs together, taking shifts. Mourning doves are said to mate for life.
Thirty-two years ago, my parents moved their young family into this apartment, looked out this very window, and saw a rainbow.
Even as the wind blows and the snow gathers, Victoria and Albert sit perfectly still, their little faces content with purpose and bright with anticipation.
Every day, we run to the window to check for babies. The delight we feel in bearing witness to this intensely private, primal process, is immense. We marvel at their sweetness, their devotion to each other. They are such companionable little creatures – they even tolerate our company. Indeed, they seem to be watching over us, just like my dad did. Don't worry, poulakia! I'm with you always.*
What a benediction this new life is, especially at time of overwhelming subtraction. And what a blessing it is to read your comments, your stories, to be showered with such loving support and fellow feeling. I am so touched and so grateful. Thank you.
*My dad called my mom and me poulakia, or "little birds" in Greek. I heard recently that the word also means something quite different (and less sweet) in Greek slang, but nevermind.
Well, damn. I don't know quite what to say except thank you for your incredibly sweet, touching words of encouragement. It's taken a few days for all the kindness to permeate the hard candy coating that separates the world from my creamy center of diffidence, irritability, and extreme laziness - but now that it has, I want to send you guys back some love.
And that's why I bathed the cat and documented it just for you!
My cat allergies have been getting worse and Fauxhawk came up with the idea of bathing Verne - the primary culprit - to avoid the unpleasantness of my eyes swelling shut.
The Google machine was full of helpful information. "It says here that cats get used to bathing, and eventually learn to like it!" We both knew that was a bullshit sandwich, but we swallowed it whole, quite possibly to steel ourselves against what would inevitably be a complete horror show.
This is how it went down. Someone call PETA.
PHASE 1: T MINUS 10 MINUTES TO ARMAGEDDON.
Roy (above) and Verne (below) maxin' and relaxin' in the sun before we blew open Verne's world and desecrated everything that was pure and innocent. Just look at that cute little dander bomb. Isn't he adorable?
PHASE 2: WAIT A SECOND...THIS FEELS WRONG.
Well, of course it does, Verne. The bathtub is where you have your little morning piss, isn't it? Even though mommy and daddy tell you not to and swear a lot? Turns out your bathroom is now a HELLHOLE OF SUDSY WATER THAT WILL STRIP YOU OF YOUR DIGNITY.
PHASE 3: BETRAYAL REVEALED.
It is at this point that Verne's very small brain registers that 1) he is in fact very, very wet, 2) mommy and daddy are responsible, and 2) THERE IS NO ESCAPE FROM THIS NIGHTMARE. Cue moaning sounds in the manner of a dying baby elephant.
PHASE 4: TERROR ENSUES.
When it occurs to us that Verne thinks he is being water boarded, I lose my nerve. I alternate between flapping my hands and hiding my eyes while Fauxhawk calmly and methodically goes about the process of terrorizing the cat with Johnson's baby shampoo.
PHASE 5: YOU FUCKING CUNTS. NEXT TIME YOU TURN YOUR BACK, I'M PISSING ON THE MATTRESS.
Even more disturbing than the dying animal moans is when Verne goes very quiet, no doubt dreaming up whatever acts of retribution he can imagine with barely two brains cells to rub together.
PHASE 7: SHELL SHOCK.
The best part is that I get to play Good Cop, scooping Verne up in a big fluffy towel and holding the lifeless husk of a cat in my arms to dry him.