By the end of 1982, Jacob and I started to compete for everything.
He went from being the big-eyed three and a half year-old who I shared the back bedroom with, to the kid who asked for a real baseball glove for Christmas, as opposed to the little kid plastic one he had been using. Santa came through for him and he was suddenly big enough to play catch with Jean and me.
Every night, after mom announced, “Bedtime!” we’d go back to our waterbeds. Jake would jump into his bed and I would slide into mine. I was careful not to make too many waves because our fat cat, Tippy, would be sleeping on mine. I would pet her while dad told us a story. She would purr and I would usually fall asleep before dad called her down the hall for her dinner.
One night, after the bedtime call, I went down the hall to find Jake already in his bed. With Tippy. “Why is Tippy over there?” I asked.
“She just likes me better,” he said.
I jumped into bed like Jake usually did. The waves in my waterbed were only a little fun and I would have rather had Tippy.
The next morning at breakfast, Dad said, “Jake, it took me forever to find that cat dish last night. Why was it in your bed?”
Jake and I spent most of the day playing catch and trying to get Tippy to come to us. Jake carried the cat dish around and tried to use dad’s dinner call wherever he went.
“Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty.”
I got pieces of cheese from the refrigerator and tried to sit close enough to get Tippy to come over.
We played the “who did Tippy like better” game for two days and the cat got noticeably fatter.
The next morning, I got up early and set up all my He-Man figures in the living room. Man-at-Arms was just about to destroy Beastman when mom walked out. “Oh look,” she said, “Tippy had her kittens!”
I looked over to the other side of the living room. Up against Tippy, there were five kittens there. I jumped up to see. There was a brown and black colored one like Tippy, a gray one, a white one, and two pure black ones.
I ran down the hall, “Tippy had kittens! Tippy had kittens!” Jake and Jean woke up and came to the living room.
I pointed to them. Jake pointed at the smallest kitten, a black one on the end and said, “I call that black one!”
“Ooh. Sorry, Jake. I already called all the kittens while you guys were sleeping. Man, if only I hadn’t called them, you could have had one. That’s too bad. I named them all, too.” I pointed at each kitten in turn, starting with the white one. “That’s Whitey and Blacky One and Grayey. The one that looks like Tippy is Tippy Two. And that last one that you wanted is Blacky Two.”
Jake moved to pick up the kitten he wanted, but Tippy hissed. “Jimmy won’t share the kittens!” he screamed as he ran down the hall.
He was back less than thirty seconds later. “Mom says the kittens are ours to share, so I call that one.”
“Ok, ok. You can have Blacky Two if you want.”
He pet the kitten as it drank from Tippy. “This isn’t Blacky Two,” he said. I get to name it. He looked around the room. Our Christmas tree was still up, the ornaments half put away. “This is Christmas Tree,” he said, “’cause she was so close after Christmas and I got a new baseball glove for Christmas.”
“That’s a dumb name,” I said, “no imagination.” But Jake was already running to the kitchen. He came back with a bowl of milk. “Only Tippy and Christmas Tree can drink this milk,” he said.
“Ok,” I said, “Only Tippy and Blacky Two. I’ll make sure none of the other kittens drink the milk.”
All day, Jake wanted to talk about Christmas Tree. How she moved, how she made tiny meow sounds, and how she had her eyes closed. And all day I responded to him about how Blacky Two was the smallest of the kittens.
That night, as we were going to sleep, Jake said, “I can’t wait to get up in the morning and play with Blue Sock.”
“Who’s Blue Sock?”
“That’s Christmas Tree’s new name.” “Oh,” I said, “I can’t wait to play with Blacky Two and the other kittens, too.”
The mornings kept coming and the kittens meowed a little louder. They opened their eyes one by one. Greyey was first, then Tippy Two. Whitey had just one eye open, and Blacky One opened both eyes at once while I was holding her.
Christmas Tree became Blue Sock after a day. Then came Green Sock after a couple more. I just kept calling her Blacky Two.
A couple of days later I woke up early, but Jake was already up and petting the kitten. “Red Sock purrs like Tippy, just as soon as I touch her, I think I’ll change her name to Pur-Fur because when you touch her fur, she purrs.”
“That’s dumb,” I said, but thought that was a great name.
Later that day, Jake was napping when Blacky Two opened her eyes. I ran down the hall to Jake. “Pur-Fur opened her eyes!” I yelled. Jacob never changed her name again.