When I was a girl, I had a black cat named Autumn. Before her, though, I had two zebra finches named Donny and Marie that I bought by pooling all of my birthday money one year. I bought them from the mother of my friend that lived down the street, and I realized very quickly that I should have bought a lovebird instead. Zebra finches are not "people birds", but more for just having around. I tried, though. The bratty little girl upstairs opened the cage the day after I got them and had them sunning outside in their cage so Marie escaped, but I replaced her with a pure white female named Sarah. (Sarah also later escaped. Same kid. Same story.)

One day I forgot to bring Donny and Sarah back indoors after I'd had them outside that day, and it had already gotten dark. My sister K said that she heard a cat meowing outdoors, which made me think of Donny and Sarah, potential snacks for any prowling passers-cats. When I went out to get their cage, a young black kitten was crouched beneath the weight bench our neighbor had set up under the stairs. Somehow we coaxed her indoors and tried to feed her, but we had nothing on hand, not even milk or canned fish. (Did I mention we were poor?) I found a can of condensed milk that I thinned out with water, and she went nuts for the stuff. Poor baby must have been starving.

She slept in my room that night, and I set up a cardboard box for her down on the floor by the end of my bed. The problem was that she wouldn't stay put! She kept jumping out of her box and curling up with me in my bed. From the get-go, we were kindred spirits that adopted each other. I don't remember how we decided that I was allowed to keep her, except that she just kind of became a part of our lives. She was an indoor/outdoor cat right away, which goes to show how quickly she claimed us as her family. From time to time, she'd get into the crawlspace under the apartment building if the screen was loose, and I'd lure her out with pieces of cheese.

She couldn't have been more than a few months old when we found each other, but it wasn't long before she was pregnant. Being such a little kitty, her belly was absolutely huge by the time her due date rolled around. Even as a roly poly mommy, she was still lithe and graceful, though, with soft flowing fur and luminous golden-green eyes. 

The morning she went into labor, I was sleeping on the floor of my bedroom for some reason. I'd made a nest of blankets on the ground, and Autumn crawled into the nest with me and curled up by my feet. She was acting strangely, so I checked on her every few minutes. I remember yelling for Mom, but she was getting ready for work and was too distracted to deal with me. I finally got her attention when I yelled that Autumn had a grape coming out of her butt, which is what it looked like when she finally started delivering. (Kids. I tell ya.) Mom helped us set up a birthing box in the living room and we moved her gently. After some time, and much observation by us kids, she gave birth to three teeny tiny jet black kittens. I was honored that of all the places Autumn wanted to be when she brought her babies into the world, with me was where she chose.

Autumn never got pregnant again that I know of, but she raised her babies well. It was so much fun to watch the kittens grow and begin to stumble around, to watch their eyes open, and to see them romp and play together. I remember when she began weaning them and how concerned I was, but Mom explained the weaning process to me. Her kittens were about as old as she was when I found her that us kids got taken away and Mom pretty much stopped living at the apartment, so they were left to fend for themselves outdoors and went feral as far as we know. We did run across her only boy kitten, Panther, when we lived at another apartment complex in a nearby neighborhood. He hung out with us for some time, but was still mostly independent. It's funny, but it never really occurred to me when we were taken away that I'd be losing Autumn. I think I was in too much shock over losing the little kids and being separated from my mom, and by the time everything settled down Autumn was gone, and Jade, Jasmine, and Panther with her. I don't remember if I ever grieved over losing her, but I'm sure I did. She was a very special part of my life towards the end of a quite traumatic chapter, and I felt like we were just kind of meant to be together. She loved me unconditionally while still maintaining her independence and sass... much like Juneaux. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever purchased a cat from a pet store. I've always found them... or vice versa, depending on how you look at it.

I'll always have a soft place in my heart for Autumn, and I'm grateful for the time that she was a part of my life. She was way better than those dumb old zebra finches.

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