With apologies to Major Tom and regrets to Ziggy Stardust, I must announce: David Bowie is not the most significant comeback rocker of 2013.
That would be Tabby’s Place’s own Natalie.
Nat made her first and only departure from Tabby’s Place in the past five years this month. We’ve showcased a revolving cast of cats at PetSmart over the last year, and Natalie would be part of the last crew before we bid PetSmart adieu.
At this point, I must pause and answer your question: yes. That Natalie.
The Natalie who leaps from the floor onto people’s backs.
The Natalie who rips pant legs to wrathful ribbons…when she’s not making love to your face with her rubby-rubby-rubby affection.
The Natalie who’s never exactly the same from one day hour moment to the next.
She is, like Cyndi Lauper, so unusual.
She’s that Natalie. And we were unleashing that Natalie on the public.
But the good people of Flemington, NJ hardly had a chance to feast on the psychological smorgasbord that is that Natalie before Nat launched The Comeback.
Apparently Nat was on her best baddest Nattest behavior when it all went down. A certain anonymous Founder/Executive Director whose name may or may not rhyme with Ronathan was on PetSmart duty one morning. As he tells the story, he honestly wasn’t even sure which cats we had at the adoption center. “Then,” he reports, “the orange one jumped on my back, and I knew.”
That Natalie. Of course.
While Ronathan cleaned the adoption center, he let the two feline guests wander around his legs. Nat cast a nonchalant glance in the direction of her fellow PetSmart princess, Frittata, then impressed Ronathan by moseying along without any tantrum. (Natalie + feline individuals = instatantrum. And that was before we’d weaned her off Prozac. The PetSmart Natalie was a post-Prozac Natalie.) Harmless and oblivious, Frittata bounced along.
Natalie then proceeded to remember that she doesn’t like cats like allowing other cats to live, and went medieval on Frittata. Oblivion obliterated. Ronathan separated the girls and accepted that Natalies will be Natalies.
But Natalie hadn’t attained her goal, so it was time for Plan B. Just in time for the night shift at PetSmart, Nat started exhibiting an oozy ooky eye.
Medical problem? No PetSmart for you. Go directly to Tabby’s Place. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. And thus Natalie staged The Comeback.
Since she first shook New Jersey upon arriving here from Kentucky in 2008, oozy ooky eyeballs have been a Natalie thing. They are, in fact, a Natalie thing in the way that self-aggrandizement is a Kardashian thing, and speaking in a British accent even though she’s from Michigan is a Madonna thing, and being unusual is a Cyndi Lauper/David Bowie thing. So we weren’t worried.
And neither was that Natalie. As usual, the cat was in complete control.
Funny thing about Natalie’s return to Tabby’s Place: immediately upon hearing that Nat was back, I felt my heart bounce up in my chest, like I’d just been told I was getting to go to Chuck E. Cheese. (If, that is, I was seven years old, and the kind of seven-year-old who enjoys screaming and infinite chaos and corn dogs. If I was actually told I was getting to go to Chuck E. Cheese, I would hide under my desk and start reciting lament Psalms and reading Dante’s Inferno to see which circle of hell Chuck E. Cheese represents. But you get the point.)
I’ve known Natalie for nearly five years now. I’ve had daily access to Natalie’s particular blend of crazy, cuddly and awesome. I’ve never lacked for Natalie-love.
But something about her absence, be it ever so brief, made me suddenly flooded with gratitude to have her back. I went into Suite B to welcome our oozy-eyed firecracker, and enjoyed a good cuddle-turned-bitefest, classic Natalie-style.
I love that Natalie. The good people of PetSmart missed out. But, you don’t get in the way of a diva and her comeback.
I’ve never been one to believe in the old sappy saw that “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” (or, for that matter, any of the maudlin things people write in yearbooks – except “LYLAS,” and if you remember what that means, I love you and we should be best friends). I think we are perfectly, blessedly capable of being grateful and gleeful in what we have even as we have it. The more we’re grateful for it, the more we’ll bubble over with Natalie-sized joy – or at least the kind of quiet contentment that makes life sweet.
Yet even I have to admit that there’s something about missing something – be it ever so briefly – that makes a comeback super sweet. After a power outage, hot showers deserve the Hallelujah chorus. After a Led Zeppelin marathon, your favorite radio station’s return to regular programming sounds like the music of angels. (Heck, after a Led Zeppelin marathon, that God-forsaken Kars 4 Kids commercial sounds like the music of angels. But I digress.)
And after a sojourn at PetSmart, the love and liveliness of Natalie is a shot of sunshine.
I know the day will come when Natalie leaves us for good, for the home that loves that Natalie just the way she is. I’m big enough to look forward to that day and selfish enough to dread it.
Meantime, Nat’s unusual, unpredictable, irrepressible wonder is ours. We’re marveling at this little meteor. The Comeback has just begun.