If cats had opposable thumbs, they would spray squeeze-cheese on every conceivable surface.

They would also pick up twigs.

Merriweather was a graceful branch when the wind swept her to Tabby’s Place in 2017. The world was so much younger then, with pink cheeks and full punch bowls. “Pandemic” was nothing more than a board game; factions fought like feral cats but collapsed into the same fuzzy donut bed at the end of the day; we believed we would work it all out.

In such a season, Merriweather landed gently in our leaf pile. After a stint in a shelter, Tabby’s Place was a magic treehouse, complete with gnomes and talking giants, secret passageways and a thousand ways to hear the word “yes.”

Yes, Merriweather: this is no lean-to of sticks, but a kind of cathedral where every gargoyle sings your name.

Yes, Merriweather: you may get adopted.

Yes, Merriweather: gargoyles come in at least two species here — three, if you count the half-lizard dispatched by one of the gnomes.

Yes, Merriweather: you may get adopted.

Yes, Merriweather: magnificently gelatinized poultry product arrives faithfully every night.

Yes, Merriweather: you may get adopted.

Yes, Merriweather: the solarium floor is cool beneath your black-bean toes in the summer, and the sun is learning your name from the gargoyles, and the whole treehouse shakes with laughter when you carry your giant rainbow rat in your teeth.

Yes, Merriweather: you may get adopted.

Yes, Merriweather: nobody minds that your weather vane whirls wildly, driven by the gale force of your own whims.

Yes, Merriweather: you may get adopted.

Yes, Merriweather: the gargoyles, the acorn-brained hairless ones with the thumbs and the dinner trays, are very excited that you’re here.

Yes, Merriweather: you may get adopted.

Yes, Merriweather: it’s perfectly permissible to say “no” to hugs.

Yes, Merriweather: you may get adopted.

Yes, Merriweather: the gargoyles and the forest people talk about you at night, and doodle your name in their bark-books, and nothing you can do seems to do anything other than make them love you more.

Yes, Merriweather: you are seen and loved, 100% in both cases.

Yes, Merriweather: that is rather rare on this particular planet.

Yeses yielded to the queen, one after the next. Merriweather leapt into crunchy piles, leapt upon rainbow rats, leapt at the chance to come into her own. She was not a huggy bear; she was not a paragon of patience; she was not inclined to command the forest floor or command attention or command anything other than quiet respect for the creature that she was.

She was woods, not beach.

She was black swan, not peacock.

She was cello, not cymbals.

She was a long, sculptural, mossy branch, not a warty party-gourd.

(Let the reader understand that Warty Party Gourds is, in fact, an actual prog-rock band, led by Wilbur and a rotating band of gargoyles, forest people, etc.)

She let her “yes” be “yes” and her “no” be “no,” and she let out the sigh known only to the pure in heart, who know that everything will, in fact, work out.

But it’s easy to be at peace with your bouquet of “yeses” and “nos” when the world is young. Merriweather’s first winter at Tabby’s Place, every ornament on the Suite C tree smiled with wry eyes. Was that just a reflection of the Lobby lights, or an adopter interested in an aloofish black cat? Was that carrier coming for some other cat, or did those nice folks feel the chill and long for sweater weather, cozy weather, merry weather?

They didn’t. It wasn’t.

No, Merriweather, you will not be chosen in 2017.

No, Merriweather, you will not be chosen in 2018.

No, Merriweather, you will not be chosen in 2019.

No, Merriweather, you will not be chosen in 2020.

No, Merriweather, you will not be chosen in 2021.

No, Merriweather, you will not be chosen in 2022.

It’s enough to make a girl hastily bundle her branches in her arms, hurl them into the bonfire, and cry over the kindling that was once a dream.

But cats don’t dream in the ways that we do, and they don’t give up half as easily. When the green turns to brown and the birds go quiet, cats hitch their hopes on the highest flying buttresses, tie their freak flags to the top of the treehouse, and put their noses to the ground.

That’s where you find the twigs.

After the worst weather, twigs turn up everywhere. Hurricanes, ice storms, and the sluggardly slog of winter tear down the ornaments from every tree, greedy even after gobbling up all the green. Down come the thinnest branches; down come the sparkly tips; down come the twigs.

Gargoyles and forest people like us might think this is because the twigs were the weakest parts of the tree.

Graceful branches like Merriweather and my mother know that twigs know when to fall.

My mother made a big deal of certain twigs when I was tiny. On hundreds of expeditions, Lewis and Clark of the backyard, she would urge my gaze to the grass, to the ground, to the place where you could find them.

“It’s a yes!”

She said it as though we’d just struck oil in the suburbs. And we had, or at least a sturdier energy source. We’d found a broken branch in the perfect shape of a “Y.” And to my mother, “Y” twigs always, always, always meant “yes!”

“Yes” to hope.

“Yes” to being on the right path.

“Yes” to the tumble of tomorrows that would untangle our todays.

“Yes” to being loved irrevocably, no matter the day or the year or the weather.

To this day, I can’t see a “Y” twig and not feel a surge of strength, the sap rising back into my branches. “Yes” outlasts every “no.” “Yeses” fall from every bludgeoned dream. “Yes” means we are always still young, and there is always still hope, and today will take us by the weird, woodsy hand on a new adventure, if we’ll let it.

Merriweather lets it.

Where we may see only five years of waiting, Merriweather says, “come into my cubby. Climb up the ramp. Behold my bounty, my treasury of twigs, my secret passageways through every ‘yea’ and ‘nay,’ my choir of ‘yeses’ that never go silent.”

Merriweather loves her life, because Merriweather picks up twigs where every dream trails off.

Life loves Merriweather, because life itself, that tired old tree, gets scared and lonely too, worried that no one will see and love it for all that it is, 100% in both cases.

Yes, Merriweather: there is no telling what “yes” can do.

Yes, Merriweather: we will gather twigs beside you.

Yes, Merriweather: when the final year gathers us all up in its arms, when everything is all “yes” at last, we will sing in the sun beside you.

Yes, Merriweather. Always and ever: yes.

1 thought on “Yes

  1. Makes me want to go out and collect Y twigs! For the record, I love black toe beans, although orangey pink toe beans tread my home. And I love that you notice that yes, we are always still young and always with hope. Long live Merriwether!

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