Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A Rose By Any Other Name

Originally called Buttons, the little glossy black cat, about 10 months old, circled our feet, rubbing her head and showing her belly, as my husband and I admired the cats at Cat Tales Rescue in Seabrook, New Hampshire. Our wonderful cat Nellie had died on Labor Day at eighteen years of age. It was now nearly Thanksgiving, and I decided it was time to bring another cat into the household. I chose a pretty long-haired tortoiseshell named Heidi online. But in person, Heidi growled when I pet her and slunk away. 
“She’s a bit aloof,” Kelly, the head of the rescue, said. That was an understatement.
Meanwhile, a ginger kitten untied Nic’s shoes, and the little black Buttons did acrobatics for our attention. We looked at the older cats and the smaller kittens (there were three black ones), all the while with Buttons at our heels. Finally, I picked her up and looked into her eyes. She purred and wrapped her paws around my neck.
“Oh, she’s working you!” Kelly laughed. Buttons rubbed her cheek against mine.
I looked at Nic. “She’s it,” I said. He agreed.
I had envisioned adopting another long-haired beauty, as Nellie had been. Buttons was short-haired, slinky looking, coal black: not a look I’d normally be attracted to. But looks are unimportant. Personality, her personality, won the day. We arranged a date to pick her up and bring her home.
As I waited for her, I thought of names. 
I wanted something pretty, but also with some meaning to it. She had a spunky personality, that was obvious. She was extraordinarily friendly (“She’s a people cat, not a cat’s cat,” Kelly had said when I asked if we should adopt two for company.) 
She needed a name that reflected that. 
A rose is bright, strongly fragranced, a tad thorny, and full of symbolism. It’s also part of the name of one of my favorite singers, Rosemary Clooney. And the variations of Rose are full of promise: there’s Rosa Parks, fierce and forthright “Mother of the Civil Rights era.” There’s Rosamund, meaning “horse protector,” which is intriguing. Rosalind was a character in As You Like It, and Rosalynn Carter, wife of Jimmy, is 92 and going strong. Longevity is a good thing.
Then there’s “Rosebud” (Citizen Kane). Rosie the Riveter. Rosey Grier. Rosemary’s Baby. “Everything’s coming up Roses” (Gypsy). “Now my life is sosy, Since I found my Rosie…” (Bye, Bye Birdie). “Lida Rose” (The Music Man).“A wed wose. How womantic” (Blazing Saddles). “Ring Around the Rosie.” “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” (OK, that’s a stretch, I’ll admit)…
“Rosie” was it. 
It took her only a couple of days to learn her new name. She stayed in a bedroom by herself until she felt more confident. Gradually, as long as I was nearby, she ventured out, met the dogs (Sophie was particularly excited, having lost her best friend Nellie, but Rosie soon set her straight about the erroneous notion that all cats are the same), and learned the lay of the house. As we discovered in just a few short weeks of living with her, she is remarkably bright, understanding words, playing games, and essentially taking over the household before she had turned one year old. Early on, she staked me out as belonging to her, and is always near me. But she is fond of everyone, and has no fear of people—strangers or otherwise.
Rosie. Rosie Posie. Rosita. Rosebud: she knows all of her nicknames by now. She plays fetch with her favorite toys, enjoys her new porch, custom built just for her (she’ll be an indoor cat), and seems to delight in torturing poor Sophie. She is overflowing with youthful energy. And since we are captive these days of Coronavirus shut downs, it’s easy to devote far too long to playing silly games with her, or sitting with her purring warm body on our laps. 
But we are not complaining. In spite of the perpetual bad news coming to us daily, life really is rosy, since we found our Rosie.

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