This is Oscar.
And this is our home.
We closed the deal on our beautiful old Gothic Victorian home in April 2010. This house was one of the first one-room school houses in the area and the front door is the original front door. The house is charming and magical in its own way and full of history. We have a photograph of the class of 1843. We also have the history of the house detailing who has lived here; there’s been a teacher, a civil war vet and a grounds keeper from Vassar College. I’m certain the pine trees in the back of our property are the same age as the trees on the Vassar campus that I drive past every day. When we bought the house, it had been vacant for a few years as the house had been sold to a developer and some legal skirmish between the seller and the buyer ensued. Before we moved in officially in June 2010, we spent two months painting and cleaning.
On our first weekend in late April, we met a cat that we called Oscar. Oscar is a big orange tabby and as soon as he saw our son, he took to following him around.
I said ‘hello’ but didn’t want to be too encouraging, so I kept my distance. As we worked inside and out, Oscar would ‘appear’ out of the giant hostas, only to disappear a few minutes later.
The house had old farm screen doors that didn’t lock, or even shut, they just banged closed.
On a lovely Saturday, late morning, I was busy washing the floors in the dining room when my son came running down the stairs, yelling ‘Mom, Oscar’s in the house! He’s upstairs in the closet.’
Sure enough, there he was. Walking around the guest room checking out the closet.
I escorted him outside and explained he wasn’t welcome IN the house. I looked around trying to figure out how he got in. It took me a bit, but I came to the conclusion that he used his paw to open the screen door. We installed a hook-n-eye latch. Later that day, Caidin came running inside to tell me that Oscar was now on the roof. I went up to our son’s room and there Oscar was, looking in the window. I opened the window, dragged him and walked him back down the stairs and placed him outside saying, ‘ you can’t come in.’
Waiting for us in Brooklyn was Christopher, an 18 year old grump of a cat that we rescued from a no-kill shelter. He was 15 when we rescued him and he had been at the shelter for a long time, with reason. He was simply a grumpy guy. I called him our bad house guest. He bit my feet, attacked my ankles, scratched me, but with kids, he was an absolute sweetie. I figured Oscar and Christopher wouldn’t get along too well and as Christopher was aging and not feeling so well, it wouldn’t be fair or healthy to stress him out. So, Oscar could not join our family.
The next morning I saw Oscar sitting in our neighbor’s yard watching me. I said ‘good morning’ but he wouldn’t come and see me. Finally, I realized he thought I said ‘he wasn’t welcome at all,’ I said to him ‘Oscar, you are welcome on the property, just not in the house.’ ‘Oh,’ he said as he sauntered over to see me.
Between April and June we moved back and forth between Brooklyn and our beautiful new home, coming up on the weekends adding a Friday and Monday where we could.
Oscar continued to spend time with us, keeping us company when we were outside working. He gave it one more try, to convince me to let him in the house. On a rainy night, I had the side door open, enjoying the sound and smell of the rain. I looked out and there was Oscar, sitting on the walkway, doing something I’d only seen in cartoons. His pupils were huge and he was looking at me imploringly. Still, I did not relent. I was certain Oscar had a home, despite his desire to adopt us.
Come June we moved in and started our new life in our wonderful old house. Oscar was around throughout the summer. He seemed to have hidden passageways that he would move through. He’d be in one spot, then show up in another quite a distance away with no one seeing him move.
We have been here for five years now and Oscar still comes and goes. Lately he’s been around much more. When I walk through our property, he walks with me, almost always seeming to come out of nowhere. I like to sit on a big rock we have where an angel perches. He’ll jump up and sit with me, purring peacefully, happy to just sit.
Over the summer he had a thorn stuck in his ear, so I got it out and put some of my herbal healing salve on it. Towards the fall he showed up covered in burrs, so I spent sometime picking them off of him.
Our property seems like a safe haven for him. He comes to sit and be and enjoy our company. We don’t bother him or chase him or require anything of him. He’s welcome and he knows that.
This winter, I neglected to bring in the cushion from the bench on the dinning porch. He’s taken to sleeping on it. Right now, that’s where he is. Just outside the door where I am writing, he’s bundled up and sleeping, yet I know for certain he has a home.
One day, my son and I were driving and we saw him go into a house around the corner, and once after that a man came looking for Oscar because Oscar had been in a cat fight. So I know he has a home.
Oscar is one of those beings though that feel familiar. One, who when you meet them, you feel like they know so much and have an important role to play in your life. I enjoy it when he’s around and when he walks with me.
After five years, I finally broke down and fed Oscar. Late last night he was still curled up on the cushion on the porch. When I saw him earlier in the day, my sense was that he was hungry and since he had spent the entire day sleeping on that cushion, I knew he hadn’t found anything to eat. I grabbed a can of food and a little bowl and walked around the outside rather than opening the door to the porch (I’m wise to his ways) and gave him the food. By the way he devoured it, I’d say he was definitely hungry. After he ate, I thought maybe he’d head home, but instead he curled back up on what I guess is now his cushion and went to sleep. Early this morning, he was still there; but by the time I got home from dropping my son off at school Oscar had gone. As I pulled in the driveway, I saw him sauntering through the 2nd quarter.
Is there a point or a moral to this story; maybe. Persistence? Setting your sights on what you want? Maybe.
Or maybe it’s to remind us that we can find friendship and companionship in the strangest of places and that there is something wonderful about believing in magic, in recognizing a kindred spirit and in keeping our hearts open.