When I was in kindergarten one of my classmates had some guppies, or at least they had a male and female guppy, because those guppies did what guppies do, and soon there were quite a few guppies. So, one day in class for those interested we had a drawing for the baby guppies. There were estimated to be about 20-25 guppies and there were about 28 kids in the class.
Everyone was interested. We drew numbers. My number was 26. I stood off to the side with the other “no luck” kids as those with numbers 1 through 25 lined up to get their guppies. After Number 25 got his guppy, I heard the teacher say, “Oops, there’s one more guppy in here.” My guppy!
I named him Sylvester. For a tiny guy, there was a lot of work involved in taking care of him. Feeding was easy enough, but his aquarium had to be cleaned often and thoroughly. It was of course my mother who took care of this. But when there was a death in her family she had to go stay with relatives for a few days, so my Dad, brother, and I were left to “batch it” alone. Mom left strict instructions on how to take care of ourselves, Trina, and Sylvester. Well, Dad and Don did pretty well on most counts. They fed Sylvester. But fish do not live by fish flakes alone, and … the inevitable happened.
When I was in sixth grade my parents came home with a little white kitten. They had gone to a party at a restaurant downtown and found the kitten scampering around outside. This was in a commercial district where there were no apartments or private homes nearby. My parents brought him home. I named him Robespierre, Robes for short. Robes, Trina, and Pierre ended up being playmates. Well, the play mostly amounted to play fighting, but it truly was play: the dogs did not clamp down with their teeth and Robes never extended his claws. They would simply grab hold of one another and roll around and around. And when any one of them had to spend some time at the vet, the other two would pine around for the missing one.
The next addition to our menagerie was our parakeet George. We inherited George when his elderly owner, a friend of our family, died. George loved to talk and he loved to snuggle up to his alter ego in the mirror. Robes never took any real interest in George, and for that we were grateful.
My final childhood animal friend was another cat. I was in high school and my mother and I were living in Seymour, Texas. One cold and rainy night I heard meowing outside, and when I looked out our front door, I saw a little black kitten huddled up on our porch, trying to keep out of the rain. It was one of those “I just want to bring him in out of the rain and maybe feed him tonight” moments with my mother, but of course that was not the end of it. We named him Rebus; I can’t remember why, but perhaps it was because it sounded like Robes. He was my buddy and my confidante and helped me get through various episodes of high school angst, even when I became indignant at his brazen attempt to eat all the icing on my birthday cake one year.
A house does not feel like a home to me without animal family members. My husband feels the same way, although he was raised in an animal-free household due to severe family allergies, not the least of all his own. Our daughters have mild to medium allergies where animals with fur are concerned; I alone have none. However, cats do not seem to cause too severe a reaction in anyone here, so that is what we have and have had for some years. Our younger daughter in particular has always had a bad case of “Can I bring it home?” Neither daughter minds the idea of having furry siblings. We all understand that while we dearly love our human family, it is always great to have someone to come home to who will never judge you. And that is a family member who just happens to be an animal.