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By Gabby Castle, 2021

I was born on the kitchen floor of a farm a few hours outside of Stockholm. The farm lady helped deliver me. I eventually grew soft, fine, fluffy golden hair and humans melted when they saw me. In those days I mostly ate, slept, and played joyfully with my brothers and sisters. Some eight weeks later, a vehicle with three humans inside pulled up alongside the barn, introduced themselves and a discussion ensued. Some time later, a check was handed over to the farm lady and we headed for the vehicle.

Hazel and I on a park bench

Before long, I was watching the tops of buildings pass by, one after the other. That was all I managed to see through the window of the moving vehicle. I was sitting on a fluffy white towel in the lap of a giddy teenager. She was peering down at me, making googly eyes, and there was lots of back and forth conversation that I didn’t understand. Imagine me, a farm girl, headed towards the city. 


Eventually, the vehicle stopped moving and the googly-eyed teenager carried me across Riddargatan and slipped into a quiet apartment building. She entered a small old lift at the end of the hallway, closed the metal gate, pushed a button and we lurched up two flights. The lift settled, the metal gate was pulled open and she stepped out with me in her arms. We stood in front of a very wide honey-colored oak door that opened into an old apartment where two more girls eagerly greeted us. They reached out their arms and squealed with delight. I was placed on the floor and immediately met the gaze of a grey Scottish Fold cat with big bulging eyes. She hissed and sneered before turning away with a look of contempt. The girls hunched down to my height and took turns giving me big-hearted pats on my head. In no time, I was roaming around the apartment, tumbling and sliding on the old parquet flooring. Scottish Fold appeared from time to time with a permanent expressionless face that made it clear she was here first. She was dominant and very annoyed by my presence. 


The humans embarked on a brainstorming session and one of the girls stood in front of a large chalkboard writing down names. Rounds of voting took place; names were scratched off and eventually they reached consensus. My name would be Hazel. A name that feels both vintage yet trendy, with personality traits that are associated with being strong, deep thinking, wise and independent. I would eventually do things that will prove I’m not all that wise, but whatever.

Hazel and I on the balcony

It took me a few days to figure out the human structure in my new home. The one called Dad knows everything about how things work technologically. The one called Mom is the chief operating officer; she feeds and takes me to the park. The three girls are No. 1 (the oldest one), No. 2 (the middle one), and No. 3 (the baby). They are loud and conspire on all sorts of high jinks. They leave the apartment together to do things; they cook and bake, and watch movies late into the night. No. 1 is a whirl of perpetual motion and feels emotions deeply. She loves to write, shoot short films, geek out on technology, and ride her skateboard. No. 2 is an artist who draws and paints. She loves MLB baseball and knows all the stats. She’s incredibly organized and bossful. No. 3 is an old soul with a beautiful heart who loves interior design, animals, music, raiding her sisters’ closets, and hanging out with friends. These are my people and I get to walk to school with them most days and then eagerly await their return.

It wasn’t long before Dad and Mom sat all of us down and told Nos. 1, 2, and 3 that we were moving to Paris for a new job opportunity. Scottish Fold and I got EU pet passports 21 days before the move. Just before school started, we moved into an apartment on rue Thiers in the 16th arrondissement. Our new apartment had juliet balconies that were just big enough for me to nap on and watch the streets below. There was a cat named Kevin from a nearby apartment who jumped from balcony to balcony just to annoy me. He stared into our French doors when they were closed and watched us. I found Kevin trés bothersome, but No. 1, 2, and 3 loved it when he visited. Our mutual dislike of Kevin was the only thing Scottish Fold and I agreed on. There was a large park near our apartment that Mom took me to every day and that’s where I learned the joy of rolling in the mud. The trade off was a spray down when we got home. I also was welcomed in outdoor cafes so looked forward to going each weekend. No. 1 went off to university and the dynamic shifted but I’m good at transitions. 


Two years later, I earned another stamp in my passport when we moved to London and into a house with a yard. No. 1 came back home because of a pandemic (which I don’t fully understand) but stayed on Central Standard Time while everyone else lived on Greenwich Mean Time. It just meant that someone was always in the kitchen preparing snacks or meals and I, acting sous chef, waited patiently for something to fall to the floor. No one dressed up anymore; they lived in their sweatpants or flannels. They worked or took meetings and classes in their rooms. I moved from room to room listening in on Zoom calls about networks and sat in on AP calculus or social studies classes. Sigh. When it all got too boring, I would move to the room where the BBC was playing or someone was watching oodles of episodes of The Office or Ted Lasso. Everyone met up to share dinner and, afterwards, played games or watched movies. No one went out except to walk me through  neighborhoods that felt way too quiet.  


One spring day when it was safe to venture out on a longer walk, I broke away from Mom and Dad and jumped over a knee wall into what I thought was an open field, with visions of running free. Instead, I landed six meters down in the low tide muck of the River Thames. When I recovered from the shock of the fall and looked up, I saw a growing number of concerned faces peering down at me. I flopped over to wiggle and roll in the mud while a rescue plan was devised. It didn’t take long for the London Fire Brigade to arrive, lower a ladder and send a strong guy down to hoist my muddy self back up to stable ground. Quite a crowd had gathered and I was rather pleased by all the attention. Words of gratitude were extended all around and then we headed home. I was on the receiving end of a serious lecture and then put into the shower for a scrub down.


I’m four now. No. 1 headed back to university and No. 2 also left to further her education. The house is quieter with just No. 3 here. During the day, I sleep on No. 2’s bed, which has a great view of the street, while Scottish Fold sleeps next door on No. 1’s bed. Every once in a while, Dad takes me to the pub and we sit outdoors so he can enjoy a pint while I search the floor for errant chips. Mom and I walk the High Street or over to the dog park when time permits. When No. 3’s friends come over, I like to hang with them. Humans are chatty and I’m a good listener. Home is wherever my humans are. I’m filled with gratitude for the golden life I lead.

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