Exhausted after getting up twice every night for ten nights in a row to feed my tiny, starving, penniless and constipated kitten Leo, I call one of my sisters in Minnesota for comic relief.
“Dick Clark died today,” I say, after our usual hellos.
“Oh! That’s too bad. I love Dick Clark. Remember American Bandstand?”
This sister is five years older than I am, but I remember most everything she remembers because I watched whatever the older kids put on TV when they were around. “Yup, I loved that show,” I say.
We both start singing the old familiar ditty: “American Band-staaand!” We laugh.
“Hey,” I say. “Do you remember that night when Mom and Dad were out and you had your boyfriend over and we were watching TV and I accidentally farted?”
Uproarious laughter—I love that this sister is easily amused. I love this sister.
“Oh my God, Katie!” she chokes out. “How could I forget that? You were sitting in a chair behind us and you just let one fly, man!”
We can hardly talk because we’re laughing so hard. This is one of the most mortifying moments of my life, and I was only ten at the time. My mom didn’t allow us to fart in front of each other—she called farts “boops”: “If you have to boop, go to the bathroom.” I had taken a liberty in my parents’ absence, but had forgotten that her boyfriend Gene was there. I remember sitting in a large wingback chair that trumpeted my fart forward, both its sound and its flavor. My sister and Gene were lying next to one another, faces towards the TV, and they both turned their heads to look at me.
“What did you say to me?” I ask. “I know I said ‘Sorry’.”
My sister catches her breath enough to say, “I said, ‘Katie! How ruuuuuude! We have a gueeeeest!”
We can hardly talk for laughing. We remember that we called her boyfriend “Gene Gene The Dancing Machine” because he loved to dance, like the guy on The Gong Show.
“Weren’t we watching American Bandstand that night?” I ask.
“No,” my sister says. “That was on on Saturday mornings. We were watching Love Boat.” My sister starts singing the Love Boat ditty, segueing into Fantasy Island and “Da Plane! Da Plane!” We’re giggling. “Smiles everyone,” I say.
“That’s right,” my sister says. “Hey, how’s Leo?”
“Leo is awesome,” I say, wandering into my bedroom to peek into his box while I give my report. “He eats really well, he pees, he likes to sleep in my hair—sometimes he pees in my hair, but that’s okay—and I think he’s finally over his constipation problem.”
“Wow, that’s great,” my sister says. “You’re doing a really good job with him.”
These words of praise are especially sweet because they come from my older sister; she does not throw compliments around. I bend over to get a closer look at Leo. He likes to sleep under the covers with his big noggin resting on a towel. He’s ten days old but still hasn’t opened his eyes.
“Well, I should go,” I say. “It’s time to feed Leo again.”
“Okay,” my sister says. “Thanks for the laugh.”
“You bet,” I say. “Call me up anytime. I have a lot of fart stories.”
I smile and we exchange I-love-you’s, then goodbyes. I go to heat up a bottle for Leo, the new guy in my life who has stolen my heart despite peeing in my hair and pooping on my t-shirts. I could’ve told my sister that Leo boops too; she would’ve gotten a kick out of that.
I hope he’s not too surprised when he does open his eyes and sees me, the strangest-looking cat on the planet. He doesn’t know yet what a great family he’s joined.
I hope he likes us.