A Summer AfternoonPosted: August 8, 2011
There they sit, butts on the cabinet and paws on the windowsill as if it’s a table, watching the backyard and the neighborhood beyond on a hot summer afternoon, just like two old “studda bubbas” sitting on the “stoop” looking “ahtside” (they are Pittsburgh cats after all). I’m tempted to put babushkas on them. People from Pittsburgh will understand, for the rest of you, translation is at the end. You’ll still be able to understand Giuseppe and Mewsette’s conversation.
I think there’s a little bit of a breeze here.
I think it’s just the fan.
Look, is that the little gray kitty who lives on the corner? I haven’t seen her in a while.
Yeah, I thought maybe something happened. We haven’t seen a few of the cats we used to see.
Maybe it’s the raccoons who visit at night. We always hear them out in the garden. I’d keep the heck away from them hearing the noises they make. They sound like they’re killing each other, but they tell us that’s just how they talk to each other.
Do you believe our mom used to be out there all the time?
I can’t even imagine it. I mean, I can’t even picture her out in the yard. Can you?
You wouldn’t be able to see her! I try to get her to tell me stories about it, but she doesn’t have much good to say.
Do you ever think about going outside, Giuseppe?
Sure, I think about it all the time. I love being in here and being with all of you and getting baths from my Mimi mom and hanging with our human mom and I’d never want to give any of that up. But part of me wants to feel the dirt beneath my paws, sit under that forsythia and wait for a chipmunk to run past.
I remember the time you did get outside, when Kelly accidentally pushed the screen out of the bathroom window and you were both on the deck roof. You didn’t enjoy that so much, and you couldn’t get back in until mom climbed out the window and got you.
Well that wasn’t dirt! I was scared up on the roof. I couldn’t see the ground from up there, everything was just green. Kelly didn’t mind at all, but most of the time I can’t figure her out anyway. Do you ever want to go outside?
I think about it all the time, but when mom holds the basement door open for me and I’m ready to run outside into the sun, I just get scared. Mom even carried me out a couple of times when she was in the garden, but I had to go back in.
Oh, look, the birds are back. Their babies are nearly all grown up, no more of that squawking and wing flapping to be fed!
How do they eat that stuff? I don’t find it in the least bit interesting.
Did you try it?
Sure, did you?
I sniffed it. It doesn’t smell like anything at all. Give me cat food!
Mimi mom told me the birds used to eat her food when they fed her outside. She had to fight with crows and blue jays to get her dinner, and sometimes she just went hungry because they have big scary beaks and they are almost as big as her.
You know, I don’t always believe everything our Mimi mom tells us, especially about the time when she lived outside.
Our cat mom would never lie.
Never! But sometimes I think she stretches the truth a bit.
Well, I’m not sure a blue jay is as big as her, at least not the ones we see up close, but they do have big beaks and they are really loud.
I guess we’ll have to ask her some time.
I think it might be nap time.
Okay, a “studda bubba” is a term I grew up hearing and which we used in a, well, less than affectionate sense but not terribly mean. It’s a misquote of “stara baba” which is Polish or Ukrainian or Serbian or—they all claim it—for “old lady” though the lady would be ugly in that sense of the term. What did we know then? We never used it in a mean way. A “stoop” isn’t particular to Pittsburgh because lots of cities have a little raised step right outside the door that’s a convenient height to sit on if you don’t have a chair out there, but many people call it a doorstep where we still call it a stoop. The word “ahtside” is “outside” spelled phonetically for the way we pronounce it, and it’s a difficult linguistic bend to give up, even after years of trying to work it aht of your system. Technically, Giuseppe and Mewsette would also be speaking in a foreign language—I grew up among bilingual people who learned English right alongside their parents’ native tongue be that Polish or Ukrainian or German or Italian—and often the conversations of these gatherings on the stoop were conducted in the language that felt most natural. Giuseppe and Mewsette, of course, were speaking feline. It’s good to see my cats carrying on the tradition.